See what’s coming in WordPress 5.6, including new features in the Gutenberg editor, and if the new jQuery changes will break your site.
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A written transcript with links is below the video.
See below to get links and info presented in the video tour.
Auto Update Changes
You may recall in WP 5.5 that a function to turn on auto updates for major plugin releases was included.
It was turned off by default and you could select which plugins you wanted to add to the auto update list.
This time in WP 5.6, a function for auto updating WordPress on major releases, will become available.
The setting checkbox is on the Updates page, and it is unchecked by default on existing sites.
And I suggest that you leave it that way.
For new sites, it will be turned on by default. So, if you’re a webmaster, you’ll want to add this to your checklist of things to turn off on new installs.
Minor updates for security and bug fixes should still auto update on both existing and new installs, and we want those, just like we do for plugins that have that same option for minor release updates.
We just don’t want to do major release auto updates for anything.
Phase 2 of jQuery Changes
We are delighted that WordPress is finally modernizing how it handles the jQuery coding language support in the core to keep pace with current site speed and security requirements.
This change was slated to roll out in 3 phases, with Phase 1 in WP 5.5 where the old jQuery migrate support was removed.
That broke about a million sites, so a plugin was developed to put it back in as a temporary measure. It’s purpose is to give time for theme and plugin developers to get their products up to date and compatible with WP core.
In WP 5.6, Phase 2 will update to the latest jQuery, jQuery UI, and jQuery Migrate scripts. This is the jQuery library that all themes and plugins should be using going forward.
Phase 3 will come in early 2021 with the release of WP 5.7, which will permanently remove the old jQuery migrator.
So, if your site broke with WP 5.5 and you had to take extra measures, like adding a plugin to make it work, then you’ll need to take some extra precautions when updating to WP 5.6 and make note of anything that is still broken. Instead of relying on a plugin patch for the old missing jQuery migrator, you’ll want to find substitutes for those plugins, as they are not keeping pace with WordPress core.
WordPress is once again making the Enable jQuery Migrate Helper plugin available if any of your site functions do break with this update. But you won’t be able to rely on that plugin for help with this forever, nor should you.
BlogAid News Subscribers Get Extra Help
My BlogAid News subscribers will receive extra upgrade tips when I announce that I feel it is safe to do the WP 5.6 update.
I will also announce when it is safe to update in my Tips Tuesday weekly roundup. But only BlogAid News subscribers will get the upgrade tips, so be sure you are subscribed.
It will include tips for the steps you want to take if something does break, and before you install that helper plugin.
Several enhancements to the Gutenberg editor will become available in the WP 5.6 update.
The Cover Image Block allows you to use a color, image, or video in the background.
Video position – With WP 5.6, you’ll be able to size and position the video better.
Repeating background – When using images, you can now select a repeating background. This will allow you to load a much smaller image and have it repeat for the full width of the image. That will help with page load speed, but it will be hard to control for responsiveness, meaning that it will repeat differently on every different screen size.
Let’s see that.
As you can see, you need to be careful about what background image you use.
You can also change the percentage of the repeat size to help with this.
The Heading block now has a full-width option for better alignment.
Let’s preview this when set to the default of full width.
Now let’s set to wide width.
How this looks will depend on your theme’s CSS and its support of this function.
As you can see, this theme doesn’t fully support this function yet.
There’s also been a change to the Column block.
You can now set the Columns block for a single column. That way you can take advantage of its extra styling options to do something like put a background color around a nested paragraph block or such.
I think a Group block would be better for this purpose, though.
Have you ever created a bunch of blocks and then decided they would look better in a column layout?
Well, now you can select several blocks and convert them to other blocks.
Let’s select these 3 paragraph blocks.
And click the transformation tool.
Here you will see a list of all the blocks that are eligible.
Let’s choose the List block.
Now let’s undo that.
Select them again.
And transform into columns.
You can also transform a bunch of heading blocks into a list block, or nest a bunch of different kinds of blocks into a Group block.
Media & Text Block
You will now have better control over the image size in the Media & Text block.
Let’s move this line over to see that.
You can now reduce the Spacer block down to a single pixel in height.
The Lists block finally joins the paragraph and other text blocks that have color controls for the font and background, including a gradient background.
Several releases ago, Gutenberg included up/down arrows to make it easy to reposition a block above/below other blocks.
In WP 5.6, there will be a new “grabber” tool that will allow you to click and drag a block to a new position. The block being dragged will appear as a solid blue bar to aid in exact placement.
New Block Patterns
Block Patterns were introduced in WP 5.5 and a few new ones have been added in 5.6.
One of them has overlapping image display too, so be sure to check that out.
But the best new feature is that the patterns can now be selected by category. A new drop-down menu is available to help you quickly sort and find the type of block pattern you want.
Gutenberg Ninja Course
See how to do all of this and more in my Gutenberg Ninja course.
I take you through real-world examples of building great sites including home pages and landing pages of every kind.
There are several significant security changes in WP 5.6 beyond the jQuery coding support changes.
REST API authentication with Application Passwords
There is a new Application Passwords authorization feature in WP 5.6. It allows third-party apps to connect to your site via an encrypted connection via a password you set in the Users > Profile section. You can easily change or revoke the password too.
After you have created passwords, this new feature lets you see which of your apps and plugins are connecting to your site and you can control what they can do.
Keep in mind this has nothing to do with your site login, nor will your login password be used for this purpose.
We will look for updates to our plugins in the near future that ask us to make use of the secure validation and connection option.
Site Health Check Improvements
I have not been a big fan of the Site Health Check feature that rolled into WP a few major releases ago. Too often it is either inaccurate or suggests you take actions that we’re actually not ready to do, like a suggestion to update to a PHP version that is not as stable as we would like.
It was also heavy on hosting resources as it relied on admin-ajax to run. Now it is running on a dedicated REST API endpoint that will also be available for plugins and themes to use too.
And a way has been made for the Site Health Check tool itself not to cause validation errors.
Drop Support for PHP 5.6
We’re all thankful that WordPress started setting standards for the PHP level that it would support to strongly encourage theme and plugin developers to keep pace too.
The current version of PHP you should be running at your host is 7.4.
And when WordPress 5.6 rolls out, it will drop support for PHP version 5.6, which is beyond end-of-life support now.
SEE: How to Check and Change Your PHP Version if you are on a host that offers cPanel.
PHP 8.0 Support – Sort Of
The PHP 8.0 version was released about a month prior to the release of WP 5.6.
But, PHP 8.0 is still considered beta. So, WP is saying the WP 5.6 may or may not fully support all PHP 8.0 functions/upgrades yet. So don’t use it, use PHP 7.4.
Full Site Editor (FSE)
The Gutenberg team hoped to have more features to add in WP 5.6 for Full Site Editing, which is part of the Gutenberg Phase 2 project to make it a full theme editor instead of just a content editor.
However, they pulled back on several of those features as they are just not ready yet.
The new block-based theme, TwentyTwentyOne, will be included with WP 5.6.
A fully block-based theme is required for FSE (Full Site Editor).
This theme, and the FSE, are still considered beta.
And your best bet at this time is to delete all themes not in use, as they are actually potential security holes.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of What’s New in WordPress 5.6.
Be sure to visit BlogAid.net for more helpful site success tips and resources.