WordPress 5.4 – what’s new in the latest release

Today’s the day! Version 5.4 of WordPress is here, and with it a range of refinements, updates, and changes. Let’s go over the biggest items in the update so you know what to look out for.

Full screen editor by default

This one is sure to cause a brief moment of confusion for veteran WordPress users. For all new WordPress installs, the full screen editing mode is now enabled by default. Full screen mode removes a lot of the clutter associated with the usual content editor. The idea is to make for a cleaner, less distracting way to create and edit posts.

It can be a jarring change of experience for seasoned users though, and indeed the update has caused a lot of debate in the community. The update doesn’t alter existing WordPress websites though, and you can switch to standard editing mode easily enough. When editing a post, just hit the options button at the top right of the screen (those three little dots) to switch change the editing mode.

Enable disable full screen mode
Enable or disable full screen mode

Gutenberg updates

The editor experience changes don’t stop there. A lot of updates have gone into the Gutenberg content editor in this release. Some of the biggest new features include:

Social icons block

A new drop in block that lets you add social icons/links within posts and pages without the need for a plugin. The icons come in three different styles, too.

Social icons Gutenberg block
Social icons Gutenberg block

Updated buttons block

More options have been added to allow users to add buttons to their posts and pages. Buttons can now be given a range of new styles including gradient colours.

Text color support in text blocks

You can now add colour to selected strings of text in the block editor. Highlight the text in question and hit the style dropdown (after the link icon). You should see the text colour option below the strikethrough option.

Changing text color
Changing text color

Text color changed using Gutenberg
Text color changed using Gutenberg

More colour options

Other blocks have also gained new colour options. You can add gradients to buttons and cover blocks as well as change text colour within group and column blocks

Featured images on latest blocks posts

This block now has the added ability to display a featured image.

API and developer changes

A lot of the changes in version 5.4 might not be apparent to regular users, but significant changes are going on behind the scenes. WP Tavern does a great job of succinctly rounding up all the developer-focused and API changes here. As WPT Justin Tadlock notes, theme developers in particular will want to check their work against all the updates in this release:

“There are several changes that theme authors will want to test against. WordPress 5.4 has a few extra theme features. It also has several markup-related changes that could break theme designs on the front end and in the block editor. Unfortunately, for theme authors who want to support multiple versions of WordPress, some of these changes may mean a little extra CSS bloat.


There are 3 comments on “WordPress 5.4 – what’s new in the latest release

  1. Jon Wright April 27, 2020

    I’ve only just got my head round the last change which was a mega-change…. but as I said to a friend in my art club. ‘I blame Bill Gates’ and he replied:
    Blaming Bill Gates is usually a good option. All those Microsoft employees don’t earn their salaries by saying “It works, let’s just leave it alone!”
    Hey-ho, I suppose I’ll get my head around it eventually although I can never understand why things are changed for the sake of it….
    all my wife says is, ‘you’re huffing, puffing and grumbling again’ ….

  2. chris benfield April 28, 2020

    I dread this. I’ve got used to a very basic way of working with WordPress, all about content, not much bells and whistles, and of course this is all about presentation. I expect I can use a block or two but I haven’t yet seen a good example of how. And for now, the new layout page is confusing. Tried clicking for Classic View but haven’t got it so far.

    • Stuart Melling April 28, 2020

      Actually, this should make things simpler Chris. Full screen mode disables all the bells and whistles as it were, removing a lot of the clutter. It should only come to new installs too, if you have an existing installation prior to 5.4 you shouldn’t notice any changes.