In mid August, 2020, a major update to WordPress was released.
V5.5 is packed with many changes of note. These will alter the way you work with WordPress.
Major changes to WordPress happen about 3 times a year and this is the second such update for 2020.
V5.5 is loaded with significant changes to the Gutenberg block editor as well as to the rest of WordPress.
The Major Changes To Gutenberg
The block editor is moving in the direction of being a page editor and eventually will be the cornerstone to a Full Site Editing experience.
V5.5 is a major step in that direction.
Three new features are now built into Gutenberg.
Gutenberg Looks A Little Different
In my video you’ll see that the Inserter (that’s the UI where all the blocks are located) is now docked to the left side of the screen, making it look like a real Page Builder.
It will be very noticeable that the editing screen is now very clean, and editing tools appear only when needed. Even the right sidebar is hidden by default but shows up when you’re working inside of a block.
Also, many of the icons got makeovers or were removed altogether.
The Block Directory
Part of the master plan for Gutenberg, the Block Directory, is new and part of V5.5.
The idea is simple. Rather than download a plugin which provides a collection of blocks – many of which you’ll never use – the Block Directory makes it easy to search for a single-purpose block, download it, and install it into Gutenberg without ever leaving the page or post you are working on.
The Block Directory is very cool but – as I write this – it is in its infancy. Currently it contains about 200 of these one-of blocks ready for use, but over time there will be thousands to choose from.
Like the Block Directory which is in the Search tool of the Inserter, Block Patterns can also be found within the Inserter.
Think of Block Patterns as pre-built blocks (i.e. templates) that you use for a page. It’s a big time saver and, of course, any block pattern can be changed to suit your needs.
Block Patterns will be a huge help to theme developers as it gives them the opportunity to suggest block patterns best suited for their themes.
Like the Block Directory, look for Block Patterns to have a major role in Gutenberg’s evolution.
WordPress’s Gutenberg can hardly be confused with Photoshop – or any image editing app – but V5.5 does make it easier to work with images.
We now have a crop tool which lets us zoom in on a part of the image that we want to display. Within the crop tool, there is now a way to change the aspect ratio of an image, making it possible to show a chosen area of the image.
In addition to the crop tool is the image rotation tool which lets you rotate the image in one of four positions.
Currently, both the crop and rotation features work only with a simple image but I’m looking forward to seeing them work for other image types, such as the cover image and gallery images.
The Major Changes To The Rest of WordPress
Not to be forgotten, the non-Gutenberg part of WP also got some love in V5.5.
With V5.5 you now have the option to switch on automatic updates for your plugins and themes.
Failure to keep WordPress software up-to-date is the leading cause of risking your site to being compromised. With this new feature, you can opt-in to have any plugin or theme automatically updated as soon as a new version becomes available.
(Auto-update does not apply to WordPress core itself. Your web host handles it or you have to do it yourself.)
A word of caution – an update can cause issues with other plugins or your theme, so it’s a good idea to use this feature sparingly, if at all. Best practice is to make sure you have daily backups to your site readily available in the event you need to rollback to an earlier version.
A sitemap is a file which provides road map details on how your site is structured. It is what Google and other search bots use to determine how to index your site so your pages can show up when anyone queries Google.
By default, until V5.5, there was no sitemap built into WordPress.
If you’re not sure how a site map works, have a look at the one used for this site. This is what a search bot crawls.
Note: SEO plugins, such as Yoast, RankMath, and All In One SEO, already provide a site map.
Previously for a page with many images, WordPress would download all those images even if the user never scrolled down the page to see them. With Lazy Loading, images are downloaded only when they are needed, that is, actually seen by a user. Think of it as “just in time” images.
WP V5.5 Is Loaded
There are so many changes in this version of WP it’s hard to keep track of them. Wait till you see what is coming in WP V5.6 in late 2020!