What’s New in WordPress 5.3 (New Blocks, New APIs)
So what can we expect from WordPress 5.3?
First and foremost, a whopping number of releases of the Gutenberg plugin is going to be merged into the core, from 5.4 to 6.6. This means that we will see a lot of features and improvements for both users and developers, as well as a significant boost in performance.
But there’s much more than Gutenberg in WordPress 5.3.
In fact, 5.3 presents several enhancements related to the Site Health Tool, a new standard theme (TwentyTwenty), UI improvements, better PHP 7.4 support, improved accessibility and much more.
That's a lot of amazing things, right? Then, fasten your belt and go deeper into WordPress 5.3.
WordPress 5.3 Release Schedule
At the time of this writing, the next Major Release of WordPress is close to being stable. We can still expect more bug fixes before the final release, scheduled for November 12, 2019, but no further confirmations are allowed for further improvements or feature requests.
- 23 September 2019: Beta 1
- 30 September 2019: Beta 2
- 8 October 2019: Beta 3
- 15 October 2019: Release candidate 1
- 22 October 2019: Release candidate 2
- 29 October 2019: Release candidate 3
- 5 November 2019: Release candidate 4
- November 12, 2019: Target date for the launch of WordPress 5.3.
Now, save the date and let’s move on and dive deep into WordPress 5.3 features and improvements.
What’s New With the Block Editor
Since it was first launched, the Block Editor has been regularly improved thanks to the commitment of contributors from all around the world. However, new releases are not merged into core as soon as they’re available.
With 5.3, thirteen releases of the Gutenberg plugin are going to be merged into core all at once. So, if you haven’t been using the Gutenberg plugin so far, and you haven’t regularly updated it over time, you’ll find a lot of enhancements and new features in in Block Editor with the launch of WordPress 5.3.
Overall performance improvements have been reported as well. The following benchmark compares performances for a huge post (36,000 words/1,000 blocks) with different versions of the Gutenberg plugin.
You shouldn’t register such differences in loading time with regular posts, but it’s quite clear the general improvement in the editor’s performance.
Improvements in the Editing Experience
If you have not previously installed the Gutenberg plugin, you will find a whole new block: the group block. Added to the editor with the release of Gutenberg 5.5, the Group block is an all-purpose container for other blocks allowing you to create advanced block templates to be included in any page of your WordPress website.
The new Group block supports wide adjustment and background colors, which gives WordPress users a lot of freedom when creating content.
Besides the Group block, we had a look at ten improvements in the Block Editor that should have a great impact on the way you are using the editor.
1. The Block Appender
The Group and Columns blocks now show a block appender on empty state. The appender is just a grey area with a plus sign inside that makes the UI clearer and improves the block usability.
2. Grouping Blocks by Group Interaction
You can now create Group blocks by ‘group’ interaction, meaning that you can select multiple blocks and group them with a few clicks only. You just need to add all the blocks you need to the selection, then click on Group in the ellipsis menu. Done!
3. Custom width Columns
The column block now supports a slider control in Block Settings so that you can set a custom width for each column (in a future release we can expect further improvements to the column block with the introduction of a draggable resize control).
4. A Layout Picker For Columns Blocks
A further improvement to the column block in WordPress 5.3 is the layout selector. Added to the editor with Gutenberg 6.0, this feature allows users to choose from several predefined layouts (patterns) or skip to the default layout, speeding up a bit the editing process and making the block easier to use for less tech-savvy users.
The layout picker is an implementation of the Block Patterns API which provides a way to choose between a predefined set of options to pick from when adding a block. In addition to the column block, we can find examples of block patterns in cover blocks and tables .
5. Table Block Improvements
The table block has been improved with several new features. It now supports text adjustments in table headers and footers, columns and background colors.
6. Block Navigation Mode
Gutenberg 6.3 introduced the Navigation Mode to navigate between blocks using Tab or arrow keys without going into block content. Users can switch from Navigation Mode to Edit Mode and back just by hitting Enter or Esc. This feature is a great improvement in usability, especially when it comes to screen readers.
7. Added Motion to Block Changes and Rearrangements
An additional improvement in usability comes with the introduction of motion to block changes, creation, removal, and reordering. Matías Ventura explains why this feature is relevant:
Consider the case of a list containing a set of items: the action of moving, reordering, and so on, doesn’t just affect the single item being acted on but also the rest of the set, particularly the one that is "exchanging" places "With. Reality conveys to us that in order to put something in the place of something else both things have to move. The change in the general state of the whole group can be more difficult to understand simply by changing the order instantly. It takes a moment to reorient. Transitions and gesture-based interactions generally help to connect these two states in a way that makes the interaction ("what just happened") more immediately understandable.