WordPress 2.0.1 review

In billing itself as a blogging tool, WordPress seriously undersells its assets. It’s open source, free to download and enormously extensible thanks to an active user base churning out countless plug-ins, which have taken it from high-end diary-keeper to low-end content manager.

WordPress 2.0.1 review

Yet it’s not beyond the reach of a novice user. Installation is, quite literally, a one-click operation, which comes as a breath of fresh air to anyone switching from a CGI-based competitor. It requires nothing more sophisticated than a server running MySQL and PHP 4.2, both of which are within the reach of a consumer web host, and as it’s accessed through a browser you’re not tied to a single PC when you need to update your site.

What’s more, in the move to this second release, the developers have clearly thought about the way in which online publishers work, building something more akin to an application than a set of PHP scripts.

Plug-ins can be switched on and off like preferences in an office suite, and page styles can be swapped with a single click. As all posting data is held in the MySQL database and merged with the page templates on-the-fly, you don’t then need to rebuild your site to implement changes, as you once would have done, which reduces server load and, on a budget hosting service, can actually save you money.

The most advanced features are hidden by default, and administrators running team-written sites can apply different access rights to individual team members. These will determine who can post or edit entries, upload images or authorise user comments. By default, all comments from unrecognised visitors are held in quarantine until authorised, helping fight the growing irritation that comment spam represents.

RSS provision goes beyond the norm, with routines in the bundled themes for feeding categories, date-based archives and even comment streams from day one. Even external links are handled in an intelligent, content-structured manner; rather than existing in a flat file, they’re part of the back-end database running the site, so can be individually switched off and on at will. And they can be updated by filling in a form, rather than editing an HTML file.

If you already run a blog-structured news site, it’s easy to switch: there are import engines for the most popular alternatives, including Blogger, LiveJournal and Movable Type, and if a server timeout sees it collapse halfway through the operation it’s clever enough to resume without doubling up the entries when you come to retry. It can even import from an RSS feed, so by setting up a new syndication stream containing every entry from an existing archive you can import an entire blog without first exporting it from a rival system.

We have only one reservation, which is that not all of the existing plug-ins have survived the switch to version 2, so if you’re starting from scratch you may find that some of the features on other WordPress sites that have yet to upgrade will be out of your reach. Likewise, upgraders may find routines on which they rely being broken.

We’d not let that put us off an upgrade, though. The posting experience has been so greatly enhanced in this first full-point revision that we’ll happily forego a few minor tweaks for the experience.

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