WordPress 2.7 £0
11th Dec 2008 | 12:50
Don't let the version number fool you: this is a whole new WordPress
The days when you needed expensive software or serious coding skills to build decent websites are long gone. Whether you're a blog beginner or need a content management system for a giant corporate website, WordPress can cope with almost anything - and with version 2.7, it's better than ever.
Moving from 2.6 to 2.7 is no mere point upgrade: it's more like moving from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age. For beginners, it's easier than before; for existing WordPress users it's more flexible and considerably less annoying.
We're looking at WordPress.org 2.7 here, which you install on your own server; if you don't have or don't want to use your own web space, you can get a stripped-down version including hosting at WordPress.com. Whichever option you go for, WordPress costs exactly nothing.
The biggest and most welcome change is the brand new interface, which is much more attractive and considerably more sensible than before.
It's also customisable, so you can get rid of page elements you don't need - so for example in the New Post page you can get rid of everything but the post itself, or just reorganise the screen to make it look nicer - and reorganise the bits you do.
The navigation menu now sits at the left of the screen, and you can reduce it to tiny icons with a single click.
The Dashboard now provides quick access to common tasks such as post creation and comment moderation, and you can even reply to comments or mark them as spam.
In Settings you'll find some new comment options for readers, too: comments can now be threaded, making lengthy discussions easier to follow, and for gigantic comment threads you can get WordPress to split them across multiple pages.
Comments also support Gravatars, the little picture icons you can carry from site to site. These features won't work on older themes (which is fair enough: you can't expect theme designers to see into the future), so if you're using a third-party theme you might need to wait for a theme update or fiddle with the code yourself.
Other changes are less obvious but no less welcome. The new "sticky" feature enables you to permanently pin a post to your blog's front page, the Media > Add New option automatically works out what kind of file you're trying to upload, and there's a new Automatic Upgrade option in the Tools menu.
This will save you an enormous amount of time (WordPress seems to be updated every few days) and while it was previously available as a plugin, it's nice to have it bundled with WordPress itself. You also get a new plugin browser, which enables you to find and install plugins without leaving WordPress - again, a big time saver.
WordPress 2.7 isn't perfect - the automatic upgrade feature isn't behaving on our server just now, there's a bug in the gravatar menu screen, Dashboard Stats don't fit in their box and we wish that the plugin browser also supported themes - but we're nitpicking here.
WordPress is an exceptionally clever publishing platform, and version 2.7 is a serious and genuinely useful upgrade. Free software doesn't get much better than this.