WordPress 3 Beta

On April 20th I switched to WordPress 3.0b1 (actually the latest “nightly build”) after testing the original 3.0b1 offline. I subsequently started manually following “nightly builds” which got me to WordPress 3.0b2. It all works fine – even with the patched Magazeen 1.0 theme that I am running.

Upgrade procedure

The general upgrade procedure should be pretty standard for those who know WordPress well. But this means that there are different paths for end users (who avoid betas and especially anything that looks like programming code) and for the brave and curious. There are incidentally videos on YouTube showing how to install a WordPress 3.0 beta. Here are my own notes:

1. Backup you database

This involves using Tools|Export and also – especially if your web host makes this easy – using phpadmin (see online administrative tools provided by your hosting provider) to get a raw backup of the database. You shouldn’t be needing either unless things go very wrong or unless you create a test installation.

2. Test installation

Consider first doing a test installation in a separate subdirectory of your web site (I did).

This will require downloading the latest version from http://wordpress.org/nightly-builds/wordpress-latest.zip and doing an upload using ftp) by following the standard WordPress installation instructions, but using an empty directory and an empty database. Then, as usual, you configure the file wp-config.php (see http://codex.wordpress.org/Editing_wp-config.php). Alternatively (new option) you can fill in a short form you get when you install a fresh copy of WordPress 3.0. This essentially allows you to provide te location and username/password for the underlying database (which can be empty or full).

It is safest to start a test installation with an empty database and then import a copy of the content of your real database. This keeps your test installation entirely separate from your production blog.

3. Versions of WordPress

By the time WordPress 3 is formally released (mid-May 2010), the Dashboard page should allow you to upgrade smoothly from an already running WordPress site: there should be a link on the Dashboard page – also known as http://URLofYourSite.com/wp-admin.

The method to install a beta version (“nightly build”) using a running installation of WordPress is to go to http://URLofYourSite.com/wp-admin/update-core.php . Once you are running a beta version, there is a link hidden in the lower right-hand corner of the Dashboard. You will also find an alternative link labelled “Updates” in the top left of your Dashboard.

4. Themes and plug-ins

WordPress 3 is highly backwards compatible with themes developed under WordPress 2. But there are exceptions (with known solutions, e.g. related to child themes), so it is probably a good idea to first test the WordPress site using the new WordPress 3.0 default theme (“Twenty Ten”) before switching themes. And first select the (minimal) widgets and plug-ins that you need. I presently just use Akismet. Akismet is shipped as an integral part of WordPress (to be called “core plugin” in future releases) and thus should not give any problems.

5. Tracking nightly builds

If you run a beta version of WordPress 3.0 you should refresh your version regularly to get the latest daily (“nightly”) bug fixes. Once the final release comes out, you will automatically lock into the normal non-beta upgrade track. There is also a plugin available for beta testers, but it may be no longer needed for WordPress 3.0.

Benefits of WordPress 3.0

There is enough usable technical information on the internet about what’s new in WordPress 3.0. But the more serious questions are “Why upgrade?” or even “Should I upgrade?”:

  • Because it there“.
    WordPress keeps evolving with enhancements and fixes – including security fixes. So you should simply migrate sooner or later. There is no real reason to migrate to WordPress 3.0 very quickly, but you should migrate at some point. If you are a bit adventurous, you can migrate before the final release of WordPress 3.0. If you are cautious, you can migrate a month after the final release of WordPress 3.0 and thus get the least chance of hiccups (after millions of lemmings have preceded you).
  • New default theme
    Actually I want to migrate the site that I made for my photo club (www.fotogroepwaalre.nl) quickly because I have been planning to use this “Twenty Ten” theme for months. That site so far ran Kirby, the predecessor of Twenty Ten. Twenty Ten is simple, clean, and solid because it is supported by WordPress itself. But this is a special situation. Most existing WordPress users (including this personal site) chose another theme. And people who are not especially bold with technology will not want to change anything unless they really have to. They could stay with the old Default theme (Kubrick). So users of Twenty Ten will typically be new users or new theme developers who want to develop themes that are derived from a clean, state-of-the-art theme.
  • New generation of themes
    There will be new or upgraded themes written specifically for WordPress 3.0. So staying up to date is useful. Twenty Ten is itself such an example: I found that it doesn’ run on WordPress 2.x.
  • Many things are simply a bit better
    The changes are not dramatic because WordPress had the good habit of enhancing itself on a very regular basis and automating this upgrade process. Examples of nice-to-have improvements:

    • A new user or new installation can configure the (wp-config.php) configuration file by answering a list of (still non-trivial) questions, rather than by editing an ASCII file. Many WordPress users are uncomfortable with editing such a file, so this change is useful.
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