WordPress 3.1 New Features – a Comprehensive Review

This post contains a comprehensive list of the new features and changes that are part of the recently released WordPress 3.1.

WordPress LogoThis post contains a comprehensive list of the new features and changes that are part of the recently released WordPress 3.1.

Internal Linking

WordPress 3.1 Internal Linking Screenshot
WordPress 3.1 Internal Linking Screen
It is now much easier to link to an existing post or page from the WYSIWYG editor. Instead of manually having to type or copy/paste the URL, there is a new link to existing content section on the insert/edit link screen (see screenshot).

Note that if you change a post or page URL after linking, you’ll still have to manually update the links to the new URL. There are ongoing discussions about improving this by using some kind of post/page link shortcode (which automatically uses the most recent URL to prevent 404 errors), so perhaps that feature will appear in WordPress 3.2.

Admin Bar

For users this feature will feel very familiar. Now when you are logged in, you will see a new admin bar at the top of your website’s frontend:

WordPress 3.1 Admin Bar Screenshot
WordPress 3.1 Admin Bar

The admin bar contains a list of commonly used dashboard screens such as:

  • dashboard
  • edit profile
  • add new post/page
  • edit current post/page
  • comment moderation
  • widgets/menus
  • shortlink
  • search

If you’re using WordPress’ multisite feature, it also provides an easy way to switch between sites that you’re a member of.

Also if you’re using the stats plugin, a small graph that indicates how many visits the current page has received.

The admin bar is enabled by default for all users, but can be turned off on a per-user basis using a new profile option.

Post Formats

WordPress 3.1 Post Formats Screenshot
WordPress 3.1 Post Formats Screen
To quote the WordPress codex:

… meta information that can be used by themes to customize presentation of a post.

When writing a post you will see a new “Format” metabox, and if your theme supports it your post will be displayed differently depending on the post format you selected.

For example, with the Duster theme (the one that this site uses), the link and aside formats automatically appear in the Ephemera section on my home page.

For more information on Post Formats, take a look at the Post Formats article in the WordPress Codex.

Sortable Dashboard List Screens

The WordPress Dashboard now allows you to sort a table/list screen by a specific column. For example, the Dashboard -> Posts screen allows you to sort the table by Title, Author, Comment Count or Date:

WordPress 3.1 Posts Screen
WordPress 3.1 Posts Screen

The pagination feature is also improved.

Separate Multisite Network Admin

In WordPress 3.0, the Multisite dashboard was accessible via Dashboard -> Super Admin.

Some users found this confusing, so as of WordPress 3.1 there is a completely separate dashboard for Multisite/Network administration.

Network Admin Dashboard Link ScreenshotTo access it, click on the Network Admin link at the top right of your WordPress dashboard.

The Multisite specific dashboard features (such as the network settings screen, new site screen, new user screen, theme editor screen, and network wide plugin activation) have all been moved from the normal WordPress dashboard into the network admin dashboard.

The network admin dashboard is also only accessible via the main website in the network (typically blog id 1).

The site editor feature has also been improved, with the various settings getting split up into 4 different tabs: Info, Users, Themes and Settings:

Wordpress 3.1 Multisite Site Editor Screenshot
Wordpress 3.1 Multisite Site Editor

This is a big improvement over the previous site editor screen, which was a ver large page full of hundreds of editable text fields.

For more information on The Network Admin, take a look at the Network Admin article in the WordPress Codex.

GPL Licensing Changes

In the last 6 months or so there has been a fair bit of debate on the exact licensing terms that WordPress is released under, and whether or not it complies 100% with the GPL license.

WordPress 3.1 is now available under the GPL version 2 or (at your option) any later version.

If you’re interested, there is a lot of information on the licensing debate on hakre’s blog.

Improved WordPress Importer & Exporter

The WordPress exporter now allows you to export just post or pages (instead of everything), as well as only exporting certain date ranges, categories, authors, statuses, and more.

It also contains proper support for navigation menus.

Simplified Post/Page Edit Screens

The post and page editor now display fewer options (metaboxes) by default.

Out of the box, the following metaboxes are hidden on the edit post screen:

Edit Post Screen Options Screenshot
Edit Post Screen Options

  • Excerpt
  • Send Trackbacks
  • Custom Fields
  • Discussion
  • Comments
  • Slug
  • Author

Out of the box, the following metaboxes are hidden on the edit page screen:

Edit Page Screen Options Screenshot
Edit Page Screen Options

  • Custom Fields
  • Discussion
  • Comments
  • Slug
  • Author
  • Revisions

This helps new WordPress users from being overwhelmed by the number of options displayed when they are writing a post or page.

To customise which options (metaboxes) are displayed, browse to the post (or page) editor and use the Screen Options button on the top right of your dashboard.

In my experience, very few WordPress users actually know about the Screen Options button, so I hope it is made more prominent in WordPress 3.2.

Comment Moderation Notification Improvements

Currently in WordPress 3.0 (and earlier), if you moderate and approve a comment on one of your own posts, you still receive an email notification saying the comment has been approved. To me this has always felt counter-intuitive. After all, I was the one that approved a comment on my own blog post, so it doesn’t make sense for me to be notified via email about the comment approval.

In WordPress 3.1, this has been fixed. An author shouldn’t be notified when they post or moderate a comment.

Theme Browser/Installer UI Improvements (#14936)

The theme browser/installer used to be accessible via Dashboard -> Appearance -> Add New Themes. As of WordPress 3.1, it is a tab on the Dashboard -> Appearance -> Themes screen.

WordPress 3.1 Theme Browser/Installer Screenshot
Improved Theme Browser/Installer

Its user interface has been improved, particularly for sites that have a lot of themes installed. These changes were mostly inspired by the theme browser/installer.


WordPress 3.1 is an exciting release, with plenty of enhancements and changes that transform WordPress into even more of a CMS product:

With the 3.1 release, WordPress is more of a CMS than ever before. The only limit to what you can build is your imagination.

The core developers have also admitted that it took too long, and they plan on making the 3.2 release cycle much shorter.

So what are you waiting for? Download WordPress 3.1 today!

Source: WordPress Codex and various WordPress Trac Tickets

By James Collins

A WordPress web developer and ameteur photographer from Perth, Australia. I've been using WordPress since version 2.2.    
More about me →     Follow @james_collins_ on Twitter →

4 replies on “WordPress 3.1 New Features – a Comprehensive Review”

The admin bar does make life easier, however there’s definitely room for improvement I think.

For example, there is no link top level link directly to the Dashboard (/wp-admin/).

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