WordPress 5.5 was released earlier today and is the second major version of 2020.
This new version includes many improvements, many of which focus on the WordPress block editor. It also includes some long-awaited features that make their debut with this version.
In this article, we’re going to tell you what’s new in WordPress 5.5 and what features to try after updating your websites.
WordPress 5.5 is a major version. If you are not on a managed WordPress hosting service, you will need to start the update manually.
Important: Don’t forget to take a full WordPress backup before starting the update.
Improved block editor in WordPress 5.5
In the block editor, you spend most of the time creating content for your WordPress blog. It has been serviced regularly and every WordPress version brings improvements to the block editor.
WordPress 5.5 brings some important changes so that you can use the block editor more efficiently.
Integrated block directory
WordPress 5.5 now contains an integrated block directory. So if you want to add a block that is not available on your site, suggestions from the block directory will automatically appear.
The block directory is essentially a collection of WordPress plugins that you can use to add different types of blocks to your site. This does not include block library plugins that come with several useful WordPress blocks that you can start using right away by installing a single plugin.
Changes to the user interface in the block editor
Perhaps the most noticeable thing about WordPress 5.5 is the visual improvements to the block editor. The frames and highlighting have been improved to make the block editor easier to access.
The ‘Add New Block’ (+) button is now more noticeable and looks more like a button with a black background.
Edit images in the block editor
WordPress 5.5 allows users to edit images in the block editor. You can adjust the image height, width, aspect ratio, cropping and rotating without leaving the post editor.
Of course, you can still do basic image editing in the media library. With inline image editing, new users can now easily see these built-in editing options.
Introduction to block patterns
The block editor already had reusable blocks and groups that users could use to save and reuse the blocks they used most.
WordPress 5.5 adds a new feature called block pattern. These are commonly used blocks with preconfigured settings that you can add right away.
This is a great way to quickly create page layouts while keeping the style consistent across your website. Some of them are already available in 5.5. More will come when WordPress themes and plugins register their own block patterns.
Improved block navigation and movement
A common problem that many beginners have struggled with is block navigation. Especially when using nested blocks like columns or groups, it got a little difficult to select the parent block or move a child within it.
WordPress 5.5 now has much better block navigation that makes it easier to select the parent block or an element nested within it. You can also move blocks by grabbing the handle and dragging and dropping them.
Automatic update of your WordPress theme and your plugins
WordPress 5.5 takes a big step towards security by introducing automatic updates for WordPress plugins and themes.
You can now just go to the Plugins page and enable automatic updates for every WordPress plugin that you have installed on your site.
You can do this for WordPress themes too. Just go to the Appearance »themes Page and click on a topic to select it. In the topic overview popup you will find the option to activate automatic updates for this topic.
This functionality was already available in WordPress, but you either had to change the WordPress configuration or use a third-party plugin to manage automatic updates. With WordPress 5.5, it’s now incredibly easy to make sure your websites are always running with the latest code.
Update plugins by uploading a new version
Typically, you update WordPress plugins using automatic updates or by clicking on the update notification. However, sometimes you need to update a plugin manually.
In this case, your only option was to use an FTP client to upload the new version. WordPress 5.5 fixed that problem and now you can just go Plugins »Add new Page and upload the new version as if you were uploading any new plugin zip file.
WordPress automatically recognizes that you have already installed this plugin and that the new file contains a different version. You can then replace the current version with the uploaded version.
You can do the same for topics. Just go to the Appearance »themes Page and then click the Add New button at the top.
Then click the Upload Topic button to upload your zip file for the topic. WordPress automatically detects the existing theme and offers you the option to replace the current version with the uploaded version.
Lazy loading for pictures
WordPress 5.5 is now lazily loading images onto your website. This means that only the images that are visible to the user on the screen will be loaded and the loading of other images will be delayed.
WordPress is now making it a standard feature for all websites by adding the “load” attribute to the img tag. This attribute is supported by all modern web browsers (except Safari).
This will greatly improve the speed and performance of your website. This is good for WordPress hosting companies, ISPs, and all of the interwebs too.
WordPress powers more than 35% of all websites on the internet. This significant speed improvement saves a lot of bandwidth, server resources and electricity.
The standard XML sitemaps in WordPress
WordPress 5.5 now automatically publishes XML sitemaps for your website. An XML sitemap is a file that lists all of the content on your website in XML format. This helps search engines like Google to easily discover and index your content.
Sitemaps are a crucial part of WordPress SEO and this feature would help a lot of beginners who don’t follow SEO best practices.
However, the standard WordPress XML sitemaps are quite limited in terms of features and functionality. Because of this, both top WordPress SEO plugins, All in One SEO and Yoast SEO, will continue to provide their own XML sitemaps.
If you’re already using an SEO plugin or a sitemaps plugin, you don’t have to do anything. These plugins automatically deactivate the standard WordPress XML sitemaps.
Changes under the hood in WordPress 5.5
WordPress themes that use get_custom_logo () or the_custom_logo () do not add a link to the homepage when the homepage is displayed. (See details)
Theme developers can now pass arguments between template files. (See details)
Developers can now define standard terms for custom taxonomies. (See details)
WordPress 5.5 includes updated external libraries like phpMailer, SimplePie, Twemoji, and more. (See details).
Developers can control auto-update options by disabling, enabling, or selectively blocking them for specific plugins or themes. (See details)
Dashicons are updated to include 65 new icons. (See details)
WordPress 5.5 offers the ability to search for PHP compatibility issues more effectively. (See details)
We hope this article has helped you learn what’s new in WordPress 5.5. We are particularly pleased about the delayed loading of images and changes to the block editor.
What’s your favorite feature in WordPress 5.5? Let us know in the comments below.
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