On Thursday, February 21, WordPress 5.1 releases to the public. According to the WordPress 5.1 release notes, the new version will include “165 enhancements and features.” What will be different about this new version?
Site Health Check
Update: This feature has been delayed to WordPress 5.2.
One project WordPress has been working on for awhile is the Site Health Check. Currently available as a plugin, Site Health Check will alert users who are using a “long outdated version of PHP” (below version 5.6) that they need to update. WordPress is going to raise its minimum supported version of PHP to 5.6 in April, so this warning will help prematurely warn users they need to upgrade. For reference, PHP phased out version 5.6 late last year and now only supports PHP 7.1 and up, so WordPress will continue to support some older, unsupported versions of PHP.
The Site Health Check will also check to see if a plugin you want to install requires a different version of PHP than you are running, and if so, it won’t allow you to install this plugin. This safety feature prevents you from installing a plugin that could crash your site, bring up the so-called “white screen of death,” or cause errors.
WordPress 5.1 also seeks to make the Gutenberg content editor run more smoothly. WordPress 5.1’s performance improvements mean that the editor “should feel a little quicker to start, and typing should feel smoother.” The new version will also offer some minor visual changes to the editor, increasing contrast so objects are easier to see. The WordPress team seeks to continually make improvements to the Gutenberg editor, but the primary changes to WordPress 5.1 are focused on speed and performance.
Tools for developers and multisite users
While obviously not as major of a release as WordPress 5.0, WordPress 5.1 offers some nice features to users. Your site won’t update automatically unless you’ve configured it for automatic major updates, so be sure to log into your Dashboard on February 21 to install the update.