The WordPress team pushed out version 3.1, code name “Reinhardt,” on Wednesday, bringing a host of new and updated features to users and developers.
WordPress 3.0 was released back in June 2010, along with its own set of new functions and features. The 3.1 release cycle was originally expected to be completed before the end of 2010, but bugs and various changes pushed that date back.
I have been using the various beta and release candidate versions of WordPress 3.1 since November and am especially excited about a few of the new additions and improvements.
From an interface perspective, WordPress 3.1 shares the same look as WordPress 3.0. A few minor changes have been made to give the WordPress dashboard a cleaner look, but the overall design remains the same. The one exception is for users of the blue admin theme. The colors and stylings for the blue theme have been refined and improved across the board.
Post Formats, At Last
My favorite new feature in WordPress 3.1 is the addition of Post Formats. Not to be confused with the similar sounding Custom Post Types, Post Formats can be used by theme authors to customize the way a WordPress post is presented on the web. Post Formats is not a required feature, but it is something that theme designers can implement to better show off certain content types.
Post Formats are especially useful for users who want to create a Tumblr-like experience on their WordPress blog. That means that users can designate a post as an aside, link, video, image, quote, status, audio, chat or gallery. That designation can then help a theme determine how content should be displayed.
That means that a post formatted as a quote might display a quote in a big italicized font, whereas a video post has a custom width.
Over the past few months, a number of WordPress theme developers have instated their own versions of Post Formats into themes, but with the new standardization, we expect to see the feature crop up in more places. Adding support for Post Formats requires theme authors to add a few lines of code to their templates and stylesheets.
WordPress contributor Otto wrote a great post about Post Formats several months ago that is definitely worth the read.
Internal linking is a new feature in WordPress 3.1 that makes it easier for publishers to find and link back to previously published content. At Mashable, we often use internal linking to refer back to earlier coverage or give additional insight into a topic or idea.
Most of the time, the process of finding the link requires either searching the site or doing a custom Google search to get a specific URL. I use TextMate for all of my writing and have a custom bundle that actually lets me search the Mashable archives by entering a keyword or phrase without having to leave my editor.
WordPress’s internal linking tool isn’t quite that slick, but it does make the process of finding and linking to content much faster. Simply click on the link button in the writing panel and enter in a word or phrase. Related entries will show up and clicking on an entry will fill the link field with the correct URL.
For sites with lots of content, we can see this feature being very useful.
The Admin Bar
WordPress.com users are probably familiar with the admin bar that appears atop every WordPress.com-hosted site when they are logged into their accounts. The menu provides quick access to various tools and lets users quickly create new blog posts or access back-end features.
The WordPress.org admin bar will only work when users are logged into their own sites. When they are, visiting the site will display an admin bar that will then provide easy access to comments, the dashboard and other assorted tools.
I personally am not a fan of the new admin bar — and I dislike that it is enabled by default. I can see how it can be useful, especially for administrators of large blogs, but for me, it’s a hindrance. Fortunately, the WordPress team listened to some of the complaints and added the option to turn the bar on or off in the dashboard’s “Users” panel.
For individuals that want to disable the admin bar entirely, Joost de Valk has a great guide.
WordPress 3.1 is available for download and existing WordPress users can perform the upgrade from the dashboard.
Is the admin bar a useful tool? Let us know what you think of WordPress 3.1 in the comments