The Gutenburg Update

The editor in WordPress will soon change completely. The Gutenberg Update, which is the name of this change, is taking longer than expected, but is currently planned for sometime this year.

This is the biggest change at WordPress in years. It’s important that you know about it if you create posts even occasionally, since the editor will look quite different once Gutenberg is in place. The current plan is to make it possible for users to choose the classic editor or the Gutenberg editor for some transitional period, but the Gutenberg editor will replace the current editor going forward.

Gutenberg is a block editor: posts are created with separate blocks of text or visual content, rather than as pages. You’ll choose a block of text, a block with an image, a blog of video or other embedded content, and so on. You can create blocks with a particular format or type of content to use over and over, and you can move blocks with drag and drop.

A block editor has some real benefits for responsive design, allows people without much tech skill to have more control over formatting and the look of their posts, and can speed up the work for power users. WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg contends that it will remove the need for custom post types, too.

You can try out the new editor now, with the Gutenberg plugin. Download the plugin, activate it, and you will have the Gutenberg editor. Make a new post, and you’ll be using the new editor.

You can see that the publishing information and post settings are in their familiar place in the right hand sidebar (though they’ll disappear while you’re writing your post) and the familiar text box is gone.

If you go to All Posts, you will be able to choose the Classic Editor, as shown in the screenshot below. Just hover over the title of your post and “Edit” for the Gutenberg editor and “Classic Editor” for the current editor will show up. Choose the one you prefer.

Gutenberg is a block editor. Current blocks include Paragraph, which is similar the current editor, Image for pictures, Heading, Text, List, Quote, and Gallery. There are also additional blocks like Table and Button that take the place of plugins. There are embed options for everything from PhotoBucket to SmugMug, and simple things like a spacer or a horizontal line.

I’m very happy to see the Tables option!

How does Gutenberg affect posting?

First, we have to acknowledge that anything that changes workflow can slow us down initially. For example, when we add a picture in the current WordPress editor, we click on “add media” and choose or upload an image. We may then choose to edit the picture in our WordPress Editor, or we might insert the picture into the post and then click on the photo to edit the image size or add a caption.

In Gutenberg, we will instead click on a + sign and choose “image.” After finding the image in the media gallery or uploading it from our files, we’ll click “Select” to insert the image. We’ll immediately have the option of adding a caption and alt text or changing the alignment, but we can’t click on the image and edit it any more.

In the current editor, once we have our image in place we can just click in the text box and write our post, but in Gutenberg we’ll have to add a text or Paragraph block first. If you keep typing, Gutenberg will add a new block for each paragraph, which still doesn’t feel natural to me. However, since each block can have multiple columns and different kinds of media, it might be better to get into the habit of preparing blocks with format and content in mind. This could improve your visitors’ mobile experience.

The differences mean that it will take a bit more time to post while you’re getting used to it. However, Gutenberg is expected to speed up a lot of processes in the long run. I’ve been using it for about eighteen months on several websites and am comfortable with it by now. If you post at your website, I’d encourage you to start getting used to it now.

Is Gutenberg really just Divi or Fusion?

At WordCamp Europe, someone asked Matt Mullenweg at his Q& A session whether Gutenberg is just Divi or Fusion Builder in disguise. Matt said no, WordPress isn’t copying someone else. “We’re skating to where the puck is going to be,” he said.

Personally, I like Gutenberg better than the other WordPress builders I’ve used, but that may be mere personal preference. I know plenty of people who love Divi.

My biggest concern with builders in general is that they leave a lot of unneeded extra code behind. Therefore, I’m going to show you the text view of the classic editor for each.  That is, we’re looking at the code for posts built in the special editor for each of these builders.

So here’s how a Gutenberg post’s text view looks. Each block has a comment in HTML at the beginning and the end of the block, and there are ordinary HTML markers for paragraphs, images, etc.

In the screenshot below, you see a post written in the Classic Editor (not the Divi Builder) at a Divi website. Posts written in the Divi Builder are bristling with extra code.

Gutenberg is cleaner than Divi or Fusion Builder, overall. More importantly, Gutenberg developers tell us that the additional code we see isn’t used when the post is published. There is simply no additional code to worry about.

You also won’t lose your content if you build in Gutenberg and then deactivate the plugin. Your layout will be disturbed, but your words and images will not be lost.

Gutenberg allows you to make some layout decisions now, but not as many as other builders. This may change.

Gutenberg does some things other builders don’t. For example, there are tools for embedding all sorts of content from around the web. I have to admit that I haven’t tried these out yet. I don’t manage any websites that need to embed stuff from Funny or Die, and we have our social media feeds looking too good to mess with. I do plan to experiment with all the functionality eventually.

Some of the screenshots here will be out of date by the time you read this, because there are new versions of Gutenberg rolling out all the time.

Want to try it out?

You can download the Gutenberg plugin and use the demo to see how it works. You can also install the plugin and try it out. Current clients, we’ll be happy to help you with this.

We’ll be updating as we continue to use Gutenberg. One thing we can tell you for sure: it’s coming. You might as well get used to the idea — or make sure that your web firm is competent with it.

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