WordPress is an ever-evolving software with regularly released new features, security fixes, and maintenance updates. These core updates ensure the safety and efficiency of the WordPress system.
If you’re running a WordPress site, you must update the latest WordPress version to ensure you have the latest features, performance enhancements, and protections.
In this article, we’ll show you how to check your current WordPress version, discuss the latest WordPress version and its features, and guide you on how to update to the latest WordPress version.
Let’s get updating!
Why WordPress Rolls Out Regular Updates
Before we begin, we need to understand why WordPress has a regular update cycle. In short, you can expect to see updates for the following reasons:
- WordPress releases new features regularly. Whether it’s a less noticeable change like adding new oEmbed providers (WordPress 4.4) or a complete overhaul of the editor by adding Gutenberg (WordPress 5.0), these additions tend to make content creation and website building much more straightforward.
- WordPress updates often include security fixes. It’s an ongoing battle since hackers find vulnerabilities all the time. So it’s essential to update to get the latest protections from new types of attacks.
- Recent WordPress versions often provide “under the hood” performance improvements. You may not immediately notice these enhancements, but they make working on WordPress simpler and faster. In WordPress 2.0, the user experience for publishing blog posts took a considerable boost. In WordPress 4.2, they streamlined plugin updates with a simple one-click button instead of the previous, more tedious, process.
- Every WordPress version also eliminates past bugs. These happen with all software. It’s like fixing something on your car that’s been acting up and bringing it back to normal.
Now that you understand the reasons for WordPress updates, let’s explore the more recent WordPress versions, along with details on how to check and update your current WordPress version.
Note: Although the folks at WordPress would prefer everyone to update to the most recent version, that doesn’t mean they abandon support for older versions. In fact, past WordPress versions still get updates—for instance, the WordPress 3.7 “Count Basie” update released on October 24, 2013. Yet, several updates still come out for it every year. That’s because some (not many) sites are still on the older versions.
What’s the Latest WordPress Version Available?
WordPress 5.7, nicknamed “Esperanza Spalding” after the Grammy award-winning jazz musician from Oregon, is the most recent rendition of WordPress available for you to upgrade. It was released on March 9, 2021, after going through multiple development stages. You can learn more about it in our in-depth WordPress 5.7 article, which covers all its new features and backend improvements.
What’s New in WordPress 5.7?
WordPress 5.7 includes an impressive list of minor tweaks and improvements to the block editor, along with more considerable changes for making more advanced blocks and boosting customization flexibility.
It’s a version worth updating to, seeing how every update since the Gutenberg editor’s introduction has resolved issues people have with the block editor, and this one is no different.
Here are the highlights:
Adjustments to the WordPress Editor
Three significant improvements come with WordPress 5.7, including reusable blocks, font-size settings in more locations, and options to drag and drop blocks into the editor.
The most impressive change involves the drag-and-drop blocks, seeing how the WordPress editor was never a true drag-and-drop page builder like many of its competitors. You can now click on any Gutenberg block and move it anywhere on a page or post.
We also like that you can access font controls within Code and List blocks, seeing how they were missing before. Finally, you’ll see several improvements to reusable blocks, most notably the automatic saving feature.
A Sightly Different, Simpler Color Palette
The WordPress dashboard and design interface saw a few changes in 5.7, with what WordPress is calling a simpler default color palette.
The dashboard only has seven core colors now, instead of the long list of about 56 shades from before. It’s a simple change, but an important one because it’s not just for the dashboard but also for designing themes and plugins.
More Codeless Elements
Each WordPress release includes a few additions to remove the need to work with custom code. One of those new additions is a full-height alignment setting for your editor blocks. It allows you to spread a block across the entire window, giving you more control of the block sizing and making it relatively easy to use the Cover block, like make it into a fullscreen picture.
It’s also now possible to resize the social media icons when you insert the Social Icons block.
Finally, the Buttons block received modifications with new options for setting the width to a specific percentage size. It’s also possible to select either a horizontal or vertical button layout, further improving how you design buttons and other blocks.
More Technical Improvements
The following “under the hood” updates help developers or boost the overall performance or infrastructure of WordPress:
- Lazy-loading with iframes: All iframes on a website now have a default lazy-loading feature. There’s no longer a need to type in your custom code or add a plugin for this feature.
- A fresh Robots API: In an attempt to allow search engines to reveal larger image previews, WordPress 5.7 has a new Robots API with the
max-image-preview: largedirective set as the default option. You can also include other filter directives within the robots meta area.
- Quick switching from HTTP to HTTPS: It was quite a tedious process to switch a WordPress site from HTTP to HTTPS in the past. With 5.7, it only takes one click of your mouse. WordPress completes an automatic update of your database URLs, cutting out much of the process for you.
- Continual cleaning from jQuery update 3.5.1: Although jQuery has been a rather helpful tool for the user interface in WordPress, it also tends to distract and clutter. WordPress continues to clean up that clutter by introducing less intrusive jQuery elements.
Read our dedicated article for a deeper look into WordPress 5.7.
How to Check Your Site’s Current WordPress Version
There are four methods for checking the current WordPress version on your website. This way, you understand the features and limitations available to you as a WordPress user and can decide whether or not it’s time to upgrade to a newer WordPress version.
The four methods for checking the WordPress version include:
- Looking in the Admin area of WordPress.
- Going through the website’s frontend.
- Checking the
- Using WP-CLI.
For detailed information on these methods, check out our complete guide on checking your WordPress version. The linked article also provides valuable information on how to remove version information from your WordPress website.
How to Upgrade to the Latest WordPress Version
It’s always prudent to upgrade WordPress to its most recent version. It minimizes bugs, security holes, or performance issues. You also gain access to all the new features, making it a win-win situation.
WordPress introduced automatic core updates a few versions ago. Today, most WordPress users receive automated updates or alerts in their dashboards.
For instance, you may receive an email stating that your website has been updated. In that situation, there’s no need to complete any other tasks. Simply delete the email, or save it for your reference, and continue with your day.
We recommend looking at the About section in your WordPress dashboard to see what features and bug fixes came with the new upgrade. You may find that a feature you’ve wanted for a while has now been added to WordPress.
You can find the About page by clicking through the automated update email from WordPress. To get there directly, type about.php at the end of your
domain.com/wp-admin/ URL. This page highlights things like new features, credits, and privacy statements.
But what if you don’t receive that email about an automatic update, yet you want to complete an upgrade to ensure you’re on the most recent WordPress version?
To accomplish a manual upgrade, go to your admin dashboard.
You can see your current WordPress version in the At A Glance box. The version is outdated in the example screenshot, so it’s possible to upgrade to a new version.
You also receive a warning message in several dashboard spots, the most prevalent being right at the top of the dashboard. It states that “WordPress X.y is Available! Please Update Now.”
The significant part about this warning is that it shows up on just about every page so that you won’t forget about it.
Click on the Please update now link to move to the next steps.
As an alternative, the At A Glance box also provides a button to update. The Please update now button and the Update to #.# button send you to the same place.
The next page is titled WordPress Updates. It shows the most recent WordPress version number and a button to Update now. You can also see if you have any updates for plugins or themes.
It’s wise to make a backup of your database and files before updating the WordPress version. We recommend going through a manual site backup, even if you have a WordPress backup plugin configured on your site. Kinsta offers manual and automated site backup tools. Learn all about backing up your WordPress website, even if you’re not using Kinsta for hosting.
WordPress offers an encouragement warning about making a backup in the WordPress Updates section. You can click the back up your database and files link for more information about the process from WordPress.
You’re now ready to upgrade from your older WordPress version to the most recent one.
Click on the Update Now button.
The upgrade usually only takes a few seconds.
You’ll see messages about WordPress working on the process, with mentions about verifying unpacked files, enabling maintenance mode, and upgrading the database.
Finally, a quick message says that the WordPress version was updated successfully. It then sends you to the About page on your dashboard.
Note: A WordPress update switches your site to maintenance mode for a brief period, usually seconds. Keep this in mind if you’re worried about losing sales or interrupting website visitors. It’s also a good idea to complete updates during slow hours, just in case something goes wrong and you need to spend time restoring a backup.
As promised, the last section shown is the dashboard About page. Feel free to browse the new features and changes, then move onto the rest of your day.
To ensure the update happened, go back to the admin dashboard and look under the At A Glance module. You should see the WordPress version you have. Cross-reference the number with the most recent version number (at the bottom of the list) on the WordPress Versions Codex page to ensure you’re on the right one.
As a bonus, the WordPress version upgrade process also brings to light other updates you should make. For instance, it mentions plugin and theme updates.
By default, orange number icons appear next to areas that have necessary updates. There’s even a section dedicated to all Updates below the Home tab.
Whether it’s a theme, plugin, or WordPress core update, each of them offers quick links to update. You should also update these plugins and themes to ensure the best security and performance.
Upgrade Your WordPress Version With FTP
Although it makes the most sense to get automated updates or click the links provided inside the dashboard, there’s one other method to update WordPress. You may consider using this method if you have trouble with the more straightforward dashboard Upgrade button, or if you’ve lost access to your dashboard for some reason.
It involves FTP (file transfer protocol), where you download the most recent WordPress version to your computer. You then replace your site’s old files with new ones through an FTP client.
For more on this, you can learn all about FTP, including how to manage and upload files to your WordPress site via FTP.
When using an FTP client to update WordPress, begin by going to the WordPress.org Download page. Scroll down to the Download WordPress button. It should have the version numbers on the button as well.
Clicking this downloads a zip file to your computer. Save it anywhere you want and right-click on the zip file to extract all files.
The extracted folder appears with the current WordPress version number.
Click on that to open the collection of WordPress core files, the ones we plan on uploading via FTP.
Next up, it’s time to open your FTP client and connect it to your WordPress website. Here’s a list of recommended FTP clients if you decide to go this route.
You need to connect to your site’s root folder using your Host, Username, Password, and Port, all of which you can find in the Kinsta dashboard—or the dashboard from any other host.
After connecting to your site, find the root folder for your website in the left column. The root folder is usually called public. Sometimes it’s named after your website.
Regardless, opening the root folder shows folders like
wp-content. It should look almost identical to what you see in the computer files column. The main difference is that the computer files column has the newest updates.
Select all files within the new update folder. Right-click that selection and click the Upload button.
Your FTP client attempts to upload all files from the computer to your remote website server. The process replaces the old files, so you should select Overwrite and Always use this action before clicking OK.
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The FTP client eventually provides a success message if it uploaded all the files.
There’s a good chance this ends the process. However, you may have to update your database as well. Therefore, close out the FTP client and go to your WordPress admin area in the dashboard.
Click the Update WordPress Database button if you see the following message on your dashboard.
If no database message appears, you’re all done! We typically only see a database update requirement if the new WordPress version itself needs you to upgrade the database.
You can also learn how to update the PHP version of your site. The PHP version is separate from the WordPress version update, but it’s often a good idea to improve your speed and security in WordPress.
Tips for After the WordPress Version Update
It may seem like after updating WordPress, you can go back to business as usual. That’s typically the case, but it’s still wise to keep an eye out for malfunctions within your website.
You have entirely swapped out your WordPress core files for new ones, so it’s possible a plugin or theme conflicts with the latest update. Or you might find that there’s a noticeable bug that you should report to WordPress.
We suggest clearing your cache and going to your WordPress site’s frontend in a new browser window. Make sure everything looks up to speed. You can also complete this simple test on the backend, ensuring nothing looks strange or broken.
How Many New WordPress Releases Come Out Every Year?
WordPress has a “release cycle,” where they assign one or more core WordPress developers to head the planning, development, and launch of the following WordPress version. Each cycle contains five phases, from planning and development to releasing and launching.
Each release cycle tends to go for about four months. At least that’s the goal.
However, the release cycles occasionally change if there are more bugs with the most recent major WordPress version.
So, the goal is three (maybe four) major releases in a year, but it doesn’t always turn out that way. There are also more minor maintenance releases every year for past WordPress versions, so it all seems to depend on the resources and time available.
For instance, 2020 saw three major WordPress releases, including:
- WordPress 5.4 (Nat Adderley) on March 31, 2020
- WordPress 5.5 (Billy Eckstine) on August 11, 2020
- WordPress 5.6 (Nina Simone) on December 8, 2020
Yet 2017 only had two major releases: Version 4.8 and 4.9, in June and November, respectively. 2018 only saw one WordPress release, and that wasn’t until December 6, 2018, when WordPress came out with the 5.0 “Bebo Valdés” update.
The situation and scope of each release are unique. So, it’s not entirely possible to predict how many updates will come out every year. The 2018 year was an excellent example. Version 5.0 was a massive release where WordPress completely revamped its editor and added drag-and-drop block modules (the Gutenberg editor). It made sense it took an entire year for the release.
As for more minor releases—mainly maintenance and performance tweaks—we tend to see dozens of these come out every year. Version 5.4 included four updates in 2020. So did version 5.3, 5.2, and 5.1.
You may notice a trend here. In short, developers eventually work out most bugs from significant releases. They can then stick to a more regular four-release cycle for past versions to handle routine maintenance updates.
All Current WordPress Version Updates from the Previous Year
WordPress 5.7 came out on March 9, 2021. The previous version, WordPress 5.6, has got three new minor updates so far, including its initial release. Here are some details on each update:
WordPress 5.6.1 Update – February 3, 2021
WordPress 5.6.1 was a standard maintenance release covering seven reported issues in the Gutenberg block editor. They also reported fixes for 20 bugs within the 5.6 infrastructure.
WordPress considered this a “short-cycle maintenance release,” meaning it simply cleaned up some problems right after the prior version was released back in December.
Find all bug fixes for this version in the WordPress Trac.
WordPress 5.6.2 Update – February 22, 2021
Another quick maintenance release, Version 5.6.2, eradicated bug fixes for five problems since the original maintenance release in early February. WordPress recommends users update to 5.6.2 for the best performance and security.
Find all bug fixes for this release in the WordPress Trac.
Other Recent WordPress Versions
The most recent maintenance releases for WordPress versions that still receive updates include the following:
- 5.6.2 – February 22, 2021
- 5.5.3 – October 30, 2020
- 5.4.4 – October 30, 2020
- 5.3.6 – October 30, 2020
- 5.2.9 – October 30, 2020
- 5.1.8 – October 30, 2020
- 5.0.11 – October 29, 2020
- 4.9.16 – October 29, 2020
- 4.8.15 – October 29, 2020
The list goes back to WordPress 3.7 (launched in 2013), which saw its 35th update in October 2020. WordPress 3.6 is the last one to have its updates discontinued.
Some of the most recent major WordPress updates include:
- WordPress 5.6 “Nina Simone” – December 8, 2020
- WordPress 5.5 “Billy Eckstine” – August 11, 2020
- WordPress 5.4 “Nat Adderley” – March 31, 2020
- WordPress 5.3 “Rahsaan Roland Kirk” – November 12, 2019
- WordPress 5.2 “Jaco Pastorius” – May 7, 2019
- WordPress 5.1 “Betty Carter” – February 21, 2019
- WordPress 5.0 “Bebo Valdés” – December 6, 2018
- WordPress 4.9 “Billy Tipton” – November 15, 2017
WordPress Updates in the Future
WordPress development starts with a team lead and continues with five phases. The phases are:
- The planning and getting team leads
- The start to the development
- Beta stages
- The release candidate
- The launch
This cycle may lead to around three or four major releases in a year. However, that depends on the size and scope of each release. Remember, some years only have one or two releases.
After the initial five phases, a minor release helps the team get rid of most bugs. That then leads to the eventual major release.
Updating to the latest WordPress version is critical. It ensures that your WordPress site is in tip-top shape at all times. Not to mention, it brings with it many security and performance enhancements.
WordPress now offers automatic updates too. You can take advantage of that to update all your WordPress sites to the latest version automatically. If you’re managing a lot of sites, this feature is super handy.
Finally, you can keep up to date with the upcoming WordPress releases by going to the official Releases Category Archive page, which lists all the details for every WordPress version, including minor maintenance updates and major releases.
Let us know in the comments if you have any questions about finding your current WordPress version and upgrading to the latest WordPress version.
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