WordPress 5.6, named “Simone” in honour of legendary performer Nina Simone, was just released recently (December 8). It’s available for download from WordPress.org or you can update in your WordPress dashboard.

This latest update provides more improvements to the Block Editor, more block patterns, a brand new default theme called Twenty Twenty-One, auto-updates for major WordPress versions, and a bunch of improvements for developers.

Block Editor Improvements

The Block Editor in WordPress 5.6 provides some extra settings to various blocks, providing better flexibility when creating your pages. There's also more Block Patterns in some of the default themes, to help kickstart your pages. You now also have the ability to add subtitles or captions to your videos.

New Default Theme

WP 5.6 brings with it a brand new default theme, Twenty Twenty-One. Twenty Twenty-One is built primarily for use with the Block Editor and includes brand-new block patterns.

This new default theme also conforms to the WordPress accessibility-ready guidelines and addresses several more specialised standards from the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 at level AAA.

Twenty Twenty-One gives you a range of pre-selected pastel colour palettes, all of which conform to AAA standards for contrast. You can also choose your own background colour for the theme, and the theme will automatically choose accessibility-conscious text colours for you. You can also choose your own colour palette from the colour picker, if you so desire.

Auto-Updates for Major Versions

WordPress has provided auto-upodates for minor WordPress versions for a few years now (e.g. v5.4.2, v5.5.1, v5.5.2). These minor releases are usually for maintenance and security purposes or translation file updates.

WordPress 5.5 also introduced auto-updates for themes and plugins. These need to be turned on for each individual theme and plugin, which you can do on the Themes and Plugins screens, respectively.

With WordPress 5.6, WP has introduced auto-updates for major versions (e.g. v5.6, v5.7). On existing websites, these major version auto-updates need to be turned on manually by clicking the Enable automatic updates for all new versions of WordPress link on the Updates page. For brand new websites created with WordPress 5.6 and above, the major version auto-updates will be turned on by default.

Developer Improvements

The WP REST API has introduced a new Application Passwords authorisation feature, allowing third-party apps to connect to your site seamlessly and securely. This new REST API feature also lets you see what apps are connecting to your site and also control what they do.

WP 5.6 brings with it the first steps toward WordPress Core support for PHP 8. For more information about what to expect next, read the PHP 8 developer note.

At long last, WordPress has updated the Core bundled version of jQuery to the latest version, 3.5.1, along with updating jQuery Migrate to v3.3.1. These jQuery updates are taking place across three releases 5.5, 5.6, and 5.7. With the next major release (WP 5.7), it's (tentatively) planned to remove jQuery migrate from Core. If you're finding issues with the way your site looks (e.g. a slider or pop-up doesn’t work), try installing the jQuery Migrate plugin.

Latest Guide Updates

In this latest version of the guide there's updated descriptions for the using the Block Editor and brand new images for every single block, reflecting the UI changes in the Dashboard. This ensures that what you see in the guide is exactly what you see when using WordPress. I hope that you'll find this update makes it easier for you to work with WordPress.

Head on over to the download page to download the latest version of the Easy WP Guide, or if you want to get stuck straight into it, you can always read it online.