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WordPress New Beta-- to Upgrade or Not to Upgrade?

Beware the Beta

  • December 21, 2010
  • By Joe Brockmeier
The nice people behind the popular WordPress blogging and publishing platform have released the 3.1 beta. Should you upgrade? Joe Brockmeier counsels caution.

While not as massive an update as the 3.0 release, WordPress 3.1 brings a few interesting changes that make it a decent upgrade. In particular, the new post formats in 3.1 could be a real boon for many bloggers and publishers.

Beware the Beta

Unless you have good reason, or great disregard for your site content and stability, I don't recommend upgrading to the WordPress 3.1 beta or release candidates. In fact, I usually recommend that folks wait until the first revision — so when 3.1 comes out, wait for 3.1.1 before moving.

But if you do upgrade, be sure to make a backup of your wordpress directory and the database before taking the plunge. If you're fortunate and all goes well, you may never use it. If you're not fortunate, you'll want to have it handy. Of course, you're already making regular daily or weekly updates anyway, right?

To upgrade to the most recent stable version of WordPress, the easiest way is to go into the Updates section of the WordPress Dashboard. What if you want to take the plunge on the beta, despite the dangers? You can do it manually or you can grab the WordPress Beta Tester plugin. Go to the Plugins page and then to the Install Plugins page by clicking the Add New button at the top of the page. Then search for "Beta" and the WordPress Beta Tester plugin should be at the top of the results.

By default, the plugin only points to revisions — so you'd be directed to 3.0.3 rather than 3.1. Go to the Beta Testing page (under Tools) and tell WordPress that you want to go for the Bleeding Edge nightlies rather than the point release nightlies.

Now you'll be able to update to the latest release by going to the Updates page in the dashboard. WordPress will now be pointed at the nightly builds for the 3.1 beta (or whatever happens to be in development when you read this). Have I mentioned that this is not always a good idea and that you should proceed with caution only once you've made backups? Good. Now let's have a look at what's in 3.1.

The Admin Bar

If you've used WordPress.com you already know about the admin bar. When you're logged in, even when you're on the user-facing portion of your site (i.e., not the Admin Dashboard), you'll see a handy menu for adding new posts, going to the comments admin page, managing the appearance of the blog, etc. This isn't a major change to the way WordPress works, but it is more convenient — and I'm sure a lot of development work went on behind the scenes to enable the feature.

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