WordPress 3.2 beta 1: First Look

This blog in Twentyeleven themeI just upgraded this blog to WordPress version 3.2, beta 1, which was released to the wild a couple of days ago (see the announcement.)  Here are my first impressions:

WordPress has introduced a new “default” theme, Twentyeleven. It’s a variation of the Twentyten theme introduced with version 3.0, with a slightly cleaner look. I put default in quotes because neither theme is really a default. Both Twentyten and Twentyeleven are better characterized as showcase themes. Both override several of WordPress’ built-in default settings and demonstrate how to use some of the newer features for specific design objectives such as featured images for custom page headers. [Note: this blog is using the theme, Tabula Rosa by Leo Newball, Jr. Click the thumbnail above to see what it would look like in Twentyeleven.]

WordPress Dashboard

A welcome addition to Twentyeleven is a Theme Options dashboard page that provides control over link colors and whether to display the sidebar on the right, left or not at all. The Custom Headers and Background Colors option pages from Twentyten have be duplicated in Twentyeleven.

One new feature all WordPress authors should welcome in the revamped, full-screen editing mode. It’s has full editing features including a field for the title, a save/update button, tabs to switch from visual to HTML mode and an abbreviated toolbar with icons for bold and italic, ordered and unordered lists, blockquotes, images and links. Strangely, the post editor toolbar has new icons that appear duller and less interesting then before:

The post editor for WordPress 3.2

Post Formats

Post formats in WordPressTwentyeleven adds big-time support for post formats, which were introduced in version 3.1. Post formats are like categories except that they refer to the content’s format rather than its subject matter. A post can be in only one format chosen from the predefined list. Where Twentyten moved much of the post processing to template files based on post type: loop.php, loop-page.php, loop-single.php and loop-attachment.php, Twentyeleven has template files specific to post formats: content.php, content-aside.php, content-gallery.php, content-link.php, etc.


Twentyeleven is an HTML5 theme. So is Twentyten but, whereas Twentyten just has an HTML5 Doctype declaration, Twentyeleven goes further by using the new HTML5 sectioning elements: nav, header, hgroup, article and footer. A conditional statement loads in an HTML5 shim for people using versions of Internet Explorer before IE9. It would be nice to add these new document elements to the paragraph menu on the editor’s toolbar.

Speaking of IE, the announcement states that WordPress 3.2 will not support IE6 — Yippie! I’m guessing that this means the Dashboard will not work well in IE6 but, if you make the effort and construct a good CSS stylesheet, the public front end should work. To help, Twentyeleven ids the html element so that you can construct specific CSS rules for IE6 users, such as:

#ie6 div.content { ... }

The Dashboard’s been given a facelift. Everything works the same but looks prettier due to new fonts and some CSS3 goodies used to great effect—background gradients, box shadows, rounded corners and text highlights. The little AJAX wrinkles have been smoothed out and the interface elements respond quickly.

I find the small changes made in the Dashboard pleasing and send kudos out to the designers who keep making a good user experience better. One disappointment is that they haven’t yet addressed the shortcomings in the way WordPress manages media attachments. Instead of having a separate database table, media files are represented by attachment posts in the main post table, reusing post fields for image caption and alternate text information. A rebuilt media manager was supposedly slated for a 2.9.x release but kept getting put back. I look forward to progress in this area.

The upgrade was simple and straightforward, as is usual with WordPress. Since there’s no automatic install for beta releases, it requires an FTP program to upload the new files. I highly recommend backing up everything first. While not ready for important production websites, this first beta of version 3.2 is worth installing on a test blog just to get an early look at the Twentyeleven theme and begin testing the functionality of post formats.

Overall, editing this post under WordPress 3.2 has been solid. I’ve not encountered any bugs or glitches. WordPress.org states that 3.2 is a performance upgrade. This is only one post and on a new blog so I can’t measure or verify any improvement based on my experience so far. I’ll take their word for it. Thanks WordPress.