I don’t often review something in beta, but the Gutenberg Editor is getting closer to becoming an integral part of WordPress, so it’s time to start digging in to see what it can and cannot do, what’s good and what’s bad, and what it means for the future of WordPress.
What is the Gutenberg Editor?
The Gutenberg Editor, named for the creator of movable type Johannes Gutenberg, is an upcoming replacement to current TinyMCE design. The current format has been the editor that everyone has gotten used to for many years. It’s intuitive and easy to add text, media, links, HTML. Themes and plugins that use text modules, like Divi, use TinyMCE as the editor. It’s gotten streamlined over the years and many feel that it needs an update.
The Gutenberg Editor is more similar to the editor you’ll find in web-building platforms like Squarespace. It creates paragraph blocks where you choose the content type from drop-down box and then place your content within the block.
The first thing I noticed that I don’t like is no access to the Divi Builder. My preference of content creation is to write in the TinyMCE Visual Editor, add all of my images last in their proper locations, and then copy the content and paste it into my custom blog layout. That’s not possible with the Gutenberg Editor (at least with the beta version).
I started this post in TinyMCE and then did a copy and paste into the Gutenberg Editor. Each paragraph and header pasted as its own block. I like that.
It is easy to create the content blocks. Just hit enter. Each paragraph is its own block. You can also insert blocks by clicking Insert in the upper right corner of the screen.
If you want a drop cap simply click on Block to the right with your cursor placed on the block that you want to have the drop cap. Click the switch to On and you have a drop cap.
Uploading and Placing Media
Media such as images are placed into content a couple of different ways. One is to click the image icon at the bottom of the content. You’ll have to click the arrow to the left of the content block in order to move it into place. It’s a tedious process. Image alignment still works as expected.
Another way is to click the Insert button at the top right and choose what to insert. The block will be placed at your cursor’s position. The image above was placed using this method. Using the insert feature you can place common blocks, formatting, layout blocks, and widgets.
The Cover Image feature is interesting. Insert a Cover Image and then add your text over it. Choose Fixed Background for parallax and Dim Background to darken the image so your text stands out. This is one of my favorite features so far.
It does have a Classic Text block that brings in the familiar features of TinyMCE’s Visual Editor. It doesn’t include the Text tab or a media feature.
Plugins that add shortcodes to TinyMCE do not appear within the menu. Hopefully this is due to the plugin still being beta. The Insert drop-down box does include a shortcode block, but you have to paste in the shortcode.
To the right of the screen is a list of options with tabs labeled Document and Block. Document includes the expected options for publishing, choosing categories and tags, setting the featured image and excerpt, allowing comments, choosing the post format, and ads a new feature – viewing the table of contents.
The Table of Contents shows your headers in an outline form. Clicking on one takes you to that header. I like this feature a lot.
Changing to the Text tab in the upper left corner reveals a few tags you can add to your content. This works like the Text tab of the TinyMCE editor.
My Initial Thoughts About Gutenberg Editor
There are a few things I like about the editor. I like the drop cap feature and the clickable Table of Contents. The Document area to the right is cleaner than the current settings area. I like the ability to insert a widget for latest posts, categories, or shortcodes into the content. I like being able to choose the author from the editor. I like the auto-save feature. I also like the multi-column feature in the Insert drop-down. I love that it can display cover images with text overlays in parallax.
Unfortunately what I do like is far outweighed by what I don’t like. There are no SEO adjustments for my favorite SEO plugin. I can’t use the Divi Builder (my building tool of choice). I can’t publish without a sidebar like I can with Divi and Extra. Hopefully this will be fixed before it’s added to WordPress.
It doesn’t show my my word-count. This is important for writers who charge clients by the word or someone that tries to target a word-count range for their posts.
Overall the Gutenberg Editor feels awkward to me. I’m not even sure what the goal is, but it doesn’t seem to be to make the UI easier to use. I like the idea of a clean UI, but I don’t like common features turned into blocks as options to insert into different locations from a dropdown box. I found the old method of showing them at the top of the editor to be more intuitive.
The content being broken up into blocks makes my content feel disjointed. There’s no drag and drop feature, so you have to move blocks around with the arrows. It’s actually easier to copy and paste the content than it is to move it. The worst part is I can’t use the Divi Builder to create my layouts.
Matt Mullenweg has stated that the Gutenberg Editor will replace TinyMCE in WordPress 5. I think at the most it should be an option – not a replacement. Let those of use that want to keep the editor we’re used to have our choice. Don’t turn WordPress into Squarespace or similar UI just to be changing it. WordPress doesn’t have to be like those editors.
TinyMCE is simple to use. The Gutenberg Editor doesn’t feel like an improvement. Instead, it complicates the process by adding steps that are not needed. I want tools across the top like a ribbon – not in a drop-down box that adds disjointed elements to the page. This isn’t the kind of word processor I would use to write with. It just makes creating content more difficult or confusing. The user interface should never get in the way of creating content.
I suspect that if TinyMCE is removed from WordPress we’ll see lots of third-party plugins that will add it back with even better features than before.
The majority of this article was written in the Gutenberg Editor. I did start to get the hang of it but it never felt as intuitive as TinyMCE. I ended up pasting the content back into Divi to publish with my Divi blog layout.
- Have you tried the Gutenberg Editor beta plugin?
- Do you prefer Geutenberg, TineyMCE, or would you rather have something else?
Let us know what you think in the comments. Thanks for reading and please subscribe if you haven’t already.
Featured image Munich – Deutsches Museum, from Wikimedia commons