WordPress Dashicons Project to Discontinue Development in Favor of New Icon Component

Dashicons, the WordPress admin icon font, is now closed to new icon requests. After the block editor adopted the approach of using SVG icons directly, WordPress design contributors have recently reevaluated the efforts going into the Dashicons project. The team decided to wrap up existing tickets for new icons, push out a final release, and then pool their efforts on the new Icon component.

“One of the challenges with an icon font is that it’s one big compiled ‘sprite,’ and so even though it gets cached well, for every icon you add the sprite grows bigger,” WordPress design contributor Joen Asmussen said in a post announcing the change. “With SVG you include just the icons you need.”

A recently-merged pull request brings the project’s collection of 303 icons to a total of 340, with final additions including items like airplane, beer, coffee, and more, based on the remaining open issues.

With just a handful of contributors, Dashicons had been subject to infrequent updates. Prior to WordPress 5.2 (May 2019), which updated the icon font to use WOFF2 (Web Open Font Format 2) and added 13 new icons, Dashicons had gone dormant for three years. This means that developers who needed a specific icon were sometimes waiting a long time for it to get added and often opted to use a different library.

The new Icon component isn’t subject to the same limitations. During the design team’s recent discussion about Dashicon’s next steps, Asmussen noted that the new Icon component comes with a set of icons but developers can also feed it a custom SVG.

“An icon doesn’t have to be part of the set for it to be treated like any other icons in the system,” Asmussen said. “Which makes it easier to say no to some social icons — we can say ‘No, but you can do this: {code example}.’” This flexibility prevents developers from having to spend time lobbying for a particular icon to get added or working to demonstrate its popularity.

Asmussen thanked Dashicons creator Ben Dunkle for his work in maintaining the icon font over the years. Dunkle will join the effort to improve the new Icon component as it is still being fleshed out.

“And a lot of the lessons Ben and I learned from Dashicons could probably help spell out some principles for what fits in the component,” Asmussen said. “In some ways, I think we can be much more open to accepting icons because it doesn’t balloon a sprite. In others, as mentioned, we can decide it’s not WordPress’ place.”

Dashicons will be maintained in core indefinitely but no new icons will be added after this point. Plugin developers have the option to continue using the icon font or embrace the new Icon component.

“Switching to SVG in WP-admin, and perhaps the new Icon component, is a discussion definitely worth having at some point,” Asmussen said. “But [it’s] worth noting that it’s not necessarily part of today’s discussion. This is first and foremost to ensure Dashicons is in a solid place for everyone relying on it.”

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