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.