WordPress 6.3, the second major WordPress release of 2023, has arrived! This release is packed full for features and improvements, primarily focused on the full site editing experience.
With more than 500 new features or enhancements and 400 bug fixes, there’s a lot to unpack in version 6.3. Together, these updates should make your editing experience more intuitive, make maintaining your site simpler, and increase your site’s performance with some under-the-hood changes. Keep reading to learn what to expect when you upgrade to WordPress 6.3.
Introducing the Command Palette
WordPress 6.3 includes a feature that we know you’re going to love: the brand new Command Palette.
Similar to Spotlight Search on MacOS, the new Command Palette feature adds a whole new level of productivity by placing contextual elements right at your fingertips. No more clicking, no more navigating menus — just seamless workflows from directly within the Site Editor.
When using the Site Editor, you can launch the tool with Cmd+k on Mac or Ctrl+k on Windows, then just start typing out your next destination.
As of WordPress 6.3, the Command Palette is limited to the Site Editor, but we’re super excited to see it implemented across the rest of the WordPress admin panel in future releases.
New Editor Experience
The Command Palette isn’t the only time-saving upgrade in WordPress 6.3. The Full Site Editor is more powerful and easier to use than ever before. Let’s look at many of the new changes that are sure to make for a much more pleasant, streamlined experience.
Most noticeably is the Full Site Editor’s newly reworked navigation. WordPress introduced navigation for the FSE in 6.2, allowing you to pick the template or template part you were trying to edit. WordPress 6.3 expands on this by adding several new navigational elements to choose from.
The new editor navigation includes:
If you like the Full Site Editor but find yourself switching back and forth between the full site editor and other portions of your WordPress admin, you’re going to love this update. These new changes to WordPress 6.3 streamline your editing process — allowing you to update your content from directly within the full site editor.
You can rearrange or add to your site’s menu inside the editor. If you’re new to Full Site Editing, we actually recommend building your navigation as one of your first projects. You can get a step-by-step guide in our e-book on Full Site Editing.
Before Full Site Editing, your theme typically used the Customizer or a theme settings page to set global styles. In WordPress 6.3, the Style section super-charges your style editing experience with a one-stop shop for changing and previewing global theme styles.
Bouncing back and forth between the template and post editors gets annoying. WordPress 6.3 aims to simplify your workflow by providing a single destination for updating content, all within the same editor interface.
Less clicks, fewer open tabs. What will you do with your free time?
This section is basically for the same templates section you already know and isn’t really changed from what was there in 6.2. You’ve seen this. Save your excitement for the page content editing.
Patterns take the place of the old template parts section. There are some nomenclature updates here. Reusable blocks are now synced patterns. Traditional block patterns will now be called unsynced patterns. As much as we love WordPress (and that’s a lot), we have to admit that naming conventions on many of the latest Full Site Editing and Gutenberg updates can be confusing.
So here’s your cheat sheet for picking the right type of pattern:
- Synced Patterns are a group of blocks used across your site. When you make a change, it changes everywhere. If you’ve already created Reusable Blocks, you’ll now find them listed as Synced Patterns.
- Unsynced Patterns are like a starter template. They’re stand-alone patterns. You insert the blocks onto a page and can edit them however you’d like. Your edits do not alter the original pattern at all.
Synced patterns work great for items you use on multiple pages, but you don’t want to have to change multiple times if there’s an update. For example, you might have a block with business hours or contact information. If you decide to change your hours for the Christmas shopping season, it will be much faster to change it once in a synced pattern instead of searching your site for all the places the hours are listed and changing them one by one.
Unsynced patterns work well for things you want to look consistent, but that need some level of customization. For example, call-to-action boxes should match the look of your site but might need to be tweaked for each individual page you’re using them on, depending on what action you want users to take.
New Blocks and Changes in WordPress 6.3
This version of WordPress comes with two new blocks and a couple of updates to other frequently used blocks.
Block changes and updates include:
- Footnotes. This new block makes it easy to add references to your content. The block automatically adds the footnotes section to the end of your content. If you’re not an academic, you may wonder why you need references. We get it. But footnotes also work well for defining special terms and conditions for offers and products.
- Details. This block hides the content until the reader is ready for it. It works like an accordion section. The user has to click to expand the section. You can use the block to hide a spoiler to the latest Netflix series or create a quiz with answers.
- Spacer Blocks now have presets, making them faster and easier to use.
- Image Aspect Ratios. This upgrade allows you to select the aspect ratio for an image block, which is helpful when you have multiple images that need to maintain the same ratio or size. For example, if you’re creating a three-column section and each column starts with an image, you can set the image ratio and the images will adjust to be the same size instead of having to crop the images before uploading.
- Cover Block. The cover block now has the text color design tool and will work the same as the Group Block for layout handling.
Adding more content editing capabilities to Full Site Editing is an obvious time saver, but it’s not the only workflow improvement in 6.3. We like to think of these upgrades as more sanity and time savers. Although, they probably do both.
WordPress has had post content revisions for what seems like an eternity. Revisions make it easy to roll back or even just take a quick look at how your content has evolved over time.
WordPress 6.3 brings revisions to the next level by applying a history to your styles too. Implemented a style that breaks something? Need to know if it was a change to your theme or something else entirely? You can now easily view a history of your styles and roll them back as needed with just a click of a button.
To check out the new style revisions feature, select a block or style to edit in the styles panel, and you’ll see a new Revisions button. Once clicked, you’ll see a list of your style revisions, allowing you to easily apply a former version.
Accessibility is a critical part of democratizing publishing for all. As such, the WordPress team is dedicated to making site building more accessible with each new version.
WordPress 6.3 includes more than 50 accessibility improvements. From better labeling, to optimized tab and arrow-key navigation, these changes make it easier for people using keyboard navigation, screen readers, and other assistive technology to navigate the WordPress editing interface.
Plugin and Theme Rollback
Updating plugins and themes in WordPress is such a simple task — until it’s not. No one wants the headache of a failed update where your site gets stuck in this weird limbo where enough of the update started but didn’t finish successfully. WordPress 6.3 removes this purgatory by including an auto rollback feature whenever a plugin or theme update fails.
Note that the new rollback functionality is currently only for failed updates. If the update successfully installs and then breaks your site, that’s still on you to fix. That said, Pressable has some new goodies coming in the near future that extend plugin and theme updates even further – follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our newsletter to get a heads up when we make our announcement.
Now that you have an idea of what to expect when you start editing and building sites with WordPress 6.3, let’s look at some of the improvements under the hood.
Performance and SEO
Your sites should load faster and therefore rank better in search engines with some speed-boosting improvements.
Emoji fans rejoice! A new emoji loader should reduce the time it takes for the emoji script to load.
But the biggest speed improvements come from new options to define a loading strategy for scripts. This improvement is a long-time coming. The request ticket for it was opened in 2010. If your page speed test results tell you to reduce render-blocking resources, this is the update you need. By defining scripts to load later (defer) or in the background (asynchronously), the scripts don’t slow down the page rendering process. Check out this guide for more details on how to take advantage of this feature.
Dropping Support for PHP 5
This update feels like when support for Flash and Internet Explorer finally ended. Most of us have moved on.
In what seems like an extremely overdue update, WordPress will no longer support PHP 5.
The minimum supported version will be 7.0, and the recommended version of PHP remains at 7.4 or greater.
WordPress 6.3 introduces a new development mode constant. Although this feature isn’t going to help much for production sites, it should help quite a bit for easing development. The cool thing about it is that it has different settings depending on what type of development site you need.
Settings for this new feature are:
- Core. This setting is for developers working on WordPress core projects.
- Plugin. This feature is for developing and testing new plugins.
- Theme. Developers will use this setting when the development site is for creating themes.
- All. Use this setting when you modify all aspects of a site. This is the setting for working on a client site.
The development mode works by modifying how WordPress behaves. For example, one of the main differences is with caching for the theme.json file. Theme developers no longer have to manually invalidate the cache. When in theme development mode, caching for the theme.json file is disabled.
Testing Out WordPress 6.3
When you’re ready to get rocking on WordPress 6.3, just follow the usual update process. Of course, be sure to always test in a staging environment first just to be sure that everything goes as planned.
Pressable clients that have their version set to “Latest” within the My Pressable Control Panel will be automatically updated to the latest version. If you happen to run into any compatibility issues, you can always manage your version from within your site’s settings.
Stay Up to Date on the Latest in WordPress
We hope you’re as excited as we are for WordPress 6.3. We think this version will save a lot of development time and headaches. To keep up with all the latest WordPress changes and news, be sure to follow Pressable on social media.