On July 20, 2021, WordPress released version 5.8 “Tatum” was released. The first major release of 2021 is named in honor of innovative Jazz pianist Art Tatum, who pushed boundaries with his music, changing what people thought could be done, and inspiring the WordPress team in developing new versions. WordPress 5.8 is available for download via your WordPress dashboard and on the WordPress website, and includes hundreds of new features, fixes, improvements and enhancements, all aimed at further enabling users to create stunning low-code websites.
Manage Widgets with Blocks
Blocks have now been implemented in both the Block Widgets editor and the live preview in the Theme Customizer, allowing you to add certain types of blocks to both places. Block-based widgets expand the possibilities for non-developers, allowing for no-code layouts in sidebars, headers, and footers, using design blocks such as columns, separators, and spacers. By default, these new widgets support rich text editing, without the need to add custom code or embed an HTML editor using a third-party plugin.
For those still using classic themes, the new widgets editor has many advantages, and also helps such users get to know the block editor interface before it becomes the standard for all WordPress users. For users concerned about their existing widgets and third-party widgets, those will continue to work and can be used along with blocks. If you do not want to start using the block-based widgets yet, you can restore the classic widgets screen via the Classic Widgets plugin, or have a developer disable block-based widgets by removing theme support or applying a filter.
Display Custom Blog Lists and Post Types
While there are many plugins that enable you to display a customized list of blog posts or custom post types, using such features often requires a developer to work around the “WordPress Loop”, which is HTML or PHP code used to display selected posts on the front-end of a WordPress site. In WordPress 5.8, the new “Query Loop Block” has been introduced. Similar to but more powerful and complex than the existing Latest Posts Block, the Query Loop Block allows users to create highly customized lists of posts and custom post types right from within the block editor, without having to write code or employ a developer.
As an advanced block, the Query Loop requires some advanced customization, but it is well worth it. With the Query Loop Block, users can now display a specific category of posts, create a portfolio of posts, or add custom post types based on specific parameters. When you add a Query Loop Block, there are two options: you can either “Choose” a block pattern to use, or “Start” with a blank block. The Choose function allows you to pick a preset block pattern, the predefined block layouts that come standard with the Gutenberg editor, while the Start Blank function provides four default block variations to select from (Title & Date; Title & Excerpt; Title, Date & Excerpt; and Image, Date & Title).
Aside from being a powerful and useful tool on its own, the Query Loop Block is also one of two blocks that now feature the new Pattern Transformations tool. See the corresponding section below for more information about the Pattern Transformations tool.
Template Editing Mode
WordPress 5.8 introduces Template Editing Mode, which allows you to easily switch between editing a page or a post and editing the template that the page/post uses – all from within the block editor. This easier way to customize your theme means that you don’t need to build a child theme to create custom templates anymore. Compatible themes now come with 20 new blocks, which can be used in creating and modifying your theme templates.
It is important to edit your templates with caution and thought, because when a template is edited from within an existing page or post, then the template changes will be globally applied to all pages/posts using that template. While this is a great thing for the most part, it could be destructive if you don’t mean to modify all related pages/posts. In such cases, you should instead create a new template for use in the page/post that you are working on.
Template Editing Mode is available in both classic and block-based themes, but as a block-based feature, it is more limited in classic themes. With a classic theme, you must opt in to enable the feature, and you can only create new block-based templates – where in block-based themes, the feature is enabled automatically with the version 5.8 upgrade, and you can both create new templates and edit your existing templates.
Persistent List View of Block Hierarchy
In previous WordPress releases, the List View of page blocks was displayed in a popover atop the post editor, so when you moved away from it, the list would disappear. With version 5.8, List View is available on the top toolbar, and can be toggled on or off as needed. When on, the List View stays in constant view in a sidebar in the Post Editor, providing an overview of all of the blocks in your content and allowing you to jump between the layers of your content and nested blocks, quickly navigating to the section that you want to work on.
Style and Colorize Images with Duotone Filters
In WordPress 5.8, you can now colorize both the image block and the images/videos in the cover block with duotone filters. Where a black and white filter puts the shadows in black and the highlights in white, a duotone filter allows you to customize the colors of the shadows and highlights. Most effective on high-contrast images, with a lot of light and dark areas, you can now use duotone filters to stylize your design, adding a splash of color and better integrating the media in your image and cover blocks with your theme.
Pattern Transformations Tool
WordPress version 5.8 introduces the Pattern Transformations tool to the block editor. In this first version, Pattern Transformations has been added to the new Query Loop block and the existing Social Icons block. This helpful new feature will suggest block patterns based on the block you are using, helping you create a more streamlined design for your site.
Changes to Support Options
With version 5.8, WordPress drops support for Internet Explorer 11, which poses a security risk. Also in 5.8, WordPress introduces support for WebP images. This modern image format provides improved “lossless” and “lossy” compression for web images, with files that are approximately 30% smaller than the equivalent JPEG or PNG files and therefore result in faster sites that use less bandwidth. The use of WebP images allows for faster page loading, and overall faster site response times.
Packed with hundreds of new features, enhancements, and fixes, WordPress version 5.8 is a very big release. User-centric as always, this latest version reduces the amount of core code, making WordPress an even leaner, faster content management system. Future versions will continue moving towards a more complete site editing experience, one that requires less and less development and coding to make an amazing website.