WordPress 5.2 was released to the public yesterday. This version is named after the jazz musician Jaco Pastorius.
WordPress 5.2 brings two new features that considerably facilitate maintaining a website. The first one is protection from fatal errors upon the execution of incompatible PHP code. Fatal errors are often the reason for white screen of death upon loading a website and its admin panel. With this protection mechanism even users with no in-depth technical knowledge can remove а white screen from their websites. The second feature is a tool enabling developers to obtain detailed information for the website’s health, the system configuration and the server environment.
Other important highlights are that the minimum PHP version required by WordPress 5.2. is upgraded to 5.6 and the Block Editor is now even faster with a few new blocks.
Protection against incompatible plugin or theme on the website
Fatal errors may be generated on the website upon execution of the PHP code from an incompatible plugin or theme. Those errors end execution of the PHP code/script and they may often cause white screen of death upon loading the website or its administration.
WordPress 5.2 now has a new integrated protection mechanism to be automatically triggered if a fatal error occurs on the website.
When can a white screen of death occur on the website/administration?
White screen of death – WSoD can occur when the website’s PHP version is changed. Most often when a new PHP version is activated a plugin on the website may contain an outdated PHP code which is incompatible with the newer version. Execution of the PHP code of the incompatible plugin triggers messages for fatal error on the website.
Handling a white screen is not so difficult for users having in-depth technical knowledge. Such users may deactivate the problematic plugin without logging into the website administration as they change its directory’s name. For ordinary users, however, the white screen is a very unpleasant and bizarre phenomenon on their websites. To handle this problem they need to seek technical assistance from more experienced users. With the new protection mechanism of WordPress they will be able to easily handle fatal errors and the white screen.
When is this mechanism activated and what happens on the website at this time?
Protection against fatal errors gets activated upon activation of system message for fatal error that causes the white screen or a problem upon loading the website. Messages for non-fatal errors will not activate the protection.
When it gets activated the following actions are performed:
- The website displays a message specifying there are currently technical issues.
- The system automatically sends a notification to the website’s admin email address. The notification specifies the error message and the plugin which has caused the error.
- The mail does contain a secret link and by following it you can enable Recovery Mode for the website. This mode is active only for the user who clicked on the link and logged into the admin panel. When the website is in a recovery mode the incompatible plugin gets automatically stopped.
What happens in the recovery mode?
In this mode the incompatible plugins are paused as they do not work. This mode is active only for the user who enabled it. The rest of the users on the website will view the message for technical issue.
After the secret link is loaded in the browser, recovery mode is enabled for the website. The administrator is redirected to the admin panel’s webpage. After the administrator logs into the admin panel they will view a message on the dashboard that the website is currently in a recovery mode.
The webpage with plugins now contains a new section “Paused“. More information is provided for the paused plugins such as the plugin name, the error’s URL and the error itself.
The website’s administrator is provided with a few options for handling the issue.
- The administrator can permanently deactivate the incompatible plugin. If the problem is due to a theme, he can enable another theme.
- The administrator can remove the issue from the plugin source code by fixing the problem.
- He can turn to plugin developers for assistance with resolving the issue in the source code of their development.
- The administrator can also disable the recovery mode through the “Exit Recovery Mode” button in the admin panel.
If the recovery mode is disabled without deactivating the incompatible plugin the system protection will get once again activated when the website is loaded.
Site Health Check
Site Health Check is now part of WordPress 5.2 as it enables you to check the website’s state and the environment it works in. Version 5.1 contained a feature for tracking the used PHP version from the website and showing a notification if the version was earlier than 5.6.
This tool enables administrators to check their websites’ health. It is available under Tools » Site Health as there are two sections – Status and Info. In the Status page you can check technical parameters of the technologies used on the website. Info contains configuration data and system settings.
In the Status page you can view results from numerous tests performed on the website. Results are ordered into categories – Critical and Recommended and tags Security and Performance. The overall evaluation of the site health is formed on the basis of those results as critical ones are more significant.
There is additional information and tips for improving parameters of the website health as well as links to help resources or certain administrative features.
Besides tests run by default, developers may integrate their own tests or deactivate the default ones.
Some of the site health checks include:
- Updating WordPress version – whether the website is using the latest WordPress version.
- PHP version used on the website – if the used version is older than 5.6 we recommend activating PHP version such as 7.3, 7.2 or 7.1.
- The database server version (MySQL/MariaDB)
- Secure HTTPS connection – whether the website is loaded via a secure HTTP connection.
The Info page gathers data related to the WordPress system and the server configuration.
Some of the configuration data of the website and the server is:
- WordPress settings and configuration (website language, URL, structure of the permanent URLs, HTTPS if used, is registration on the website allowed? is this a Multisite, etc.).
- Directories and RAM (disk space occupied). You can view all of the website’s system directories as well as the disk space occupied.
- Activated theme. Which is the activated theme for the website, which version it is, who is the author, options and others.
- Other themes. What other themes are installed on the websitе.
- Activated plugins. Which are the activated plugins on the website, their versions and authors.
- Deactivated plugins. How many and which are the deactivated plugins on the website.
- Media processing. In this section you can view the PHP libraries used by the system for processing images.
- Server. Information about the server and technologies used such as web server, PHP version, PHP settings, etc.
- Database. Shows information about the database such as the PHP extension used to establish connection to the database, the server version and the client, the username, the database name and others.
- WordPress system settings ABSPATH, WP_HOME, WP_CONTENT_DIR, WP_MAX_MEMORY_LIMIT and others.
- Permissions for files and directories. Indicates whether the system has access to files and directories.
By using the Copy site info to clipboard data can be copied and provided to the person responsible for the website’s support and smooth operation. Sensitive data such as database username and the database’s table prefix is not included in the process of copying.
For WordPress 5.2 + the minimum required PHP version is 5.6
For WordPress the minimum required version of PHP is 5.6. The previous increase of minimum PHP version was in 2010 as it required PHP 5.2. By the end of 2019 there might be one more increase to version 7+. If your website is currently working with a PHP version below 5.6 you will need to enable a newer version in order to upgrade WordPress to 5.2.
Tip: Before switching to PHP 7+ you can test your website and its components’ performance by creating a staging copy of the website in cPanel. After you create the staging copy, you can enable the new PHP version. Then perform tests on the staging copy to make sure everything works properly with the new PHP version. If you enable a new version directly on the real website and notice that a certain functionality does not work, you can always downgrade to an older PHP version through PHP Manager by SuperHosting which is available in your cPanel.
Block Editor Updates
The Block Editor is now faster
You can feel considerable improvement in terms of speed and responsiveness when working with content and the editor in the new WordPress version 5.2. Selecting blocks and editing content is now much faster.
The Block Editor now contains the following new blocks: RSS, Amazon Kindle, Search, Calendar, Tag Cloud.
Since embedded blocks already got too much, the update to follow will concern their management in the Editor.
The new Block Editor version contains manager for block management. This module enables users to choose blocks to be shown in the block inserter tool.
Check often our blog to stay in touch with all improvements and bugfixes in WordPress and the Block Editor.