Premiering with WordPress 3.1 some time next month, Post Formats is one of the most talked about and often confusing of the new features. The documentation is beginning to take shape, and a list of Post Formats is being finalized, so what is a Post Format?
Think of Post Formats like categories, but more from a design standpoint than an organizational one. Basically, Post Formats offer a microblogging-style way to assign a specific style to your post based on content. So far, Post Formats are available for asides, audio, chat transcripts, galleries, links, quotes, single images, status updates, and videos. What that means is, if your theme takes advantage of these Post Formats, you will have any easy way to display each format with a unique style. As Otto illustrates, Matt Mullenweg has done this for some time.
Many themes have brought similar functionality tied to specific categories, but what happens when you switch themes? You either need to find one that provides unique styles for the same categories, or you need to deal with the loss of your unique styles. Post Formats are built into the core and standardized across the platform. As long as each theme you use supports Post Formats, your posts will continue to carry on a unique style.
But, don’t we have Custom Post Types already built into the core? Why, yes we do, but they aren’t what you think. To quote Mark Jaquith, “These were poorly named. Think: Custom Content Types.” The so-called Custom Post Types were really designed for things that you never wanted to be associated with posts in the first place, like pages, products, and job listings. Post Formats are designed to simply offer a unique style that highlights the featured content of a post. A link-formatted post will feature just a link and maybe a brief description, an asides-formatted post will feature no title and a few sentences, an image-formatted post will clearly place the image at the fore-front of the post itself, a quote-formatted post will clearly show that the content is quoted and clearly display a source, etc.
As John James Jacoby explains, this feature has come a long way since Post Types were first introduced in WordPress 2.0, and there’s no doubt that it will be one of the highlights of WordPress 3.1.
What do you think of the new Post Formats feature? Will you be making use of it on your blog?