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What’s new in WordPress 5.6 [Available for Download]

What’s new in WordPress 5.6 [Available for Download]


It seems that Christmas came early for all WordPress users this year!

WordPress 5.6 has been released on the 8th of December and it’s now available for download!

Despite everything that has been going on around the world for the last 10 months, the development team behind the most popular CMS hasn’t stopped working on new updates. In fact, WordPress 5.6 is the third major update for 2020.

Similar to its ancestors, WordPress 5.6 “Simone” is named after one of the most popular jazz singers in the world – Nina Simone. Another interesting fact around the latest update is that the release squad is entirely made up of women.

As far as the latest improvements are concerned, WordPress 5.6 doesn’t disappoint! The newest version has been stacked with enhancements – block editor improvements, new Twenty Twenty-One default theme, automatic major updates, PHP 8 compatibility (kind of), jQuery update, improved UI, bug fixes, and last but not least - tons of features and improvements targeted towards developers.

For those of you who are interested in the development cycle of WordPress 5.6, it looks like this:

  • 20 October 2020: Beta 1
  • 27 October 2020: Beta 2
  • 2 November 2020: Beta 3
  • 12 November 2020: Beta 4
  • 17 November 2020: RC 1
  • 1 December 2020: RC 2
  • 7 December 2020: Dry run for release of WordPress 5.6
  • 8 December 2020: WordPress 5.6 Release

So without further ado, let’s dive into the newest WordPress features!

Gutenberg: What’s new in the block editor?

In the previous WordPress update - version 5.5, 11 versions of the editor have been merged into the core. WordPress 5.6 also integrates several versions of the block editor into its core, so that all users will be able to take advantage of the newly introduced improvements. And they are:

Video Position Control for The Cover Block

Previously, the cover block only showed position control for images. With WordPress 5.6 being released, it now allows users to control the position of videos into the cover block.

Support for Video Subtitles

Another great improvement of the latest WordPress upgrade is the possibility to add subtitles to your videos.

You can do it by adding them in WebVTT format (Web Video Text Tracks Format).

Once you have uploaded the vtt. file, your website visitors will be able to activate captions in a preferred language.

Image Size Control

Gutenberg 9.1 includes an option that allows you to control the size of the images you upload.

You have a choice of several predefined sizes:

  • Thumbnail
  • Medium
  • Large
  • Advanced

Transforming Multiple Blocks into Column Block

With WordPress 5.6 you can transform multiple blocks into column blocks.

How can you do that?

Select multiple blocks, then click on the menu in the top right corner and from the drop-down menu “Transform to” click on “Columns”.

Simple as that!

Twenty Twenty-One – The New Default WordPress Theme

Twenty Twenty-One is the new default them in WordPress 5.6!

WordPress traditionally releases a new default theme at the end of each year which is usually named after the year. The brand new theme is designed to be minimalistic, aesthetically pleasing, and easy to use. “2021” will rely mainly on the block editor for creating and managing its web pages.

Twenty Twenty-One is based on one of Automaticc’s latest themes – Seedlet. As we’ve already mentioned, it is a minimalistic theme with a single column layout, a footer sidebar, and two navigations. The main colors that will prevail are pastel green and two different shades of gray. In addition to the main colors, Twenty Twenty-One will offer several other pastel colors:


Automatic Updates for Major WordPress Releases

Automatic updates are nothing new in WordPress. In fact, they were first presented in version 3.7 and since then they help owners to maintain a high level of security of their websites!

Attention! Keeping all of your WordPress (core, themes, plugins) up-to-date is crucial for the security of your website. Using outdated versions will make your site vulnerable to attacks.

However, until WordPress 5.6, website owners could enable automatic updates only for Maintainance and security upgrades. Now you can enable automatic updates for major releases such as WordPress 5.6

The “Enable automatic updates for all new versions of WordPress” feature could be found in your dashboard.

After enabling it, you will be able to set automatic updates only for Maintainance and security upgrades. Again in your dashboard, you will see “Switch to automatic updates for maintenance and security releases only”.

Adding this feature is a huge step towards protecting WordPress installations. One of the main reasons for vulnerability in a WordPress site is the use of outdated versions, and through automatic updates, the percentage of affected sites will decrease dramatically.

Despite the convenience of automatic updates, we advise you to make regular backups of your site. Updating the WordPress core can often break your site, as an item may not yet be compatible with the new version.

All of our users have WordPress Management at their disposal - a complete toolset for management of your WordPress sites. It has 10 different tools in it, and one of them is called WordPress Clone. It allows you to "clone" your site, and then make the desired changes or apply updates without worrying that it will break your actual site.

Also, we must not forget about the functionality of the WordPress Update tool. With that instrument, you can activate an automatic update of your core, theme, or plugin at the touch of a button!

Site Health – a newer and better version

Site Health is a security tool that was introduced in WordPress 5.2. Extremely useful functionality that makes a quick check of the site and alerts you to the presence of problems that may make it vulnerable to a hacker attack.

Since its addition to the platform so far, Site Health has undergone many improvements and WordPress 5.6 has not disappointed either.

Site Health check Data Validation

A validator has been added to the Site Health tool to check its responses. The job of the validator is to remove all invalid responses that would otherwise cause fatal errors and stop important site processes.

PHP 8 compatibility

PHP 8 is the newest version of the scripting language. The major update took place on the 26th of November and unlike any of the previous PHP releases, this one is going to have a huge impact on the WordPress ecosystem.

As far as WordPress 5.6 is concerned, it’s more than clear that it will take some time before WordPress users could feel the effect of the newest PHP version. That’s because the WordPress ecosystem includes core, plugins, and themes. Therefore, the core might be compatible with PHP 8 but the rest of the elements are not. As we said, it will take time until the entire ecosystem becomes fully compatible.

In fact, Jonathan Desrosiers, a WordPress developer, called WordPress 5.6 “beta-compatible” with PHP 8. And this statement will be valid until all of the themes and plugins get updated.

It is currently extremely important for all developers of plugins and themes to start working on updating their products. For WordPress users, we advise you not to rush into the transition to PHP 8 (before it is fully tested and integrated by cPanel), even if you have this option. It is important to make sure beforehand that the plugins and themes you use are updated to work with the scripting language!

And again - back up your site before moving to PHP 8!

jQuery Update

The changes to the jQuery libraries started with version 5.5. Now with the release of WordPress 5.6, developers are taking another step towards updating them.

The new WordPress version includes 3 jQuery libraries:

  • jQuery 3.5.1
  • jQuery Migrate 3.3.2
  • jQuery UI 1.12.1

This update is not surprising at all, as WordPress announced that it is working on smoothly updating JavaScript libraries. The ultimate goal is for WordPress to use the latest jQuery versions and they will be regularly updated in the future. Something that hadn't happened before. The truth is that WordPress ran behind when it comes to jQuery and in the last few years has relied on outdated versions. This, in turn, was only to the detriment of the entire ecosystem, as plugins and themes used outdated functionality. The steps that have been taken and are to be taken are:

  • WordPress 5.5: Remove the jQuery Migrate 1.x script.
  • WordPress 5.6: Update to the latest jQuery, jQuery UI, and jQuery Migrate scripts.
  • WordPress 5.7: Remove the jQuery Migrate script.

The presence of jQuery Migrate can be confusing for some of you, given the problems it created when removing the script in version 5.5. WordPress then decided to remove jQuery Migrate, but that only led to thousands of broken sites and as many disgruntled WordPress users.

Eventually, jQuery Migrate was returned, but with the idea of helping developers migrate their plugins and themes to more recent jQuery versions. In fact, the deadline for updating the WordPress ecosystem is March 2021. Until then, all developers must have updated their products.

These have been some of the major new features of WordPress 5.6. Like its ancestors, the latest release provides a lot of new opportunities to every WordPress owner. Some of the improvements are really exciting but we want to stress once again on backing up your installation before changing anything on it.

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