Daily Archives: Sunday, 4th May 2008

WPG2 v3.0.6

Yes, it’s only a couple of days since I mentioned WPG2 v3.0.5, but there’s already a bug-fixing update. A brief note of the fixes (all two of them) is available on the Release Notes page, or you can catch up on the discussion in the support forum.

As before, the plugin is available from the WordPress Plugin Directory. If you have 3.0.5 installed, you should get the automatic upgrade prompt in your plugins list. I used that, and it worked exactly as expected, which was nice.

Apparently some users are still having some problems, so a further release may not be far off. Most problems seem to affect people using the visual editor in WordPress, so if that’s you, it might be worth a quick look through the forum before you install. I always use the plain text editor, so I didn’t have a problem there.

There have also been reports that some people have problems using the autoupdate – unlike some plugins, WPG2 needs to be deactivated before an upgrade is installed, then reactivated. The updater is supposed to do this (and it certainly did for me), but other people have had it fail. If in doubt, deactivate manually first.

I really like WPG2 a lot – once it’s set up, it makes it outrageously easy to insert images from Gallery2 into WordPress posts, and to make your Gallery albums look just like your WordPress pages. Nice software, and I’d hate to not have it around.

New Look!

Well, sort of. I’ve just made a few fine adjustments to the tweaking I’ve been doing over the last few days. The main difference is that I’ve removed the icons from next to the Tags, Comments and other labels that appear at the top of posts. I’ve also made the text for those a wee bit bigger, and generally tidied up some code that’s been lingering in the theme files but not actually doing anything much.

I also replaced the underlying theme files with a newer version of Sandbox that supports the new media library and gallery features of WordPress 2.5. While I don’t use those at present, and may never do so, it’s good to know that if I change my mind, my theme will be ready.

This is soooooo true

A bit of random clickage reminded me about QDB[1], which assembles random quotes from online chat sessions. It contains much that is funny (often in scurrilous, crude and offensive ways, so be warned before you click), much that is weird, and a fair bit that is just entirely true:

sterano: Whats the difference between Raid_0 and Raid_1?
Steve: In Raid_0 the zero stands for how many files you are going to get back if something goes wrong.

Very true. I speak from experience.

[1] Quote Database

WordPress 2.5 Rants and Raves

Right, I’ve been using WordPress 2.5 live for the best part of a week, and that’s in addition to a fair amount of testing. I’m well aware that I can be resistant to change, and that sometimes it really is just a matter of getting used to something that’s a bit different, so I’ve held back from commenting here in any detail up till now. But the more time I spend with the new version, the more sure I am that the Write Page, the part of the admin interface where I spend most of my time[1], in its current form, is, for me, quite thorougly borked. Here’s what it looks like:

Write Page

Write Page

This is a screen capture taken from Firefox on my Mac. I have my browser window at nearly full screen.
The first problem is that huge gap on the right. For reasons that never made sense to me, a decision was made that the user interface should be fixed width rather than fluid as in previous versions. Now I type quite a lot of words, and having a wide text box to type in makes this easier for me to do with less scrolling up and down to see what I typed a few paragraphs previously.

The next problem is the split navigation. Items which are deemed to be less frequently used have been spit away from the main menu options and shoved over to the right. The split seems quite arbitrary to me – for instance “Design”, which most people are only likely to use if switching WordPress to a different theme, is part of the main navigation, while “Plugins”, which will be used at least as often, is over on the right. Splitting this up wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the fixed-width thing. Rather than have the navigation the same width as the page content, they’ve made it the full width of the window, which struck me as bizarre the first time I saw it, and still makes no sense at all to me. If you must have a fixed width interface, why not be consistent about it? There’s also a fairly large chunk of vertical space used up by the header. Much too much of it for my taste, given the other layout issues.

Which leads me to the big one. The sidebar. In WordPress 2.3, this was actually very useful. All the various bits and bobs such as Categories, Post settings, and extra elements added by plugins, appeared here. And you could rearrange them so that sections that you rarely or never used could be shoved to the bottom out of the way, and things you used for every post could appear at the top. There was even a plugin to hide bits you didn’t need at all. This worked very well for me, and meant that I could compose and publish posts with the minimum of scrolling up and down. And talking of scrolling, here’s the rest of the page.

Write Page Issues

Write Page Issues

Those various sections there can be opened or closed as you need them, which is similar to how they worked on the old sidebar, but their order is fixed and they’re all rather tall, which means I have to scroll down all the way to the bottom to find the mood plugin that I use on every post[2]. The author is apparently working on a replacement version which I hope will be able to live in the sidebar, but for now, I have to scroll all the way down to add a mood. That wouldn’t be too bad, but then I have to scroll all the way up to find the Publish button. It’s only moderately annoying, but it’s a change that doesn’t give me any benefits. I’ve been told that the new interface is “much better”, but actual details of why it’s better for me to be unable to make it work the way I want to, or better to have to scroll up and down much more, are a bit thin on the ground.

There was a lot of quite robust discussion about this on the WP mailing lists, in which people asked why some of these changes were being made. The best answer I got boiled down to “WordPress 2.5 is about trying something different”. Well, I’m not averse to making things different, but change for the sake of change, and removing users’ ability to modify the interface to suit their own needs strikes me as a huge step backwards. It seems that I’m far from alone in disliking the changes made to the interface. People are working on plugins and actual hacks to change the page into something more usable. Nothing I’ve seen yet is quite what I want, but I’m keeping an eye on things. In the meantime, a couple of plugins have mitigates some of the annoyance:

Wider

Wider

Here we can see the write page nicely filling my window, thanks to the Remove Max Width plugin. You can also see the navigation vastly improved by the Admin Drop Down Menu plugin, which not only brings everything together, but also reduces my click count by making submenus into drop downs. This is a lot better for me, and I’d like to see something like it as a core feature. I’d still like to reduce the amount of vertical space wasted at the top, and I’ll be looking at admin themes that will modify that – and that’s something I never felt the slightest need for in previous versions.

On the brighter side, this image does show one new feature I actually like. You now get a preview of the permalink to the post you’re writing, rather than just having the “slug” as one of many editable options. This is much clearer and easier to understand, and is a Good Thing.

Another good thing is the new “Save” behaviour. Previously, there used to be a “Save and continue editing” button, now there’s just a “Save” button, which does what it should – saves your work as it is, and lets you carry on working. A link appears telling you that the post has been saved and letting you go back to where you were previously – this makes more sense to me than the previous behaviour, where if you edited an existing post and hit “save” you’d immediately go back to the post, just as you realise that you missed another typo…

So, WordPress 2.5 – a bit of a mixed bag, really. A couple of enhancements, a generally prettier admin interface, but some quite nasty usability changes. I’m sure as it settles down, more customisation options (either in core or from plugins) will become available, and my present concerns will become irrelevant, but right now it’s quite annoying.

[1] That’s most of the time I spend on WordPress, not most of all my time. Though my recent post count might suggest otherwise
[2] Yes, it’s silly, but it’s my site and I like a bit of silliness on it, thankyouverymuch

Making DNG a Standard

I make a point of reading John Nack on Adobe on a regular basis. John is Senior Product Manager for Adobe Photoshop, and uses his blog to let the world know what Adobe’s up to in a nicely open and friendly manner. Anyway, today’s post, in which he talks about Adobe’s DNG (that’s digital negative) file standard is a good one. The idea of DNG is that it’s a standard format for RAW camera data. Rather than every camera maker having their own proprietary formats that require either their own software, or updates to everyone else’s to open, wouldn’t it be nice if everyone agreed to use a standard format? This makes a lot of sense to me – quite apart from leaving application developers free to spend time writing new and improved features rather than yet more converters, it means that your files are much more likely to be still usable in ten, or twenty, or however many years. It would also mean that when you buy a new camera, you won’t have to wait for a software update before you can use it with your preferred software.

I’ve been using DNG as a second line of backup – in addition to having my Canon RAW files on my primary disk, my backup disk and offsite at Mozy, I convert them all to DNG and keep those separately. That means that even if by some bizarre means, Canon RAW files are not readable by some future software, I’ll still have the originals in a form that should continue to be readable. John mentions that a lot of Lightroom users convert their files to DNG when they import them. For some reason, I’ve never used that option, but I’ll certainly consider it. Most likely when Lightroom 2 is actually released, I’ll give it a new catalog by importing all my current images and convert them then.[1]

The next step is persuading more camera manufacturers to use DNG instead of (or as well as, options are fine…) their proprietary formats. While some do, the really big boys – Canon and Nikon – haven’t shown much interest yet. Maybe now that Adobe have done the sensible thing and submitted DNG to ISO to have it made into an independent standard rather than a nicely documented vendor one, things might begin to change.

Everyone’s managed to standardise on JPG as the format for files processed in-camera, now let’s see if they can manage to do the same for RAW files….

[1] As I have less than 8,000 image files, this is a reasonably painless operation, and I have plenty of disk space…