Automattic released WordPress 5.5, “Eckstine”, in honor of jazz musician Billy Eckstine. This latest version focuses on three major areas: speed, search, and security, as well as block editor enhancements, accessibility, and developer features:
Speed. In WordPress 5.5, images wait to load until they’re just about to scroll into view. The technical term is ‘lazy loading.’ On mobile, lazy loading can also keep browsers from loading files meant for other devices. That can save your readers money on data — and help preserve battery life.
Search. Now, by default, WordPress 5.5 includes an XML sitemap that helps search engines discover your most important pages from the very minute you go live.
Security. Now you can set plugins and themes to update automatically, or not, in the WordPress admin. So you always know your site is running the latest code available. You can also turn auto-updates on or off for each plugin or theme you have installed on the same screens you’ve always used.
Block patterns. New block patterns make it simple to create complex layouts, using combinations of text and media that you can mix and match to fit your story. You will also find block patterns in a wide variety of plugins and themes, with more added all the time.
The new block directory. The new block directory is built right into the block editor, so you can install new block types to your site without ever leaving the editor.
Inline image editing. Crop, rotate, and zoom your photos right from the image block.
Accessibility. Now you can copy links in media screens and modal dialogs with a button, instead of trying to highlight a line of text. You can also move meta boxes with the keyboard, and edit images in WordPress with your assistive device, as it can read you the instructions in the image editor.
Defining environments. WordPress now has a standardized way to define a site’s environment type (staging, production, etc). Retrieve that type with wp_get_environment_type() and execute only the appropriate code.
Dashicons. The Dashicons library has received its final update in 5.5. It adds 39 block editor icons along with 26 others.
Passing data to template files. The template loading functions (get_header(), get_template_part(), etc.) have a new $args argument. So now you can pass an entire array’s worth of data to those templates.