Major features in this release include revision history, comparison, and rollback of edits made to articles, a “Press this” link to automate blogging about other web pages, theme previews to see how a theme would look on your content before committing to it, support for using Google Gears to cache WP administration scripts locally, and many smaller improvements such as built-in support for placing captions on photos included in blog posts, better WYSIWYG image control in the editor, SSL support for WP administration, and quite a bit more.
As mentioned earlier, WP’s initial use of Google Gears only accelerates loading of WP administration pages (manage the blog, edit posts, etc) by caching the WP scripts on the local machine. While this may seem like a minor improvement (except to those with slow Internet connections), this is an important first step towards being able to create and edit blog posts in WP while offline.
Of these new features, the image caption and improved image control in the editor are probably the items that I would use and appreciate the most. I don’t see a burning need to roll back to previous edits on an article or preview new themes (I have my theme, now leave it alone). I might take the Gears support for a spin, but I doubt it will make any noticable improvement to my WP administration experience on my multimegabit Internet connection.
As much as I’d love to play with these new features (and WP 2.5 as well), the biggest obstacle for me (and many others) is the update install process. The WP update instructions do a great job of whittling it down to a “Three Step Upgrade“, but one of those three steps (33% of the process) is potentially delicate and/or scary. If you don’t dedicate your full attention to what you’re doing, you risk wiping out your blog content or your blog custom settings completely. This is a not a one-button install.
WP update step #1 starts with the instruction “Copy the new WP files to your server, overwriting old files in the root” but then follows with a list of very important exceptions of things not to overwrite. That doesn’t instill confidence. You have to read all the instructions and apply the subsequent exceptions and filters in reverse order.
I’ve updated WP on my server before. It went smoothly, and the actual update step did only take about 5 minutes, but it required more than an hour of my attention in nervous preparation and validation.
I would love to switch over to using Subversion to update my WP installation directly from the WP servers. This would be the closest thing to a one-button install of WP. I have much greater confidence that Subversion would preserve my local changes when applying updates, or at least notify me when there are conflicts I need to sort out, than I have in doing the same work myself by hand. However, installing Subversion on the server requires root access, and my web host does not have Subversion in their suite of installed software.
So updating to the latest WordPress release falls back to the “some rainy day” list of chores. (And we’re unlikely to see a rainy day here in Santa Cruz until at least November!)