WordPress 5.8 “Tatum” Introduces Block Widgets, Duotone Media Filters, New Emoji Support, and More – WP Tavern



WordPress 5.8 “Tatum”, named in honor of the jazz pianist Tatum Art, landed earlier today. This is the second major release in 2021. It includes two-color media filters, block-based widgets, theme-related blocks, template editing, and support for theme JSON files.

The release also comes with tons of other notable features, such as support for new Emoji and an update URI field for plugin authors to offer personalized updates. The latest update also drops support for IE11, saying goodbye to the Internet Explorer era.

Matt Mullenweg ran WordPress version 5.8, which saw contributions from 530 volunteers. The entire publishing team closed 320 Trac tickets and over 1,500 GitHub raffle requests.

The members of the official release team were:

  • Co-coordinator of the publication: Jeffrey Paul
  • Dissemination co-coordinator: Jonathan Desrosiers
  • Technical editorial manager: Riad Benguella
  • Marketing and communication manager: Josepha Haden Chomphosy
  • Documentation manager: Milana Cap
  • Test manager: Piotrek Boniu
  • Support manager: Mary Job

Two-color and multimedia enhancements

Two-color filter + gradient overlay on a Cover block.

The Image and Cover blocks have received a new two-color feature. It is a filter that allows users to overlay two colors on their media, creating unique effects. Colors replace shadows and highlights in the image or video. Users can use WordPress defaults, theme-defined colors, or create their own blends.

WordPress 5.8 also introduces several media library upgrades. The development team replaced infinite scrolling with a “load more” button, improving the experience for screen reader and keyboard users. End users can now copy URLs for media files from the Add New Media screen.

The latest version offers support for the WebP image format for the first time, and the developers have a new image_editor_output_format filter hook to refine the experience.

Block widgets

Added a Gallery block to the footer sidebar in the WordPress block widgets screen.
Widgets screen with a Gallery block in the footer sidebar.

For the first time since the blocking system launched with WordPress 5.0 almost three years ago, blocks are no longer limited to the post content editor. Users can now use them in any available sidebar. This is a stepping stone into the full site editing experience that will eventually block themes and the site editor. In the meantime, it’s a way for users to start trying out blocks in new ways.

However, these experiences may vary, depending on the active theme. Some older projects may not hold up well with this system. Authors may need to turn this feature off. Users who do not want to use block widgets or have any issues can install the Classic Widgets plugin.

Query loop and thematic blocks

A carousel / slider view of the available templates to insert into the WordPress editor.
Query Loop Pattern Inserter: Carousel View.

The power to create lists, grids, and other designs around a group of posts has long been only in the wheelhouse of the developers. Users had to rely on their specialized themes or plugins to make such changes. This is no longer the case. Users will have the power to build almost any type of post list they want from now and into the future with the Query Loop block.

And that’s just the beginning. The new WordPress 5.8 block is just an introduction to what will ultimately be one of the fundamental building blocks of the full site edition for years to come. As more blocks continue to mature, users and theme authors will continue to create all kinds of layouts from this simple starting point.

The Query Loop block will also be the first introduction of the pattern inserter to many users. This is a new tool that allows users to scroll through block models, choose one, and customize it. In the future, it will become a more prominent feature.

Inserting message lists only scratches the surface. WordPress 5.8 offers a new category of “Theme” blocks that users can play with. Many of these are primarily intended for use in the request loop, such as Post * blocks. However, others like the site title and site tagline will come in handy in the template editor.

Template editor

Creating a custom landing page template with a search form in the header with the WordPress 5.8 template editor.
Creating a custom landing page template.

The new template editor provides users with a method of creating reusable templates. And, they don’t need a 100% block theme to do that. The feature opens an overlay from the content editing screen for users to customize the header, footer, and everything in between.

It is essentially a reduced version of the future site editor. With 5.8, its primary use case will be creating custom landing pages. That’s a lot of power in the hands of the average user. And, it helps WordPress move closer to its goal of democratizing not just editing, but design as well.

The downside to this feature? He is currently opt-in. The active topic must declare the media for users to access it. Many won’t see it until the developers submit updates.

Developers: theme.json

Screenshot of a theme.json file in a code editor.
Real world theme.json file.

WordPress 5.8 allows theme authors to start leveraging global styles and configuration settings through the new theme.json system. In the years to come, this will be the basis of how themers build their projects.

Essentially, the new file is a bridge between themes, WordPress, and users, a standardized method of communication that puts them all on the same page. Theme authors define the settings it supports and its default styles. WordPress reflects them through the editing interfaces and on the front-end. And, users can overwrite them block by block or optionally through the Global Styles function.

Right now, this is an activation feature that both traditional and block themes can use. Themers will want to start moving their projects to using it now that WordPress 5.8 is on the doorstep.


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