WordPress 5.9 Release Notes

On January 25, the first major WordPress update of 2022 will be released. According to the WordPress team, WordPress 5.9 “might be the largest release of Gutenberg features since the initial Gutenberg launch in WordPress 5.0. Here’s a look at what is new in WordPress 5.9.

Major changes to the block editor

As highlighted above, WordPress 5.9 includes major changes to the Gutenberg WordPress block editor.

WordPress will continue to build on the full-site editing capabilities first introduced in WordPress 5.8. These features are only available if you’re using a theme that supports them, but these features are being expanded in WordPress 5.9.

Most notably, WordPress 5.9 is adding a new Navigation block. This will allow users to create, manage, and reuse menus built with various blocks from page links to site logos and more. The menu for Menus in the Dashboard will also now be called Navigation Menus, and any navigation menus created in the Navigation block will appear in the Navigation Menus menu, and vice-versa.

WordPress is also adding several other site-wide blocks:

  • Template Part
  • Header
  • Footer
  • Post Author
  • Next Post
  • Previous Post
  • Post Comments
  • Term Description
  • Archive Title

These blocks can be used in any part of a post or a page, but they’re also an important part of the next big feature coming to WordPress 5.9.

Block themes

Because of the expanded full-site editing capabilities and new site-wide blocks in WordPress 5.9, WordPress will allow developers to build themes completely from blocks for the first time — that’s right, building a WordPress theme can now be done without any coding at all!

Known as “block themes,” WordPress sees these themes as the future of themes in WordPress the same way the Gutenberg block editor is seen as the future of editing content on the platform. In fact, standard themes that are not block themes are now called “classic themes,” similar to how the old WordPress editor (TinyMCE, for those looking for its technical name) is now known as the Classic Editor.

Looking at the new site-wide blocks above, you might be able to visualize how a block theme could work. You can place the header and footer with blocks, you can place important elements of a page like post author and comments on posts and pages, and even link to the next and previous post. And of course, the new Navigation block allows you to place menus wherever they need to go.

The advent of block themes brings about a major change in WordPress 5.9, so if you’re using a third-party developed theme, it may take some time for your theme developer to make it compatible. Some theme developers may even opt to keep their themes as “classic themes,” so you’d have to switch themes entirely to take advantage of the new block theme features.

For more information: Block themes, a new way to build themes in WordPress 5.9

Twenty Twenty-Two theme

WordPress 5.9 will include a new annual default theme to make use of the new block editor features mentioned above. But Twenty Twenty-Two is more than that. It is also the first block theme, and is designed to be a proof in concept for block themes so you can learn how to create your own block theme. WordPress has always had the goal of “democratizing publishing,” or making it available to everyone. Now, in a sense, WordPress is democratizing development as well. There will likely always be a place for custom development, but WordPress is making it easier than ever for users to create their own content and style it how they prefer as well.

Other changes coming in WordPress 5.9

WordPress 5.9 also includes a bunch of smaller but notable changes as well:

  • Site-wide styles: A new Style icon when editing posts and pages will allow typography and colors to be applied across a website instead of needing to use the Customizer.
  • Site-wide block styles: Similarly, a style icon will allow changes across a website for blocks. For example, you could change the color of every button on your website when changing the color of one.
  • Use multiple style sheets in one block: Previously, each block could have one stylesheet attached to it, but in WordPress 5.9, multiple stylesheets may be registered for each block.
  • Enhanced lazy loading: WordPress 5.9 improves performance of lazy loading, first introduced into WordPress core in WordPress 5.5. (If you’re unsure of what lazy loading is, read our article on lazy loading.)
  • Choose a language: The WordPress login page will now include the ability to choose your preferred language when you log in if you have multiple languages installed on your site.

WordPress 5.9 includes over 100 bug fixes, 99 enhancements, 5 feature requests, and more. For a complete list of new features, read the official WordPress 5.9 field guide.