Mulling the approach of WordPress 5 & Gutenberg

While the pace has definitely slowed, this blog is rolling into its 11th year. That’s a long time running WordPress. Around 1,250 posts. I revisit this as WordPress 5 is about to ship, along with the new Gutenberg editor.

The Gutenberg editor is a major change and one not to be taken lightly. Or is it? I’ve been using the Gutenberg plug-in in WP 4.9.x for the past few months, just to get a sense of it’s significance. It’s ok.

It reminds me a lot of Squarespace, which I also use to run the Woodland Heights Civic Association web site. That site was built by someone else. I assumed the admin role when I joined the WHCA board in late 2016.

After years of using WordPress it took me a while to get used to Squarespace. It seems very constraining. I was accustomed to having a fine grained control of presentation. The block-based editing of Squarespace and Gutenberg are more Apple-like. Easy to layout pages and posts. High-level control. Want to do something niggly and specific? It may be that you simply can’t. There was a little learning to just let it go.

As ever, I am anomalous. I still like to write offline. Where I once used Windows Live Writer, I now use Open Live Writer. The fact is that Gutenberg does not interfere with this. OLW posts appear to Gutenberg as “Classic” format posts, which can be converted to the new block-based format.

From my cursory experimentation, it also appears that Gutenberg posts can be read back into OLW. At least simple things don’t fall apart right away. So far, so good.

The combination of OLW and Gutenberg are interesting. OLW is about writing. It’s simple. Productive. It doesn’t create a mess of HTML like MS Word. I especially like the ability to automatically add links based upon a library of common word or phrases.

Gutenberg seems to me more about manipulating page layout and using rich media. It’s especially easy to add and manipulate media. Move things around. Craft the presentation you want.

If you’re the sort (like me) who was accustomed to spending time creating media in support of posts, it’s not all that big a deal. However, if you did not have access to tools like Adobe Creative Cloud, the improved media handling could be transformational.

I would hate to write something feature length in Gutenberg. I’ve read that some people are upset at how Gutenberg behaves as a long-form editor. I can see that. I really don’t enjoy the web-based writing/editing experience. Its just not as responsive as a native application. And it can be troublesome if you fall offline.

I see that the release is imminent. Release the Kraken Gutenberg!