WordPress is by far the most popular blogging platform available and with over half a million known websites running on the software, it’s no surprise there’s a big news surge when a new version is released.
And yes, you heard it right! WordPress 3.0 has been officially launched today and brings with it a tone of new features that aid WordPress plugin developers, theme designers and of course, bloggers. I’ve hand-picked the top 10 cool new features of the latest version of WordPress and will briefly explore their possible uses and benefits.
1. Custom Admin Username and Password
One of the simplest, but also one of the most important, features packaged with the new version is the ability to choose your own username and password during installation. It has always been a security flaw in past versions of the software because if you have a fairly weak password, your site becomes vulnerable to hackers who may try and attempt a brute-force attack — already knowing your username.
In 3.0, it is now possible to set your desired username and password during installation; also bypassing the rather pointless generating of a random password that you are then prompted to change. It is possible to have WordPress generate a random password for you if you wish and to do this, you can simply leave the password field blank.
2. New Default Theme
Along with WP3 comes a completely new default theme called “TwentyTen”. The over-used, and frankly unattractive, Kubrick has finally been ditched for a new sleek design by the WordPress team that shows off WordPress’ adaptability. The long-anticipated design has replaced the too far out-dated Kubrick that has been the face of new WordPress installations for five years, and unlike the previous default theme, this contrasted black and white design would fit perfectly with any new blog without much customization — providing the header image was altered to suit the content.
The design is simple enough to allow the reader’s focus to be fixated on the content rather than the design but also stands out enough for them to notice the theme’s simplistic elegance. Taking advantage of the new features in WordPress 3.0, TwentyTen sports its flexibility as it shows off the new ability to set custom backgrounds and menus.
3. Custom Headers
One of the other great new things about the latest version of WordPress is its extensive API that allows for even the most trivial of things to be easily customised to the blogger/developer’s needs. This includes custom header images. These can be added by a new section of the Appearance section of the blog; allowing for an image to be chosen from a pre-existing library and the ability to upload your own image. These custom headers can be easily integrated into your own WordPress themes using the header_image function. For more information, see the WordPress Codex.
4. Custom Post Types
Sometimes, when you want to add non-standard post types to WordPress, it can get a bit tricky. First there’s the task of finding a way to format the media to integrate into a standard WordPress post seamlessly and then the repetitive process of adding this new formatting to every post afterwards but this can take far too much effort and time. This is where the new Custom Post Types steps in.
Utilizing the WordPress API, it is extremely easy to create new post types for any type of content you wish. All it takes is a few lines of code that define the details of your post type to WordPress and you’re away. You can find out more about creating custom post types here.
5. Advanced Menus
Along with all of the other great features bundled with WordPress 3.0, there is the ability to create custom menus that can take the form of a selection of content you choose. The content available trumps the previous versions’ limitations to just pages and shows an all-new take on multi-level menus. With the ability to develop menus that consist of tags, categories, pages and several other forms of link with WordPress itself, it is now suddenly that extra bit easier to syndicate your content through your menus to enable easier navigation for your valued readers.
6. Unified Updater
It is now possible to update the WordPress core, your custom plugins and themes all in one place. The new unified “Updates” section allows you to easily and quickly find any third-party plugins or themes that need updating and do so in a professional manner with Maintenance Mode automatically enabled during the update process.
This little feature is small but saves the blog owner the often irritating process of navigating to each section to update the code.
7. WordPress MultiSite
If you want to run a blogging network, in the past you would have had to install a branch of WordPress built specifically for multiple blogs; WordPress MU. One of the most beneficial tasks that the team over at Automattic have completed is the new merge of WordPress core and WordPress MU. It is now no longer required to install the seperate WPMU package as the code has now been integrated with the core WP package.
This crucial integration means that it is now easier than ever for existing WordPress users to add additional blogs under the same installation without having to install a completely seperate instance of WordPress MU. You can find out here how to enable MultiSite.
8. Universal Help Menus
In previous versions of WordPress, the Help section of each page was quite limited and the majority of pages merely linked to the WordPress website and documentation pages. In WordPress 3.0, this has all changed. Each page of the admin panel now has a contextual help menu that, when revealed, gives information and details regarding the specific section or page of the admin panel in question.
In short, it is now even easier to find help with anything you are stuck on and it is simply a case of clicking the Help button and you will find a detailed list of all sections of that page. This is a really helpful feature that once again, reiterates the fact that WordPress is the best blogging platform for new comers who may not be experienced in using CMSes.
9. Simple Login Form
If you’ve ever wanted to add a login form to a page of your blog but didn’t feel up to the confusing task of dissecting the code, WordPress may have found the solution to your problem. Starting in 3.0, it is now possible to add a simple login form to any page of your website to allow for a seamlessly integrated login system for your blog.
With a simple PHP function that allows for the passing of arguments, you can display a login form on any section of your design to allow users to login to your blog without being sent to the standard WordPress login page. For more information, check out the wp_login_form template tag reference at the WordPress Codex.
10. Automatic Security Keys
To further add to the security of the new WordPress, the developers have added the functionality of automatically-generated security keys. In the past, it was only possible to change the security keys by manually editing the wp-config.php file in the root of your WordPress installation but this could often lead to inexperienced users never opening this file and noticing the fact that these values need to be changed; thus causing the neglect of their installation and rendering it vulnerable.
In the new version of WordPress, security keys are automatically generated; meaning that there is no need to edit the configuration file or generate the keys using the WordPress security key generation service.
The WordPress team has made great progress with the project since the early versions and this new version of the software is no exception. Perfectly evolved into one of the most popular and powerful open-source blogging platforms that exists, the software is a great catalyst for giving the world a voice.
The features in the new version really show how the project’s progressed and its added security, as well as the little features added to streamline the development process for theme and plugin developers; this all makes the package the perfect all-rounder. I can find no obvious flaws or faults in the latest version of WordPress but as it begins to roll out across blogs, we’ll see how it goes. Personally, I think this it the most promising and powerful version of the popular blogging software yet.
What are your favorite new features in WordPress 3.0? Share via comment below. Thanks!