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Blogs at UMass Amherst: What's New in WordPress 5.4

On Wednesday, May 20, 2020, UMass Amherst IT upgrades Blogs at UMass Amherst from WordPress 4.9 to WordPress 5.4 and prepares for maintenance of our WordPress themes and plugins. This upgrade brings faster performance on new hardware, a long-awaited PHP upgrade, new themes, and plugin changes.

Here’s what you need to know:

WordPress Upgrade Highlights

The New Block Editor

WordPress has a new editor that's quite different! Each heading, paragraph, image, button, or embed (etc.) you add to a page or post is a “block” that can be independently styled. You can arrange blocks on pages in columns and create groups of blocks to divide and organize your content with flexibility. You can even add widgets to a post or page, not just to sidebars.

For an introduction to the Block Editor, see WordPress Editor.  If you find you prefered the old editing experience, no problem! Just activate the Classic Editor plugin.

Improved Accessibility

Accessibility updates include improved keyboard navigation for screenreaders and other assistive technology, and improved color contrast. For users of assistive technology, this latest version of the Block Editor should provide a much improved experience from when the Block Editor was first released, but if you experience usability issues with the block editor, you can activate the Classic Editor plugin.

And More…

For a full list of changes since WordPress 4.9, visit Bebo, Betty, Jaco, Kirk, and Adderly.
(Note: some features, such as developer improvements, are not available on our “multisite” WordPress installation.)

Theme Changes

This upgrade adds four new new themes:

  • Twenty Nineteen - from WordPress
  • Twenty Twenty - from WordPress
  • UMass Twenty Twenty - a UMass-branded theme to replace our legacy UMass Amherst theme
  • OnlineMag - A contemporary magazine/news theme.

One theme is scheduled to be discontinued on June 10, 2020:

  • UMass Amherst
    Our legacy UMass theme will be replaced by UMass Twenty Twenty, a “mobile first” single-column theme without sidebar widgets. Instead, widget areas are located at the bottom of the page.
    ACTION REQUIRED if your site uses the UMass Amherst theme: After the upgrade on May 21, change to a new theme. To keep UMass branding, use UMass Amherst Twenty Twenty.

Other themes requiring attention:

Note, if you change themes: Not all themes have the same widget and menu placement, so after activating a new theme, be sure to check your widgets and menus, and replace if needed. You will also need to set up your new theme to include any custom image headings, logos, fonts, etc. Posts, pages, and plugin content should be preserved.

For a full list of themes available on Blogs at UMass Amherst, see: A Guide to Blog Themes.

Plugin Changes

Plugins Scheduled for Removal & Replacements

Third party plugins that are neglected by their developers may not be functional or may pose a security risk. The following plugins are scheduled to be discontinued on Wednesday, June 10, 2020.  Where possible, UMass Amherst IT is providing replacement plugins with comparable features.

ACTION REQUIRED: After the upgrade on May 21, and before June 10, activate and set up replacement plugins:

  • Better WordPress reCAPTCHA
    This plugin is no longer supported by its developer. and will not be replaced. The Akismet anti-spam plug-in is activated site-wide and does a good job of preventing spam commenting. For contact forms, the Ninja Forms plugin includes it’s own human-verification feature.
  • FooGallery Owl Carousel
    Replace with the Carousel Slider plugin. (Note: Only the carousel will be removed, our other Foo plugins will stay in place.)
  • iFramely
    WordPress now provides native support for an expanded list of web domains through oEmbed. oEmbed works just like iFramely, simply paste a URL in its own paragraph. There is no need to activate a replacement plugin. as long as you are embedding from a supported site. For a list of supported sites, see: See What Sites Can I Embed From? For sites not supported by oEmbed, activate the H5P plugin and use its iFrame Embedder to safely embed media from off-site.
  • LaTeX for WordPress, and WP LaTeX
    For a seamless transition with no need to reformat old posts, deactivate your old LaTeX plugin and activate KaTeX. Then go to Settings > KaTeX and check the option to Enable the [latex] shortcode.
  • PodPress
    PodPress is being replaced with Blubrry PowerPress.
  • Really Simple Galley Widget
    Replace with the native Gallery widget.
  • Sharedaddy
    Sharedaddy is discontinued, there is no replacement.
  • WolframCDF
    If you used this plugin and need a replacement, please contact the IT Help Desk.
  • WP-Syntax
    Replace with WP-Geshi-Highlight. No action is required, as both plugins use GeSHi formatting. We are also adding a more robust GUI-based syntax highlighting plugin, Enlighter - Customizable Syntax Highlighter which you can run in paralell for more customizable highlighting.

Other New Plugins

  • Classic Editor
    Don't care for the new WordPress Block Editor? Activate the Classic Editor plugin to return to the oldTinyMCE editor.
  • OSMapper
    Embed basic street maps from Open Street Map, an open source service that does not require a Google API key.

Other Plugins Requiring Attention

  • WP Google Maps
    Google Maps now requires users to register with Google Maps for an API key. See Creating a Google Maps API Key. WP Google Maps lets you add advanced features such as travel directions, street view, multiple markers, and satellite view, but if all you need is a simple street map with a single location marker, activate the OSMapper plugin. OSMapper embeds Open Street Map, an open source service that does not require a Google API key.

For a full list of plugins and links to plugin support sites, see: Plugins on Blogs at UMass Amherst.