WordPress 5.2 “Jaco” Released, Includes Fatal PHP Error Protection and A Recovery Mode

WordPress 5.2 “Jaco” named after bassist Jaco Pastorius, is now available for download. Normally, I’d start listing new features but I’m going to do something a little different this time.

Let’s begin by recognizing the 327 people who contributed to this release with 109 of those being first time contributors. It was led by Matt Mullenweg, Josepha Haden Chomphosy, and Gary Pendergast. Included in the list is Alex (Viper007Bond) Mills who passed away from Leukemia earlier this year.

Screenshot taken by Brandon Kraft

Mills still has a few uncommitted patches in Trac so it’s possible he’ll end up on the list of contributors in future releases.

Minimum PHP Version Required to Run WordPress 5.2 Is Now 5.6.20

WordPress 5.2 bumps up the minimum PHP version required to 5.6.20. If you’re using an older version, you’ll need to update PHP before upgrading to WordPress 5.2. Updating PHP to version 7.3 or above is recommended.

Additional Improvements to Site Health Check

In WordPress 5.1, Site Health Check features were added to inform users of outdated PHP versions. WordPress 5.2 builds on this foundation by adding two new pages that help debug common configuration issues. Users can find the Site Health section in the WordPress backend by browsing to Tools > Site Health.

Site Health Check Test Results

Browsing to the Site Health page triggers a series of tests. When the tests are performed, errors and recommended improvements are displayed on the results page. There’s also a an Information tab that displays every detail about the configuration of your site.

Site Health Check Detailed Information

Theme and Plugin authors can add their own tests and modify or remove existing ones with filters.

Fatal Error Protection

Instead of seeing the dreaded “white screen of death,” WordPress 5.2 includes fatal PHP error protection. When a fatal error is detected, a user-facing error message is displayed and an email is sent to the administrator’s email address.

The email includes a link to a new feature called “recovery mode.” While in recovery mode, plugins and themes that are causing fatal errors are put into a paused state to ensure administrators can work around the errors and access the backend normally.

In addition to being informed about which themes or plugins are causing fatal errors, administrators have at least three options to fix the issue.

  • Administrators can deactivate the theme or plugin to maintain a working version of the site.
  • Administrators can fix the problem if they have the technical capabilities, and afterwards reactivate the theme or plugin.
  • Administrators can file a support request with the developer, pointing out the error.

Administrators can exit recovery mode by pressing a button in the admin bar. A few examples on how developers can utilize this feature can be found here.

WordPress 5.2 also includes accessibility improvements, thirteen new dashboard icons, plugin compatibility checks, and an variety of changes to the block editor. In addition, the Privacy Policy page includes four new helpers that make customizing and designing the page easier.

To learn more about the features in WordPress 5.2 and how to extend or work with them, check out the WordPress 5.2 Field Guide.

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4 Comments


  1. I am totally in love with that new feature “Fatal Error Protection”!

    “Why does my WordPress shows a white page?” is one of the most asked questions I’ll get from not so techy site owners.

    So this will lower the number of support requests we get from site owners.

    Another great step forward to make WordPress a more robust platform!

    I really welcome that.
    Congrats to all participants.

    Thank you, guys.

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  2. I like the email notification for errors but I’d like to be able to receive them as I’m the one doing site maintenance. Currently, only the email under Settings is getting the emails so my clients are resending them to me which is annoying when I’m already informed of the error or have to explain what’s happening…

    Not a fan of the Site Health percentage rating.

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  3. PHP 5.6 requirement, site health and fatal error protection are totally great! They push the hosting environment to catch up the modern PHP stack and thus, let developers develop easier. Hat off to the team to make this possible!

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  4. Recovery Mode seemingly has flaws. If it is active and I try to activate a plugin within recovery mode – each plugin appears with a link to do so while in recovery mode -, then …. nothing happens. The plugin remains inactive.

    Another hint: if you follow PHP version recommendations and go for 7.3+ you are likely to receive errors in tests like wtih Query Monitor as code switches ending with “continue” are regarded faulty. It’s either “break” or “continue 2”, so plugin authors got some work to do.

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