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WordPress 5.2 Jaco (Update): Debugging and Fixing Tools



With the latest version of WordPress comes with some pretty awesome sounding tools. The number of community and third-party plugins have continued to grow over the years and with that growth and WordPress core continues to change dramatically (*harum* Gutenberg *cough*). To keep up with changes, the WP Core devs have introduced a few new features that you may find helpful.

Site Health Check (improved)

The Site Health Check tool was first introduced in Wordpress core in the last release version (5.1 "Betty") and is seeing a couple of updates with this version. You may find it interesting to know this feature originated as the community plugin, Site Health Check and Troubleshooting.

Site Health Status

A new Status page has been added under “Tools” → “Site Health”. The page shows important information about your WordPress configuration and items that require your attention.


One item they have added that is still up for debate is the Performance Score. We all know how unhelpful some scores can be. But, don't fret, your friendly neighborhood software engineer (me!) is right around the corner! For instance, having inactive themes or plugins on your website, while may be legitimately useful to you (as in the case of a parent theme), may also cause a security risk as hackers often will use inactive plugins and themes (which are often not updated) as a backdoor to your site. New Performance & Security checks with include:

Performance Checks 🚀

  • Latest WordPress version
  • Up to date version of PHP
  • Up to date SQL server
  • Required and recommended PHP modules are installed
  • UTF8MB4 is supported
  • Scheduled events
  • Working HTTP requests
  • REST API available
  • Can perform loopback requests

Security Checks 🔒

  • Only running active themes
  • Up to date plugins
  • HTTPs connection
  • Secure communication
  • Debug mode off
  • Can communicate with WordPress.org
  • Background updates are working

Site Health Info

A new Info page has been added under “Tools” → “Site Health”. This is where you can do you own debugging! And if you need any help, you can click the "Copy site info to clipboard" and paste directly into our contact form or schedule a mentorship session.

The Info page provides a plethora of information about your website. While it is designed for detailed debugging and can be customized by plugin and theme developers, here is a snapshot the sections on this page.
  • WordPress: WordPress version, Language, Site URL, permalink structure, SSL enabled, Registration level, default comment status, access to wordpress.org (for updates)
  • Directories and Sizes: WordPress, upload, themes, and plugins install locations (on server) & size; database size; and total install size
  • Active theme: Theme name, version, author, features & install location
  • Other themes: List of other installed, but inactive themes (consider removing)
  • Inactive Plugins: List of installed, but inactive plugins (consider removing)
  • Media Handling: Editor name, version, resource limits (max media sizes), GD (image) version & status (affects thumbnail generation), Ghostscript version (handles PDFs)
  • Server: Server Architecture (Operating System), Web Server (Ex: Apache), PHP version and variables, cURL version, SUHOSIN status (PHP Extension that does some validation checks on plugins), additional .htaccess rules (affects access/security)
  • Database: Database extension, versions (server and client), user, host, name & prefix
  • WordPress Constants: Variables used globally across the entire install, if there are odd ones, may indicate a security breach
  • Filesystem Permissions: Shows if several directories are available to the WordPress install.

PHP Error Protection


The release of Wordpress 5.1 brought us a new PHP version warning message on the dashboard. This release moves forward with this warning system, adding some specific features that will help WordPress admins if encountering errors likely related to PHP version conflicts with outdated plugins and themes.
Warning about outdated PHP version with custom URL and related annotation

The PHP error protection mechanism, which was originally scheduled for release with version 5.1, is now included in WordPress core. This feature helps WordPress admins recover from the dreaded WSOD (White Screen of Death) by "pausing" the offending plugin or theme when logging into the admin dashboard. Once the issue has been resolved, the admin can resume the plugin.

It is important to note that the frontend will remain unavailable (a message and link for the admin to login will be displayed on the webpage) with this feature and is only intended to provide admin access to the backend, making it easier for some admins to resolve an issue, especially if they don't have the access or know-how to delve into the code. The look of the error page can be modified, similar to the database error page, and is especially important to do so, if you don't want an ugly error page with a link to login displayed to your website's visitors.

Last, but not least, this feature also includes adding warning for PHP version requirements when installing new plugins. WordPress has had version requirements information for quite some time. But, with the increasing need to push PHP upgrades, largely due to lack of security updates for older versions, it is becoming even more important to realize that many plugins also require newer versions of PHP.

Additional Developer Updates

  • Accessibility Updates : Several changes for input devices, including keyboard flow
  • New Dashboard Icons : Thirteen new icons, including those for Instagram, BuddyPress and those for the Earth conscious
  • Plugin Compatibility Checks : Prevents plugins that require a higher version of PHP than currently installed to be enabled
  • PHP Version Bump: WordPress now requires PHP 5.6.20, allowing widespread usage of namespaces, anonymous functions and other PHP features
  • Privacy Updates: A new theme page template, a conditional function, and CSS make designing and customizing the Privacy page easier
  • New Body Tag Hook: This long awaited hook allows theme and plugin developers to insert code right at the top of the <body> element
  • Building JavaScript: webpack and Babel configurations are now included, which makes building javascript with these tools easier

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ABOUTME

I was hippie-born, raised on Science and Invention on a nuclear mesa, SCAdian before I knew the Society, Technomancer before I played the game, creative genius breaking the shackles of Corporate America.

Owner of tekAura, an Information Technology & Design Consultancy involved in projects concerning Human Dynamics & Sustainability in relation to Computing and Technology, Collective creativity & Hackerspaces, SaaS & Cloud Computing, Home & Manufacturing Automation.

Artfully applies Sustainability, Disaster Recovery, Open Source and Agile Industry Best Practices to boost innovation and facilitate Organic Collaboration and Continuous Process Improvement.

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