The current WordPress visual editor hasn’t had many changes over the years and for the most part, has stayed pretty much the same. While this isn’t a bad thing, many think it is time for a change. Other platforms such as Medium or Ghost provide a really unique and refreshing experience for writers, so why can’t WordPress? Well, many contributors and volunteers have been working on the new Gutenberg WordPress editor behind the scenes for the past 6+ months. Their goal? To make adding rich content to WordPress simple and enjoyable. Today we will dive into the new editor and discuss some pros and cons.
What is Gutenberg?
Gutenberg is a take on a new editor for WordPress. It is named after Johannes Gutenberg, who invented a printing press with movable type more than 500 years ago. The current visual editor requires a lot of us to utilize shortcodes and HTML to make things work. Their goal is to make this easier, especially for those just starting with WordPress. They are embracing “little blocks” and hope to add more advanced layout options. You can check out the official example.
To be fair to the developers and the team working on this, it is important to note that this is currently in its beta and testing phase, it’s not ready to run on production sites yet. But we wanted to dive in and see for ourselves what all the hype is about. We will make sure to keep this post updated as improvements and changes are pushed out. It appears that before this will be officially merged into WordPress core that Matt Mullenweg (the founder) is hoping to get 100,000 active installs. Which makes perfect sense, as this will work out a lot of the bugs, issues, and allow them to process new ideas and feature requests.
Because Gutenberg is still in the testing phase, the team working on it are encouraging people to try it out and leave comments and feedback in the WordPress support forum or open an issue on GitHub. Or you can join the discussions that take place in #core-editor on the core WordPress Slack. Hopefully, we will see this in WordPress 5.0.
How to Install Gutenberg
As of writing this, the Gutenberg plugin currently has a little over 5,000 active installs with over 91,000 total downloads and a 2.5 out of 5-star rating. It also requires WordPress version 4.8 to use it.
Gutenberg WordPress plugin
You can download the latest version of Gutenberg from the WordPress repository or by searching for it within your WordPress dashboard under “Add New” plugins. Again, we recommend installing this on a test site or utilize your host’s staging environment.
Install Gutenberg WordPress plugin
After installing Gutenberg, you will see links under your Posts that allow you to open up the Gutenberg editor. They don’t replace the default WordPress editor, which is a good thing in our opinion, as during the testing phase it allows you to bounce back and forth. Obviously, once this is merged with Core, it would probably by default use the “Edit” links. As of the latest version on the repository, it now supports custom page types and pages as well.
Gutenberg link on post
It also adds a new menu in your WordPress dashboard which contains a demo (as seen below) and the ability to create a new post. Again, this menu is probably just for testing purposes As you can see the visual editor looks quite different than the once you are probably used to. It has a very similar feel to Medium, which we think is great.
Gutenberg editor demo
If you take a look at both the Gutenberg editor and the current visual editor side by side (click to enlarge) you can see just how much more writing space Gutenberg has, especially on smaller screens. For people writing on laptops, Gutenberg is going to be a nice change of pace! It really is focused on “writing first” and is trying to provide a less distracting environment.
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