WordPress 5.6 Beta 1 is now available for testing!
This software is still in development, so we recommend that you run this version on a test site.
You can test the WordPress 5.6 beta in two ways:
The current target for final release is December 8, 2020. This is just seven weeks away, so your help is needed to ensure this release is tested properly.
Improvements in the Editor
WordPress 5.6 includes seven Gutenberg plugin releases. Here are a few highlighted enhancements:
- Improved support for video positioning in cover blocks.
- Enhancements to Block Patterns including translatable strings.
- Character counts in the information panel, improved keyboard navigation, and other adjustments to help users find their way better.
- Improved UI for drag and drop functionality, as well as block movers.
To see all of the features for each release in detail check out the release posts: 8.6, 8.7, 8.8, 8.9, 9.0, 9.1, and 9.2 (link forthcoming).
Improvements in Core
A new default theme
The default theme is making its annual return with Twenty Twenty-One. This theme features a streamlined and elegant design, which aims to be AAA ready.
Auto-update option for major releases
The much anticipated opt-in for major releases of WordPress Core will ship in this release. With this functionality, you can elect to have major releases of the WordPress software update in the background with no additional fuss for your users.
Increased support for PHP 8
The next major version release of PHP, 8.0.0, is scheduled for release just a few days prior to WordPress 5.6. The WordPress project has a long history of being compatible with new versions of PHP as soon as possible, and this release is no different.
Because PHP 8 is a major version release, changes that break backward compatibility or compatibility for various APIs are allowed. Contributors have been hard at work fixing the known incompatibilities with PHP 8 in WordPress during the 5.6 release cycle.
While all of the detectable issues in WordPress can be fixed, you will need to verify that all of your plugins and themes are also compatible with PHP 8 prior to upgrading. Keep an eye on the Making WordPress Core blog in the coming weeks for more detailed information about what to look for.
Application Passwords for REST API Authentication
Since the REST API was merged into Core, only cookie & nonce based authentication has been available (without the use of a plugin). This authentication method can be a frustrating experience for developers, often limiting how applications can interact with protected endpoints.
With the introduction of Application Password in WordPress 5.6, gone is this frustration and the need to jump through hoops to re-authenticate when cookies expire. But don’t worry, cookie and nonce authentication will remain in WordPress as-is if you’re not ready to change.
Application Passwords are user specific, making it easy to grant or revoke access to specific users or applications (individually or wholesale). Because information like “Last Used” is logged, it’s also easy to track down inactive credentials or bad actors from unexpected locations.
With every release, WordPress works hard to improve accessibility. Version 5.6 is no exception and will ship with a number of accessibility fixes and enhancements. Take a look:
- Announce block selection changes manually on windows.
- Avoid focusing the block selection button on each render.
- Avoid rendering the clipboard textarea inside the button
- Fix dropdown menu focus loss when using arrow keys with Safari and Voiceover
- Fix dragging multiple blocks downwards, which resulted in blocks inserted in wrong position.
- Fix incorrect aria description in the Block List View.
- Add arrow navigation in Preview menu.
- Prevent links from being focusable inside the Disabled component.
How You Can Help
Keep your eyes on the Make WordPress Core blog for 5.6-related developer notes in the coming weeks, breaking down these and other changes in greater detail.
So far, contributors have fixed 188 tickets in WordPress 5.6, including 82 new features and enhancements, and more bug fixes are on the way.
Do some testing!
Testing for bugs is an important part of polishing the release during the beta stage and a great way to contribute.
If you think you’ve found a bug, please post to the Alpha/Beta area in the support forums. We would love to hear from you! If you’re comfortable writing a reproducible bug report, file one on WordPress Trac. That’s also where you can find a list of known bugs.
Props to @webcommsat, @yvettesonneveld, @estelaris, @cguntur, @desrosj, and @marybaum for editing/proof reading this post, and @davidbaumwald for final review.