Welcome to WordPress 2.5

WordPressWordPress is the finely-tuned mechanism that keeps this site ticking and—like a wristwatch—it does so whether anyone is looking or not. On the surface, things appear to be quite simple: the big hand and the little hand do their little circular dance hour after hour and usually we don’t think about the tiny cogs and gears and springs all precisely meshed together…until something goes horribly wrong. Then we’ve got to flip the thing around and take the bezel off. If we’re lucky, popping in a new battery does the trick (but totally throws the whole spring-loaded movement analogy out the window); if we’re not, someone’s going to have work to do.

Upgrading WordPress is typically like changing a watch battery: if you know what you’re doing it takes about five minutes and you’ve just got to make a minor adjustment or two to get everything synced up again.

Now imagine that you change the battery in your watch, pop the bezel back on and flip it over to discover that the stem has been moved to the opposite side. It’s a little inconvenient, but you manage to reset the time anyway. And in doing so, you notice a nifty new dial that keeps track of the phases of the moon, but it doesn’t seem to work properly. In fact, the entire face of the watch has been rearranged, the numbers all squished to one side and set in the opposite order, probably to accommodate for the fact that the hands now seem to be moving backwards.

That’s a bit like what upgrading to WordPress 2.5 was like.

Okay that’s a bit of an exaggeration. WordPress isn’t running backwards. It still works. Sort of. I mean, I’m blogging, aren’t I?

At first, before the “gee whiz, this is shiny and new” wore off, I thought, “gee whiz, this is shiny and new!” I fiddled around with the redesigned administrative interface, figuring out where everything was, spotting a few new things here and there. Then I started to use the new interface, probably in the worst possible way one could choose to test drive it: I recategorized 500+ blog entries.

Let me explain why this is bad. First, let’s have a look at the old WordPress interface. This is what the write/edit post screen used to look like:

WordPress 2.3 Write Interface

Recategorizing a post was simple: click “Edit”, select the new categories on the right, de-select the old ones, click “Save”. Done! This is how I did the first hundred or so posts, before I upgraded to WordPress 2.5.

Now here’s the same screen after the upgrade:

WordPress 2.5 Write Interface

Okay, so we’ve got a smaller editor, a column of white (or negative) space occupying the right fifth of the screen, and where did those categories go? Well, they’re below the editor. But not right below the editor; that’s where the Tags section is. But below the Tags is the Categories section, so it’s not too far away.

Unless you’re recategorizing several hundred blog entries. Now you’ve got to scroll down to select the categories. Every single post. Edit. Scroll. Select categories. Save.

Making the whole process even more tedious (as if that were possible), is the fact that there’s no more “Save and Continue Editing” button. This is because the “Save” button is now the “Save and Continue Editing” button. Which means clicking “Save” after editing a post doesn’t return me to the screen on which I selected the post to edit, it saves the post and reloads it, just in case I want to keep editing. Which, in this case, I most certainly don’t. And so now my process is: Edit. Scroll. Select categories. Save. Wait for page to refresh. Click “Go Back”.

Four. Hundred. Times.

Now, this might seem like a pretty minor gripe, but it’s not. It’s huge. Because the simplest of blog posts on this site has just four elements: title, content, category and tags. ((Technically, only the category is required. Posts can be published without a title, content or tags, but WordPress will set a default category if one isn’t selected. Which makes putting the Categories section below Tags all the more baffling.)) Prior to WordPress 2.5, all four of those were above the scroll. Everything was right there in front of me and unless I wanted to add an image (more on that in a bit), no scrolling was necessary. Now, not only do I need to scroll to select a category, but thanks to the clutter above the editor I’ve got to scroll to enter tags, as well.

It’s only a matter of time before someone publishes a plugin that will overlay the default WordPress 2.5 administrative interface with something that resembles the interface from the previous version. When that happens, I’ll be first in line to install it.

But what about adding those images?

Sweet Elyse, mother of Alex P., if there is a feature of WordPress 2.5 that makes me want to gouge my eyes out, it’s the new media functions. The simple upload interface has been replaced with a Flash and JavaScript monstrosity that looks like the bastard child of Lightbox. Don’t get me wrong, Lightbox is great for displaying images and slideshows—clicking the screen shots in this very post will demonstrate how it works—but it’s absolutely horrid for file management, even if those files are photos and screen shots. Dropping the blogging interface into shadow when you want to insert an image is unsettling; there’s no way to verify that you’ve got your insertion point set correctly, because clicking outside the “lit” portion of the window causes the media library to close.

WordPress 2.5 Insert Image Interface

The previous version of WordPress, on the other hand, used much more straightforward interface, with the image selection and insertion all handled without fancy JavaScript popups and with the editor available on the same screen so inserting at just the right spot was a breeze.

WordPress 2.3 Insert Image Interface

Simplicity has been replaced with glitter and the end result is clunky at best (and just plain doesn’t work on some PCs I use). Again, as soon as someone creates a plugin to do away with the new “media library” features, I’ll install it. Hell, if I had the programming chops, I’d just whip up the plugins myself. Alas, I’m too busy bitching about free software to learn the necessary skills to solve the problems I perceive.

But that’s the great thing about WordPress, after all: the community of developers who pour their time and talent into putting out new versions, new plugins and new themes. And that’s why I’m not going to let a couple of speed bumps turn me away from the blogging platform that I’ve come to love and rely on since I switched over from Moveable Type way back in January of 2005.

But seriously, someone get to work on those plugins. Pronto.