Version 5.8 brings some of the biggest changes we have seen in WordPress since the launch of the Gutenberg editor back in 2018.
The original launch gave us blocks inside posts and pages. This new version is the first step towards blocks everywhere in WordPress.
When you upgrade to 5.8, you'll see a completely new “Widgets” screen. The PublishPress plugins are ready for 5.8, but it really will be useful for you to get a quick tour of what's changed.
Before we dive in to the changes, let's remind ourselves of the old “Widgets” screen. You can see the old screen in this image below:
This next image below shows what you'll see in WordPress 5.8. The main part of the screen is taken up by the widget areas. And on the top of the screen, you'll see the normal Gutenberg toolbar.
If you click on the + icon, you'll see all the items you can add to your site's sidebar. This should include most of the blocks you use for writing posts, plus all of your widgets.
Why did I add “most” as a caveat? It's because some plugins will need updating to fully support this Widgets screen. We did have to make some small changes to all the plugins we support.
Apart from the new experience of using blocks in this part of Gutenberg, the experience will be very similar to writing posts with blocks. All your blocks will have the same settings, and they will still be in the right sidebar, as in the image below. In this example, I've added a Content Display block to my sidebar.
This next image shows how that block appears on the front of my site. I'm using blocks for my post and now blocks for the sidebar also.
You will also be able to use blocks/widgets from our other plugins, such as PublishPress Authors:
During our testing, I came to like this new experience of using blocks everywhere. One key advantage is that it's consistent. We can use the same features and the same interface no matter which area of the site we're working on.
In the introduction, I mentioned that this is the first step towards blocks everywhere in WordPress. Future versions of WordPress will allow us to use blocks for the site logo, main menu, publication date, and much more.