So, courtesy of a friend (I don’t need an account, I won’t use it), I’ve been having a play around with WordPress.com, the fully hosted version of WordPress. One thing that’s obvious is that they’ve spruced up the back-end, one assumes this is a foreshadow of what will be included in WP 1.6 when it makes it to release.

I’ve seen a few reports and screenshots of the new editing page, but haven’t had a chance to play until now. It’s pretty funky, with a resizeable content box and an all-new WYSIWYG editor (something that WP has long been missing), instead of option boxes being sprinkled around the screen they’re now accessible from collapsable menus which neatens the whole look up, plus the new way to upload and manage photos without leaving the writing screen is far more convenient. A lot of this functionality seems to have made it to the write/edit page screen too, which is nice.

There’s even a complete post preview in the template you’ve chosen (not sure if that’ll make it to the normal release or be reserved for the hosted site though) when you save your entry, and by that I mean practically a screenshot of how the final post will look to anyone browsing it.

The other areas that come in for a significant overhaul are the presentation section, where you select themes, but instead of just having boring names, now you have small screenshots (not sure if this is destined for WP 1.6 either, but something that should be considered, just get template owners to include a small screenshot that can be used to display here and a ‘No Preview Available’ image for those that don’t have one). The Profile section also comes in for some nice work, making it look nicer and also making it easier to use, that should definitely be ported over to the new version of WP.

All in all it looks like a good service for those looking for free hosted blogging, with much of WordPress’ power and usability making it through, but hopefully it also marks some of the things that are due for WP 1.6. If they are indeed to be included it looks like a great bit of software will only get better and easier to use.