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The Dirty Truth about Gutenberg the new WordPress tool

Gutenberg is a hot topic in the web world lately and by Gutenberg we mean the new editor for WordPress and not the German inventor from the 1400’s. Although the editor is named for the inventor that is where all similarities end. As WordPress is such an integral part of website design these days, we wanted to share the dirty truth about Gutenberg, the new WordPress tool.

What exactly is Gutenberg?

The Gutenberg editor is a new plugin for the immensely popular WordPress content management system. Named after Johannes Gutenberg, the goal is for this plugin to replace the existing TinyMCE text editor that most people currently use.

On their website, WordPress has promoted the editor as a “new publishing experience” that will allow people “to make your words, pictures, and layout look as good on screen as they do in your imagination, without any code.”

That is the big feature they want everyone to understand; you won’t need technical ability to take advantage of this new tool.

“…it’s easy to unlock the power of WordPress if you know how to write code – but not everyone does. And now, you won’t need to.”

Is Gutenberg more than just an editor?

To be clear, Gutenberg is an editor, but it is also set up to be so much more than that. The release of this feature is part one of a three-part release that aims to keep WordPress as the top content management system.

The second phase will have a focus of developing on-page templates. Then the third phase will allow WordPress to become a full site customizer. The second and third phases do not currently have published roll-out dates which is to be expected as the first phase will have bugs and issues that will need to be resolved.

You can download the new Gutenberg editor from the WordPress Plugins Page.

Worth noting, while the plan is for Gutenberg to be the new default editor within WordPress, there is already a plugin that will enable a user to revert to the classic editor if they prefer. There is also a block type within Gutenberg called “Classic Editor,” which replicates the classic interface.

What will be new?

The primary change to this editor is using the concept of blocks. When you want to add text, you do so by adding in a text block. When you want to add images, again you add an image block. The block concept applies to headings, lists embedded content, etc., etc.

Block types will each have their own configurations so that you can style and edit them individually. There is also an option to create custom blocks, which will be very useful when creating your own brand style. If you need to make a change to a block it will only affect that block and no other blocks.

Other additions include:

  • Updated layout with menus and options appearing dynamically
  • HTML anchors can be assigned to blocks so you can link directly to a block
  • Both buttons and tables have been added
  • A Table of Contents sidebar widget has been added
  • Better alignment and embed options
  • Blocks can be edited individually using either visual or HTML editors

Pro’s and Con’s of Gutenberg

As we see it, these are the primary pro’s and con’s for this new WordPress editor:

Pro’s –

  • Easy for anyone – beginners or people semi-familiar with WordPress have a very small learning curve to get up and running.
  • Increased consistency – with this style of editor there is a greater opportunity for structure in a project which tends to lead towards more consistency.
  • Better alignment options – this is important when you consider the variety of devices and screen sizes you need to consider when designing.
  • More screen space – the hidden menus allow for more screen space when working and less distractions.
  • Multimedia approach – the original WordPress was focused on text-based content which was the norm at the time but has since changed where people use multimedia in their content.
  • Works on mobile – by that we mean you can easily use Gutenberg from a mobile device for quick edits or updates from anywhere.
  • Customization – both theme and plugin developers can create their own custom blocks which will allow for more individuality.

Con’s –

  • Risk of repetitive layouts and designs – as everything is created using blocks, that means there will generally be a ‘blocky’ look which can be repetitive depending on the number of sites using it.
  • No Markdown support – currently this is missing.
  • Backwards compatibility – the sheer number of existing themes and plugins out there will lead to backwards compatibility issues for many developers.
  • Doesn’t support responsive columns – hopefully this is a feature for the near future.

The bottom line

The bottom line is that this feels like a game-changer. The dirty truth about Gutenberg, the new WordPress tool is that it is a great tool with a lot of potential. The pro’s generally outweigh the con’s especially for people new to WordPress. While backwards compatibility will be an issue, that is a relatively common issue developers face when new products or releases hit the market.


Be sure to check back every week for great new Lounge Lizard blog articles.

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