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Here Comes Gutenberg

Over the past several years, Webdancers has specialized in building websites using the WordPress content management system. This excellent software controls the functionality, the way the websites look and how we enter content. And we’re in good company, as 31% of all websites use WordPress, according to W3Techs Web Technology Survey.

Probably the most often used component of WordPress is the editor, where pages and posts are composed. From the beginning, WordPress has used a software component called TinyMCE to provide a familiar word processor-like editing interface for controlling text formatting and the insertion of images. TinyMCE has its quirks but over the years, most people came to understand if not love them.

All that is about to change. With version 5.0, WordPress will introduce a new editor, codenamed “Gutenberg”. The exact date for this release is unknown but it will almost certainly come in 2018. The new editor is block oriented and has more in common with online apps like Medium, MailChimp or Squarespace than it does with Microsoft Word.

Why change now?

Matt Mullenweg, WordPress founder has this to say:

Ten years ago, agencies and developers worried that software like WordPress would ruin their business because clients wouldn’t need help updating their sites any more, and would maybe even just start building their own sites. But their worse fears didn’t come true — instead, it created new opportunities for everyone. (People were worried when the printing press was invented, too. A Swiss biologist warned against the “confusing and harmful abundance of books,” but I’d say it all worked out in the end.) This is not to say that nothing will go sideways with Gutenberg, or that people’s concerns about it are unfounded. Making something people want is really hard to do and easy to mess up — we definitely have in the past. I share many of the concerns or worries with today’s version of Gutenberg, and we’re working to mitigate them. Gutenberg will ship with WordPress 5.0, but the release will come out when Gutenberg is ready, not vice versa.

Pros of Gutenberg

An excellent overview of how Gutenberg works is Diving Into the New Gutenberg WordPress Editor (Pros and Cons) by Brian Jackson. He lists these pros:

Ditching *some* reliance on TinyMCE is a good thing in our opinion. We would love to see a tighter integration between core, theme developers, plugins, and the editor.

For publishers that prefer the newer Medium style editing experience, they are most likely going to love the WordPress Gutenberg editor.

Gutenberg provides a less distracting experience with more screen space. Blocks are fun to use and the new alignment options are a step forward for larger resolution screens and full-width templated and responsive sites.

Already works great on mobile, and going forward we can actually see people utilizing this a lot more. Need to make a quick edit on your phone while on the go? No problem.

The ability for theme and plugin developers to create their own custom blocks.

Easier to use for beginners.

The road forward

As with any new technology, there are going to be bumps in the road. I’m following the progress of Gutenberg by using the beta plugin on a test site, so that when it becomes the default method for creating content, I can help my clients with the transition. From my reading, it appears that the majority of sites will continue to work without modification. Sites that have specialized editing capabilities outside of the editor may need some attention.

If you’re a WordPress user, be aware that changes are coming. There will be a learning curve but in the end, your website will be better positioned to take advantage of advances in web technology. And remember, WordPress didn’t become the dominant CMS by delivering software that people don’t like.

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