WordPress.org today launched WordPress 5.5, which brings a slew of speed, search, security, block editor, accessibility, and developer updates. You can download version 5.5, which was developed by 805 volunteer contributors, now from WordPress.org/Download.

WordPress is a content management system (CMS) that powers over 30% of the web (including VentureBeat). This means there is a massive ecosystem of website administrators and developers watching out for what’s changing in every release. The latest version is dubbed “Eckstine,” in honor of American jazz and pop singer Billy Eckstine.

New WordPress 5.5 features

With version 5.5, WordPress posts and pages now use lazy loading, meaning images wait to load until right before they are scrolled into view. On mobile, lazy loading can also keep browsers from loading large files meant for other devices, saving battery life and data usage.

By default, WordPress 5.5 includes an XML sitemap that helps search engines discover your content when it goes live. There are plenty of WordPress plugins that do this, but now the CMS can help search engines index your content right out of the box.

WordPress 5.5 can update plugins and themes automatically. In the WordPress admin, you can now set plugins and themes to update automatically so your site is always running the latest code. Importantly, you can turn auto-updates on or off for each plugin or theme if you want to be extra cautious. If you prefer updating plugins and themes manually, now you can do so with just a ZIP file.

WordPress 5.5 continues to tweak the widely hated block editor. It now has block patterns for creating complex combinations of text and media, a block directory to find the block you need, and supports inline image editing (crop, rotate, and zoom right from the image block). Those image editing features sound nice — we wish they weren’t limited to the block editor.

Finally, the publishing experience is getting some accessibility improvements. You can now copy links in media screens and modal dialogs with a button, instead of trying to highlight a line of text. You can also move meta boxes with the keyboard and edit images in WordPress with your assistive device.

Developer features

WordPress 5.5 also brings the following developer features:

  • Server-side registered blocks in the REST API: The addition of block types endpoints means that JavaScript apps (like the block editor) can retrieve definitions for any blocks registered on the server.
  • Defining environments: WordPress now has a standardized way to define a site’s environment type (staging, production, etc). Retrieve that type with wp_get_environment_type() and execute only the appropriate code.
  • Dashicons: The Dashicons library has received its final update in 5.5. It adds 39 block editor icons along with 26 others.
  • Passing data to template files: The template loading functions (get_header(), get_template_part(), etc.) have a new $args argument. So now you can pass an entire array’s worth of data to those templates.
  • The PHPMailer library just got a major update, going from version 5.2.27 to 6.1.6.
  • Now get more fine-grained control of redirect_guess_404_permalink().
  • Sites that use PHP’s OPcache will see more reliable cache invalidation, thanks to the new wp_opcache_invalidate() function during updates (including to plugins and themes).
  • Custom post types associated with the category taxonomy can now opt-in to supporting the default term.
  • Default terms can now be specified for custom taxonomies in register_taxonomy().
  • The REST API now officially supports specifying default metadata values through register_meta().
  • You will find updated versions of these bundled libraries: SimplePie, Twemoji, Masonry, imagesLoaded, getID3, Moment.js, and clipboard.js.

WordPress 5.5 was released over four months after its predecessor. That’s in line with previous releases, suggesting the pandemic hasn’t slowed down development. The team did not mention WordPress 5.6, but it’s likely already in the works.



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