The long wait and delays  are finally over (not that they were that bad to begin with) and WordPress 2.5 has been released , as of today (the official blog post announcing it was made less than one hour ago), along with a new WordPress.org website design ! There are numerous blog entries around the web with information about how to prepare for the upgrade , so I won’t repeat all the details here (if you haven’t been following the development, read that link and do some Googling and read up on the new version before you jump in head first). I will point out that, if you don’t like the brand new administration area theme (I think it’s better than the old one, but a lot of people disagree with me), there is a Plugin you can install called Fluency Admin  that replaces the stylesheet that comes with WordPress (actually you get two color scheme options in 2.5 by default, and each user can choose them individually!). Fluency changes the entire look, much like the Tiger Admin  administration theme (no longer maintained) did for older versions, and the two plugins have a lot of similarities in their layout. I’ve had some issues adjusting my widget sidebars while Fluency is enabled but most other things seem to work, and I’m sure it will be updated soon now that the final version of 2.5 is out (they’ve been busy making a lot of changes and that’s probably what caused the problem).
Some Major New Features:
- Administration area redesign
- Widget-based administration Dashboard, customizable
- Draft auto-save improved
- Search now searches pages by default (no plugin required)
- Add unlimited copies of any widget to your sidebar(s)
- Semi-automatic Plugin upgrade
- New tag management area
- Built-in support for Gravatars  (Gravatar is now owned by Automattic )
- Other cool stuff I can’t think of right now, plus minor cool stuff that adds up to coolness :-)
Good info about WordPress 2.5, along with some upgrade information:
- Lorelle’s WordPress 2.5 Upgrade Preparation Checklist  (there’s so much information here…read this before you upgrade, period!)
- Screencast of the new Admin Interface  in action
- Lorelle made the announcement  before I did about the release (her blog has a wealth of information!)
- So did WeblogToolsCollection , not surprisingly
- Are You Ready for WordPress 2.5?  (has many links to other resources as well)
- WordPress Codex page with 2.5 features 
- Codex: Upgrading WordPress 
- Developer post with changes made a few weeks ago  and this past week  (peek into a bit of what went into this version!)
- The changelog  of all 1300 individual changes for this version
I, of course, am now running the final WordPress 2.5 release on several sites already, including this one!
One thing I did notice: Even in the final 2.5, on all the sites I’ve switched, is that at the bottom of the admin interface it still says, “You are using a development version (2.5). Cool! Please stay updated .” That is usually only shown on the trunk revisions (hence the term “development version”) and not in a final release, so it looks like they may have forgotten to change that for the final release, unless I’m doing something wrong!
Upgrading with Subversion:
To upgrade WordPress, my recommendation, if your host allows shell access and has Subversion installed, is to switch over to running your WordPress installation based on a subversion repository checkout. There are instructions in the Codex on how to install WordPress using Subversion  (using the “svn” command), and I have done this what feels like countless times with much success (Joost de Valk  has a good post about this  as well). The basics go something like this, to install version 2.5:
- Start with an empty directory that is the folder to install WordPress into (make a backup of your existing install and move it first if you have one).
- Inside that directory (using an SSH shell), type this (don’t forget the final period):
svn co http://svn.automattic.com/wordpress/tags/2.5 .
- Visit the URL to the directory you just installed into from a web browser and walk though the usual steps to create wp-config.php, set up the database and complete the installation.
- If you backed up an old install, move your themes, uploads and plugins back into the proper folders in the new structure.
From now on, the files created by the Subversion checkout will be updated when you use Subversion to “switch” to a different version, but files you create (like plugins, themes, uploads, your wp-config.php file) will be left alone and are safe through upgrades. Subversion only updates files that have changed so it is an efficient upgrade method. To switch from one version to another, just run this command from a shell in the same folder as above:
svn sw http://svn.automattic.com/wordpress/tags/2.3.3/
That will change your installation over to version 2.3.3, but be careful in practice to never “downgrade” to a prior version, as Subversion updates files but not the database (after an upgrade, the next time you visit the administration area you are prompted to update the database if the new version has made changes). If you switch to a prior version, it will likely choke on the database that has been changed for a newer version! You can also install or switch to the trunk, which is where current development happens and may be broken or insecure, so only do this on test installations. To install the trunk, use this command (include the final period!):
svn co http://svn.automattic.com/wordpress/trunk/ .
And to switch to trunk from a prior version, use:
svn sw http://svn.automattic.com/wordpress/trunk/
In addition, if you’re running trunk, and you want to update to the very newest changes, just run this command:
If you know the shell at all, you have access to it, and the Subversion “svn” client is installed, running like this makes it very easy to upgrade–especially if you run multiple WordPress installations like I do! If it weren’t this simple, I’d probably be running WordPress 1.5 still :-)
One of the other excellent features in WordPress 2.5 is the ability to upgrade plugins from the Plugins panel in the administration area, as long as you know the FTP username and password. If you use Subversion for your main WordPress install and the new Plugin upgrade feature for your plugins, it should significantly reduce the time required to keep your WordPress installation up-to-date! (It is possible to add plugins to your Subversion install as “externals” so you get the trunk copy of any plugins you run updated whenever you run the “svn up” command, but this is a bit advanced and the new upgrade feature should negate most of these benefits.)
WordPress is amazing, I just wish there was enough time in the day for me to experiment with even some of the things I haven’t done with it. This list of 48 Unique Ways To Use WordPress  is inspiring! I’ll take comfort that at least one thing on the list we’re already doing: using it for sermons  (#34)!