WordPress 6.4 “Shirley” is Now Released! 100+ Performance Enhancements, Design Improvements, Block Editor Upgrade, and a Lot More!

WordPress 6.4 “Shirley” is Now Released! 100+ Performance Enhancements, Design Improvements, Block Editor Upgrade, and a Lot More!

The latest release of WordPress is here! WordPress 6.4 “Shirley” is the third major release for 2023. This new version brings an array of enhancements, new features, and bug fixes to improve the overall WordPress experience for users.

The focus is on refining the editing and creation workflow, introducing a more capable default theme, and implementing performance optimizations. The goal is to make WordPress even more flexible, intuitive, and fast as a content management system.

Overview of WordPress 6.4 “Shirley” Release

New Features and Enhancements

WordPress 6.4 ships with several new features and enhancements for both content creators and developers. These include:

  • New Twenty Twenty-Four default theme
  • Improved pattern management tools
  • Enhanced editing and creation workflow
  • Block editor upgrades like background images and lightbox functionality
  • Under-the-hood performance improvements
  • Accessibility enhancements across admin UI
  • Support for WordPress plugins through new APIs and functions

Refined Editing Experience

A major focus in this release is improving the overall editing experience in WordPress. New capabilities allow content creators to work more efficiently, access relevant tools faster, and build their desired layouts more quickly.

For example, users can now preview images instantly, open links in new tabs, access more keyboard shortcuts, and get a more consistent toolbar experience when working with blocks.

Bug Fixes and Maintenance

Besides new features, WordPress 6.4 includes hundreds of bug fixes and maintenance changes. These aim to enhance WordPress code quality, security, testing, and stability.

Some key improvements include error handling for invalid themes, addressing potential XSS vulnerabilities, increasing test coverage, and improving the login/registration page markup.

Performance as a Priority

WordPress 6.4 ships with over 100 performance updates focusing on making WordPress faster and lighter. Site speed optimizations cover object caching, script loading strategies, block pattern loading, and more.

These changes result in improved performance and efficiency for both administrators and end-users. This aligns with WordPress’ continued push for speed gains in recent releases.

New Default Theme – Twenty Twenty-Four

One of the biggest features launching with WordPress 6.4 is the new Twenty Twenty-Four default theme. This versatile, lightweight theme has been designed for use with a wide range of websites.

Image: Twenty Tenty-Four Default Theme
Credits: WordPress.org

Multi-Purpose Design

A key goal for Twenty Twenty-Four is to provide a multi-purpose theme that caters to diverse use cases. It aims to demonstrate the flexibility that block themes offer for building different sites and layouts.

Image: Design Tools for No-Code Development
Credits: WordPress.org

The default theme works well for blogs, small business sites, portfolios, directories, magazines, and more. Twenty Twenty-Four strives to be a practical theme out of the box.

35+ Block Patterns

Twenty Twenty-Four ships with over 35 preset block patterns to help users quickly build pages. The patterns include sections for testimonials, pricing, FAQs, about pages, contact forms, and much more.

These patterns enable anyone to create professional designs on their site without coding. Users can leverage them as-is or customize them to match their style.

Simple Customization

Twenty Twenty-Four provides a user-friendly way to edit and customize the theme. Users can tweak styles, layouts, colors, and typography!

The theme is also built to seamlessly integrate with the full-site editing capabilities. This allows making widespread changes by modifying patterns and templates.

Pattern Management Improvements

WordPress 6.4 introduces several enhancements to managing and working with block patterns. These changes aim to improve the organization and allow easier sharing of patterns.

Image: Now Customize Patterns
Credits: WordPress.org

Custom Pattern Categories

Users can now create custom categories to organize their block patterns within the inserter. This enables grouping patterns into relevant categories like “Call to Action” or “Testimonials” for quick access.

The custom categories also help provide more structure as pattern libraries grow larger. Assigning multiple categories to patterns is supported.

Import/Export Patterns as JSON

Sharing patterns across different WordPress sites is now simpler. Patterns can be exported as JSON files from one site, and then imported into the pattern library of another site.

Image: Easily Share Patterns Across Websites
Credits: WordPress.org

This helps users sync useful patterns between their various websites. It prevents having to recreate the same patterns manually on each site.

Enhanced Filtering

The pattern inserter popover now has improved filtering capabilities. Users can refine pattern searches using text filters or selecting one or more custom categories.

This makes discovering the right pattern much faster when working with an extensive library. Filtering helps surface the most relevant patterns.

Cross-Site Pattern Sharing

Together, the categorization, import/export, and enhanced filtering allow easier sharing and management of patterns across different websites.

Users can build a library of reusable patterns tailored to their niche, then sync those to multiple sites or share them with clients. This improves efficiency and consistency.

Workflow Enhancements

WordPress 6.4 focuses on refining the editing and content creation workflow in the block editor. The improvements aim to help users work more efficiently and access relevant tools faster.

Keyboard Shortcuts in List View

The ListView now supports more keyboard shortcuts for duplicating, grouping, and ungrouping blocks. This allows quicker manipulation of content right from the outline view.

Consistent Toolbar Experience

Blocks like Navigation, List, and Quote that contain inner blocks now maintain a consistent toolbar position when editing. This provides a smoother editing experience when working with nested blocks.

Image Previews in List View

Users can now preview Gallery and Image blocks visually in the List View outline. This enables easy finding and navigating to specific images on the content.

Image: Now Preview Images in List View
Credits: WordPress.org

Streamlined Link Settings

Opening links in a new tab can now be set directly from the link preview popover. This removes the need to edit the link settings manually.

Enhanced Command Palette

More contextual block actions have been added to the Command Palette like duplicating, removing, and transforming blocks. Users can quickly manipulate blocks with keyboard-driven commands.

Together, these enhancements refine the creating and editing experience in WordPress across UI components, shortcuts, and workflows. They add up to time savings and efficiency gains.

Block Editor Upgrades

WordPress 6.4 ships with several enhancements that improve creating and customizing with blocks. These changes help users build more engaging layouts and content.

Background Images for Groups

Adding background images to contextual Groups, Columns, and other layout blocks is now supported. This allows setting custom background images for any section without code.

Improved Toolbar Handling

The toolbar handling for multi-level nested blocks like Navigation and List has been improved. The toolbar now remains fixed at the parent block level for a smoother editing experience.

Image Block Aspect Ratios

Users can preset aspect ratio selections like square, wide, or portrait for Image placeholders. This helps provide size consistency when adding images later.

Native Image Lightboxes

Lightbox functionality is now natively supported for Image blocks. Users can easily open images in a full-screen lightbox preview on click without a plugin.

Image: Lightbox Functionality for WordPress
Credits: WordPress.org

Pagination Options

The Query Loop block has added controls for managing a number of page links and client-side rendering. This results in faster pagination building and performance.

Together, these upgrades provide users with more creative options and streamline working with images, galleries, layouts, and archives. They unlock new possibilities with WordPress blocks.

Performance Optimizations

WordPress 6.4 includes over 100 under-the-hood performance enhancements aimed at making WordPress faster and lighter.

Faster Template Loading

Optimizations were made to how WordPress loads and caches theme templates. This results in improved performance particularly for themes with many templates and patterns like Twenty Twenty-Four.

Split Queries for Object Caching

Complex queries can now be broken down into smaller cached queries. This reduces database load and improves cache efficiency.

Script Loading Strategies

The loading strategies for deferring/asyncing scripts have been extended to the core, bundled themes, and plugins. This improves page rendering speed.

Reduced File Lookups

Lookup caching was added to many functions that check file existence. This avoids unnecessary file existence checks and improves performance.

This release includes more than 100 performance-related updates for a faster and more efficient experience. Notable enhancements focus on template loading performance for themes (including Twenty Twenty-Four), usage of the script loading strategies “defer” and “async” in core, blocks, and themes, and optimization of autoloaded options.

Steps to Update to WordPress 6.4

With major updates like WordPress 6.4, taking some precautions during the update process is recommended. Here are best practices to safely update your site:

1. Back Up Your Website

Before updating, be sure to fully back up your current WordPress site. This provides protection in case any issues arise.

2. Test in a Staging Environment

If possible, test WordPress 6.4 first in a staging or development copy of your site before updating production. This allows you to catch any compatibility problems early.

3. Address Any Compatibility Issues

If any plugins or themes don’t work as expected in staging, troubleshoot and resolve the problems before going live. Update incompatible plugins/themes if needed.

4. Push the Update to Production

Finally, with testing complete, you can push the WordPress 6.4 update live on your production site. Monitor briefly to ensure everything is working as expected.


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