WordPress 5.6, “Simone,” named after jazz singer Nina Simone, is now available. If you haven’t updated yet, you should go ahead and do that. (Of course, you need to follow safe updating procedures!)
Here’s what’s new in version 5.6.
1. Auto Updates
The first change you should be aware of is the new auto-updates feature.
You’ve been able to let WordPress update itself automatically for minor updates. Now you have the option to auto update major updates as well.
This is the type of feature that can easily come back to bite you in the butt. Think of it as the WordPress version of whether you prefer to drive a standard or automatic transmission car. . .
On the one hand, it can look like a big help — especially if you’re not good about maintaining your WordPress site and keeping all your plugins, themes, and WordPress itself current with the latest version.
On the other hand, with major updates, there are things that can go wrong. Badly coded plugins and themes can cause conflicts that blow up your site, and a hosting server that’s not providing the minimum requirements (which may change with a newer version of WordPress!) can cause all sorts of problems.
If you’re updating manually, you can see it and revert immediately back to the previous version. If it’s happening automatically, your site could be a mess for a while before you’re even aware.
Fortunately, for this kind of update to happen automatically, you have to proactively select it.
My advice is, don’t.
If you’re not sure what your auto-update settings are, it’s easy to check.
- Log into your WordPress dashboard
- Select Dashboard / Updates
- On the page displayed, you’ll see your current version. If it’s 5.6, it will tell you whether auto-updates are enabled.
- For more information, click the dropdown Help menu in the upper right corner of the page, then select Auto-updates. (Click the image below to expand it.)
Note that if you host with Siteground, they will automatically update WordPress for you whether you want them to or not. However, you can select the time frame for that to happen – from Immediately to 72 hours. Choose 72 hours. That will give you time to go in and take care of it yourself.
2. More Block Flexibility and Patterns
Block patterns were introduced in the last update, and they’ve been expanded and refined.
They’re now divided into categories, so you can select from Buttons, Columns, Gallery, Headers, and Text. Expect to see more of them going forward.
3. Video Captioning
Those who add video to their posts or pages now have more options for adding captions or subtitles.
4. New Theme, Twenty Twenty-One
Included in WordPress 5.6 is a new theme. Twenty Twenty-One is built to take full advantage of the block editor, and complies with international accessibility standards.
It also provides you with an inviting range of preset, pastel colors, or you can select your own color palette.
5. Geeky Stuff
Application Passwords Risk
WordPress 5.6 allows external applications to request permission to connect to a site, and to generate a password specifically for doing so. As security company Wordfence points out, this could give access to malicious applications.
If you use the Wordfence plugin, this capability is turned off by default. If you’re using All in One WP Security & Firewall, you can turn it off by going to WP Security / Miscellaneous, then click the WP Rest API tab.
Add a check next to Disallow Unauthorized REST requests, and Save.
Note that if you’re using Contact Form 7, or other plugins that rely on those REST requests, they’ll malfunction if this is checked.
Some PHP 8 Support
WordPress is moving toward core support for PHP 8 — it’s not there yet. As of now, the minimum version of PHP required to run WordPress is 7.4.
If you find your site looking strange after updating to version 5.6, it may be because of changes to jQuery. WordPress advises that “If you find issues with the way your site looks ( e.g. a slider doesn’t work, a button is stuck — that sort of thing), install the jQuery Migrate plugin.”
That’s it! Have fun with the new version of WordPress!