WordPress 2.9 ‘Carmen’ just hit the street, and this update has some really useful new features. We’ve spent some time with Carmen (named for jazz chanteuse Carmen McRae), and have written a short rundown to let you know what to expect when you upgrade, aimed at the everyday end user. This update is an especially big win for media heavy bloggers and inexperienced WP users.

The most exciting improvements can be found in the way WordPress handles images. While we love WP, we’ve always found the image handling a little clunky, and it’s the most common complaint we hear from users. Carmen adds a feature packed image editor to the WP dashboard. It’s now possible to resize, crop, flip and scale images right inside the program. This is a huge improvement that will save you time and trouble of having to edit images in a 3rd party app, and the fly them into WP.

The image editor works beautifully, and photos fit painlessly into the post. Images look the way you’d like them to look in your posts on the first try. Say ‘Goodbye’ to the old system of editing, inserting an image into the post, viewing the post, and going back to do it all over again. This feature is a huge win for bloggers that include many images in their posts, or users who aren’t familiar with image editing software.

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Carmen also makes it dead simple to handle video embedding, which was a bit of a nightmare before.  Video embeds usually required a plugin, and many times the video formatting ended up looking funny in the post. Now, you just paste the video URL on its’ own line in the post, and the video will show up. That’s it’s. It couldn’t be simpler. WordPress 2.9 supports most popular video upload services including YouTube, Google Video, Flickr, Hulu, Viddler and many more. We gave this a quick test this morning with some videos from YouTube and they went up without a hitch. This is a big time saver, and will let users add video with zero hassle or technical skill required. If you can paste a link, you can embed a video in WordPress 2.9.

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Though not as flashy, Carmen overhauls the WordPress Plugin upgrade and compatibility system. One of the best things about WP is the staggering amount of useful plugins available, and most users have at least a few installed. The new system allows you to update your plugins as a batch, up to 10 at a time. It also improves the way WP checks plugins for compatibility with WordPress updates. As time goes on, the feature will become more useful as more plugins, and WP itself continue to release new versions. You can upgrade without having to suffer through plugin/WP compatibility issues.

At one point or another we’ve all accidentally deleted a WP post, and lost some sleep because once it’s gone, it’s gone. Not anymore. Carmen includes a powerful Global Undo feature. Now, when you delete a post or a comment, it goes into your trash, where it can be resurrected. As developers we LOVE this feature, because we no longer have to tell clients that the post spent hours working on is gone into the ether forever.

There quite a few less glamorous technical improvements going on in the background too. The most useful is that WP now supports rel=canonical, which is nice bonus in the SEO arena.

WordPress 2.9 Carmen has only been out for a couple days, but we’re already deeply impressed with the new features. Carmen takes two of the most frustrating aspects of WP, image and video handling, and completely overhauls them to make your life easier. The next time you create a post, you’ll immediately notice a difference in how simple it is to get media into your posts. The next time you accidentally delete a post, and can recover it, you’ll want to kiss Carmen on the mouth. The other improvements, while aren’t as obvious will become useful over time. As usual the brilliant people working on WP have cleaned up the code, stomped out some bugs and tightened things up all around.

Should you upgrade? Absolutely. The only reason not to upgrade would be if you rely on a certain plugin that is currently incompatible with Carmen. Other than that, you should switch over as soon as you can. It will simplify your blogging, and make using WP an even better experience.

If you’re currently using a previous version of WordPress, you’ve got a lot to gain from this update. At The Blog Studio, we’re currently offering an upgrade to the latest version of WordPress for $150! The service includes a backup of your current site and database (an essential, yet often ignored step), as well as performing the upgrade itself.

If you are comfortable performing the upgrade yourself, upgrading to WordPress 2.9 couldn’t be easier. Login in to your WordPress Dashboard, and you’ll see a link that asks if you’d like to upgrade your installation. Click it, and in 30 seconds you’ll be ready to go. We didn’t have any issues at all, and the process was ultra fast and painless. You can also go the more technical route and download the package and perform the upgrade manually.

As always we’d like to take a second to extend a huge ‘Thank You’ from The Blog Studio, to the wonderful people who write, update and improve WP. You’ve done another excellent job and we appreciate your efforts. 

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