WordPress 5.9 was released on January 25th. So what’s new in this version?

A lot, in fact!

According to the WordPress developers, this is one of the biggest releases since Gutenberg was launched. You’ll definitely want to read this post and learn what is new in this big update.

In this post, we’ll cover some of the biggest changes and new features in this WordPress update.

Let’s learn about WordPress 5.9!

WordPress 5.9 is Here!

After about 3 RC updates WordPress 5.9 is here!

You should have received an update notification in your dashboard. Try it and explore the features we’ve mentioned in the article ahead.

New Twenty Twenty-Two Theme

Every year, WordPress gets a new default theme, and 2022 is no exception.

This year’s theme is called Twenty Twenty-Two and is full of interesting new features.

The theme’s designer was apparently inspired by birds outside his kitchen window. The theme is minimalistic and lightweight, yet still fun to use.

WordPress 2022 Theme

The theme comes with many different customization options for fonts, colors, and other design elements.

Perhaps most importantly, Twenty Twenty-Two is compatible with the new Full Site Editing feature introduced in WordPress 5.8.

Full Site Editor

The Full Site Editor is one of the biggest changes in WordPress 5.9. This is a totally new way to edit your entire site from inside the editor itself.

WordPress 5.9 adds more features to the Full Site Editor, which was introduced in WordPress 5.8.

This replaces the Customizer, Menus, and Widgets in your Appearance menu, which is where most users make changes to their site.

As you can imagine, this is a pretty big change!

Editor in menu

However, it’s important to note that the Full Site Editor only works if you are using a block-based theme, such as Twenty Twenty-Two. As of early 2022, there are only a handful of themes that support this feature.

For all other themes (like Astra) you’ll still need to use the Customizer and the Editor item will not appear in your menu.

Let’s briefly take a look at the Full Site Editor itself and see how it works.

The main new features in the Full Site Editor are the ability to edit site-wide blocks like your header and footer, site title, navigation menus, and other elements.

At the top, you can choose which element you want to edit.

Editing WordPress with FSE

As the name suggests, these changes affect your entire site.

This is pretty exciting as it makes editing content much faster and more centralized. You also get to see how it looks immediately, rather than having to reload the page.

You can also drag the screen to preview how it will look on different devices.

Instead of having to go into the Widgets page, modify the Settings, or add custom code to the footer.php file, you can now do all of this right inside the Editor.

This will save you tons of time!

Navigation bar Editor FSE

UX/UI Improvements and More Options

Along with the Full Site Editor, there are some other UX/UI adjustments in WordPress 5.9.

Let’s cover the most important ones.

More Options in the Sidebar

If you add a block and then click on the options button, you’ll now notice some more options in the sidebar.

The available options depend on the particular block, but in general, they allow you to add more customization and fine tune the style of each block.

These include colors, widths, margins and padding, borders, and many other elements. There are also a ton of new typography options which allow you to choose font-family and other items from inside the editor.

Each block has new features, so be sure to explore each one!

Gutenberg improved sidebar options

List View Collapsing and HTML #Tags

The List View has also received some updates. If you have added any HTML elements to a particular block, these will now be displayed next to it in the List View.

gutenberg List View

You can also easily collapse the different sections, making it much easier to navigate through the page. This also makes it easier to drag and drop different sections.

Collapsing list view

Styles

Another new panel that will be useful is the Styles panel. You can access it by clicking the circle (half-moon) in the top right corner of the editor.

In essence, this allows you to set the design, colors, layout, typography, and other elements for your entire website.

FSE global typography
  • For Typography, you can change the settings for the text and for links on your site. You can modify the font family, size, line height, and appearance.
  • Under Colors, you can modify a palette or elements. Palettes are combinations of colors that work together. In this setting, there are three sections: theme color palettes, default color palettes, and custom color palettes. There are also gradients. You can choose which one you want to use.
  • Under Layout, you can modify the padding and dimensions.

Finally, there is a fourth option, called the Blocks section. This lets you set the styles for a particular block everywhere on your website.

For instance, you can choose the Quote block and customize the colors and typography for it. Everywhere the quote block appears, your styles will be applied. This is a much more user-friendly way to apply styles than using CSS code!

Navigation Block

Along with some other additions to the block functionality, there is a new useful block called the Navigation block.

As the name suggests, it allows you to add a navigation menu anywhere in a page or post.

Nav block gutenberg

To add a navigation block, simply select the block, add it to your page, then click on Select Menu. You will then see all of the menus that you’ve created. Select the one you want to use, then you’re done!

Pattern Library

WordPress block patterns are an easy way to quickly create a particular design, or pattern, of blocks on your WordPress site.

There are patterns for just about everything, including images and calendars, 404 pages, image galleries next to contact forms, and more.

WordPress Patterns

The Pattern Directory has been available on WordPress.org for quite some time and you could previously browse it in the sidebar inside the editor. This was functional but a little difficult to see exactly how the pattern would function on your site.

WordPress 5.9 improves this experience by adding the option to view patterns in a modal window instead.

This improved interface makes it much easier to navigate and browse through the patterns. It’s also elegantly designed, which improves the overall experience of creating a page or post.

WordPress Pattern modal

Theme Blocks

Theme blocks are special blocks that allow you to import data dynamically on a page or post.

Some examples are the Query Loop block and the Post Content block. You can find them by adding a new block and scrolling down to the bottom of the sidebar.

In the previous version of WordPress, there were about 10 different theme blocks.

Gutenberg Theme Blocks

In the new 5.9 update, tons of new theme blocks have been added. There are now about 20 different blocks which you can use. Some of the older blocks like Query Loop have been improved, too.

Language Selection During Login

One minor new feature in WordPress 5.9 will be useful for any multi-language WordPress sites.

If your site has more than one language installed, users will be able to select their preferred dialect on the user login page.

Select language in WordPress login screen

This is useful for international websites!

Note that it will only display languages that have been installed on your site (and not any others.)

General Performance Updates

Finally, WordPress 5.9 introduced some performance updates that everyone will enjoy!

These include enhanced lazy loading for images, faster reusable blocks, a better scaling list view, faster front end improvements, and tons of other minor adjustments.

Most of these are in the background, but you’ll likely notice that your site is running faster!

WordPress 5.9 Performance

You can view a full list of technical improvements (plus charts that show exactly how much faster the new version is) in the full post on Make.WordPress.org.

Astra and FSE (WordPress 5.9) Compatibility

Astra is completely compatible with WordPress 5.9 thanks to our recent update to version 3.7.7. Unfortunately as everything is so new, you won’t be able to make full use of WordPress 5.9 with the Astra theme.

WordPress 5.9 brought us Full Site Editing features such as header and footer builder, building 404 pages, layouts and so on. Currently, Astra cannot take full advantage of these features as we have work to do under the hood to support the new features..

That doesn’t mean you will be unable to create and edit headers, footers, blog or page layouts with the Astra theme. With classic themes like Astra you will still be able to make full use of the WordPress customizer and theme specific features to design your website however you like.

In the meantime, we are reviewing how the Astra theme can work with the FSE as we move forward. 

We are in discussion with the WordPress team and are working with them to assess how classic themes like Twenty Twenty-one and others will be moving ahead and what that means for Astra.

We will definitely share some news as soon as we have everything ready for FSE.

Exploring WordPress 5.9

Are you excited to try WordPress 5.9? We’ve enjoyed trying it out!

What features do you like the most? What questions do you have about this update? Have you tried out the new Twenty Twenty-Two theme or WordPress 5.9 yourself? Let us know in the comments below!