If your site uses WordPress software (as opposed to the hosted WordPress.com site), then you may have heard about the latest upgrade, released just today.

Version 3.1 offers the usual range of improvements – faster this, debugged that, more secure the other – but at first glance, two new features stand out from the pack.

The first is the new toolbar that you’ll notice on top of your blog:

WordPress 3.1 toolbar

Only site administrators will see the toolbar; visitors just see the same old blog. And it offers several commonly-used admin features that may mean it’s a long time before you feel the need to visit that admin dashboard again:

  • The menu under the user name lets you manage your profile, visit the admin dashboard or log out of your site.
  • The “Edit Post” button lets you do just that with the post currently displayed.
  • “Add New” lets you create a new post, page or custom post type.
  • “Comments” takes you to the comment moderation page, and displays the number of comments in the moderation cue (if any).
  • “Appearance” lets you edit your widgets or template.
  • “Shortlink” serves up a wp.me-style abbreviated URL that will redirect to the current post.

And that little graph on the right? That’s your traffic over the past 48 hours… and if you’re the kind of person who needs to glance at your stats hourly to see if there’s been a sudden surge in interest, this could save you a lot of time.

Which is ultimately what the toolbar is about: saving time. It won’t change the way you blog, but it will make administering your blog a lot easier.

What may change your blogging more profoundly is the second big feature: easy internal linking. When you click the “link” button in WordPress 3.1’s visual editor, you see this dialog box:

WordPress 3.1 link dialog with internal linking

You can scroll through recent posts and pages (the box refreshes with older content when you scroll to the bottom), or search by keyword.

If you’re like me, and would like to link to other posts on your blog but feel daunted by the disruption to your writing process (open new window, load up blog, search for post, copy URL, close window – oh, hell, no, not that one!), this feature is heaven-sent.

We find ourselves recommending WordPress frequently to folks who’d like a site that’s relatively easy to set up and theme and has some content-management muscle, but who don’t need something as powerful as, say, Drupal. With version 3.1, WordPress has helped to keep themselves at the top of our list of great social media tools.