New Minimum Requirements
First up, WordPress has raised the bar for your server requirements, and you absolutely must be running PHP 5.2.4 and MySQL 5.0 or higher. If you’re not sure what versions you’re running, an easy way to check is to create a php file in the root of your website (any filename will do as long as it ends in .php, but for the sake of demonstration I’ll call mine phpinfo.php) – then add the following single line of code to the file:
Save, and access the file using your browser. Directly at the top will be a line saying which version of php you have, and if you do a text search for “Client API version”, you’ll see what version of MySQL you have too.
Ready To Upgrade?
Having checked the minimum requirements, take a full backup of your files and database. I described how to do this via the command line before, or you can try the non-techie method if you don’t have SSH access.
Bear in mind that while the majority of plugins generally don’t have an issue, if you’re using something particularly hardcore such as caching or major functionality changes then you may run into some problems. In that case your only option is to either restore from a backup or find alternative plugins. Make sure all of your plugins are up to date before proceeding with the core WordPress update through the admin panel.
What Do To If Things Go Wrong
The first step is to try a manual installation. Download a fresh copy of the files from WordPress.org and re-upload everything to your FTP server EXCEPT wp-content. If you overwrite your wp-content folder, all your uploads and pictures etc will be gone, as I found out once. Be careful! Once fully uploaded, manually visit yourdomain.com/wp-admin/upgrade.php to run the upgrade process manually on the database.
If you’ve upgraded but you’re getting errors or a blank screen, it may be a particular plugin. Rename your plugins folder to temporarily deactivate them all, then move them back one by one to find the culprit.
So, What’s New?
For those of us with larger sites, speed is a major issue. 3.2 brings a ton of speed improvements, most notably in the admin side of things where you’ll find yourself zipping around now. The core code has been updated too, removing unnecessary functions and optimising database queries.
Distraction Free Writing
Wow – this is actually really cool. When using the visual editor to write your post, there’s a new button on the toolbar. Click that to hide all interface elements, and jump straight into a WriteRoom-esque fullscreen distraction-free UI.
Moving the mouse will cause a minimal set of buttons to display as well as the exit fullscreen, but they soon fade to this:
Beautiful… and combined with the speed improvements I think this will really cause a lot of people to stop writing offline in tools such as Windows Live Writer. Fullscreen mode also works in HTML view, but the button the toolbar is labelled as simply “fullscreen”, so it’s easier to find.
New Default Theme
Twenty-Eleven is the new included theme, and it’s simple incredible. Built from the ground up to take advantage of HTML5, it now offers far more customisation than ever before, including options such as layout. It’s going to set new standards in theme design and puts many premium templates even to shame. Let’s have a closer look.
Built into the theme are now Tumblr-like post format options – asides, links, quotes, gallery. I haven’t had time to explore these formats in much depth, but for many these are going to be the highlight of the new theme I think.
Layout & Style Options
Choose between either light or dark, sidebar on left or right or none at all, and change the default link color. You can get a dramatically unique look in seconds. The underlying look and feel of the theme is fantastically clean and tidy.
Upload more than one file to use as a header and you’ll now be able to rotate through them randomly, which is nice.
For some rather odd reason, they decided to remove the sidebar from single post pages, a rather obvious oversight but one that is easily fixed by downloading a slightly modified child theme from here.
Better Admin Toolbar
It was an interesting feature added in version 3, but to be honest I never saw much point to the admin bar. Thankfully, it’s been updated with lots more useful links on the Add New menu, so I might re-enable it.
Should You Upgrade?
The underlying code in WordPress 3.2 has been cleaned up so that not only the backend is faster but core functions too, so for that alone it’s worth upgrading. The new default theme is such a vast improvement that hopefully it’ll prevent some of the cookie-cutter default installs I see so many of when people just can’t be bothered to customise their blog at all.
That’s all for today – if you have problems upgrading then let us know in the comments or crowd source your problem to the tech support community part of MakeUseOf. I’m nearing completion of my upcoming WordPress guide too, so subscribe today to be the first one to know when that’s released, and don’t forget to check through all our previous WordPress tutorials.