WordPress 5.4 new features and release date

The release date of WordPress 5.4 is scheduled for 31st March 2020 and promises new improvements and bug fixes. This will be the first major release of 2020. Read on for what’s new and what will be fixed.

The majority of changes will be found with improvements and enhancements to the blocks editor, so it may be time to make a transition from the classic editor to blocks. There are also other improvements for developers, which we will briefly touch on.

At this point in time, some of the features we mention may not be part of WordPress 5,4 as it’s currently in feature freeze stage. Feature freeze stage means that no new features will be added to the final version and some that are currently in beta testing may not make it to the final product. If you want to try the beta of WordPress 5.4 you can install the plugin found here on a staging site or local development site on your PC.

Block Editor Improvements

It’s pretty clear that when Gutenberg was released with WordPress 5.0 in December 2018 that there was going to be a concerted focus on this new text editor. The reality is, it needs it. WordPress 5.4 introduces new improvements to the blocks editor aimed at enhancing your blog writing. These include new features and extending existing blocks.

New blocks intro modal guide

One of the first things you’ll notice is a new intro guide after updating when you go to use the blocks editor for the first time. The guide is designed to highlight to new users how to use blocks, here to find the block library and links to tutorials. this is all nested in a convenient modal overlay slider.

WordPress 5.4

New users may need a refresher on the blocks editor and can relaunch it at any time. Simply click the three dots in the top right of the screen and select welcome guide from the dropdown menu

WordPress 5.4

New blocks coming in WordPress 5.4

WordPress 5.4 includes new blocks to enhance your editing. These blocks will allow you to create better pages with ease and without the use of page builders

The buttons block

This is a subtle change, but it has a major effect on the way you can create buttons and their placement on your page. The button block will be replaced by the buttons block. I told you it was subtle, in name anyway. The new buttons block now allows you to add more than one button side by side. This can be helpful when making a sales pitch or anywhere more than one button should be used. These buttons come with predefined styles for a consistent look, and you can also adjust the styles to suit your own branding. Of course, you can add your own button text and links.

WordPress 5.4

Social Icons

The new blocks editor coming with WordPress 5.4 will include a new social icons block. This block can be used for placing links to social media pages. These icons are not for social sharing, they are simply links to your social media channels. You will still need to use a plugin for social media sharing.

You’ll be able to add additional icons to the sharing block by clicking on the + icon on the far right of the block and entering any social media channel. Simply click on an icon and paste the URL into the field to connect it to your page or profile

I still have a preference for using the social media links provided in a theme or plugin as those settings can be applied sitewide, but this additional feature may interest some users.

WordPress 5.4

TikTok Embed block

WordPress 5.4 will include a new TikTok embed block allowing you to display TikTok videos on your website.

WordPress 5.4

Improvements to the WordPress block editor

New blocks are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to changes to the blocks editor in WordPress 5.4.

Improved latest posts block

The latest posts block will now allow you include the featured post image for a better visual display. This improved block can allow you to display the most recent posts anywhere on the page and increase user engagement and time on site.

WordPress 5.4

Drag and Drop to Upload Featured Image

I’m actually excited about this one as I think it can significantly improve the post writing experience. A new feature of WordPress 5.4 when it releases is a simple drag and drop featured image upload. Gone are the days of having to click a button and open the media uploader to add a featured image. Now you can just drag it in

WordPress 5.4

Even more colour options for blocks

When WordPress 5.4 is released on March 31, 2020, it will also include more colour options for the cover, group, and column blocks.

WordPress 5.4

You can also change the colours for all the blocks inside a group block as well as column blocks.

Change font colour within a single block

One of my pet peeves with the block editor was the ability to change font colour within a single block. Prior to WordPress 5.4 the only way to change the font colour was to change all of the font within that block. This wasn’t an ideal situation as it meant that you had to create a line break in the text to apply a different colour. From 5.4 you can now do it to selected text only within any text block.

WordPress 5.4

Caption Below Table

You will now be able to add a caption to the end of a table.

WordPress 5.4

Fixed Block Toolbar on Mobile

With an increased use of mobile devices, this is a very useful addition even if there are better ways to post on mobiles. In previous versions of the blocks editor, the blocks toolbar would move off the screen as you scrolled down the screen. This annoyance resulted in a lot of scrolling up and down to access block options. When WordPress 5.4 releases it will stay at the top of the screen.

Easily select gallery image size

From 5.4 you’ll be able to quickly and easily set a size for all images in the gallery.

WordPress 5.4

Easily select blocks

The new version of WordPress being released on 31 March will include a select tool that will allow users to easily select a block that they want to change. It’s the little pen icon to the right on the top bar

WordPress 5.4

Changes for Developers and under the hood

Apart from the changes to the blocks editor there will be other changes more geared towards the under the hood aspect and for developers. These changes will include new features and deprecating others.

There will be a new function called apply_shortcodes(). This will be in addition and work the same as the do_shortcode() function #39763

The HTML output for the calendar widget will change to generate valid HTML. The navigation links will be moved to a
HTML element right after the element. This will result in valid HTML for the widget. #39763

The button in the WordPress admin area will be enhanced with more changes and additions. Details

A handful of customizer classes will be deprecated from WordPress 5.4 #42364

With the scheduled release of WordPress 5.4 on March 31and the coming features, it looks like the Blocks editor will finally be coming into its own. For the lovers of the Classic editor and it’s more simplistic approach to editing, the transition may take a little getting used to, but give it a chance and you will get used to it. WordPress 5.4 is promising some major enhancements.

If you wish to try WordPress 5.4 prior to launch on a staging site feel free to install the plugin found here. Once installed go to Tools, Beta Testing and select bleeding edge nightlies. Save the settings then go and update WordPress to the latest nightlies release. Ensure you only install this plugin on a staging site.

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WordPress 5.4

Written by: John Cook


About: As the founder of Swift Designs, WC Success Academy, Wiz Plugins and Learn Wp by Swift Designs, my goal is to empower website owners around the world to take full control of their WordPress powered websites. I've been developing websites for close to 10 years and have a deep understanding of WordPress and how it works. As an active plugin developer with several plugins in the WordPress plugin repository, this gives me a unique understanding of the inner workings of WordPress. My goal with Learn WP is to allow WordPress website owners the ability to discover the true potential WordPress has to offer in an uncomplicated and easy to understand way

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