How I learned to stop worrying and love Gutenberg

Like many of us that rely heavily on WordPress every day, I admit to getting caught up in the maelstrom of panic and apprehension ahead of the WordPress 5.0 release. A quick straw poll of public opinion seemed to indicate that the 5.0 release, and implementation of the new Gutenberg editor therein, would be the end of days.

I’d personally tested Gutenberg at multiple earlier stages of its development and was less than enthused; the interface was confusing and difficult to work with. That said, Gutenberg was clearly the future of the WordPress project and I pride myself on trying to remain as open minded as possible. So despite my reservations, I decided to take the plunge with Gutenberg. I decided that I’d force myself to use the new editor for at least a month and see how I felt after extended hands on use.

Well, we’re practically at the six week mark now and I have masses of experience under my belt using Gutenberg – day in and day out; I can now happily say I’m a convert. I’m loving the experience, and hand on heart I now prefer the writing experience in Gutenberg over the older Classic Editor.

If you’re a die hard user of the Classic Editor, I’ll admit it’s going to take a minute to learn the new ropes. I personally loved to write my posts using the raw text mode of the editor, writing HTML by hand to make everything ever so perfect – I know, I know, I’m a masochist. Gutenberg is also far from perfect. The project continues to have problems with accessibility and is prone to its own quirks and foibles that you’ll become accustomed to.

Here are a few of my favourite items that I’ve learned to love in making the leap.

Easy to convert legacy posts to Gutenberg

The first time you load an older post or page in Gutenberg you’d be forgiven for letting out a sigh. You’ll see your older pages and posts presented in one big “Classic Block” as default when you switch over. Converting older posts is going to be a pain, right? Nope, not so. The new Gutenberg editor offers a handy one click tool that converts content into the new block format.

It’s not 100% foolproof, sometimes certain legacy content can fox the conversion process; that said, I did write a lot of stuff by hand so perhaps I’m an outlier. For the most part, it’s quite painless. I’ve found that going back and converting high traffic and evergreen content pieces affords me a moment to review the content, too – time for an update and edit perhaps?

Re-usable blocks

I didn’t think I’d use this feature half as much as I ended up doing. One of the websites I run often references local businesses. In turn I always provide the address, phone number, and website of the business. In the past this meant re-typing the same data, over and over, 100s of times a year. Tedious but part of the process for the site in question.

using Gutenberg’s re-usable blocks, I simply save the address block as a re-usable block. It’s a simple process to then re-insert that block into future pieces.

This has a huge added benefit too – should you update a single instance of a re-usable block, all other instances will update, too. Back to my own website, if a business address changes, it’s just one small edit and the change propagates through all the posts and pages using that block. Nifty!

Copy and pasting in the editor

Another item I didn’t expect to love quite as much as I do, is the new processing of richly formatted content. Let say a site contributor sends me an article replete with links, intricate formatting, pictures etc. For the most part I can cut and paste this directly into the Gutenberg editor with little to no further work need.

The editor will retain formatting on text, respect headings, keep links as is – even try to auto import images and their layout style. It’s very slick and I’ve found it a huge time saver when importing third party content into the editor.

Simpler spacing of paragraphs

Oh the hours I previously spent messing around with various HTML elements trying to format my post just the right way. A <p> here and a <br> there, maybe throw the whole thing in a <div> and see if that works. Truly, some of my (admittedly through iffy CSS skills) formatting would make a skilled design cry into their latte.

This is now a thing of the past. Want to add a little space between blocks to make the content appear a little more readable? Just use the default spacer block and specify the gaps you want to place between items.

Live preview, no more HTML

I find myself reaching a lot less for the preview post option. Largely speaking, what you see in the Gutenberg editor is what you’re going to get in the final published article. Of course it’s still worth a last review before you go live to make certain.

Should I move to Gutenberg?

After my own hands on experience (I’ve probably written, edited and posted over 100 posts and pages through Gutenberg now) I’d definitely now advocate for general and widespread adoption of Gutenberg. If you’ve been sitting on the fence, maybe start to look again at the new editor.

Gutenberg certainly has some issues: usability, compatibility (in some small instances) and transparency remain items of concern. 5.1.x is set to release in February hot on the heels of a number of micro updates to the 5.0.x branch. As the releases pile up, issues are being resolved fairly speedily.

If you’re worried about compatibility we’d definitely recommend using a staging feature like the one we offer on our WordPress hosting. This feature allows you to copy your site to a test environment with one click, copying it to the live site if you like, too.


There is one comments on “How I learned to stop worrying and love Gutenberg

  1. Martin February 19, 2019

    Don’t worry, use Joomla! instead.