What’s new in WordPress 5.9- New features and improvements

The release of the first major WordPress update of the year 2022 is right around the corner and in this article we have shared everything you need to know about what’s new in WordPress 5.9.

WordPress 5.9 was first scheduled to be released on December 14th 2021. However, due to some issues, it was postponed to be released on January 25th 2022.

It is important to know that WordPress 5.9 is probably the largest release of features for the Gutenberg editor since its introduction in WordPress 5.0.

And in this article we have tried to cover almost everything included.

WordPress 5.9 is not out yet and we have tested it using the Release candidate 2 and 3.

In case you are looking to give this version of WordPress a try then we will recommend doing it on a staging site or a local WordPress installation using the Beta Tester plugin.

Kindly note– We do not recommend installing the Beta or Release candidate versions of WordPress 5.9 on live sites as these are not stable.

Keeping this in mind lets dive into What’s included in the WordPress 5.9 update.

WordPress 5.9 update- New features and improvements

WordPress 5.9 is packed with new features and improvements ranging from Full site editing to new blocks to improvements to existing ones and more.

In this article we have tried to cover almost everything and below we have listed all the topics covered.

You can click the links below to jump to your favorite sections

Full site editing in WordPress 5.9 – New site editor

Lets start this section with a small recap.

If you have read our articles on previous WordPress releases then you must be familiar with the fact that in version 5.8, WordPress introduced support for the Template editor in the first phase of full site editing.

This support had to be activated by adding a code snippet mentioned below in the functions.php file of your site.

add_theme_support( 'block-templates' );

And it will create a new Templates tab in the block editor Page and Posts which will give you the option to create a new template or edit an existing one using the Template editor.

Support for template editor in WordPress 5.8
Support for template editor in WordPress 5.8

Along with this, new theme blocks were introduced that will allow you to build certain parts of your site easily.

New Theme blocks in WordPress 5.8
Theme blocks in WordPress 5.8

It is important to know that in WordPress 5.9, new block based themes have been release that give you the access to the all new site editor.

This new site editor is a graphic interface that will enable you to customize each and every detail of your site on a global level.

Please note, this global site editor or graphic interface is only available for use if you are using a block based theme.

In the block based WordPress themes, the new site editor replaces the traditional Customizer and gives you the control over the design of your site.

You might be a little confused reading all of this at first but keep going and it will all come together slowly.

First things first, if you want to enable template editing in a non block based theme in WordPress 5.9 then the process is exactly as described above.

You will have to add to the below mentioned code snippet in the functions.php file and you will see the option to create a new template.

add_theme_support( 'block-templates' );

This template editor is exactly the same as released in WordPress 5.8 and the only difference you will find is that with WordPress 5.9 you will get access to the newly released theme blocks and improvements.

Below is a before and after comparison.

  • Before WordPress 5.9
Template editor in non block based themes in WordPress 5.9
Template editor in non block based themes in WordPress 5.9
  • After WordPress 5.9
Template editor in non block based themes after WordPress 5.9
Template editor in non block based themes after WordPress 5.9

As you can see, there is not much of a change in the template editor when you migrate to WordPress 5.9 from 5.8.

However, when you activate a block based theme like Twenty Twenty-Two, you will definitely see the difference.

Changes to the Appearance menu in WordPress 5.9

As mentioned above, when you install and activate a block based theme, the difference that you will notice is quite considerable and the first thing you will notice is the change to the Appearance menu in your WordPress dashboard.

  • Before activating block based themes in WordPress 5.9
Appearance menu before activating block based theme in WordPress 5.9
Appearance menu before activating block based theme in WordPress 5.9
  • After activating block based theme in WordPress 5.9
Appearance menu after activating block based theme in WordPress 5.9
Appearance menu after activating block based theme in WordPress 5.9

As you can see all of the options that you are used to seeing such as

  • Customize
  • Widgets
  • Menu
  • Theme file editor

And more are replaced by the new Site Editor which is in Beta.

It is important to know here that the Theme File and Plugin file editors have not been removed but moved to the tool menu.

Tools menu after activating block based theme in WordPress 5.9
Tools menu after activating block based theme in WordPress 5.9

In case you are wondering why such a drastic change then let me tell you that the block based themes do not support the Customizer and hence it is replaced by the new Site Editor.

This new editor gives you access to the global settings of your theme where you will be able to style or design every component of your theme depending on your requirement.

See- How to enable Customizer in a Block Theme

Before we learn more about the new site editor, it is important that I point out another significant difference that you will notice after the WordPress 5.9 update.

Changes to Appearance Menu on activating Block Based themes in WordPress 5.9

Missing Preview option for Block based themes

When you will update your site from WordPress 5.8 to 5.9, you will see that certain themes will have a Live Preview option when you hover the mouse pointer over it.

Live Preview option available for the non block based themes
Live Preview option available for the non block based themes

While the new block based themes like Twenty Twenty-Two will only have the option to Activate.

Live Preview option missing for the block based themes
Live Preview option missing for the block based themes

The reason behind this is that the block based themes do not support the customizer and it is the only way as of now you can preview themes before activating.

It is important to know here that if you are activating a block based theme then you will still have the option to Preview the non block based themes.

The ability to Preview block based themes will be implemented soon and then you will see the Live Preview button while hovering your pointer on them.

Preview button missing in Block based themes in WordPress 5.9

New site editor in WordPress 5.9

Now that you are familiar with some of the changes that you will see after activating the block based theme, the next topic we are going to discuss is a major one.

And that is the new site editor for the block based WordPress themes in WordPress 5.9.

After activating a block based theme when you will click the Editor option in the Appearance menu it will take you to the new site editor which has been introduced in WordPress 5.9.

New site editor for block themes in WordPress 5.9
New site editor for block themes in WordPress 5.9

As mentioned several times above, this editor has replaced the Customizer in the new block based themes and using it you will be able to design and customize or Style parts of your site on a global level.

When we talk about designing and styling site components on a global level, it means using this editor you will be able to customize

  • Single page / post templates
  • Template parts
  • Typography
  • Color scheme
  • Customize appearance of individual blocks

And more.

In this article we have shared a glimpse of everything you need to know about the new site editor in WordPress 5.9.

New site editor’s workflow

When you will enter the new site editor, by default it will edit the website’s homepage template and the name of the template is clearly displayed on the top middle.

Template name in the new WordPress 5.9 site editor on the top
Template name in the new WordPress 5.9 site editor on the top

And also on the left settings sidebar.

Template name in the new WordPress 5.9 site editor on the sidebar
Template name in the new WordPress 5.9 site editor on the sidebar

Although the new site editor uses the Gutenberg editor for creating templates or template parts, there are certain things that are quite different.

The first difference you will notice is that the new site editor only has the full screen mode.

And there are no options available at the moment to disable it.

No option available to disable full screen mode in WordPress 5.9 site editor
No option available to disable full screen mode in WordPress 5.9 site editor

This means if you are not used to the full screen mode in the default WordPress editor then can take a bit of time to get used to.

In case you use this mode then you must be familiar with the fact that when you click the WordPress logo it exits the editor and takes you back to the dashboard.

This is not the case with the new site editor because on clicking the WordPress logo, it displays a menu that contains the options for you to navigate to

  • Templates
  • Template parts
  • Exit to dashboard
Navigation in the new WordPress 5.9 site editor
Navigation in the new WordPress 5.9 site editor

Here when you will click Templates, it will show you templates for all the components of your site such as

  • Home
  • Archives
  • 404
  • Single page
  • Single post
  • Search

And more.

Templates in the new WordPress 5.9 site editor
Templates in the new WordPress 5.9 site editor

The templates page in the new WordPress 5.9 site editor also comes with an option to add a new template on the top right.

And when you click this, it will show you the option to Add a new template.

The next option on the list is template parts and when you click this, it will show you various components or template parts that you have created.

Template parts in the new WordPress 5.9 site editor
Template parts in the new WordPress 5.9 site editor

Just like the templates page, this page also comes with an option to add new template parts on the top right.

Before we move forward, it is important to know that there is an alternative way to visit these pages.

And that is by clicking the Template name dropdown in the top middle and then clicking browse all templates.

Browse all templates option in the new WordPress 5.9 site editor
Browse all templates option in the new WordPress 5.9 site editor

Clicking browse all templates will take you to the templates page from where you can navigate to the parts.

Templates in the new WordPress 5.9 site editor
Templates in the new WordPress 5.9 site editor

Apart from this, whenever you will select a template part on a template, its name will be highlighted right next to the name of the template.

Template part name displayed next to the template in the WordPress 5.9 site editor
Template part name displayed next to the template in the WordPress 5.9 site editor

Moving on,

When you click the gear / settings icon which is right next to the Save button it will show you both the Template and Block settings just like it does in the default WordPress editor.

Settings in the new WordPress 5.9 site editor
Settings in the new WordPress 5.9 site editor

It is important to note here that under the Template tab you will find Areas that have been added to the template.

Areas in a template in new WordPress 5.9 site editor
Areas in a template in new WordPress 5.9 site editor

In the new WordPress site editor, when you will create a template part it will ask you to select an area first and you will get 3 options to choose from.

  • General
  • Header
  • Footer
Select an area when creating template parts in the new WordPress 5.9 editor
Select an area when creating template parts in the new WordPress 5.9 editor

These areas basically act as categories for template parts which makes it easy for you to identify and navigate when editing a template.

By this I mean you can click on these areas and it will select the corresponding template part in the editor.

Select an area in the new WordPress 5.9 site editor
Select an area in the new WordPress 5.9 site editor

And once selected you can edit it as per your requirements.

After this, the next setting that you will come across on the new WordPress site editor is the style.

New Site editor in WordPress 5.9

Global styles in WordPress 5.9 site editor

By now you know that the customizer has been replaced with the new site editor in the block based themes.

And this editor lets you design, customize and create various components if you site on a global level.

When it comes to styling, the new site editor lets you set / change typography, colors and layout of your theme and blocks.

You can find the Style settings in the new site editor right next to the general settings or the gear icon.

Style settings in the new WordPress 5.9 site editor
Style settings in the new WordPress 5.9 site editor

The new site editor in WordPress 5.9 lets you change the typography for both texts and links.

Typography settings in the new WordPress 5.9 site editor
Typography settings in the new WordPress 5.9 site editor

On selecting any of the elements, it will let you select the

  • Font family
  • Size
  • Line height
  • Appearance
Typography settings in the new WordPress 5.9 site editor
Typography settings in the new WordPress 5.9 site editor

After you are done selecting you will see the changes in the preview.

Change colors in the new site editor

The color settings in the WordPress 5.9 site editor lets you define the color palette for your entire site.

Color settings in the new WordPress 5.9 site editor
Color settings in the new WordPress 5.9 site editor

Apart from this it lets you select the color for individual elements such as background, links and text.

It is important to know that the new WordPress 5.9 editor allows you to pick from both solid colors and gradients.

Select colors and gradients in WordPress 5.9 site editor
Select colors and gradients in WordPress 5.9 site editor

On top of this, the new site editor lets you create custom color palette as well.

Layout option in the WordPress 5.9

The last option on the list is layout and this will allow you to just add padding on the container as of now.

Layout settings in the new WordPress 5.9 site editor
Layout settings in the new WordPress 5.9 site editor

Global block styles in WordPress 5.9 update

As mentioned above, using the site editor you can also customize the Appearance of individual blocks on a global level and you will find this option just below the Global site settings.

Global blocks style settings in WordPress 5.9
Global blocks style settings in WordPress 5.9

Here when you will click Blocks, it will show you a list of all the Gutenberg blocks.

Select a block to customize appearance in WordPress 5.9 site editor
Select a block to customize appearance in WordPress 5.9 site editor

On selecting one, it will show you the option to change the Typography, colors and layout.

Block specific global style settings in WordPress 5.9
Block specific global style settings in WordPress 5.9

Kindly note any changes you will make here will have a global impact.

New theme blocks in WordPress 5.9

In WordPress 5.8, a new set of blocks classified as theme blocks were introduced.

The purpose of these blocks is to help you add section on your WordPress blog or website easily.

New Theme blocks in WordPress 5.8
New Theme blocks in WordPress 5.8

Keeping on with this trend, in WordPress 5.9 some more blocks have been introduced that will help you build pages / templates from scratch.

Below we have listed all the new theme blocks included in the WordPress 5.9 update.

  • Navigation
  • Site Logo
  • Site Title
  • Site Tagline
  • Post Author
  • Post Categories
  • Post Tags
  • Next Post
  • Previous Post
  • Post Comments
  • Term Description
  • Archive Title
New theme blocks in WordPress 5.9 update
New theme blocks in WordPress 5.9 update

As you can see using these blocks you will be able to create any design from scratch using the default WordPress editor.

This is a huge step forward in full site editing and it will only get better from here.

New Theme Block in WordPress 5.9

New way to create and manage menus in WordPress 5.9

Now that you are familiar with the fact that new theme blocks including Navigation has been introduced in WordPress 5.9.

It is important to know that the site editor comes with a new way of creating menus and managing them,

When you add the navigation block, it gives you 3 options to choose from

  • Select menu- Lets you select a menu from the existing list
  • Add all page- This option will auto add all pages to the navigation
  • Start empty- Starting with a blank navigation
New navigation block in WordPress 5.9
New navigation block in WordPress 5.9

When you will select menu, it will show you a list of different menus that you can add and at the very end you will find the option to add the menu that you have previously created using the Appearance menu option.

Select a menu in the new navigation block
Select a menu in the new navigation block

It is important to know that if you decide to use any of the classic menus then those will be automatically converted to the block based navigation menus.

Keeping this in mind, on selecting a menu the navigation will populate and now you will only see a single option which is Select Menu on clicking the navigation block.

Select menu option in the new navigation block
Select menu option in the new navigation block

On clicking this, you will get 2 new options in the dropdown and these are

  • Create new menus
  • Manage menus
Create and manage menus using the new navigation block
Create and manage menus using the new navigation block

If you have been following this article then I’m sure you already you know that when using block themes the option to add and manage menus has been replaced by the new site editor.

And as of now you can only create and manage menus using the new navigation block.

When you click Create new menu, it will give you the initial option of selecting an existing menu or starting empty.

Create a new menu using navigation block in WordPress 5.9
Create a new menu using navigation block in WordPress 5.9

Here you can select an option as per your requirement.

In case you are wondering about changing / selecting the name of the menu that you have just created then let tell you, the navigation block automatically names it according to the location it is placed on.

And you can change it by heading over to the Advanced tab of the Navigation Block.

Advanced settings for navigation block in WordPress 5.9 site editor
Advanced settings for navigation block in WordPress 5.9 site editor

There is another was of doing this and that is by managing menus.

And for this you need to select the Manage menu option and it will show you a list of all the menus you have created.

Manage navigation menus in WordPress 5.9
Manage navigation menus in WordPress 5.9

Here you can add, edit, rename or delete menus with just a few clicks.

Before we move forward, it is important to know here that as of now when you click the edit option it takes to a blank page.

In future hopefully it will help you manage menu items.

New way to add menus in WordPress block based themes

More on the new Navigation block

Now that you are a bit familiar with the navigation block, it is important that we take a little more in depth look into this.

First things first, the Navigation block lets you add a link with just a single click.

Add a link in the new Navigation block
Add a link in the new Navigation block

All you have to do is click the (+) icon and it will allow you to type the URL or search for it.

It is important to know here that you can use the navigation block on both pages and posts as well and it is this feature of the new navigation block that will allow you to add table of content on long posts and pages.

Table of content using navigation block in WordPress 5.9
Table of content using navigation block in WordPress 5.9

Moving forward,

When you will add multiple links, you will see it adds them as a page list block.

Page list block in new navigation block
Page list block in new navigation block

This page list block makes it impossible for you to add, re-order, remove or change labels for the navigation items.

For this you need to click Edit on the toolbar and it will show you the option to covert the blocks to links.

Convert page list block in the new navigation block to links
Convert page list block in the new navigation block to links

Once converted you will be able to customize them the way you want.

Transform Navigation menu items

While we are on the topic of converting blocks, it is important to know that you can transform the custom links in the navigation block to

  • Social icons
  • Search
  • Spacer
  • Sub menu
  • Site logo
Transform custom links in the new navigation block
Transform custom links in the new navigation block

For this you will have to select the custom link in the navigation block and it will show you the custom block icon clicking on which will show you the blocks you can transform it into.

The navigation block in WordPress 5.9 comes with a bunch of settings that allow you to change its layout, configure its display and customize it as per your requirements.

When it comes to the layout settings for the navigation block, it provides you with both the Justification control and orientation.

Layout settings for the navigation block in WordPress 5.9
Layout settings for the navigation block in WordPress 5.9

Using it you can select if you want the items to be positioned right, left, center and more.

As far as the orientation control is concerned, you can choose to display the navigation in vertical or horizontal.

The next setting that you will come across in navigation block is the Display and it lets you pick if you want to show a collapsible menu that opens up when you click the burger icon.

Display settings in the new navigation block
Display settings in the new navigation block

This is the setting that makes the menu responsive or in other words enables it to adapt to devices with different screen sizes.

You get 3 options to choose from

  • Off- The navigation remain the same on devices with any screen size.
  • Mobile- Selecting this will hide the menu behind a burger icon on mobile devices.
  • Always- The menu will always be hidden behind the burger icon.
Enable burger menu in WordPress 5.9
Enable burger menu in WordPress 5.9

After the display settings you will come across the color settings and using it you will be able to change the color of the

  • Text
  • Background
  • Sub menu
  • Overlay
Color settings in the new WordPress 5.9 navigation block
Color settings in the new WordPress 5.9 navigation block

The last and final setting that you will come across is the Typography and using it you will be able to change the

  • Font Family
  • Appearance
  • Line height
  • Decoration
  • Letter case
Typography settings for the new navigation block in WordPress 5.9
Typography settings for the new navigation block in WordPress 5.9

It is important to know here that not all of these options will be visible to you at first and to configure them you will have to click the (+) icon next to typography and then select the option you want.

Navigation Block Settings in WordPress 5.9

Site logo block in WordPress 5.9

Before WordPress 5.9, there was only one way to add a logo on a WordPress site and that was by uploading it using the Customizer.

Or if you are building your site using Elementor page builder then it also gives you access to site settings that allowed you to upload a logo.

This has changed in WordPress 5.9 with the introduction of the new site editor and Site logo block.

The new site logo block comes with a whole lot of editing features that allows you to rotate, zoom, edit or change the aspect ratio of the image after uploading.

Image editing options in the new site logo block
Image editing options in the new site logo block

This means you no longer will have to get a perfect a logo before uploading it to your site.

Along with these image editing options, the site logo block comes with settings such as image width, link to home and use as site icon which will make your life super easy.

Site logo settings in WordPress 5.9
Site logo settings in WordPress 5.9

Duotone filters in Site logo block

Another option that has been included in the site logo block in WordPress 5.9 update is the duotone filter and using it you can add two tone effect on the logo without losing the original image.

Duotone filter in the new site logo block
Duotone filter in the new site logo block

You will find the option to add duotone to site logo image on the block toolbar.

New features and improvements to the Gutenberg Block Editor in WordPress 5.9

By now you are familiar with the fact that WordPress 5.9 is arguably one of the biggest update since the version 5.0.

Since the magnitude of this update is so large in this section we have shared all the new features and enhancements released for the block editor in version 5.9.

We will be starting off this section with some general updates to the default WordPress editor and then we will make our way to individual blocks.

More options in the typography setting for blocks

In WordPress 5.9 typography control for various blocks has received a few changes with the new and improved interface and inclusion of support for

  • Font weight (Appearance)
  • Letter case
  • Letter Spacing
Improved typography controls for blocks in WordPress 5.9
Improved typography controls for blocks in WordPress 5.9

For some blocks the new controls may be hidden and these can be made visible by clicking the (+) icon right next to the typography label.

Hidden typography controls for blocks in WordPress 5.9 update
Hidden typography controls for blocks in WordPress 5.9 update

In case you are wondering on which blocks you can find these then below we have listed a few blocks

  • Heading
  • Paragraph
  • List
  • Media and text
  • Quote
  • Code

And more.

New dimension control for blocks in WordPress 5.9

Just like the new typography controls, a new tab named Dimensions has been introduced in some blocks.

And under this label you will find the option to add padding and min height in some cases.

Dimension control for blocks in WordPress 5.9 update
Dimension control for blocks in WordPress 5.9 update

The dimension controls can be found on blocks such as

  • Cover
  • Button
  • Code
  • Columns
  • Row
  • Group
  • Verse

And more.

Introduction of Layout controls in WordPress 5.9 update

Another new tab that you will come across in some blocks in the layout control.

Under the Layout tab you will find the option to set the justification and orientation.

New layout controls for blocks in WordPress 5.9 update
New layout controls for blocks in WordPress 5.9 update

You will find the new layout controls in blocks such as

  • Navigation
  • Buttons
  • Social icons

And more.

Support for borders in WordPress 5.9

Just like dimensions, support for borders has been introduced in WordPress 5.9 and depending on the block, it includes options to set

  • Width
  • Style
  • Color
  • Radius
New border controls for blocks in WordPress 5.9 update
New border controls for blocks in WordPress 5.9 update

You can find border label in blocks like

  • Button
  • Quote

Duotone filters in WordPress 5.9

By now you know that the duotone filter has been introduced in the Site Logo block.

And apart from this, you can also find the duotone filters in the featured image and post author blocks as well.

  • Duotone filter in Post author block
Duotone filter in post author block
Duotone filter in post author block
  • Duotone filter in featured image block
Duotone filter in featured image block
Duotone filter in featured image block

Slash block inserter in List, Heading and Quote blocks

One of the easiest ways to add a block in WordPress editor us by using a “/” followed by the block name.

This function was only limited to paragraph block before WordPress 5.9 update and in this release of WordPress it has been extended to List, Heading and Quote blocks.

Slash block inserter in WordPress 5.9
Slash block inserter in WordPress 5.9
Forward slash block insertion in WordPress 5.9

Remove block changed to Remove Block Name in WordPress 5.9

If you are using the default WordPress editor to create posts and pages then chances are you must have at some point of time had to remove blocks that you have added.

Before WordPress 5.9 update, the option to remove the block was labelled as just “Remove Block”.

Remove block option before WordPress 5.9
Remove block option before WordPress 5.9

This has changed in WordPress 5.9 and now the option will have the name of the block you are going to remove letting you know exactly which block is being deleted.

Below is a screenshot for reference.

Remove block option changed to remove block name in WordPress 5.9
Remove block option changed to remove block name in WordPress 5.9

As you can see in the screenshot above, we are about to remove a Verse block and the option exactly tells us which block is being deleted.

Color support for Highlight in WordPress 5.9

While browsing the web you must have come across sites that at times have some words highlighted in paragraphs, headings and more.

You can do this in WordPress easily using the highlight feature with just a few clicks.

Before WordPress 5.9 update, this highlight feature did not come with the option to choose colors for anything be it background or text.

And this has changed in WordPress 5.9 and now it allows you to select colors for both.

Option to choose text and background color for highlight in WordPress 5.9
Option to choose text and background color for highlight in WordPress 5.9

Preview added to Audio Block

Before WordPress 5.9 update, the audio block was missing this preview when hovered over in the block inserter.

And in WordPress 5.9 this has changed as the Preview for this block has been added.

Preview added to audio block in WordPress 5.9
Preview added to audio block in WordPress 5.9

Vertical heading menu in WordPress 5.9

Heading block is one of the most used block and before WordPress 5.9, its level menu was kind of clunky as it was aligned horizontally and has a scroll bar.

Headings level menu before WordPress 5.9
Headings level menu before WordPress 5.9

This has changed in WordPress 5.9 as the headings level menu is now aligned vertically and has no scroll bars.

Headings level menu after WordPress 5.9 update
Headings level menu after WordPress 5.9 update
Changes to Headings Level menu in WordPress 5.9

Drag and drop image replacement in Media and Text block

In WordPress 5.9 update, Media and Text block has received an improvement where now you will be able to replace the image by first dragging and dropping it on the block from a remote source.

Drag and drop in media and text block in WordPress 5.9
Drag and drop in media and text block in WordPress 5.9

This is an interesting change as it will make your life much easier when adding / changing media on this block. But make sure you optimize the image before replacing.

Also, in case you are wondering where this image will be stored then let me tell you it will be uploaded to the media library and you can find it there.

Pinterest embed in WordPress 5.9

WordPress allows you to easily embed content from social media platforms platforms on your site using various embed blocks.

In WordPress 5.9, the list of embed blocks has been extended to included Pinterest as a trusted embed provider.

New Pinterest embed block in WordPress 5.9
New Pinterest embed block in WordPress 5.9

This means a new Pinterest embed block has been introduced and using it you will be able to embed content from the platform easily.

Pinterest embed in WordPress 5.9
Pinterest embed in WordPress 5.9

It is important to know that using the new Pinterest block you can embed anything from the platform be it a profile, pin or a group board.

New Pinterest Block in WordPress 5.9

Introduction of Alt text in Cover block

Alt text or alternate text is the attribute that comes into play when an image on a web page can’t be loaded or the site is being viewed using a screen reader.

This attribute basically describes the image and can be found on almost all blocks in WordPress that use image or media in some way.

Keeping this in mind, it is important to know that on various media blocks, WordPress allows you to add alt text via both media library and block settings in the editor.

In the cover block, before WordPress 5.9 you could only add alt text attribute using the media library.

Alt text for cover block missing before WordPress 5.9
Alt text for cover block missing before WordPress 5.9

However, after the release of version 5.9 you will be able to add it using the cover block settings as well.

Alt text for cover blocks in WordPress 5.9
Alt text for cover blocks in WordPress 5.9

Button color for Search block in WordPress 5.9

In WordPress 5.9, search block has received some love and the support for color of its button has been introduced.

Button colors for search block in WordPress 5.9
Button colors for search block in WordPress 5.9

With this you will be able to change the color or both text and background for the button in search block.

Stack on mobile option for Columns block

If you have been using blocks that have a column like layout then I’m sure you must have seen some them giving you the option to stack on mobile.

What this option does is , it stacks the columns on top of each other when viewed on mobile devices.

If you want to see this option then you will find it on media and text block.

It is important to know that columns in WordPress are not responsive by default and this means the layout on mobile might not work as expected on mobile devices.

The stack on mobile option helps tackle this problem with just one click.

And in WordPress 5.9, it has been introduced in the column block.

Stack on mobile option for Column block in WordPress 5.9
Stack on mobile option for Column block in WordPress 5.9

It is important to know that this option comes enabled by default and you will have to disable it in situations where you don’t need it.

New Stack on mobile option for Columns in WordPress 5.9 Update

Changes to the image block

Image block is one of the most commonly used block and in WordPress 5.9 it has received a few improvements.

The first enhancement is the addition of new alignment options

  • None
  • Wide width
  • Full width
new alignment option for image block in WordPress 5.9
new alignment option for image block in WordPress 5.9

This options will give you more control over how you use images when designing pages using the default WordPress editor.

The second change to the image block is noticeable when you convert it into a File block.

Before WordPress 5.9, when you transformed the image into file block, the placeholder remained empty if the image did not have a caption.

File block placeholder empty before WordPress 5.9
File block placeholder empty before WordPress 5.9

This has changed in WordPress version 5.9 as now on transforming the image name will be used as the default placeholder text.

File block placeholder pre filled in WordPress 5.9
File block placeholder pre filled in WordPress 5.9

It is important to know that the file block allows you to change the pre-filled placeholder text just by clicking on it.

File name as placeholder text in WordPress 5.9

Gallery blocks is one of the popular blocks in the WordPress editor that allows you to upload a collection of images.

In WordPress 5.9, this block has received a major improvement in which the Gallery block now acts as a wrapper for image blocks.

New gallery block in WordPress 5.9
New gallery block in WordPress 5.9

It means the Gallery block will now be a collection of image blocks where you will be able to style each image and add custom links and more.

This change has been made to make the behavior of images consistent in both Gallery and image blocks

Also, in future any updates released for the image block will be automatically inherited by the Gallery block.

Improvements to Tag cloud block

The tag cloud block in WordPress lets you display the most used taxonomy (Tags or categories) on the frontend.

In WordPress 5.9, the ability to change the number of tags to be shown has been introduced.

Number of tags option for tag cloud block in WordPress 5.9
Number of tags option for tag cloud block in WordPress 5.9

And using it you can control the number of displayed tags easily.

Improvements to Tag Cloud Block in WordPress 5.9

When running a website, you will often find yourself linking to other sites and these links are known as external links.

Before WordPress 5.9, when you clicked on anchors with external links in the Gutenberg editor, it only showed the URL of the site.

Rich url preview for external links missing before WordPress 5.9
Rich url preview for external links missing before WordPress 5.9

And this has change in the latest WordPress 5.9 update.

Now when you will click on any of the external links, it will show you a preview along with the option to edit and unlink.

Rich URL preview for external links in WordPress 5.9
Rich URL preview for external links in WordPress 5.9

As of now this feature is only available for external links and will be extended to internal links in the upcoming updates.

Improvement to Reusable blocks in WordPress 5.9

Reusable blocks are the ones that contain content that is often added on several pages or posts.

Creating a reusable block saves a lot of time and simplifies the workflow.

In WordPress 5.9, reusable block has received quite a few updates and the first one is the change of its icon.

Below is a screenshot of before and after

  • Before WordPress 5.9 update
Reusable block icon before WordPress 5.9
Reusable block icon before WordPress 5.9
  • After WordPress 5.9 update

The next improvement that has been included in WordPress 5.9 for reusable blocks is that the covert to regular blocks option has been added to the block’s ellipsis menu.

Reusable block icon after WordPress 5.9
Reusable block icon after WordPress 5.9

Apart from this another interesting change that you will notice us that on hovering your pointer over reusable block, it will show a visible overlay.

Reusable block highlighted on hover in WordPress 5.9
Reusable block highlighted on hover in WordPress 5.9

One of the most interesting features that has been included in the WordPress 5.9 is the ability to create new pages from link popups.

In this new feature, the link popup will show you the option to create a new page when the page you are searching for is missing.

Create page from link popup in WordPress 5.9
Create page from link popup in WordPress 5.9

When you create a page using this option, it automatically creates a draft for a new page and you can see that by visiting all pages in your WordPress dashboard.

New page draft created using link popup in WordPress 5.9
New page draft created using link popup in WordPress 5.9

It is important to know that as of now you cannot create posts using this option be it you are using it on pages or posts.

On top of this, the initial URL generated by the link popup has the slug with the page id and it is not updated automatically when the optimized URL is optimized.

And this means once you have published the paged created using link popup, you will have to come back and change the URL on the anchor.

Improvement to the List view in WordPress 5.9

In WordPress 5.9, the list view has received quite a few enhancements.

The first change that you will notice in the block editor list view is that the items can now be collapsed and expanded.

Collapse and expand option for list view in WordPress 5.9
Collapse and expand option for list view in WordPress 5.9

This makes navigating the list view much easier.

Another visible change you will see is that when you hover the mouse pointer over any of the blocks in the list view, it will show a ellipsis menu.

Ellipsis menu in the block editor list view in WordPress 5.9
Ellipsis menu in the block editor list view in WordPress 5.9

This menu contains all the same options that you will find on the block’s ellipsis menu on its toolbar.

The next improvement that you will see in the list view is that the drag and drop feature has been introduced.

Drag and drop in list view in WordPress 5.9
Drag and drop in list view in WordPress 5.9

And using it you can rearrange (move) the blocks easily.

The last and final enhancement that has been released for the list view is the automatic generation of anchor text for the Headings.

HTML id for Heading blocks in WordPress 5.9
HTML anchor for Heading blocks in WordPress 5.9

Be it H1 or H5, the block editor will generate id for heading blocks automatically.

It is important to know that these anchors are visible in the list view and can be edited by visiting the Advanced tab in the block settings

Edit auto generated HTML anchors for Heading blocks in WordPress 5.9
Edit auto generated HTML anchors for Heading blocks in WordPress 5.9

Another thing you need to know here is that if you decide to add id’s to any of the blocks on the page or post then those will be visible in the List view as well.

Improvements to List View in WordPress 5.9

Animations for insertion points and drop zones

If you have been using the block editor to create pages or post then I’m sure you must have faced some problem when adding a new block in between 2 existing blocks.

Most of the time this issue arises because of you unable to locate the insertion point as the animation is kind of too quick.

In WordPress 5.9 this animation has been refined a bit and now you will be notice that there is a slight delay with the inserter icon bouncing to front.

Inserter animation updated in WordPress 5.9
Inserter animation updated in WordPress 5.9

Apart from this more weight has been added to the insertion line or separation which makes it more prominent.

The second part of this enhancement can be seen impacting the process of rearranging blocks using drag and drop.

Inserter animation for rearranging blocks updated in WordPress 5.9
Inserter animation for rearranging blocks updated in WordPress 5.9

As you can see that the insertion line kind of holds its space for a bit more time giving you the exact idea on where you can drop the block.

The last and final improvement that you will notice is that now you are trying to add via drag and drop in the block editor, you will see that the animation expands now.

Animation expands when dragging and dropping media in WordPress 5.9
Animation expands when dragging and dropping media in WordPress 5.9

This makes the whole experience a bit more interactive.

Block Manager moved to Preferences modal in WordPress 5.9

Did you know, the default WordPress editor allows you to disable blocks that you don’t want to appear in the inserter.

You can do this using the block manager which was located in the block settings under the tools section before WordPress 5.9 update.

Block Manager in block editor settings before WordPress 5.9
Block Manager in block editor settings before WordPress 5.9

It is important to know that in WordPress 5.9 the block manager has been moved to the Preferences modal.

Block Manager in Preferences modal in WordPress 5.9
Block Manager in Preferences modal in WordPress 5.9

And this means now if you want to enable / disable blocks from appearing in the inserter you will have to go to preferences.

Improvements to the Patterns inserter in WordPress 5.9

In WordPress, patterns give you an easy wat to add beautiful pre-built sections to your posts and pages.

These patterns can be found in the inserter right next to the blocks.

Patterns in the block editor inserter
Patterns in the block editor inserter

In WordPress 5.9, the new Patterns directory has been connected to the editor and a new Featured category has been added.

New featured category in patterns explorer in WordPress 5.9
New featured category in patterns explorer in WordPress 5.9

This new section showcases featured patterns from WordPress pattern directory.

Another interesting change that you will see in the patterns section is the new Explore button.

New Explore button in Patterns inserter in WordPress 5.9
New Explore button in Patterns inserter in WordPress 5.9

When you will click this button, it will open a new patterns explorer modal in full screen.

New fullscreen patterns explorer modal in WordPress 5.9
New full screen patterns explorer modal in WordPress 5.9

Both these features were not available in WordPress versions before 5.9.

Changes to Patterns inserter in WordPress 5.9 Update

Arrows replaced by Chevron in block editor breadcrumbs

A minor change that you will see in the block editor is that the arrow icon has been replaced by chevron in the editor breadcrumbs.

Update for block editor breadcrumbs in WordPress 5.9
Update for block editor breadcrumbs in WordPress 5.9
Changes to Block Editor breadcrumbs in WordPress 5.9

New button for creating posts in publishing flow

In WordPress 5.9 a new feature has been introduced in the publishing flow and that is the addition of the Add New Page button.

New button for creating posts in WordPress 5.9 publishing flow
New button for creating posts in WordPress 5.9 publishing flow

In simple words you will find this new button after you are done publishing the page.

On clicking this button it will take you directly to the editor where you will be able to create a new page.

It is important to know that you will find this button when publishing posts as well and on clicking it you will be able to create a new post.

New Twenty Twenty-Two theme in WordPress 5.9

Every year WordPress releases a new free theme that is name after the year and continuing on this tradition, the new theme Twenty Twenty-Two has been included in this update.

This is the first block based theme released by WordPress and on activating you will get access to the new site editor.

New Twenty Twenty Two theme in WordPress 5.9
New Twenty Twenty Two theme in WordPress 5.9

First things first, Twenty Twenty two is a perfect playground for you if you are looking to give the new site editor a try.

I will suggest you familiarize yourself with this feature as it will help you build custom designs from scratch and more features and improvements are expected in the upcoming updates around this.

Just like the default WordPress themes, Twenty Twenty Two comes with its own set of patterns that you can use on pages, posts or templates in the new editor.

Patterns for the new Twenty Twenty-Two WordPress theme
Patterns for the new Twenty Twenty-Two WordPress theme

The new Twenty Twenty two theme also comes with an option to change color schemes and that will allow you to change the appearance of your site.

Change color scheme in the new Twenty Twenty Two theme
Change color scheme in the new Twenty Twenty Two theme

Apart from this, the Twenty Twenty two theme uses the Source Serif Pro font for headline which is pretty lightweight and it is paired with Sensible Sans Serif for support.

Updates for bundled themes in WordPress 5.9

In WordPress 5.9, there are quite a few updates released for the bundled themes and in this section we will take a brief look at them.

In both these themes when you will set a page as the Privacy Policy, a link to it will be automatically included in the footer.

Privacy Policy link in WordPress 5.9
Privacy Policy link in WordPress 5.9

Both these themes use Whatsapp icon for links in social navigation menu which includes the Whatsapp domain name.

With this change, the icon will also appear for wa.me links.

Support for wa.me links in Twenty Seventeen and Twenty Twenty themes in WordPress 5.9
Support for wa.me links in Twenty Seventeen and Twenty Twenty themes in WordPress 5.9

Comment form required field for logged in users

In this improvement, you will see logged in as username and logout as links in Twenty Nineteen and Twenty Twenty One WordPress themes comment form.

Improvements to comment form in WordPress 5.9
Improvements to comment form in WordPress 5.9

On top of this you will see the “Required Fields are marked *” message with a “*” on the comment field or label.

Improvements to Bundled themes in WordPress 5.9

New language switcher on the WordPress login screen

New Language Switcher on WordPress Login Screen

If you have been using WordPress then you must be familiar with the fact that WordPress allows you choose your preferred language during installation.

And you can change it or install other languages anytime later via the General settings.

It is important to know that this selection or change does not impact the content you add on pages or posts.

And this means it only affects the WordPress dashboard.

Keeping this in mind, if you have installed multiple languages in WordPress then after WordPress 5.9 update you will see a language switcher on the login page.

Language switcher on the login screen in WordPress 5.9
Language switcher on the login screen in WordPress 5.9

Using this users will be able to use the login, reset password and registration screen in their own language.

In case you want to remove this language dropdown entirely then you need to add the below mentioned code snippet in the functions.php file.

add_filter( 'login_display_language_dropdown', '__return_false' );

See- How to disable language switcher on WordPress login

Lazy Loading in WordPress 5.9

Lazy loading is a performance improvement feature that was introduced in WordPress 5.5 and was extended to iframes in WordPress 5.7.

According to a performance analysis done in mid-2021, it was found that the lazy loading implementation has been causing a slight performance regression.

Below are the key results

  • Omitting lazy loading from the first content image showed a median improvement of 7% in LCP.
  • Omitting lazy loading from first 2 content images showed a median improvement of 5% in LCP.
  • Both fixes performed even better in LCP tests as compared to lazy loading completely disabled.
  • A further drilldown showed 42% of scenarios resulted in a LCP improvement of more than 10% with a maximum of 32% when lazy loading was omitted on 1st content image.

Based on the above results, the below mentioned refinement for to lazy loading was proposed for WordPress 5.9

  • Based on the above results it was proposed that, instead of lazy loading all images and iframes by default, the first content image or iframe will not be lazy loaded.
  • Also, despite the change in behavior, the responsibility of fine grain control on which elements must be lazy loaded remained with the theme authors.

And if you are a theme author, it is recommended that you define a loading attribute for images in the theme.

You can read more about it here.

Keeping this in mind, it is important to know that the wp_img_tag_add_loading_attr and wp_iframe_tag_loading_attr filters are still available and will give you control over which images and iframes should be lazy loaded just like before.

Apart from this, a new wp_omit_loading_attr_threshold filter is now available that theme authors can use to change the number of iframes / images to be skipped for lazy loading.

Below is a use case scenario where this filter is used to skip lazy loading on 3 images / iframes on archive pages that uses 3 column grid of posts.

function skip_lazyloading_on_first_three_archive_images( $omit_threshold ) {
    if ( is_home() || is_archive() ) {
        return 3;
    }
    return $omit_threshold;
}
add_filter( 'wp_omit_loading_attr_threshold', 'skip_lazyloading_on_first_three_archive_images' );

Other changes included in WordPress 5.9 update

  • PHP 8.1 was released on November 25th 2021 and it contains new features, performance improvements, deprecations and backward compatibility breaks. As of now WordPress is not fully compatible with PHP 8.0 or 8.1. You can read more about it here.
  • WordPress Test Suite uses an industry standard PHPUnit tool to run the PHPUnit tests. It now uses external PHPUnit Polyfills library, which â€śallows for creating PHPUnit cross-version compatible tests by offering a number of polyfills for functionality which was introduced, split up or renamed in PHPUnit”. You can read more about it here.

WordPress 5.9 release schedule

  • 30th November 2021- Beta 1
  • 7th December 2021- Beta 2
  • 14th December 2021- Beta 3
  • 21st December 2021-Beta 4
  • 4th January 2022- Release Candidate 1
  • 11th January 2022- Release Candidate 2
  • 18th January 2022- Release Candidate 4
  • 24th January 2022- Dry Run
  • 25th December 2022- Final Release

How to update to WordPress 5.9 from 5.8

Updating to WordPress 5.9 to 5.8 is pretty simple.

And the first step in the process is to check is the stable version of WordPress 5.9 is available for install.

You can check this by hovering the pointer over the Dashboard label and then click Updates.

Before we move forward, it is important to know that if you are using managed WordPress hosting then your service provider will take care of this for you.

And you don’t have to think about this.

Keeping this in mind, if it is available then you need to take a complete backup of your WordPress site and for this you can use the UpdraftPlus plugin.

Once you are done taking the backup, head over to the Updates section and click Update Now and your site will be updated to WordPress 5.9.

WordPress 5.9 Update

What’s new in WordPress 5.9 video

Having said that,

I hope you will find this article helpful and now know what’s new in WordPress 5.9.

In case you have any queries feel free to reach out and we will be happy to help.

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