What to Expect in WordPress 6.2

WordPress 6.2 will be the first major release of 2023 when it drops on Tuesday, March 28. With significant enhancements to the Site and Block Editor interfaces, the 6.2 release also marks the end of the Site Editor’s Beta phase and the beginning of the end of the second phase of the Gutenberg project. Gutenberg’s phase two has focused on Full Site Editing customization options, and WordPress 6.2 shows just how much has been delivered! Looking ahead to WordPress 6.3, Gutenberg development will turn toward collaboration features — writing, editing, and site-building with two or more simultaneously active users.

The Site Editing Experience Shines in WordPress 6.2 

With WordPress 6.2, you’ll be able to customize blocks globally or individually faster than ever before. Navigating through page templates to edit them and their sub-components is much easier now, thanks to a new Browse Mode in the site editing experience. Internal previews and a Style Book make it possible to see your changes live before saving them. That’s not all — WordPress 6.2 brings big performance gains, a new distraction-free writing mode, a redesigned and lockable navigation block, new header and footer patterns, numerous interface enhancements, and many conveniences for developers.

Easily Navigate and Modify Your Site’s Structure with Browse Mode

When you enter the Site Editor in 6.2, you’ll see a broad sidebar open with navigation for your site’s page templates. Previously you would have gone directly into the template editor. With 6.2, that experience has been reconceived as a “Browse Mode” for site editing. Navigating between templates (and template parts), or adding new templates (or a nested level) from the site editor sidebar is much easier and more intuitive thanks to Browse Mode.

In Browse Mode you can move all over your site to edit and preview templates and template parts. As with the Customizer settings in “classic” themes, any changes that you make to templates, template parts, and blocks within them don’t need to be saved immediately. Once you’re satisfied with the results, you can use the new multi-entity global save option to publish all (or only some) of your changes together.

Quickly Identify Reusable Blocks and Repeated Template Parts with Color

Template parts and reusable blocks are colored in the block toolbar and list view, as well as the main editor canvas. This makes them stand out clearly as parts of the site that will be changed globally when any one of them is changed.

Intuitively Move Between Individual and Global Block Style Settings

Block settings are better organized and integrated with global theme styles in WordPress 6.2. Now you can move easily between a theme’s global or individual styles for templates, patterns, and blocks. This allows you to focus your customization efforts on a very granular, low level or move up to a higher-level, sitewide focus. If you don’t want a style to apply globally, but you do want it to apply to more than one block, you can copy an individual style from one block to another. If you want to apply the style of a single block globally to all others like it, you can do that too.

Here are the most significant changes to the Block and Global Style editing experience in WordPress 6.2:

Completely Design or Customize a Theme with the Style Book

Under the global styles options menu, the Style Book is a new way to get a global view of all your blocks will with their current styling. You can make changes to their styles in the Style Book and apply them globally. If you need to zero in on a particular template or block, it’s easy to switch over to them from the global view and back again.

It’s possible to design or customize a theme entirely from within the Style Book by working on global styles! 

Turn Widgets Into Blocks

In WordPress 6.2, there’s finally a migration path to new block themes for sites using “classic” themes and widgets. Old widgets can be converted into new blocks now. (Video)

It’s easier to get started with new site layouts thanks to these header and footer patterns packaged with WordPress 6.2 and available at WordPress.org:

Blocks Get Even Better in WordPress 6.2

New Block Controls and Block Editor Interface Improvements 

Designing a site at the page and block level with the block editor is a much better experience thanks to several interface enhancements in WordPress 6.2:

The Navigation Block is Easier to Edit

Navigation menu editing is easier now with a page list block that opens in the right sidebar when you’re editing a menu block. In the left sidebar’s outline of blocks on a page, a list view for navigation blocks makes it simpler to navigate and organize menu elements on the page.  

The Navigation Block Can Be Locked

Agencies, freelancers, and anyone else who designs sites for clients will be pleased to find they can restrict menu editing privileges in WordPress 6.2. (Video) You can also lock inner blocks containing navigation links and submenus against deletion or unwanted changes to their content and/or location.

New Tools and Improvements in WordPress 6.2

Distraction-Free Writing Mode

There’s a new distraction-free writing mode available in the block editor preferences. How it works when you activate it in this demonstration video by Anne McCarthy. 

Accessibility Improvements

As interface designs iterate and change quickly, accessibility improvements must be part of WordPress’s evolution. WordPress 6.2 has made good progress in this respect, ensuring all user experiences are better.

Developer Features and Enhancements 

There are a lot of behind-the-scenes enhancements for developers in WordPress 6.2. See the 6.2 Field Guide, Anne McCarthy’s exhaustive summary, and Birgit Pauli-Haack’s list of many miscellaneous editor changes

One developer-oriented feature that’s worth special attention is the expansion of the patterns API to include a template_types property. With template_types block pattern developers can specify the templates their patterns belong in. 

Performance Gains

The Performance team benchmarked WordPress 6.2 for Web Vitals and Server Timing scores using classic and block themes. Compared to WordPress 6.1.1, the block theme test was more than 20% faster in its Time-to-First-Byte (TTFB) score and over 14% faster in its Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) score. 

Don’t Miss the WordPress 6.2 Update!

With all the new and improved features included in 6.2, you’ll want to enjoy them right away. However, this is a major update, so it’s a good time to apply it first on a staging server with a copy of your existing site prior to updating your live production site.

Adopting minor security and maintenance releases quickly is always a good idea since it will protect you, your users, and your site visitors. Major releases rarely contain security fixes. They are focused on features and improvements, so minor releases typically follow soon after a major release as attention turns to hardening and polishing it. The weeks before and after a major release are a good window of time for testing it out.

This is an exciting time as the core site editing experience matures and WordPress themes evolve to embrace it. WordPress 6.2 will change how you think about and work with themes. You’ll find it’s easier, faster, and more intuitive to build any kind of website with WordPress than it ever has been before.

Dan Knauss is StellarWP’s Technical Content Generalist. He’s been a writer, teacher, and freelancer working in open source since the late 1990s and with WordPress since 2004.

This content was originally published here.