Five awesome new features in WordPress 5.6
Today, WordPress 5.6 sees the daylight! This release is chockfull of good stuff, with a new default theme called Twenty Twenty-One, application passwords, loads of editor updates and an automatic update feature. This release was led by an awesome team and they did a really good job. Here’s an overview of some of the best new features in WordPress 5.6!
Test your site in WordPress 5.6
With that out of the way, let’s move on to the good stuff. In no particular order, five great features in WordPress 5.6. Curious about how WordPress 5.6 came together? Read the road to WordPress 5.6.
1. New default theme: Twenty Twenty-One
One of the major new feature in WordPress 5.6 if the new default theme: Twenty Twenty-One. It looks awesome, plus it’s lightning fast, accessible and SEO-friendly. One of the coolest features is that you can quickly build a complex layout thanks to block patterns. These block patterns were introduced in WordPress 5.5 and this new theme uses them nicely. The theme comes with a couple of patterns, but you can make your own to suit your needs. The Twenty Twenty-One theme was designed by Mel Choyce-Dwan and built by a development team — consisting of several Yoasters — led by Carolina Nymark. You can read about how Twenty Twenty-One came to be.
2. Automatic updates
Keeping your site and plugins up to date is a chore — but an essential chore to keep your site safe and secure. It’s one of the reasons why the WordPress team is working hard on making that process a little bit easier by providing automatic updates. Luckily, WordPress can already automatically update minor versions, but with 5.6, it can also update to major versions automatically. This is an opt-in, so you have to activate it yourself in the WordPress Updates screen if you want to make use of this. Remember, automatic updates of major versions has its pros and cons, so think before you activate.
3. Application passwords
Application passwords offer a new way of providing access to certain parts of your site. You can’t use them to log into your account, but you can use them to help give external sources access to your site without you having to give away your password. You can easily generate access keys and share them with your users. Keys are easy to understand and come in a familiar format like
abcd EFGH 1234 ijkl MNOP 6789. Revoking access is just as easy. Simply hit the Revoke button. Keep an eye on this feature as many plugins and platforms will adopt this.
4. Loads of Gutenberg updates
We’re big fans of the new block editor, but we know there are still a lot of naysayers out there. Luckily, the Gutenberg team keeps chugging along and put out great release after great release. In WordPress 5.6, you’ll find the results of not one or two Gutenberg updates — but no less than seven releases. Among many things, you’ll find improved support for video positioning in cover blocks, enhancements to the block patterns, better dragging and dropping of blocks, improved keyboard navigation, et cetera. It comes with many performance and accessibility improvements as well.
5. Beta support for PHP 8 in WordPress 5.6
PHP 8 has just been released and it is a huge deal for developers. It’s the latest version of the programming language in which WordPress is written and it brings a whole lot of cool stuff that will help developers use modern code practices and features. As of WordPress 5.6, the CMS is considered beta compatible with PHP 8. Still, there’s a lot of work to do to get WordPress fully compatible with PHP 8 and before developers can use all the new goodies that it brings.
Ready to update to WordPress 5.6?
There’s so much more to find in WordPress 5.6. It’s a great update all around and the things highlighted here are just the tip of the iceberg. Read the WordPress 5.6 Field Guide If you want to dive deeper into the cool stuff you can find in this new update. After you’ve read up, go out and test the release on your staging environment. When you’ve done your testing, update away!
Read more: WordPress 5.7: What’s new in this release? »
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26 Responses to Five awesome new features in WordPress 5.6
Sounds great, but every time I latch on to something new (like Big Sur) I have nothing but problems, so I’m afraid to jump into this. Plus, during cover, it’s been difficult to get help from you folks.
Hi Karen. I understand your concern as any new release might cause issues with your theme and plugins. But there haven’t been reports of widespread issues. To be sure, you can test WordPress 5.6 on a test server before you install it on your live site.
And sorry to hear about your experience with getting help. If you’re a premium user, you can always contact our support team or if you’re a user of the free plugin check out the support forum.
Wow great features. I love these.
The auto-updates will be great! Really hope its fluid and doesn’t cause many crashes
Hi Sarah. Yeah, it’s a great feature to keep your site safe and secure. But keep a close eye on how and if it works, and always keep a backup of your site.
Sounds Great about new version of WP… I was waiting for that auto-update feature since long time
Automatic updates feature is gold!
It is, Robert!
I am just a casual user of WP but please remember guys to keep everything simple for us other 90% non-techies. I’m waiting for someone to understand when you template for the basic website five or six pages what are generated with the menu home about us contact us products or services , facts
Hi Jules, thanks for your comment. We want to write for everyone, so your feedback is more than welcome. We’ll keep this in mind from now on.
If you’re interested, we have a free WordPress training course for beginners that you could check out!
WordPress 5.6 looks awesome. But I am fear to update it. Because I am still using PHP 7.3. Will it work for WP 5.6? Have you checked on your side?
Hi Ravi! This shouldn’t be a problem, but you can always test WordPress 5.6 on a test server before you install it on your live site!
But why show the new wordpress version have to conflict with theme and plugins?
Hi Eddie. The new release might cause issues with your theme and plugins, but there haven’t been reports of widespread issues. Just to be sure, you can test WordPress 5.6 on a test server before you install it on your live site. That’s always a good practice.
Hey there, thanks for this awesome tip. I would like to know if the generate sitemap feature is still activate in the WP version 5.6?
Hi! Yes, the native XML sitemaps are still available in WordPress.
I am totally non-tech. What is a staging environment and how does one get there/make one, etc.?
Hi there! A staging environment is a copy of your site that allows you to implement and test changes without affecting your real site. We have a page on how to create a staging environment for your WordPress site. Good luck and let me know if you have any other questions!
Het is een catastrofe, heel veel websites zullen niet meer werken na overgang naar WP 5.6…
Ik wacht echt net zo lang tot het niet meer te ontkomen is.
Where is the application password located at? I don’t see it!!
Hoi Robert, bedankt voor je reactie. We begrijpen je zorgen, maar we hebben op het moment geen signalen dat er iets ernstigs aan de hand is.
Natuurlijk zou er hier en daar iets mis kunnen gaan, maar dat blijft een risico bij iedere release. Hoeveel deze ook getest wordt. Maar uiteraard ben je helemaal vrij om te updaten wanneer jij dit wil!
The Gutenberg refinements sounds promising. Hope this means less haters!
This is a pretty useful rundown. I think we should point out to not go and update your production website to PHP 8 just yet, test, test and more testing. 😁
Do I have to get the Gutenberg plug to start working in Block Editing of does it just drag and drop in the WordPress page and post text applications?
Hi! No, the gutenberg editor is the default editor. Unless you have installed the Classic editor plugin, the block editor should be available to you. Go to your WordPress Settings > Writing to select the editor you want to use.
Thank you for this useful rundown of the newest WordPress update. The Gutenberg blocks enhancements do sound exciting, but I’m going to hold off for the time being and make sure all my plugins have caught up. Definitely don’t want to break anything :)
You’re welcome, Veronika! We’re also super excited about this release!
And like Edwin says in this article, you could also test the release on your staging environment to make sure it works properly :)