A Field Guide to WordPress 5.6

WordPress 5.6 Field Guide

The next major release, WordPress 5.6 is nearing and we all are waiting for the changes it’s going to bring. With this big release, users will be experiencing over 80 enhancements, and more than 200 bug fixes. The core development team released a field guide to WordPress 5.6 in the official core channel of the team on November 21. However, there are still two pending Dev Notes that will be updated in the official Field Guide in the coming days.

The guide, posted by Michele Butcher-Jones, lays down the major changes that will be seen in WordPress 5.6. Michele strongly suggests users test their plugins, themes, and sites with WordPress 5.6 before the release so that they don’t have to face unanticipated issues later.

WordPress 5.6 will include new blocks, block editor enhancements, core-release auto-updates, external authentication to the REST API, PHP 8 support, a brand new Twenty Twenty One, and more.

Application Passwords for REST API Authentication

The REST API was merged into Core and only cookie & nonce based authentication has been available. This authentication method can be frustrating for developers. Now, with the introduction of Application Password in WordPress 5.6, you don’t need to jump through hoops to re-authenticate when cookies expire. Cookie and nonce authentication will remain in WordPress as-is if you’re not ready to change. A new system for making authenticated requests to various WordPress APIs – Application Passwords!

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.

Core Auto Updates

WordPress 5.6 will introduce the much anticipated opt-in major releases of WordPress Core. The functionality will help you pick to have auto-updates of major WP releases in the background effortlessly.

Block Editor Enhancements

Like any other major update, WordPress 5.6 will also include an array of amazing performance enhancements regarding the Gutenberg Editor. The default block editor will include features from the last 7 Gutenberg Plugin Update releases (from 8.6 to 9.2). Moreover, performance improvements from versions 9.3 and 9.4 will also be included in WordPress 5.6.

Here are some of the highlights included to further enhance the Block Editor:

  • New Block API version 2 to enable blocks to render their own block wrapper element.
  • New createBlockFromInnerBlocksTemplate block API to create blocks from InnerBlocks template.
  • Third-party Blocks Support
  • Editor Styling Changes for better accessibility and user experience.
  • Reusable Blocks extracted into a separate package
  • Toolbar Components Improvements


WordPress 5.6 will include part 2 of updating core jQuery to version 3. The 3-step plan updates the bundled jQuery version to 3.5.1 and jQuery Migrate to 3.3.1. As 5.6 includes a major upgrade to the jQuery library, please ensure you test your plugins and themes as thoroughly as possible before the release of WordPress 5.6 to avoid any preventable breakage.

PHP 8 Support

PHP 8 will roll out a few days prior to WordPress 5.6 release. Therefore, the team is making sure v5.6 fully supports PHP 8.  The theme and plugin developers will need to verify that all of your plugins and themes are also compatible with PHP 8 prior to upgrading.

Site Health

There are 11 Site Health Updates in WordPress 5.6 which includes performance enhancements regarding the way the Site Health component handles and validates site health checks.

A New Default Theme – Twenty Twenty One

A new default theme will ship out in WordPress 5.6 – Twenty Twenty One. Like any other theme released by WordPress, Twenty Twenty One default WordPress theme is also clean, simple, and visually aesthetic. With a simple and minimal outlook, the theme provides extreme flexibility at its core.

Know more about the new Twenty Twenty One Theme here.

Other Updates

Over 197 bugs, 85 enhancements and feature requests, and 39 blessed tasks have been marked as fixed in WordPress 5.6. Some additional ones include:

  • Bundled Theme: Added block patterns for Twenty Twenty (#51098) and Twenty Nineteen (#51099) themes.
  • Bundled Theme: Added theme support for navigation-widgets (see #51445).
  • Build/Test Tools: Update akismet from 4.1.6 to 4.1.7 (#51610).
  • Build/Test Tools: Composer 2.0 Support (#51624).
  • Emoji: Update twemoji from 13.0.0 to 13.0.1 (#51356).
  • External Libraries: Update lodash from 4.17.15 to 4.17.19 (#51505).
  • External Libraries: Update react and react-dom from 16.9.0 to 16.13.1 (#51505).
  • Media: Added indicator to image details for images attached to a site option (#42063).
  • REST API: Fixed incorrect slashes in the URL if the parent is empty for REST API (see #44745).
  • Site Health: Added better handling of unexpected values in Site Health (#50145).
  • Site Health: Added a test to Site Health to verify that the Authorization header is working as expected for Application Passwords (see #51638).
  • And much, much more!


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