WordPress 3.5 is coming! This is a major release for WordPress, which means in addition to all the usual bug fixes, there are new features.
The new version of WordPress is expected to drop this very week, so you should get ready now.
Do I have to upgrade?
If you ask any of us here at DreamHost, the answer is yes. The latest version is the most secure version of WordPress, and contains new features. Waiting a few days isn't going to hurt you, but as soon as that new version is released, there's no more support for the old version, nor will there be patches or fixes for it. It's always a good idea to upgrade as soon as you can.
What should I do before I upgrade?
Before you upgrade, make a backup of your site. While we do make backups for you when you use our upgrade tool, it's always a good idea to make your own before any major upgrade. We have directions here on the different ways you can backup: http://wiki.dreamhost.com/Backup - Save those backup files to your computer for safe keeping.
In addition, upgrade all your themes and plugins first. While many work just fine with newer versions of WordPress, some (like BuddyPress) usually need to be the latest and greatest.
I also suggest you install and activate the Hotfix plugin - http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/hotfix/ - because if there is an emergency fix to WordPress, you'll get it faster with that plugin.
What are the new features?
Outside of the normal changes (buttons are now square, colors have been tweaked, code has been optimized), there's one major new feature that everyone will be talking about: Improved Media Uploader.
The media uploader is improved, and the way you insert galleries into your posts is changed. Just like before, you can upload and insert media (images, audio, document files, etc.) by clicking the Add Media button. The drag-and-drop box (introduced in WordPress 3.3) now overlays the whole screen. There's no need to press 'save' to change your title, alt tags, or captions, as WordPress will save it for you on the fly. To create an image gallery, select the images to add and click on the "Create a new gallery" button. It's just that easy.
Also included in 3.5 is the new default theme, Twenty Twelve - http://wordpress.org/extend/themes/twentytwelve - which is a responsive theme that looks good on mobile devices, without any extra work needed by you. Twenty Twelve is also the first WordPress default theme that was designed to work either as a traditional website or a blog.
One other major change is the Link Manager. If you're using it, you'll want to install the Link Manager plugin - http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/link-manager/ - because it's going away. Don't worry, if you're using it, it will still be there, but if you've never used it, it will become invisible.
If you're a fan of the HTML (i.e. plain text) editor, that's been renamed to 'Text' to more accurately describe what it really is. There are also new oEmbeds (Slideshare, Instagram, and SoundCloud), and the oEmbed feature is now on for everyone.
Once you upgrade, you can visit your own install's about page - http://domain.com/wp-admin/about.php - to see what's new.
How do I upgrade?
If you used the One-Click installer, and you've set the upgrader to happen automatically, then you're already good to go. We will magically upgrade you.
If you're not using the One-Click, or you want to get it done now before we get to you, you can use the built in upgrader. WordPress will have an admin alert on your dashboard that will let you easily upgrade. It's as simple as one click.
If things break after I upgrade, what do I do?
In order, the basic debugging steps are to try:
flushing any caching plugins you might be running, as well as server and/or browser caches. A lot of people use WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache, and know to flush those. But did you know that WP Minify also has a cache? Click on the Advanced button on the WP Minify page to find the cache flush option.
deactivating all plugins (yes, all) to see if this resolves the problem. No one wants to do this, but sometimes a plugin gets 'stuck' and needs to be kicked. If this works, re-activate the plugins one by one until you find the problematic plugin(s), or if just the act of resetting them fixes everything. If you can't get into your admin dashboard, try resetting the plugins folder by FTP or PhpMyAdmin. Sometimes, an apparently inactive plugin can still cause problems. Also remember to deactivate any plugins in the mu-plugins folder. The easiest way is to rename that folder to mu-plugins-old
switching to the Twenty Twelve theme to rule out any theme-specific problems. If you can't log in to change themes, you can remove the theme folders via FTP so the only one is
twentyeleven. That will force your site to use it.
manually upgrading. When all else fails, download a fresh copy of the latest.zip file of 3.5 (top right on this page) to your computer, and use that to copy up. You may need to delete the wp-admin and wp-includes folders on your server. Read the Manual Update directions first!
As soon as 3.5 is released to the wild, your friendly neighborhood WordPress Expert will be posting on the WordPress support forums something pretty similar to this (only not as DreamHosty) for everyone. I'll link that post here, and we'll have all the known plugins and themes with issues listed there.
Right now there are very few issues that would break your site. At worst, we've seen things like the flyout menus stop working. Of course, you can never test everything, so we probably missed something, or someone thought they told us but didn't, or it only breaks when the moon refracts its light through swamp gas... You get the idea. Because of that, the WordPress.org thread will be updated by all the hard working volunteers at WordPress.org as soon as any conflicts are found.
I'll do my best to update here and there right away for you. If you need help, you know where to find us!