Finally DIYThemes released Thesis 2.0, after making us wait for very long time. I have been using Thesis 1.8.5 for a few weeks on ItsAbhikDotCom and all I can say is Thesis changed the way I used to blog. It not only made this blog a lot faster, but also added tons of new features and implemented some cutting edge search engine optimization techniques.
So, when I get my hands on Thesis Framework 2.0, I couldn’t resists myself to try it out. And, while I was testing it, I thought to share my views with you in a review. I also made a walk through video you can watch to get a glimpse of what Thesis 2.0 is offering.
I decided to install Thesis 2.0 in a brand new WordPress installation with no other Themes or Plugins installed. This way I can get to see every single ‘new’ features of Thesis 2.0 is offering without any interruption or anything. Let’s get into the review. I have make this review very detailed, so expect a long read.
Downloading Thesis 2.0
Downloading Thesis 2.0 was like a nightmare for me. Every time I hit the download button (had to accept their terms first), a php file, instead of the zip, started downloading. Finally, after 7th or 8th time, I managed to get the zip file.
Though it happened with me, doesn’t necessarily means you’ll face that too. In fact, I didn’t noticed anyone else is facing the issue in their support forum.
Installing Thesis 2.0
Installing Thesis 2.0 gets lot easier than Thesis 1.x. You can install it like any other standalone WordPress themes. Just uploading the zip within the WordPress Admin Panel will do it. No more manual FTP is required nor those annoying file and folder permission change is required which were a must in Thesis 1.x series.
After activating the Thesis 2.0, a welcome page appears to welcome you to Thesis 2.0.
Thesis 2.0 has a completely new dashboard in terms of look and feel. A whole new dashboard with easier top navigation buttons. In fact, the sidebar menu items are now shifted to Thesis dashboard for a better user experience.
The buttons are actually Dropdown menus and each of the Thesis 2.0 features can be accessed.
Thesis 2.0 Site Options
The First button is Site (what we known as “Site Options” in previous versions of Thesis). Hovering on it will drop the menu down with four other options. HTML Head, Tracking Scripts, 404 Page and Home Page SEO. Let’s get into every one of them.
This option controls pretty much everything on the <head> section of your theme. You can drag and drop any element you want to add, change the order of appearance as well as remove any element (Shift+Drag outside) from the head. This feature makes it a lot easier to handle the head elements for newbies. But, what exactly the need for re-ordering head element? Or, that’s just a part of drag and drop? Not sure.!!
You can also add “Site Verification” and “Google Authorship” meta tags from stock. The stock is a place where you put your removed head elements to use later.
This option lets you add your tracking code. You can either use the whole code, in case you are using something other than Google Analytics, or just the Google Analytics ID. The theme will do the rest to implement the code in every page on your blog.
This feature lets you have your own custom 404 page. You just need to create a page, probably a standard WordPress page and use it as your custom 404 error page with this option.
Home Page SEO
It hasn’t changed since previous versions, except the look. This option lets your add your own title tag for your blog’s home page as well as meta description and meta keywords.
Also, there are options to noindex, nofollow and noarchive your blog page. Though they are labeled as not recommended, but what’s the point of having those options if no one is going to use them?
For the first time, Thesis comes with the ability to have multiple child themes simultaneously. By default, Thesis 2.0 comes with 2 child skins, one is the default (the same skin in previous versions) and the other one is blank to build your own skin from scratch.
The select skin option is somewhat similar to WordPress’s Theme Chooser. All your child themes are listed here and you can activate them with a single click of a mouse. Also, there is an option to preview the skin before activating it.
There is an option to upload your own child skin which is located at the top right corner of the Select Skin Page.
Perhaps the most complicated setting in the whole Thesis 2.0 options. The Skin Editor is actually a template builder. You can create new designs for your blog from within the Thesis 2.0 control panel.
Though it might look pretty complicated at the first, but once you get used to with how it works, you can easily modify your skin and add new sections with just a few click or drags of mouse.
No more hassle with adding codes to “custom_functions.php” file and adding the style to custom.css. However, you still need to know your part of CSS to style your new section or element.
Now there is a whole new HTML, CSS and Image uploader in Thesis 2.0
Thesis 2.0 Boxes and Packages
The most interesting new features in Thesis 2.0 are the Boxes and Packages. The boxes and packages system will perhaps rewrite the whole WordPress theming definitions.
Boxes are the “elements” on your websites which you can add to your blog’s design from the Skin Editor. It’s something like plugins. For example; if you like to add Facebook like box, you can convert it to a Box and upload using Thesis’s Box Uploader. It will be activated and added to the Template Editor, where you can add them to your templates.
Packages are the custom CSS we were using in custom.css file in Thesis 1.x. You can upload it from the Packages uploader in Thesis control panel and will be activated and added to the CSS Editor, where you can add them to your CSS workflow.
However, there are no guides on how to build or develop boxes or packages
I am sure when developers get the idea, you can expect a lot cooler things for your Thesis 2.0 powered blog.
New Post Editor Fields (Custom Meta Boxes and Post Image)
A lot has changed in Custom Meta boxes in WordPress Post Editor page. I really love this change as it makes the post editor page a lot less messed up. How? The old grouped custom meta tags are now divided into separate meta boxes. So, you can simple get rid of those you don’t need by removing them using WordPress Screen Options and keep your post editor page as clean as possible.
For example, the custom SEO meta tags are now divided in to three separate fields. Since meta keywords field is no longer necessary, you can simple hide it.
Direct image upload is now possible is Thesis Post Image and Thesis Thumbnail sections. Previously, you need to use the WordPress Media Uploader to upload your Post Images and Thumbnails and provide the URL in the field.
Creating custom templates was not never been so easier before. Thesis 2.0 introduced a way to create custom templates with ease and use it with any page or post you like. For example; a template without Header, Footer and Sidebar to use on your Squeeze Pages.
Thesis 2.0 comes with a Landing Page custom template, but once you create more custom templates from the Skin Editor, they will show up on the Custom Templates in Post Editor Page.
Markup Schema Integration
Thesis 2.0 comes with full Markup Schema Integrated. You can choose which markup schema to use with which template. For example; you can have separate markups for your recipe posts and review posts. All you need to do is create separate custom templates with required markup and use that template for your post.
This is indeed good for people who blogs about several topics, such as CreativeWork, Recipe and Reviews.
Everything I looked so far is simply awesome.
I spent like 4 hours straight before writing this review and all I can say, the Thesis 2.0 is completely different than its previous versions. It is impressive in every way possible, though there are room in improve. Here are some of my own opinions about Thesis 2.0
No Tutorial or Guide
I couldn’t find any tutorial or documentation while looking for them in Thesis Blog and Support Forums. However, there is a Video Introduction Series to help you get started.
Most of the child themes I tested on my test installation went straight incompatible with Thesis 2.0. You either need to upgrade your current theme to work with Thesis 2.0 or create your own theme from scratch.
Not Many Resources Available Yet
Thesis 2.0 is a new baby and yet to have some external resources. Boxes and Packages are also pretty new, but once the developers gets into them you may see some superb ideas coming in.
Upgrading from 1.8.5 to 2.0
It’s almost impossible as of now.
Your existing Thesis 1.x design will not be converted for use in Thesis 2. When you activate Thesis 2, it will run a Skin called Thesis Classic that looks just like the legacy Thesis 1.x default design.
If you are thinking to upgrade your live blog, I suggest you not to. Wait until you hear more from your theme designer or Thesis for an easier way to upgrade keeping your existing theme.
Well, those were my takes on Thesis 2.0.
What’s yours? Did you get a chance to play with it? Share us what you liked and what you didn’t.
Here is the quick video that I made to show the new look of Thesis 2.0 Control Panel.