Blogging simplified with WordPress 2.5

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I’ve upgraded this blog to WordPress 2.5, the latest version of the content management system released yesterday.

For me, upgrading was simplicity itself as I used the 1-click install procedure provided by my hosting service, DreamHost.

Literally one click and, fifteen minutes later, the blog is upgraded.

Of course, you do need to do some advance preparations before clicking that button; more on that in a minute.

The first thing you notice about WordPress 2.5 is the spiffy new look and feel of the dashboard (your blog admin area), as the screenshot above indicates.

My first impression was that this re-designed structure focuses WordPress firmly on writing and publishing rather than blog administration or management, starting with the highly visible orange band containing links to ‘Write a New Page’ and ‘Write a New Post.’

The overall focus is on your blog rather than on WordPress. In other words, it’s about you not the platform you’re using.

It’s a significant change from the design and appearance of the dashboard that’s been familiar to every WordPress user for the past few years as this screenshot of the old dashboard shows.

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As I mentioned, upgrading to version 2.5 from version 2.3.3 really was simple with DreamHost’s 1-click install procedure.

Not many hosting services offer something as simple as this, one of the major plus points for DreamHost. Indeed, they were very quick off the mark in making it available within just a few hours of the announcement yesterday that 2.5 was available.

It certainly beats the manual upgrade procedure you’d otherwise have to do.

Even with such upgrade simplicity, though, there are five essential preparation steps you really must do before you upgrade, whether it’s 1-click or not:

  1. Back up your database. This is so important as if anything does go wrong and you don’t have a backup, you’re screwed as far as your blog is concerned. The database contains everything: posts, comments, trackbacks, categories, links, even all the information about users. To make backing up easy, install the WordPress Database Backup plugin if you haven’t already.
  2. Verify that the backup is usable. You’ll typically have the backup file as a zip: make sure at least that you can extract the database file from the zip. Depending on how mission-critical you regard your blog, you should also open the database file itself just to be wholly sure of its integrity.
  3. Copy essential files from the server to your local computer. My recommendation is to copy your complete WordPress installation to your local computer (essential if you need to rollback WordPress) by FTP. If you don’t want to do that, at least copy all the files for the theme you currently use (essential if you’ve customized anything) as well as key files like .htaccess and any plugins you’ve customized. Note that files like .htaccess are hidden so you’ll need to make them visible on your server first.
  4. Review all your active plugins to see whether they will work after the upgrade. Problems with WordPress upgrades more often than not relate to plugins that won’t work with the version you’re upgrading to, with unexpected and sometimes alarming results (eg, not being able to log in to your dashboard). Your first port of call should be to the 2.5 plugin compatibility checklist where you can find out which plugins are expected to work and which won’t. There, you may discover a plugin which has an updated version you weren’t aware of.
  5. Deactivate every plugin. And I mean every single one including Akismet. Recent versions of WordPress make it easy to do this, with a button on the plugins page that deactivates all plugins with one click. If you don’t deactivate plugins (and it’s tempting not to if you have a lot), expect some issues as I had when I upgraded my Next tech blog last night (I didn’t deactivate plugins first).

Only then, go ahead and do your upgrade.

The detailed and well-written upgrade guide on the WordPress Codex is required reading before any upgrade.

Once your blog is running version 2.5 after your upgrade, go to the plugins page in your dashboard and re-activate your plugins one by one, starting with Akismet.

Test your site after each activation to be sure things are working. If it helps, take a look at my list of active plugins – all of these are running fine and so work with WordPress 2.5.

One very nice new feature in version 2.5 is the ability to instantly upgrade a plugin there and then if a plugin has an update available.

No more manually downloading a plugin to your computer, unzipping files, FTP’ing content to your server, etc.

Now it’s dead easy – take a look at this screenshot showing one plugin that I upgraded this way with one click:

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This took about two minutes. Impressive!

One caveat, though. Such useful functionality means that plugin developers need to have their plugins available through the central WordPress Plugin Directory – you’re out of luck if a favourite plugin isn’t available there.

Ok, once you’ve got all this out of the way, then you’re ready to explore and use your shiny new upgrade!

This is an extremely worthwhile upgrade. The announcement yesterday goes into detail on all the new features.

Blogging simplified.

About Neville Hobson

Entrepreneurial business communicator with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Co-host of the weekly business podcast For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report. Also an occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Follow me on Twitter and Google+.