March 2021 Newsletter


As has become usual, there have been a number of minor releases in the wake of version 5.6 which was released back in December, 2020. They typically comprise bug and security fixes. There were two releases on this occasion: 5.6.1 (February 3rd, 2021) and 5.6.2 (February 22nd, 2021).

Version 5.7 of WordPress was released on March 9th, 2021. See the Release Notice for full details. The WordPress 5.7 Field Guide provides more technical information if you are interested.

WordPress 5.7

This release concentrates principally on polishing the block editor. There is still no sign of the promised navigation block (menus) or of block-based widgets. It seems to me that they will form part and parcel of Full Site Editing when that appears.

Other changes include: improvements to import / export; the ability to send a reset password link to a contributor to your site; two security-related additions; plus a range of updates which are aimed at developers of WordPress.

Full Site Editing (FSE)

FSE is the principal focus of phase two of the WordPress Gutenberg project.

Put very succinctly, the idea behind FSE is to provide the ability to visually customise the theme, as well as the content, rather than use the Customiser. This includes the likes of headers, menus, footers and sidebars.

However, FSE will only work with block-based themes. What are they, you might ask? Block-based themes are composed of block templates. This is all part of the move to the situation where everything in WordPress will be stored in blocks. Block-based themes are very new, and there are currently very few of them around at this time. An article in WPTavern on February 24th, 2021 indicated that there were only four in the theme directory at that time, and they are all described as experimental.

When will FSE appear? In WordPress 5.8, they say. As an old IT cynic, I think that towards the end of 2021 is a more likely date for the initial version.

What will FSE mean to you? Unless block-based versions of existing themes are produced, which I doubt, it should not affect you at all, assuming that you stay with your existing theme. But we shall have to wait and see.

FSE may be a brave new world, but it seems to me that it will take quite some time for it to become widely used within the WordPress ecosystem.

December 2020 Newsletter


As has become usual, there have been a number of minor releases in the wake of version 5.5 which was released back in August. They typically comprise bug and security fixes. There were three releases on this occasion: 5.5.1 (September 1st), 5.5.2 (October 29th) and 5.5.3 (October 31st).

Version 5.6 of WordPress was released on December 8th, 2020. See the Release Notice for full details. The WordPress 5.6 Field Guide provides slightly more technical information if you are interested.

WordPress 5.6

The main features in this release include:

Block editor. Seven versions (8.6 through to 9.2) of the Gutenberg development project for the block editor have been included, along with relevant bug fixes and performance improvements that subsequently arrived in versions 9.3 and 9.4. The general focus can be described as ongoing improvements to the editor and to the user’s experience. However, two major developments, the navigation block and block-based widgets, which were scheduled for this release were pulled from it. This is not the first time that the navigation block has been pulled. Obviously, it is proving somewhat problematic. There are a number of updates which specifically apply to these users: support for PHP 8 which was released on November 26th, 2020; an updated user interface for auto-updates, allowing users to opt-in to major updates; and 11 updates to the Site Health Check function.

The Twenty Twenty-One theme is introduced. It is based on the lightweight Seedlet theme which was released in August, 2020. I have not previously made it clear, and I should have done, that new default themes which are shipped by Automattic, the developers of, are based on the block editor, i.e. they are not relevant to users of the classic editor. This started with the Twenty Nineteen theme.

What is Next?

One hopes that the navigation and widget blocks will appear in 5.7!? Meanwhile, development of full-site editing continues in the Gutenberg project. I am not expecting to see it before mid-2021 at the very earliest. I read somewhere that only block-based themes will support full-site editing. I will wait to see if this is true. If it is then there are not going to be many users of it for quite some time.

Stay safe.

Another threat to retire the classic editor (August 2020)’s blog of August 13th, 2020 is entitled The Classic Editing Experience is Moving, not Leaving.

Read it for yourself. It appears to be saying that users will shortly be forced to use the new block editor. However, they can continue to use the classic editor functionality by using the classic block. In essence, when you open a post or page in the new block editor for the first time your content will be contained in a single classic block. If you want to use all the block editor facilities then you would use the “convert to blocks” function at that point. However, if you want to continue to use the classic editor functionality then you simply leave it as a classic block.

In summary, it appears that you are being forced to use the framework of the new block editor, but you can continue to use the classic editor functions if you so wish.

The blog says that users will receive an email when you are to be moved to the new block editor.

I will update this post if I see any further information on this subject.

August 2020 Newsletter


As mentioned in the April newsletter, WordPress 5.4 was officially released on March 31st, 2020. There have since been two maintenance releases, resolving security flaws, fixing various bugs and introducing a couple of enhancements: 5.4.1 came out on April 29th, 2020; and 5.4.2 on June 10th, 2020.

This newsletter primarily summarises WordPress 5.5 which was released on August 11th, 2020. See the official WordPress 5.5 release post for more detailed information or the WordPress 5.5 field guide if you are looking for something that is slightly more technical.

WordPress 5.5

Versions 7.5 to 8.4 of the Gutenberg project (alias the block editor project) have been included in this release. The main features are described below.

The block editor user interface continues to be refined. It includes: further use of colour in an increasing number of blocks; control of the font size in various blocks; the introduction of some inline image editing facilities; copy / relocate blocks more easily; refined drag and drop mechanism; multiple-block selection; and extended use of HTML anchors. Two new features have been introduced under the title of block tools: some blocks, notably the paragraph block, will have a line height option; and the cover block will have a custom unit option to control its size.

Note – HTML anchors allow you to specify a link which takes the user to a specified place within a post or page, as opposed to the beginning. An anchor was limited to a heading block, heading level two only if my memory serves me correctly. It has now been extended to other blocks, e.g. paragraph blocks.

XML sitemaps have been introduced to make it easier for search engines to crawl the content of a site comprehensively and quickly.

Auto-updating of themes and plug-ins. It is now possible for users to set up their sites to allow these updates to be performed automatically. Control can be exercised at the level of an individual theme or plug-in.

Lazy-loading of images means that they will happen only when the user nears them on the page or post. On a long page or post the user may not actually reach some images, which therefore will not need to be loaded, resulting in a bandwidth saving / performance improvement.

The block directory has been introduced which allows users access to individual third-party blocks. Before version 5.5, sets of blocks were stored in the plug-in directory. A complete set of blocks had to be downloaded even if you only wanted one of them. The new block directory now allows you to access only the block(s) that you want.

Block patterns have been announced although they have been present on my version of for a number of months! Block patterns make use of the group block feature to construct more complex, ready-made blocks which can be inserted into your page or post and subsequently modified. A limited number of such pre-built patterns are available for use. This may (or may not) be an initial step towards giving WordPress a true page-building facility.

Preview. It is now possible in the editor to see how your page or post will look on a desktop, tablet or mobile device. Once again, this feature has actually been available on my version of for several months.

Accessibility improvements are part of an ongoing project. There are 34 updates in this release. See the field guide for further details.

Collaboration Software

Automattic, the owner of, has been using P2, a home- built piece of software, to allow electronic collaboration between developers for sometime. They are now making a beta version of it available to users. If you are interested then read this blog in the first instance.

What is next?

It is difficult to be precise about what will be in version 5.6 of WordPress, which is due out in December, 2020. Various projects are simultaneously in progress, but it remains to be seen which of them will be considered ready to be released in the next version.

Navigation blocks (alias menus to you and me) and widget blocks were both due to appear in 5.5. However, they were pulled from the release late on. Perhaps they will make it into 5.6?

Accessibility improvements will continue to appear, and there will no doubt be an assortment of other refinements and enhancements.

Another major project that is currently in progress is Full Site Editing (FSE). It is in its infancy at the moment, and so it is not totally clear how the detailed design will look. However, it can be said that in the FSE world everything will be a block. So, not just the content, as at present. Headers, menus, footers, sidebars et cetera will also be implemented as blocks. The basic idea, as I understand it, is that an outline of the site will be displayed on the screen. Clicking on a particular area of this outline will take you into the relevant editing process. I am sure that it will all be much more complex than my one line description makes out! I consider that FSE is likely to appear sometime in 2021, i.e. it is extremely unlikely to be in 5.6. Have a look at this useful article in wpengine to gain a better understanding of the background to FSE and the general direction of travel.

Confusion over retirement of old editor

Please note that this post does NOT refer to the blog dated August 11th, 2020.

A blog was published by on May 18th, 2020 which says ..

On June 1 we’ll be retiring our older editor and transitioning to the more recent (and more powerful) WordPress block editor. Want to know how this may affect your site and what you can expect? Read on.

Reading on only confused the hell out of me. Are they going to remove the Classic Editor on June 1st?!

One of the subsequent comments / replies finally clarified what they mean ..

Comment – As long as I can still fire up and use the Classic Editor, I’m fine . . .

. . . but this post is a bit confusing in that regard.

You open with saying you’ll be retiring the old editor on June 1st.

You then make the exaggerated claim we’ll love the block editor (I don’t know any blogger that loves it; I certainly don’t). The most asked question I get is how to fire up the Classic Editor.

You close the post with saying we can still use the classic editor.

What am I missing? What are you retiring on June 1st? Bottom line: are you keeping the classic editor or are you about to make many users unhappy?

Yes, yes, I’m not supposed to ask questions here . . . but then, why post at all?

Reply – Thanks for asking! Sorry for the confusion. To clarify, there are currently three editors available on The older editor that we’re retiring looks like this: The two editors that will remain are the block editor which looks like this: and the classic editor, which looks like this:

To explain in words that I can understand .. at the time of writing, in addition to the new Block Editor, has two different front-ends which relate to pre-block editor times: the original vanilla-flavoured version where the dashboard has white text on a black background; and an “improved” version called Calypso (although that name is seldom used in any of their material) that was introduced in 2015. This newsletter includes images of both front-ends.

In essence, new users from around 2016 were presented with the Calypso interface, while older users usually had a choice of either.

This was all before the introduction of the new Block Editor in late 2018. The dashboard for the Block Editor is based on Calypso.

Their blog is effectively saying that it is Calypso which is being retired. This will leave the original front-end, now known as the Classic Editor, and the Block Editor.

The question is .. what will Calypso users see on June 1st, 2020? My money is on the Block Editor in an attempt to get them to transfer to it. If this happens then click on the three dots icon (near the top-right-hand corner), scroll down to the bottom of the menu and click on “Switch to Classic Editor” if you do not wish to use the Block Editor.

I will check to see what actually happens on June 1st, and make any necessary modifications to this post.

April 2020 Newsletter

This newsletter coincides with the release of WordPress 5.4.


WordPress 5.3 Maintenance Releases Changes Block Editor UI Redesign
WordPress 5.4 Release
What is Next?
Notes on Using WordPress Forums

WordPress 5.3 Maintenance Releases

Just for information. There were two maintenance releases back in December 2019, 5.3.1 and 5.3.2, which comprised a small number of security and bug fixes. Changes

Several recent changes have been made to which are not part of the Gutenberg project.

My Home is displayed on the Calypso interface after you have clicked on My Site(s) as part of the login process. It contains a number of quick links which allow faster access to various parts of the system.

Page Layouts. When you add a new page you will now be presented with a screen which allows you to pick a layout for it. I would personally call it a template, but WordPress uses that term in a different context. There is quite a wide range of layouts. If you are not interested in any of them then simply select the blank layout. This blog describes the feature in more detail. Block Editor UI Redesign

This appeared in my account last Thursday (March 26th, 2020). The general layout looks more professional. It includes redesigned icons, better spacing, text colour options and a range of initial block patterns that can be incorporated into posts / pages. See the relevant blog for more information.

I must admit that I am confused with the timing of this introduction. The features recently appeared in Gutenberg 7.7 which, when you read the section below on the WordPress 5.4 release, you will see is post WordPress 5.4?!

WordPress 5.4 Release

The latest version of WordPress was released to users on March 31st, 2020. It will follow shortly on It incorporates 10 Gutenberg development releases, from 6.6 to 7.5.

FYI – Gutenberg releases appear approximately once a fortnight. They are mainly for internal use by the WordPress developers although they are available as a plugin on for anybody who is brave enough to play with it (but this is absolutely not recommended for typical users or for use on production sites).

WordPress 5.4 could be best described as a release which concentrates on polishing the block editor. It includes:

  • A new Social Icons block which allows you to incorporate links to multiple social media sites by using their standard logos. This is the sort of thing that you see on many websites nowadays, viz. a row of social media icons
  • The revised Buttons block now allows you to set up multiple adjacent buttons
  • Various updates to the ongoing accessibility and privacy projects
  • Full screen mode in the block editor is now the default on a new WordPress installation or on a new device. This means that the sidebars to the left and right of the display of the post / page are not shown. If you do not like this setup (and I do not) then you can change it by clicking on the three dots menu item in the top right-hand corner and un-checking the full screen mode.

See the Release Blog for further information, while the WordPress 5.4 Field Guide contains much more technical information, if you are interested.

What is Next?

A quick reminder on the overall Gutenberg project. It is said that it will consist of four phases:

  • Introduction of the block editor in phase 1
  • Expansion of the block editor to encompass other parts of the system in phase 2, e.g. menus, widget areas and the Customiser
  • Collaboration and multi-user editing in phase 3
  • And multilingual support in phase 4.

We are currently in phase 2, and tentative dates for further releases in 2020 are August for WordPress 5.5 and December for WordPress 5.6. I consider that this phase will probably go into 2021. Obviously, any talk of dates is purely speculative at the moment, given the COVID-19 virus.

It might be useful to know that work on the various aspects of phase 2 goes on in parallel. Decisions on what will be incorporated in any given release depend on the stability of the relevant software at the time, and on whether it fits coherently into the overall design at the time. For example, the navigation block (the menu in old money) was considered to be ready to go into 5.4. However, it did not fit coherently into the current design, and so it has been put on one side for the moment.

Work on the full-site editing feature continues. A prototype was developed back in September 2019 if you want to take a look at how it might possibly appear. I suspect that it will be WordPress 5.6, probably later, before it is likely to be released.

The block directory, a home for third-party blocks, is currently planned for inclusion in WordPress 5.5. It will primarily be for use by users.

The ability for users to control the automatic updating of plugins and themes is also slated for WordPress 5.5.

Finally, XML Sitemaps can be used by search engines to discover the content on a website with less fuss. A WordPress prototype, implemented as a plugin, has recently been developed. Presumably, it will eventually appear in the core WordPress product at some point.


Here are some notes if you have an interest in this subject:

  • The majority of the current development work in this area tends to relate to the use of the WordPress software, not to the website that you create / update. In addition, any new features are likely to be limited to use with the new block editor, not with the classic editor
  • However, there is a WordPress project which has been set up to look at accessibility on websites. Their Accessibility Handbook may provide some useful information
  • There is a theme review team which checks new themes for various things, including accessibility. If a theme passes the checks in this area then it is deemed “accessibility ready”. This relates to the theme itself, not necessarily to the website that you design with it
  • If you are interested in WCAG compliance read this document from

Notes on Using WordPress Forums

There is a set of forums for users and a separate set for users.

You can browse any of the forums without logging in. However, if you wish to participate, e.g. start a new topic, then you will need to log in with your relevant account details.

The forums are manned by a mixture of Automattic employees, WordPress contributors, volunteers and ordinary users like you and me.

Beware that if you ask a question which relates to the other set of forums, then you will be politely requested to redirect it.

November 2019 Newsletter

WordPress Version 5.2 was launched back in May 2019. Three minor versions (5.2.1 through to 5.2.3) subsequently followed at intervals, consisting mainly of bug fixes with the occasional enhancement. 5.2.4, a security fix release, appeared a month ago.

The latest major version, 5.3, has just been made available to users on November 12th, 2019. It will follow shortly to users. The main focus of this release is to polish current interactions and to make the user interface more friendly. A new theme, Twenty Twenty, is included in the release.

The Release blog contains an overview of what is included in WordPress 5.3, while more technical information can be found in the WordPress 5.3 Field Guide.

New Features in the Block Editor

Development continues with new versions appearing every fortnight as Gutenberg plugins (Gutenberg being the project name). Gutenberg versions 5.4 through to 6.5 have been incorporated into WordPress 5.3, along with bug fixes and performance enhancements in 6.6 and 6.7  Changes include:

  • Improved handling of large images which have been uploaded via a camera. WordPress will now reduce the size of big images to a default of 2560 pixels.
  • The cover block now supports a greater range of nested blocks. It also has a resizing option and the ability to have a solid colour background, as an alternative to an image.
  • The group block supports the concept of nested blocks.  A group can be saved as a reusable block.
  • The columns block includes various improvements: up to 7 columns in a block; the ability to size individual columns; and support for colour. 
  • Typewriter experience keeps the user’s place on the screen by automatically scrolling down appropriately as he types, thus avoiding the problem of typing right at the bottom of the screen, or even worse beyond the bottom when you cannot see what you are typing.
  • A Social Links block has been introduced
  • Widgets. There are now 9 widget blocks which can be incorporated into the main content area of a page or post: calendar, latest posts, categories, search, shortcode, archives, latest comments, RSS and tag cloud. The idea of legacy widgets in blocks which was being mooted appears to have been dropped.

Other Changes

Site admin email verification. This new screen will be displayed once every 6 months. It has been introduced because of problems where sites do not keep this email address up to date, resulting in important emails not being delivered to the current site admin.

Page templates. I have recently discovered on my account which runs the block editor that “add new page” now produces a display of various possible page templates that can be used. As I am not interested in any of them, I simply select the blank template.

Discouraging search engines. The method employed to keep a site secret, where this was required by the site owner, was only moderately successful. A change has been made to make it more likely that search engines will not display such sites.

Improved date / time component handling.

Site Health Check ( users). Further features have been added.

PHP Support ( users). PHP 7.4, which is due out shortly, will be supported.

Fixes. WordPress version 5.3 includes a lot of bug fixes and minor changes, generally making the product more reliable, while ironing out some of the idiosyncrasies.

Accessibility improvements for WordPress users. There are 50 updates in this area, including improved media controls, darker field borders and improved button styles.

My experiences with the block editor

I have been using the new block editor on my own website ( and on several other sites since January 2019. I have discovered a couple of minor bugs which I have reported, but I have generally found it to be stable.

My only concern at the present time is with tables. Before the block editor the user had to handcraft HTML tables. There is now a table block. However, HTML tables with empty cells or images will not convert correctly to a table block. The table block itself is somewhat rudimentary. In particular, it does not allow column widths to be specified, nor does it allow an image in a table cell.

I have dabbled with the media and text block and with the columns block. Neither is perfect at the current time. The media and text block does not appear to adhere to the margins that are used in the theme, at least not in my theme. The columns block is just about usable.

What will be next?

Gutenberg development has four phases:

  • the block editor
  • customisation
  • collaboration, allowing multiple users to co-edit content in real time
  • multilingual

Phase two (customisation) is currently in progress which includes headers, footers, menus and sidebars. A proposed design under the umbrella title of “full site editing” was put forward in September where these various elements, as well as the main content section, are each called block areas. The block editor would be able to display all block areas, just as a post or page might appear on the screen, and to work on any of them. Alternatively, a specified block area could be displayed on its own and worked on. At a very rough guess, it is likely to be mid-2020 before such a major change appears, always assuming that the idea is carried forward.

Auto-updating old versions ( users). WordPress supplies security fixes back as far back as version 3.7, which was launched in October 2013. However, the effort required to support these old versions is an ever-growing problem. It is now proposed that, unless they deliberately opt out, old sites will be automatically updated (one version at a time) until they are on version 4.7. There has been much animated debate on this subject. It remains to be seen if the proposal will be adopted.

May 2019 Newsletter

WordPress Version 5.2, was made available on May 7, 2019. In summary, the functional enhancements in this release are mainly aimed at users although work has also gone into improving the general block editor experience. The changes will be incorporated into shortly, where appropriate.

WordPress 5.2

The Block Editor (aka Gutenberg)

Changes include:

  • Another wodge of widgets now have block versions. They are: RSS, Amazon Kindle embed, search, calendar and tag cloud
  • In addition, a legacy widget block has been introduced. This will allow you to incorporate widgets that were developed for old WordPress (pre-version 5) into blocks. However, I note that it is described as “experimental” at the moment
  • The cover page block now acts as a container which can contain multiple blocks. For example, it may have three blocks: a title, a paragraph of text, and a button, as well as the cover image itself
  • Disabling / enabling blocks. This is called block management. It is probably aimed at users who have incorporated collection(s) of third-party blocks into their system. For example, they may have installed a collection of blocks that includes a gallery feature. They only want the gallery feature and are not interested in the other blocks. They can disable those unwanted blocks to reduce the memory requirement
  • Performance improvements, particularly reducing the time taken to load large posts / pages.

Site Health Project ( users)

This is an ongoing project, principally for users. WordPress version 5.2 includes Improved Fatal Error Protection which aims to catch serious errors before they produce the “white screen of death”, allowing a login to admin to potentially resolve the problem.

In addition, there are two new pages in the admin interface (under tools) that allow you to check out the health of your site via a number of tests.

PHP Support ( users)

This subject seems to trundle on and on! 5.6 is now the minimum version of PHP that can run WordPress. However, as I have mentioned before, the PHP people only support version 7.0 and above. Unless there are mitigating circumstances users should be on version 7.0 or above.

WordPress 5.2 will not now be installed on your site if you are not on PHP 5.6 or greater. This minimum version requirement is likely to go up to 7.0 before the end of the year .. famous last words!

Similarly, WordPress will now check that any installed plugin is compatible with the version of PHP that you have installed. If it is not then the plugin will not be activated.


WordPress version 5.2 includes a lot of bug fixes and minor changes, generally making the product more reliable, while ironing out some of the idiosyncrasies.

Other Recent Changes in

The following items are not related to the version 5.2 release, per se.

  • If you use the Calypso interface, you may have noticed that they have just changed the layout of the menu system
  • Contact form. I said some months back that there was no facility within to add a contact form in the new block editor. A form block has now been added (not sure precisely when it appeared)
  • More admin dashboard colour schemes are available .. if you are in to that sort of thing!
  • Fyi it is no longer possible to purchase a custom domain if you are only using the free plan. Individuals who previously did so are not affected by this change.

My experiences with the block editor

I have been using the new block editor on my own website ( and on the Ascot Volunteer Bureau website since January 2019. I have found it to be stable. The current issues for me are:

  • Slideshows are not currently supported in blocks
  • The table block is not particularly satisfactory at the moment (although there are workarounds)
  • The converter (from classic editor format to blocks) annoyingly decouples an image and the adjacent text (where they are side by side), although they can easily be re-coupled.

There is no pressure at this time for users to convert to the block editor. As I said last time, it has been stated that the Classic Editor will be supported until December 2021. Perhaps the end of this year may be a useful time to assess the current state of play and possibly consider converting.

What is coming up?

Sidebars and footers. It is important to realise that the implementation of widget blocks thus far has been limited to their use in the main body of the screen. What has not been mentioned is the use of widgets in sidebars and footers where we have historically used them. WordPress has now issued a Blocks in Widget Areas RFC (Request for Comments). This means that they have a draft design for handling widgets in sidebars and footers, and they are asking for some feedback before continuing. It may be late summer or autumn before any agreed design is actually implemented.

Navigation Menu. Work continues on the Implementation of the navigation menu as a block, but it is unclear to me where they are with this. They were struggling to agree on a design when last I heard.

Block directory. As mentioned earlier, third-party blocks are currently installed as plugins, usually in collections that consist of multiple blocks. I get the impression that this is seen as a short-term solution. There are design discussions on implementing a separate block directory whereby they can be incorporated individually into your site. This facility will be principally aimed at users.

Wp-admin dashboard. There is a proposal to revamp it, using blocks. It remains to be seen if this gets off the ground, and if so when. users who use the Calypso interface will not be affected by this possible change. See this post if you are unclear about the different dashboards.


Finally, a few words on this subject which deals with improving the experience of individuals with disabilities. Please be aware, if you are not already, that WCAG 2.1 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) was issued in June 2018. Public Sector bodies, including central and local government, plus some charities and some non-government organisations (not sure precisely what “some” means at the moment), must comply with these guidelines by September 2020. There are two strands that concern us:

  • Using WordPress itself. An accessibility audit on the new block editor has just been carried out. It was commissioned by a 3rd party outfit called WPCampus. The report finds various problems although it has to be said that the study was based on WordPress 5.0.3, and that work has been carried out in the area of accessibility since that release. I expect that further work will be undertaken in the coming months. I will monitor what happens here and report back
  • The website that you create. It is your responsibility to address WCAG 2.1 compliance if it applies to your organisation. I will relay any useful information that I hear. Obviously, I would appreciate any information that you may discover on the subject.

February 2019 Newsletter


  • General Observations on WordPress 5
  • My WordPress 5 FAQ article
  • Latest WordPress Releases
  • Recent Queries on WordPress
    • Shortcodes
    • Portfolios (of pictures)
    • Notes on Changing Theme
    • Clickable Images
  • PHP
  • What Next?

General Observations on WordPress 5

It is interesting that Automattic (the people) have hardly mentioned Gutenberg, the new block editor. There has been no big announcement for what is possibly the most far-reaching change yet made to WordPress. To my cynical mind, this says that any big push to get users to adopt it will not happen until they are confident that: it is stable enough; it contains all of the functionality that is in WordPress 4; and their support mechanisms are geared up to cope with a potentially increased workload, as people do migrate.

So, perhaps a useful strategy for users is to wait until they do make a song and dance about it, before considering any switch to the new block editor. You can stay where you are, simply by not clicking on any invitation to switch to (or try out) the new block editor. users who wish to play safe at this point in time can either (a) not upgrade to WordPress 5 or (b) upgrade to WordPress 5 but install the Classic Editor plugin so that you do not have to use the new block editor.

A brief word on my own experiences. My main website lives on I decided to adopt Gutenberg, the new block editor, in early January. There are a couple of bugs which affect me but I can work round them. I have not experienced any significant problems so far. I also look after a small, straightforward website for Ascot Volunteer Bureau. I converted it to the new block editor a month ago without problem.

My WordPress 5 FAQ Article

In lieu of any useful, concise material thus far on migrating to WordPress 5 (or not), I have penned this article to describe what options are available to users. It is in the form of FAQs. I will maintain and update it, as necessary, until such time as something better appears. Any questions or feedback on its content is welcome.

Latest WordPress 5 Releases

I had previously mentioned the 5.0.1 and 5.0.2 bug fix releases which came out before Christmas. The focus in 5.0.1 was on security fixes, while 5.0.2 included a range of performance fixes. 5.0.3 followed in early January, comprising 37 bug fixes and 7 performance updates.

WordPress 5.1 was released to users on February 21st, 2019, and will follow to users shortly. It is difficult to discern any particular focus other than attempts to polish the new block editor, and to make the software more error-free and robust. In addition to some performance improvements, the other item worthy of note is a site health check feature. This an ongoing project whose objective is to improve the stability and performance of WordPress. It is aimed at users. The first version was initially implemented as a plugin which has now been put into the core WordPress software. Further enhancements in this area will follow later this year. users will probably have noticed a recent cosmetic change which allows you to alter some colours on your dashboard. It seems to be mainly for Calypso users, as far as I can see. Further details here.  

Finally, I note that a facility to copy a post or page has appeared in the editor that is invoked via the wp-admin dashboard .. not before time .. and it has reappeared (having disappeared for a while) in the editor that is invoked via the Calypso dashboard.

Recent Queries on WordPress

This section contains topics that have been brought up recently by individuals who receive these newsletters.


Shortcodes (I would call them macros, but I am an old geezer) have been used to implement various features in WordPress. Examples include contact forms, galleries and displaying recent posts. A full list of shortcodes in can be viewed here.

A couple of people have experienced problems when trying to edit or delete content that is implemented using shortcodes.

You need to switch from the visual view of the relevant post or page to the text / HTML view. Shortcodes are encapsulated within parentheses: consisting of the shortcode name along with a list of associated parameters, e.g. email address and text boxes on a contact form. If you wish to remove the entire shortcode then simply delete everything from [ to ], including the parentheses.

The ease with which a shortcode can be edited varies. Contact forms and displaying recent posts are relatively straightforward, whereas galleries should be deleted and recreated from scratch.

Re the new block editor, each shortcode appears in a separate block. Just remove the entire block if you wish to delete it. I get the impression that shortcodes will eventually be replaced by specific blocks that provide the same functionality, but who knows how long that may take.  

Portfolios (of pictures)

This topic is relevant to individuals who have lots of photos on a single post or page. I have spoken to a number of users who manage (somehow) to squeeze lots of photos into a single post or page using the Twenty Ten theme. Twenty Ten can still be used although it is no longer a supported theme. At some point these users will have to change their theme. Hence these words. users can find lots of plugins that provide sophisticated gallery facilities. users can use the portfolio option to display multiple photos. When it is active you have posts, pages and portfolio pages. There are various themes which make explicit use of portfolio pages. However, it is in fact possible to use the portfolio option with any theme although I would guess that the effectiveness (how good it looks) will vary from theme to theme. Read this support item for further information on portfolios and the themes which explicitly use them.

Notes on Changing Theme

Writing the above section has reminded me that I keep meaning to pen some thoughts on the general topic of changing theme.

Beware that some or all of your current theme customisations may be lost when you switch to a new theme:

  • Header Image. The main issue here is that the current image size may not be compatible with the size that the new theme would prefer
  • Widget areas. Obviously, if a widget area (say the left-hand sidebar) exists in your current theme, but it does not exist in the new theme, then you may well lose the widgets within it. Less obviously, a single widget area (say the right-hand sidebar) may be lost even though the new theme also has a right-hand sidebar – it depends on how aware the new theme is when it is activated
  • Menu. While your menu settings will almost certainly be retained, the new theme may start off by using a default (perhaps empty) menu. You may have to tell it to use your menu. The other possibility is that you may have to reconstruct your menu(s). For example, the new theme may not have as much space as the current theme (across the screen) to hold all the top level menu items. In which case you may have to redesign your menus to fit in with the new theme, e.g. by using sub-menus
  • CSS modifications, where used, are theme specific. Any existing modifications will disappear in the new theme.

It is good practice to make a note of your various customisations before you change a theme. You can then re-apply them (except for CSS), where necessary, in your new theme.

Clickable Images

It is possible to make an image clickable. Two reasons to do so spring readily to mind:

  • To link to another page, either on your site or anywhere else on the Internet
  • To display a larger version of the image in order to make parts of the image more distinct, or to make any text readable. Note that the image displayed will be the size of the original version.

In edit image mode you will find a link option. To link to another page or post, select Custom URL and enter the URL of the page. To display a larger image, select Media (assuming that the original is in your media library) and enter the URL of the image if it is not already displayed.


This applies only to users. In April 2019 the minimum version of PHP that WordPress will run on will be PHP 5.6. However, as I have mentioned before, version 5.6 is no longer supported by the PHP people. Unless there are mitigating circumstances, you should be on PHP 7.0 or greater, as they are the only versions that are currently supported by the PHP people.

What Next?

The development of widget blocks appears to be proceeding rapidly. However, the use of blocks for menus is not proving to be straightforward, and no agreement has yet been reached on how it will be implemented.

There is currently no set date for WordPress 5.2, but it seems likely that it will appear around the end of April. Similarly, there is no agreed scope for it at the moment. Jungle drums indicate that it may include: the first appearance of core widgets in blocks; further work on polishing the new block editor; and improvements to the Site Health Check. front-ends

I refer to’s front-end dashboards at different times. This short item is simply to explain that has two different front-ends.

The original front-end to WordPress is invoked through the wp-admin dashboard. This is still the case for users and for older WordPress. com users. Here is an example ..

In 2015 Automattic, the owners of, introduced an alternative front-end, called Calypso. They will try to persuade you to use it rather than the wp-admin dashboard. They say that it is faster. I must admit that I have not found it so, and it is also missing some of the features that can be found on the wp-admin dashboard. Anyway, it is there and some of you may be using it. Here is an example of the Calypso dashboard ..

Calypso dashboard

Some users may find that there is an option on the Calypso dashboard (probably at the bottom) to switch to the wp-admin dashboard if you should wish to do this. An alternative method, if this option is not shown, is to change the url by typing wp-admin after the domain name.