Now that I’ve updated this site from WordPress 2.0.2 to version 2.6, and completed migrating my theme changes from the old theme, I thought I would devote an article or two to some of the things I learned during that process — and at the same time, relate my early impressions of the new version as well as some of the plugins I’ve installed, most for the first time. Since I made such a long version-leap, I don’t know that much about how and when some of the new features came about; to me, it’s all new to 2.6. And I’m not going to cover everything that’s new; instead, I’ll include those things that have caught my attention so far while maintaining this site, or maintaining the new one, my afewgoodlenses.com photoblog.
I installed version 2.5 on afewgoodlenses first, as a "from scratch" installation that I took on mainly because I had never loaded WordPress to a host myself, and wanted to learn how to do it. My older site, this one, had originally been a Yahoo! one-click install, and as a result I had no idea how the installation process worked. I’d been poking around for about six months, digging up whatever I could on what I might expect upgrading the Yahoo! install myself. While there’s a lot of information out there, the key to a successful Yahoo! install or upgrade is spelled out in this article on the WordPress Codex:
The short version is simply that Yahoo! doesn’t set up a user’s MySql database with access rights that allow a WordPress install or upgrade to run successfully, and this article explains how to address that. For those who are squeamish about such things, I’ll just say that I’m a database novice in many ways; while I have plenty of database design experience and can poke around and write some SQL queries, I had no idea about the database that drives WordPress or about database administration utilities like "phpmyadmin." Nevertheless, by reading this article (several times!) and following it carefully, I was able to set the database rights correctly, install WordPress on afewgoodlenses, upgrade afewgoodlenses from version 2.5 to 2.6, and upgrade the original Yahoo! install of this site from 2.0.2 to 2.6.
I did both upgrades using Keith Dsouza’s WordPress Automatic Upgrade (WPAU) plugin, a heaven-sent plugin if there ever was one. I sat here at my desk one Friday evening deciding, finally, that if WPAU upgraded afewgoodlenses successfully, I was going to dive in and try it on this site. Both upgrades, obviously, were highly successful. I do mention a couple of quirky things that happened in the previous article — but they were minor and didn’t stop the show from going forward at all.
Since this site’s old theme worked quite well with WP 2.6, I spent a long time (days, in fact) trying out different themes until I found one I really liked. I had previously chosen a theme (called Munch) developed by miloIIIVII for afewgoodlenses, and found many of her themes right up my alley from a design perspective. I ended out choosing a second miloIIIVII theme for this site, the Garden theme. I couldn’t be more pleased with the appearance and functionality of both sites, and I certainly hope my visitors like them too.
While trying out different themes, I found the WordPress theme preview function (that runs automatically when you select a new theme) very useful. Once I started migrating changes from the old theme, however, I used a great plugin called Theme Test Drive by Vladimir Prelovac. Theme Test Drive lets you activate and use a new theme while you’re signed in at the admin panel, but visitors to your site see the original theme. With Theme Test Drive, you can make changes and apply them to your new theme, leaving the old one intact until you’re done. And unlike the WordPress theme preview, the theme as presented by Theme Test Drive is fully functional, so you can test as much as you want before committing your changes.
I had quite a few customizations to my old theme, more than I realized. I had about thirty distinct changes to move over, and it took a few hours but was really quite painless. I still have some tidying up to do on both sites, but both are fully functional. I don’t have any significant advice to give about migrating customizations, other than take your time and be patient … and, before you start, make sure you have a copy of the unmodified theme so you can, if necessary, easily replace a file. My fingers flutter all over the keyboard a lot, and you’d by surprised how easy it is to accidentally paste something over the entire contents of a theme file and hit save before you can stop yourself. The backup is good insurance, and it’s a good idea to do it again after you’ve migrated your changes and gotten the site running. Oh, and remember to indicate in the file itself where you’ve made changes, to make them easy to find if you need to change or remove them. Just keep in mind that any comments you key in may be visible to anyone who uses a function like "view page source" in Firefox when they access your site.
This is getting quite long (no surprise to any of my regular readers, I’m sure), so I’ll break here and pick up on the plugins in more detail tomorrow, along with more on WP 2.6. I ended out installing about a dozen plugins that I could never use before (either because of the database issue I described above, or because they weren’t compatible as far back as WP 2.0.2). All of them give me much more control of the site’s appearance, navigation, links, and functionality. I’m sure I’ll add more as time goes on, but the one’s I’ve got running so far have made it possible to do things with both sites that I had wanted to do all along with this one, but never could….
Stay tuned… and thanks, as always, for stopping by….