WTF is Gutenberg?

31 Oct 2018

So, you’ve probably heard the term Gutenberg being thrown around by now and you’re probably thinking “what is Gutenberg and what do I do about it?”

Gutenberg and WordPress 5

You may have noticed there hasn’t been a major update of WordPress in quite a while, we’ve been on 4.9.something for the past year. This is due to the fact that Automattic (the organisation behind WordPress) has been working hard on a new editor to replace TinyMCE, the classic editor used by WordPress. The aim of the new editor is to provide a true What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) experience and allow for a much better experience while creating richer post content.

The new release of WordPress (5.0) will focus on the new editor but the Gutenberg project doesn’t stop there.

Scary Warnings

If you’ve logged into your admin area recently, you will have seen a notice like this:

Now, this notice is a little scary!

And that’s the way it should be. Adding Gutenberg to a website full of content from the old editor shouldn’t cause too many issues unless you’re using a theme or plugin which relies heavily on the functionality of the classic editor (like a page builder or some less popular SEO plugins). These issues will become apparent very quickly if you test your website using the Gutenberg plugin. Note that this plugin isn’t ready to be used on live sites as it’s subject to change.

As of 5.0, Gutenberg will be the only editor available. The code which powers the classic editor will be included behind the scenes to ensure maximum compatibility with existing plugins and themes. If you want to continue adding content in the usual way, you will need to install the Classic Editor plugin. This plugin can then be configured to give you a choice as to which editor to use.

Facilities for converting content from Classic format to Gutenberg format and back are built into the plugins and all seems to work well so far, but we’d like to hear conflicting stories in the comments below!

The editor will create a new page- and post-building experience that makes writing rich posts effortless, and has “blocks” to make it easy what today might take shortcodes, custom HTML, or “mystery meat” embed discovery.

Matt Mullenweg

The New Interface

You can have a play with Gutenberg on the WordPress website. The demo provides a brief overview of what’s changing and shows off a lot of the features which will be available out of the box, hopefully making the act of actually switching over to Gutenberg as simple as possible.

We really like the new look for WordPress here at SCL. Everything in the post content is now a block! Blocks are far more versatile than plain ole text in TinyMCE. The click-and-drag style UI is very approachable and the default styles are very slick!

Take a look at them side-by-side:

The Future of Gutenberg

The new editor is just the first step in a multi-phase process. So far the team has been focused on making improvements to the writing and editing experience in WordPress, namely within posts, pages and custom post types by essentially just converting everything to a block.

The next phase is about extending Gutenberg to handle entire site layouts. Blocks will be usable in place of widgets and the menu system will become a navigation block. We would like to see blocks being added to the header, and maybe Gutenberg in the Customizer!

When is this Happening?

Supposedly, the 19th of November although they’ve offered secondary dates of January 8th or January 22nd which will come into place if the new release isn’t ready for the first date. Saying that we haven’t yet heard anything contradicting the 19th so assume it’s going ahead!

Basically, we don’t know! We’ll keep you posted.

Further Reading

Check out the Gutenberg FAQs.

Yoast has a team dedicated to Gutenberg integration and they’ve put out an excellent video series on it!

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