Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Blogging

The New WordPress Gutenberg Editor: My First 2 Weeks With It

A couple of weeks ago, I said the Gutenberg editor is on its way and that I was giving it a try. It’s been two weeks…here’s my review.

The Gutenberg editor that WordPress has been promising will be released with the platform’s next major upgrade. As I said in my earlier post about it, it’s time that we learn it and get used to it.

For the past week of posts, everything has been written using Gutenberg, including this post.

The good

The good news is that you probably didn’t notice a difference. That’s good because it means that everything (so far) that I’ve done with it is perfectly compatible with my current blog theme and the variety of plugins I use.

Knowing that everything seems to work is a big relief because when a big change rolls out, there’s almost no help available to sort out what does and doesn’t cooperate. You’re stuck with the “turn off your plugins and turn each on one at a time to see where the conflict is.” That’s about as helpful as being told to “turn it off and turn it back on again.” 

Since there are no conflicts so far, I’m going to assume — at least until I find otherwise — that there are no major issues with the new platform. In terms of compatibility, I’ll give it an A.

Also in the good column is the fact that the use of “blocks,” which Gutenberg uses to organize everything from texts to subheadings to images and video to lists, isn’t nearly as annoying as I thought it would be.

I’m not wild about the fact that each paragraph becomes a separate block: I’d much prefer that a block encompass all text until you need to insert a different kind of block. (This is the 4th paragraph, for example, since the “good news” heading: that means it’s the 4th text block. I’d prefer that all four of these individual paragraphs had been one text block.)

But the silver lining to that cloud is that you type as though it’s one block: you don’t have to manually insert a new block every time you want to add a new paragraph. I’d have never been able to deal with that level of distraction.

The bad

The problem with some of these blocks is that they can be a bit wonky…especially if you click enter to start a new paragraph but then immediately click higher in the post to correct a mistake. When you try to go back to that block, it doesn’t always work. Sometimes, you’re forced to click back out of it — elsewhere on the post page — then click back into it to be able to pick up with your typing. Anything that slows me down is a problem.

Then there’s the problem with inline images. I tried several times adding an inline image to the paragraph above that explains how everything gets converted into blocks. Nothing I did made the photo appear correctly: it wouldn’t wrap around the text nor would it appear full-size as a centered graphic. All I ever got was a small thumbnail on a separate row with no further controls.

That’s a serious problem.

Another issue is that unlike the TinyMCE editor everybody liked to whine about for its lack of constant updates (which it didn’t need), there’s no easy way to indent text as if you’re quoting a passage. Sure, there’s the “blockquote” option, but my theme doesn’t do blockquotes the way I’d like it to.

This, based on my blog’s stylesheet, is a blockquote.

This, on the other hand, is a sentence indented the way one might quote a passage from a text.

I’ve not yet found the offending formatting in my blog’s stylesheet, I often manually enter a formatting code to create the indent.

This is easy enough to do in the old text editor. But in Gutenburg, you have to hover over that paragraph’s block and select the HTML option. When you do that, you get an HTML block that looks more like you’re writing software than a blog post.

For the life of me, I don’t know why there’s not a simple indent button somewhere in Gutenberg. If there is, that means it’s nowhere that’s easy to find, which is one more mark against it.

I did find a potential bug when I tried to edit an older post. The error message was generic, claiming the editor had run into a problem and couldn’t call up the old post. On a hunch, I deactivated the Gutenberg plugin and sure enough, it worked just fine.

The inability to edit an old post could be a potential problem if they don’t figure out whatever is going on there. Of course, it’s always possible that by the time Gutenberg is updated and loaded into core WordPress, whatever that glitch was will have been figured out and there’ll be no more issues. Let’s hope that will be the case.

I found the biggest inconvenience with Gutenberg when I began working on a list. My list posts involve headings for the items and supporting text below each one.

But in Gutenberg, when you first type the “1. ” before the first item, it assumes you want an ordered list and converts the block to that. You must convert the list block to a normal paragraph block, and then to a heading block and select the appropriate size.

I found the best way around this inconvenience is to type everything out as normal paragraph blocks and then go back in and add the numerals and change the individual blocks from paragraph to heading once everything’s in place. In the grand scheme of things, it isn’t a dealbreaker but it is an annoyance.

Better than I expected

Given the hype and the uproar, I honestly expected the experience with Gutenberg to be far worse than it turned out to be.

Aside from getting used to where the buttons were, it really wasn’t as big of an adjustment as I expected. It was an adjustment, but not one that was big enough to distract me from the writing.

I think, when the change officially happens, we’ll be fine.

It won’t be the kind of switch that will crash WordPress. I think it actually will make it better.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.