WordPress 2.8 Release – Widgets Upgraded Big Time

WordPress 2.8 is finally out. There are some key improvements for the casual WordPress user including easier theme addition. Like plugins, you can now browse the WordPress.org theme gallery from within your WordPress admin screen. One click and your theme is installed.

For the wordHeavy user, that is the designer/developer building their content management system on the wordpress platform, there isn’t all that much to be excited about. The easy theme feature is likely to further centralize theme development within the grips of WordPress.org theming rules. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with this, I just worry about those designers who charge for their creations loosing market share to “free” themes.

Perhaps WordPress will come up with a more inclusive gallery system? Or maybe an enterprising developer will develop a competing gallery that can be installed with a simple plugin.

The one development I’m looking forward to using is the widgets. As a freelancer, you have clients who need a specific sidebar widget. A special campaign logo for instance. The need is small enough that it isn’t worth the time developing a custom plugin for the widget (even though it really doesn’t take that long). Instead, I routinely use simple text widgets to paste in the small bits of code.

Trouble is you can’t save a text widget for later use. So the client one day feels a little adventurous, start playing with widgets … they are fun to play with … and accidentally delete your modified text widget. Doh! Not that big of a deal, but a real pain in the ass.

But starting with 2.8, widgets can be made “inactive,” which means they are saved in the system. Sweet!!! Now all those little widgets can be safe from unnecessary annihilation at the hands of the unsophisticated end user.

Actually, they are not entirely safe. For some reason the WordPress developers didn’t take the next logical step. When you have a widget in the sidebar and click the “remove” action, the widget doesn’t dump into the inactive bin, it is DELETED! I think it would make sense for the to go to the inactive bin first and to have widgets only deleted from the inactive bin. That’s what I get for not keeping up with the WordPress developers email list. Oh well, maybe 2.9 right?

The other improvement on widget management is that you no longer have to click which sidebar you want to show. Nor do you have to save the widget (clicking the “done” button) and then also save the sidebar (clicking “save changes”). Now all the options and functionality are on one page. That reduces the number of needed clicks to add a widget by half. Little stuff for most, but big stuff for heavy WordPress users.

Pods Tutorial Series Under Way

As promised, today I’ve uploaded some tutorials showing how to use pods to create an events calendar. Pods can be a little tricky and are not recommened for the casual WordPress user. However, if you are familiar with the basics of WordPress theming and are not frightened by a little PHP, I think you will find these How Tos valuable.

WordPress CMS has arrived

header-logoI work for a non-profit and most of my freelance clients are non-profits. Money is scarce but needs are many. Most organizations need a full content management system. They need an events calendar, a multimedia gallery, a press release section and a dozen other content types. But they can’t afford it.

I used to handle this with a mishmash of plugins for calendars, downloads, videos, etc. But the problem was each solution was discrete. For instance, it was difficult to associate a video with an event. This is because, for all its advantages, the WordPress core simply is not a CMS. It basically has two content types: post and page. Yes, the functionality of custom fields helps boost the performance of these two types. But custom fields are cumbersome and user un-friendly.

What WordPress needed was some sort of content construction plugin that would allows users to create their own types of content beyond the post and page.

A few months ago, I discovered a new plugin that does just that. It’s called Pods. Pods is a very efficient framework that sits on top of your WordPress installation. It allows you to easily create content types and then theme those types.

Over the next couple weeks I’m going to post a series of tutorials on different ways you can use pods. In the meantime, head over to their site and download the plugin.