WordPress 5.6 “Simone”, named after American singer and activist Nina Simone, was released today. The release was led by an all-female development team, an unprecedented event in WordPress history. The new version of WordPress includes improvements to the block editor, a new default theme, and support for app passwords for REST APIs.

The 5.6 development cycle was quite complex. The block widgets and navigation menus that were supposed to go into the release were delayed for the future. These decisions were hard to come by, but it would be even worse to introduce unfinished functionality into the release.

That being said, the new version of WordPress still contains several interesting features that can surprise.

Block editor improvements

The Gutenberg plugin development team continues to make small but very important improvements to the block editor. Over the past few months, the editor has acquired many new features. The new release includes all Gutenberg features from 8.6 to 9.2, as well as bug fixes and performance improvements from 9.3 and 9.4.

Most of the effort has been focused on refining the upcoming site editor. At first, there was some hope that its beta version could appear in the 5.6 release. However, the functionality was not ready. It took him more time to “mature”, so the developers did not rush to integrate it.

Users will be able to work with the updated version of the editor. Overall, the interaction experience is an order of magnitude better. There are more block options, a drop-down list for block pattern categories, and hundreds of minor changes.

Twenty Twenty-One Theme

Twenty Twenty-One is a new default theme for the coming year. It takes full advantage of all the latest and greatest features of the block editor. There’s a lot more visual artistry in this theme compared to Twenty Twenty. The theme is unlikely to suit absolutely all categories of users. It offers a wide range of color schemes that will be especially appreciated by bloggers.

Twenty Twenty-One is the first default theme built with custom patterns in mind. There is also a Twenty Twenty-One Blocks theme, created specifically for the site editor (which, as we said above, was not included in 5.6, but is expected in the 5.7 release).

REST API Application Passwords

Despite the fact that the REST API became part of the platform back in 2015, it still lacked support for application passwords. This functionality is vital for third-party applications that interact with WP. Previously, requests had to be passed through cookie and nonce authentication. Otherwise, they required using the legacy XML-RPC API. This limitation has severely affected mobile development teams, making it difficult to maintain a block editor that relies on the REST API for its work.

The functionality of application passwords will simplify the execution of API requests for applications (in order to obtain credentials, etc.).

The REST API promised a bright future for all types of WordPress applications. However, this vision has not materialized over the years. Given that the main limiting factor has now been lifted, there is still hope that we will see WP-powered apps in the coming years.