Introducing Gutenberg – The New Editor in WordPress
Last updated on Jan 11, 2019
WordPress powers millions of websites and blogs on the internet. Over the course of years, WordPress has seen many new features, interfaces and code fixes. That said, one particular thing has remained more or less constant — the WordPress editor.
However, recently, all of that was revamped and totally changed. Gutenberg, the new WordPress editor, has replaced the older TinyMCE editor. Going forward, starting from WordPress 5.0 itself, Gutenberg is the default editor in WordPress.
Well, what exactly is this Gutenberg and should WordPress users be concerned about it? How does it differ from the older WP editor? More importantly, does it have anything new to offer or is it just a bunch of subtle changes to the TinyMCE editor?
This article will clear the confusion surrounding Gutenberg and also offer some practical insight and advice related to the new WordPress editor.
What is Gutenberg?
Gutenberg, in the world of WordPress, refers to the new editor that has been incorporated into the core in WP 5.0
Initially, Gutenberg was available as a WordPress plugin that users could install and use to test the new editor and its features. However, now that Gutenberg is stable and has found its way to the WP core, the plugin is no longer needed for end users. For developmental users, though, the Gutenberg plugin still continues to provide beta and experimental features regularly. Just in case you wish to see what new features are planned for Gutenberg, you can grab the free WordPress plugin from here.
Now, what exactly does the new Gutenberg editor do? Well, firstly, it is no longer based on TinyMCE and is, in fact, an entirely different way to content editing and management in WordPress. It focuses heavily on cleanliness, minimalism and reductionism.
But that is not all. Gutenberg introduces to the users a block-based approach to content editing. As such, the formatting toolbar or various formatting tools are all gone! Instead, what we have is an editor that groups content into “blocks”, depending on the nature of content itself.For instance, text can be clubbed as either paragraph block, or blockquote block, or preformatted code block, or list block, etc. Similarly, images and videos come under media block, and so on.
This means you, as the user, input content by means of blocks, and on the basis of type of block being used, Gutenberg provides relevant options.
Naturally, this also implies that users can add custom blocks of their own. As a matter of fact, many new WordPress plugins have come up already that extend the Gutenberg editor by adding custom blocks — pricing table blocks, slider blocks, call to action button blocks, etc.
The Impact of Gutenberg
If you have had some experience with WordPress over the past few years, you might already be familiar with the way TinyMCE handles content. The good thing about the WordPress editor so far has been the fact that it just works out of the box. Anyone with even a basic understanding of word processing software can easily use the TinyMCE editor.
The same cannot be said about the new Gutenberg editor, sadly.
Gutenberg is a novel concept in its own right. However, it is entirely different from the TinyMCE editor that many people have gotten used to. This implies that even basic tasks such as editing some HTML of text, or inserting few chunks of code, might require more time than necessary. The learning curve, though not steep, is surely something worth considering.
More importantly, owing to WordPress’ obsession with minimalism and distraction-free editing, Gutenberg does way with all formatting aids. The formatting options become visible only when you select a block — and then head to the right column to format the selected text. This can, definitely, be annoying for some people.
Another noticeable downside associated with Gutenberg is that it can easily break a lot of things. If you have built or developed a website using custom elements, such as custom shortcode plugins, custom post types and additional code, there are very good chances that migrating to WordPress 5.0 might break certain things in terms of formatting and display on the frontend.
On the positive side, though, Gutenberg has a lot of scope for innovation. So far, developers have been relying on custom-coding elements such as pricing tables, fancy buttons, sliders, etc. The end users are often required to rely upon bulky plugins for adding sliders to their pages. Gutenberg makes it all easy and with the help of custom blocks, one can insert sliders with ease.
As a result, the need for depending on custom post types for sliders or custom shortcodes for adding content is virtually eliminated. This is, by far, the biggest advantage of using Gutenberg.
How to Avoid Gutenberg?
Well, for the most part, Gutenberg is here to stay. In fact, some members of the WP community have been so upset with this move that new forks of WordPress, that function with TinyMCE as the default editor, have already come up! One such fork is ClassicPress.
If you do not like Gutenberg, the most obvious temptation might be to avoid updating to WordPress 5.0 altogether. Well, it can definitely work for sometime, but delaying updates indefinitely can only expose your websites to bugs, security issues and other problems due to obsolete code. As a result, this method of avoiding Gutenberg is certainly not recommended.
With that said, the easiest way to get rid of Gutenberg is to install the Classic Editor plugin. This particular WP plugin simply replaces Gutenberg with the classic TinyMCE editor, and you can be back to business as usual.
The Classic Editor plugin is going to be supported only until 2021. As such, you might need to frame a long-term strategy for making your website Gutenberg-ready. Beyond that, the Disable Gutenberg plugin is fairly useful too and it functions much like Classic Editor, but comes loaded with additional features and is likely to remain under active development even after 2021.
Gutenberg has garnered mixed reactions from the WordPress community, with an overwhelmingly high number of users speaking out against it. The fact that this new editor has the potential to change the way content creators have been working with WordPress is enough for the community to have mixed feelings about it.
Nonetheless, Gutenberg seems to be here to stay as WordPress developers are only looking forward to a world where content editing will be based on blocks. Furthermore, since it is easy to extend Gutenberg and provide custom blocks, many theme and plugin developers have already started adding Gutenberg support to their products.
If you are a WordPress user, it is a good time to take a call. You can opt to use Classic Editor plugin and avoid Gutenberg for now (this is the recommended strategy if your website uses custom elements and can possibly have compatibility issues with Gutenberg). That said, it might also be wiser to try giving Gutenberg a spin and see how it fares for you?
If you do decide to go ahead with Gutenberg, check out some awesome Gutenberg-friendly plugins (including ones that offer custom blocks) here.
Alternatively, you can try the Gutenberg demo on this page and see if live content editing in a minimal interface is something that works for you.
Sufyan is a contributor to a variety of websites and blogs about technology, Linux, open source, web design, content management systems and web development. Learn more about his works on sufyanism.com