Warming up to WordPress Calypso

Post written by Andy Beohar
On Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

Check out Calypso, the newly redesigned WordPress backend-end. This single-page web application is powered by JavaScript, CSS and WordPress.com’s REST API allowing for a seamless browsing experience. Plus, the easy-to-use dashboard can help you bring multiple WordPress sites under one umbrella, which makes for a pretty slick (not to mention organized) user interface.

Managing multiple WordPress sites can be unwieldy. There are themes and plugins to update, comments to moderate, and of course, content to write and post. Calypso can help you save some of the time you’re spending logging in and out and shuffling around.

The downside is that many custom plugins and themes you love may not work on the new platform. The good side is that as the Calypso market share grows. developers will begin developing new compatible themes and plugins.

What You Need to Know about WordPress Calypso

Version 1.0 of Calypso rolled out about a year ago. According to the WordPress CEO, it was a 20-month project with over 127 contributors. Following the open source democratic traditions of the company, the code is available on GitHub and developers can make their own suggestions and contributions at any time.

Calypso is an open source admin panel that allows you to manage WordPress sites. It isn’t a WordPress upgrade; it’s an entirely new dashboard. It’s powered entrely by JavaScript + CSS, which most developers agree is a lot faster and more responsive than PHP +  HTML + MySQL combination.

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Calypso offers a lot of the same functions as the hosted WordPress service, ManageWP and the WordPress.org’s WP Multisite in the sense that Calypso will help you manage all of the WordPress sites you have connected to WordPress.com.

It’s 100% open API-focused and available now for Mac OS X (10.9+) WINDOWS (7+) and Linux. You do have to use Jetpack to manage your themes and plug-ins in order to make use of the Calypso interface [see here]. Once Jetpack is installed and connected to WordPress.com , you will have centralized management of all your WordPress websites in one place.

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Some of the features you’ll find on the Calypso 1.0 dashboard include:

  • Viewing traffic analytics for multiple sites on one screen.
  • Tracking and responding to the latest comments across sites from one centralized hub.
  • The new editor lets you change content more quickly. The design is pretty responsive; you can narrow it to a page view that allows you to focus specifically on text or broaden it to see the controls.
  • You can drag, drop, and edit menus.
  • It’s easier to manage plugins and updates – including activating automatic updates.

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One drawback: Most advanced premium themes with many customizable options use their own customizer—that won’t work in Calypso. However, basic themes that don’t have as many customization options can be adjusted using the WordPress built-in Customizer, which works under Calypso..

Pros and Cons of a Calypso Switch

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Don’t you just kind of hate it when you finally figured out PHP, and some young upstart comes along and blows it out of the water? Since we’re still on v.1, that may be a strong statement. But in the past year, some clear pros and cons to migrating to WordPress Calypso have started to emerge. Let’s try to outline some of the most common pros and cons:

Pros include

  • The speed of native apps is probably the number one attribute with Calypso.
  • Fully responsive one-stop hub for all your WordPress sites. Imagine running hundreds of sites from just one dashboard. Cool, right?
  • Along the same lines, Calypso can improve your workflows by speeding up the time you spend posting across multiple sites.
  • The writing interface adds some much needed UX to the WordPress content feature.
  • You can manage plugins and themes from Jetpack sites.
  • Social analytics are built into the hub.
  • For self-hosted sites, it mirrors the benefits of WordPress.com.
  • It’s yours. Open source architecture empowers users to take it, touch it, feel it, and make it their own. You’re only limited by your programming skills, so knock yourself out.

Cons to consider

  • You need the Jetpack plugin to make Calypso dance. This point should probably be listed in both the cons and the pros section – Automattic says Jetpack is the future of WordPress, while some developers call it a Trojan Horse.
  • Existing plugins and themes can still be used, but many of them may not be compatible with Calypso.For now, Calypso supports the latest two versions of all major browsers except Internet Explorer, for which it currently only supports IE11 and Edge.
  • For now, Calypso supports the latest two versions of all major browsers except Internet Explorer, for which it currently only supports IE11 and Edge.
  • Calypso’s theme customizer interfaces great with WordPress.com sites. For self-hosted sites, not so much. But developers are likely already working on a seamless integration between self-hosted sites and theme customization options.

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  • So, if you’ve authored customized themes on the old WP admin, Calypso will be the fly in your ointment. Bulky custom options built in PHP won’t work well in the new streamlined format—you’ll have to continue logging in on the legacy platform. There’s currently no support for custom fields and post types.

Here’s another con that could also be considered a pro: Developers will have to master JavaScript and the REST API.

You’ll obviously have to make your own decision about whether the time it will take to learn Calypso will offset the time you spend logging into multiple sites. No matter what you decide, we do believe you should recognize that there is a tectonic movement happening at WordPress which will certainly affect the interactivity of the platform in the future.

Organic Themes says, “Calypso is going to be the start of a shift in the world of WordPress development.” Remember using Flash to build websites? Remember COBOL? It’s kind of like that.

WordPress Calypso and the Future

Rachel McCollin from wpmudev.org says it well:

However, as it stands right now, Calypso isn’t complete. There are some menu options which send you back to your main site, the Customizer isn’t integrated into it and (importantly for anyone using WordPress as a CMS) it doesn’t let you work with custom post types. It’s also dependant on having Jetpack installed and a WordPress.com account set up. It’s certainly not something I would use for client sites at the moment, even with the UI enhancements. [source]

For first version software, Calypso is a strong, fresh start. In the future, you can expect UX improvements and copycat projects that build upon the open source code. As it’s intended, this will open new options and opportunities for website builders to learn from this work, and capitalize on it to develop their own plugins.

Developers have been using the REST API to develop site themes not tied to PHP and a few new mobile apps, but they’re just getting started. The beauty of the API framework, in general, is that it opens the door to interoperability between applications. In the future, WordPress will be able to interact with multiple applications—from smart refrigerators to smartphone apps.

What this means is that WordPress is about to get cutting-edge. Watch for front-end developers to start building applications that integrate with WordPress APIs. That’s the big-picture implication of Calypso’s release; instead of just adding effects on top of the PHP WordPress site structure, developers are going to breeze in and change how WordPress fundamentally interacts with users.

How and when will WordPress open up Calypso plugin development to developers? We are still not sure.  You can see here Automattic has a Calypso plugin boilerplate publicly listed. And this means custom development is seeming to be encouraged.

 

Bonus Video From WordPress.com on Capyso!



About the Author:
Andy Beohar is Vice President of SevenAtoms, a San Francisco inbound marketing agency. Andy develops and manages ROI positive inbound and paid marketing campaigns for B2B, Technology and E-commerce companies.

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