I use WordPress blog software for The MAD Blog, and while the only other software I’ve tried is Blogger I like WordPress a lot. It’s easy to use and maintain, and the extensive number of free plug in programs allows for a lot of flexibility to get the blog to do what I want it to do. The MAD blog is self hosted, meaning it’s not a WordPress.com based blog, so when updates to WordPress are released there is always a little anxiety when I finally take the plunge and do the update. A blog’s “theme”, meaning the format and look of the blog itself, sometimes needs updating as well to mesh with the new WordPress upgrade, and that represents a problem when using a custom theme like the one I had created with the redesign of my website almost two years ago. So far no major issues, but things like the lack of side widget support in my theme does limit it’s ability to take advantage of some of the newer features.
About three weeks ago I upgraded to WordPress 2.5, and have found it a worthwhile effort. One small issue with some server security features caused a problem with the new image uploader, but my web hosts quickly ironed that out. I’m quite pleased with this new version of WordPress. Here are some of the highlights of the new WordPress 2.5:
- Widget Based Dashboard- The main administration control panel is now cleaner and easier to use and navigate. It’s now made up of separate mini-programs called “widgets” that are customizable and interchangeable. All sorts of useful widgets can be added to show stats, recent comments, incoming links, Technorati data… you name it. There is easy one click access to your drafts, posts, links, comments and other areas of the blog. Pop up balloons (like the iPhone red circles) tell you how many comments await moderation and impart other info instantly. Imbedded info like your WordPress Blog Stats make for easy monitoring of information on your blog.
- Flash Based Image Uploader- The old uploader worked fine but was a little clunky and tedious. The new uploader uses Flash and adds features like uploading multiple images with one click. That feature alone is a huge timesaver. It also allows for easy blog-side editing of image titles, alternate and pop up text, url links for the image, layout placement, size choices, etc. There is also a quick and easy “add Gallery” feature that will allow you with one click to add all the pictures you’ve uploaded in that post’s gallery to a post as thumbnails that can be clicked on for full sized images. I can’t see using that feature myself but I can see how it would be handy. I wish you could configure the uploader to default to certain choices for these features so I could avoid changing them with each image insertion, however.
- Full Media Uploader and Organizer- Images are just the beginning. Now you can upload videos, sound files and other media into their own galleries and place them into your blog posts quickly and easily.
- Writing and Posting- For the most part the interface for writing and posting is also cleaner and more streamlined. Entering things like tags, categories and such are about the same but located in different places. The WYSIWYG interface has changed a little and is more word processor intuitive if not more powerful. The head scratcher for me is the burying of the changing the post date feature, which is hard to find and necessitates and extra step to change. I preferred the old method of having a clear date and time in place to change as you see fit.
- Semi-Automated Plug In Upgrades– Plug ins are another kind of mini-program you can get to add functionality and features to your WordPress blog. Version 2.5 will not only alert you when an update for your plug in is available, but will give you the option of doing the upgrade for you with only one click. Some self hosted blogs might need you to enter an FTP password as well.
- Bug Fixes- WordPress 2.3x and earlier had a lot of annoying problems with using the WYSIWYG interface, especially with respect to spacing and paragraphs around images. It would do odd things to your HTML code. Switching from WSIWYG to straight HTML code also had it’s issues. This release seems to have fixed most of those and I have had an easier time entering my posts. I have not tried to see if Safari is now compatible with the WordPress post interface (in previous versions it did bizarre things) but as I use Fixefox that does not matter to me. Sadly I still cannot post via the iPhone, except in a weird, roundabout way through an e-mail. Maybe if Apple finally adds Flash support on their iPhone version of Safari I will be able to get it to work.
I recommend WordPress to anyone interested in doing a blog. Version 2.5 is a continuation of some very good, functional easy to use and well supported free software.
734 My cover art for the next issue of MAD, exclusive sneak peek from @entertainmentweekly website
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