Yesterday on the 12th of November 2019, Automattic released the latest version of WordPress – v5.3. It’s the last major release for this year and brings a bunch of improvements to the Gutenberg editor, behind the scenes features for developers, and readies WordPress for the upcoming release of PHP 7.4. Here’s the full list of changes for 5.3, but it’s pretty long and confusing. Instead, I’ll share with you the top few features that I’m personally pretty excited over!
Blocks Grouping is Finally Here
While I was initially pretty skeptical about the move to Gutenberg, I’ve since warmed to the idea of having “blocks” for everything, including paragraphs. Even though it’s counterintuitive to separate paragraphs into blocks, it still more or less works.
However, without any form of grouping between blocks, it wasn’t easy to move around chunks of text without risking an error. For example, let’s say I have a heading with 4 paragraphs of text under it, that I need to move to the top. I would have to do the following:
- Select all the blocks I want
- Move them up one by one through all the intervening blocks
- Make sure I don’t accidentally insert it between to existing paragraphs
WordPress 5.3 (labeled “Kirk”), finally fixes this inconvenience by allowing us to create logical groups of blocks and manipulate them as a whole. This has the following implications:
- You can move around groups of blocks as a unit
- You can’t “cut” blocks in half by accidentally putting something in between
- You can style a group of blocks as one, and create different sections for pages
Creating a Group for Existing Blocks
While you can create a new “group” block using the usual method, WordPress 5.3 allows you to select a bunch of blocks and group them together using the “Transform” icon in Gutenberg as shown here:
And you’re done!
One unequivocal benefit of the Gutenberg editor was its inclusion of a “table” block. It’s so annoying to have to manually create the HTML for “one-off” tables, and the ability to create and change it in the editor itself is very convenient.
However, so far it lacked the basic ability to align items within cell blocks. WordPress 5.3 finally introduced that feature. Here’s a screenshot of a “right-justified” table:
As you expect, the option is available in the usual alignment button on top of the editor.
In the last release, WordPress included a new tool to evaluate your site’s security. In 5.3 however, they’re removing the “percentage” display of since users were trying hard to make it “100%”, and in the process were doing things that could be likely to break their site. Another example of how mindlessly chasing a metric isn’t a good thing!
Verifying the Admin Email
The admin e-mail is your “ace in the hole” in case your WordPress site becomes irrevocably compromised. It’s kind of like 2-factor authentication (but not quite). If you lose your WordPress password for example, the system can send you an e-mail with instructions on how to reset it.
However, a lot of people forget about it since it’s one of those things that you use only very rarely – but which are absolutely necessary when needed! To ensure that this vital channel for recovery remains intact, WordPress 5.3 displays a verification screen when the admin user logs in after a period of time to confirm it.
Preparing for PHP 7.4
The latest version of PHP – v7.4 is scheduled for release on the 28th of November 2019, and in preparation for that, WordPress is readying its compatibility. This is a minor version release, and contains all the usual improvements, the whole list of which you can read here.
In conclusion, WordPress 5.3 brings a few small, but important improvements to the WordPress experience – notably the Gutenberg editor. Users will now find it easier to navigate their Gutenberg blocks, and those of you who are paranoid can rest easy knowing that there’s an additional check the recovery e-mail!
I’m a NameHero team member, and an expert on WordPress and web hosting. I’ve been in this industry since 2008. I’ve also developed apps on Android and have written extensive tutorials on managing Linux servers. You can contact me on my website WP-Tweaks.com!