Gutenberg, WordPress, & You: the What, the Why, and the How

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From The Digital Reader:

If you have a WordPress site, chances are you have heard of something called Gutenberg. You could have seen one of the posts written about it over the past 18 months (such as mine), or you may have seen the notice when you updated your WordPress site to v4.9.8.

Either way, if you are the average user you are probably wondering what Gutenberg is and how it will affect your site.

The following post is a short explainer that will delve into what Gutenberg is, why it matters, and how it will affect you.

. . . .

Gutenberg is a new official part of WordPress. It is currently in beta, and is scheduled to launch with the release of WordPress 5.0.

I have been following the development of Gutenberg for over a year, and in that time I have learned that the easiest way to explain what Gutenberg is to ask whether you are familiar with one of the mailing list services like Mailchimp or Mailerlite. Have you used one of their newsletter builders?

If you have used one then you will better understand Gutenberg when you see it for the first time.

Gutenberg replaces the existing post and page editor menu in WordPress with one that behaves more like Mailerlite’s newsletter builder. Where the existing editor resembled old word processor apps (think MS Word, circa 2002) and was designed on the concept of typing out paragraphs of text, the new Gutenberg editor is built on the idea of blocks.

It is not supposed to affect your existing content, but I cannot guarantee that will be true 100% of the time. (A WordPress site is just too complex to make that promise.) What I can say is that Gutenberg is intended to let you make new richer content, not force you go fix your existing content.

. . . .

Gutenberg, on the other hand, has a pop-up menu where you can select a block. You can open that menu by clicking the plus sign icon (see the screenshot above for an example) and then selecting one of the options.

Once you chose the next block, you can style it with settings that only apply to this one block, add content, etc. That custom styling is perhaps the biggest difference between Gutenberg and the existing content editor.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

PG is convinced that if he for some reason becam brain-dead, his fingers would still have sufficient intelligence to make blog posts via WordPress.

His brain may be intrigued by Gutenberg, but, before anything changes, PG’s fingers want a nice long vacation far away from all keyboards in a place where they can locate their inner child or some such thing.

The other thing that comes to PG’s mind when considering Gutenberg is how many WordPress themes it’s going to break. PG has one theme in particular on his mind.

TPV’s current theme is 25,000 years old in internet years. Some of the earlier posts are probably full of dinosaur tracks by now.

From time to time, PG has explored installing a new WP theme for TPV, but he can’t find one that will be a great-looking home for the blog out of the box. He has wasted a lot of time tweaking various themes, but nothing he’s developed has the same zing as the old, old, old look.

Incidentally, Nate, the proprietor of The Digital Reader, is also a WordPress whisperer in case your blog or your brain seizes up over Gutenberg.

38 thoughts on “Gutenberg, WordPress, & You: the What, the Why, and the How”

  1. Not to be sucking up for anything, but I love the look of your blog.

    Instapundit’s had his original template since it was created in the 20th century.

    Meanwhile, I’m having trouble finding one for my sites that’ll do what I want, without having to spend money on it. It’s been painful.

    I’ll just add that I’ve read about the Gutenberg system, and I can’t figure out how it’s supposed to make things better.

  2. Can you hear the screaming? No? Oh, well, I’ll get louder when I actually have to deal with this. I want to write a blog post, not mass mailing spam.

    I just barely have a process that WordPress doesn’t get in the way. Hard enough to produce content (which I’m not at the moment in the heat of the desert summer). I don’t need anything new to give me problems.

  3. Oh, groan. I had a bad feeling when I saw the Gutenburg notice after my last WordPress update. Now that I’ve seen what Nate has to say about it, my bad feeling has transformed into a bonafide sinking feeling. I’m with Writing Observer. I want to write blog posts on my blog and I am very happy with the way I currently do that. I use the HTML window and I place text, images, and videos pretty much exactly the way I want them.

    I have a MailChimp account, and I use it to send email from time to time. I’ve been able to make the interface behave reasonably well, but I don’t like it. And I am most unhappy to learn that WordPress will soon be emulating MailChimp. I sure hope the “Classic” plug-in actually works.

    I’m feeling very much like running screaming into the night right now.


    • If you read the Kinsta post Nate references – in particular some of the comments – you might decide to add a few more a’s to your scream!

  4. Like advertisers, somebody declared that ‘change’ is needed.

    But not it seems many of the users of ‘that old thingy’, it looks good enough and it works …

    Look no further than Windows .10 and all those users still clinging to 7. Yes, their are those that claim it’s the best thing since sliced bread, but there are others that don’t like/want the changes and extras the ‘update’ forces on you.

    For those forced to change I say good luck (and I’m praying that by the time my 7 dies DAZ will run properly on Linux! 😉 )

    • I think that your complaint would have been better directed at the horror that was Windows 8, a real example of change for changes sake. My experience with Windows 10 is that it was basically a frantic back pedal to give a reborn Windows 7 and that, having been very happy with 7, I found no problems or really significant changes in upgrading to 10. Of course, you do now have the regular feature updates which I could really do without and one is always worried that they might kill something!

      • Like Vista, 8 didn’t last long and people found ways around the junk to make it more user friendly. Unlike Vista, the next one out wasn’t really any better. Plus the spyware you can’t really turn off, plus the forced updates that not only break things but change your preferred settings and remove programs MS thinks you shouldn’t be trying to run on .10 (even if they were running just fine for you at the time.)

        I have programs that can spend the better part of a day crunching numbers, I don’t need to come back to something I had running overnight only to discover it was killed so MS could force another update. (It was amusing the first time someone’s presentation was killed/cut short by 10 suddenly deciding to update, but it gets old real quick.)

        With luck they’ll get someone in there with a clue and when they dial it up to 11 and give us just a working operating system – and not an advertising, spying, rent-and-never-own, run-only-what-we-allow control freak – then I might take a look again. As it is, if I wanted any part of a walled garden I’d go get a Mac.

      • I use Classic Shell. It got me through 8 and gets me through 10, both of which I detest. And in keeping with my general attitude that old is good, I hope PG never changes his theme.

      • Sorry, I forgot to add:

        In July, Windows 10 went from 35.71 percent to 36.58 percent, an increase of 0.87 percentage points. That’s down from the 0.97 percentage points it grew in June, but shows that the OS is still packing on share at a steady rate.

        In July Windows 7 lost 0.51 percentage points and now sits on 41.23 percent, just 4.65 percentage points ahead of the newer OS. ( )

        If the average user could still get new systems and pick between 7 and 10, 10 would sink into the ground clutter.

        • Agreed. Windows 10 is the reason I won’t buy a new computer at the moment. I’m just biding my time, hoping we get something from Microsoft that’s good enough before this computer fails. If not, I’m already starting on the switch from Office to LibreOffice in case I’m forced to Linux. The sad thing is, although I do really like Linux, it is Microsoft forcing me to choose it. I would rather stay with Windows, but I just hate Windows 10 and the invasive nature of the updates and setting reversions that most of the people I know who use it complain about. And that tile thing for a menu is hideous. All just my opinion though, and anyone who likes W10 is welcome to it.

          • Want to hear a good joke? I check this and a few other sites using one of those little Raspberry Pi 3B+ toys. (Amazon has a little ‘everything you need starter kit for $80 B07BCC8PK7 ) Add your keyboard/mouse HDMI TV/monitor and go (It does have built in WIFI if you don’t wish to use the eithernet connection.)

            Along with the chrome browser there’s LibreOffice suite 5 already loaded.

            Only drawback I’ve run across is you can’t be doing too many things on it at once – youtube videos start draging if you have a dozen other sites up at the same time.

    • As far as WHY Matt Mullenwig decided to take WordPress this direction, its because WordPress has steadily been losing marketshare to things like Wix, and the web is quickly stratifying into three basic categories. Personal Websites, Small Business Websites and Enterprise Websites.

      WordPress and Enterprise have a long history of not playing with each other, but WP dominated the other two categories for a very long time. Now, they are rapidly losing marketshare in Small Business to Page Builder sites, and for personal blogs, to Medium. Gutenberg provides a more Medium-like experience for Blogs out of the box, but I’m not sure it goes far enough for other types of sites. They still require a developer. And WP Page Builders such as Bakery and Elementor are lightyears ahead of Gutenberg.

      I’ve played around with Gutenberg, and installed Classic. Classic works to turn Gutenberg off, but eventually, they will do away with Classic as an option. Someone will write a plug in to bring it back, though.

      • I like Gutenberg. But I don’t really like change, so I find myself activating the plug-in and playing around a bit, then deactivating it. I don’t think I’ll complain very loudly when it becomes core, though. Even though I can write html, I like the visual aspects of Gutenberg. It does make some things easier, and it doesn’t really seem to affect how I write my long, rambling posts.

      • WordPress and Enterprise have a long history of not playing with each other

        Of course. I can’t imagine an enterprise-level business putting up with WordPress, but I always thought of WordPress as the go-to CMS for bloggers. I didn’t realize Medium was eating into their share (I only stumble across Medium posts when searching on a specific topic).

        But is Medium truly a viable alternative for blogging? You don’t own your content there, correct? There’s no way that could go wrong! Also, as a lurker, there’s something annoying about Medium’s commenting system. I’ve wondered if it would be as annoying to actually comment. And you can’t customize the look of the site. I’m not really sure WordPress and Medium are serving the same types of people.

        I’m wondering if WordPress is thinking that they’re the only game in town for true blogging, so the bloggers will just go along with Gutenberg. Even if they go kicking and screaming. I wish all of you WordPress users a soft landing.

        • You can create a ‘Publication’ in Medium which allows you to customize the look quite a bit, but publications are really supposed to be group efforts, think magazine.

          The worst part of Medium is that more and more of the interesting articles and writers are behind a membership paywall. Non-members get 3 of these special articles for free a month. People who write behind the paywall actually get paid a small amount [no idea how much].

          I enjoyed Medium for a while but ended up going back to WP because that’s where all my friends are.

      • I not too long ago moved my website from WordPress to Wix, and honestly, this news just makes me more glad that I did. Sounds like more needlessly complicated changes. Since I don’t like to pour a huge amount of time into learning web development, I like things to stay the same so I only have to learn them once.

    • Having seen the latest iteration of Windows 10 [on a friend’s laptop] I’m hanging on to 7 until my fingers turn to bone.

      This ‘upgrade’ of 10 is a reworking of 8 that takes away the desktop and replaces it with a ‘timeline’ of pure junk. I honestly don’t know how businesses expect to get any actual ‘work’ done with this piece of…-chokes and turns red-

      If push comes to shove, I’ll bite the bullet and take the plunge into Linux as well because Windows has turned into a tinker toy.

      I don’t think we’re clinging to the old so much as clinging to an interface that actually allowed us to accomplish /work/. The day I can write a book on my mobile phone, I may rethink my position, but I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon.

      • I can write a book on my phone. I sure as heck don’t want to! I really dislike the push to turn everything into a mobile site, even computers. I saw an ad today for Chromebook that started out “Do you wish your computer were more like your phone?”

        Uh, no. I want my computer to be a computer and my phone to be my mobile device, thank you very much.

      • I was puzzled about the timeline comment, so I went searching for what you’re referring to. Is the one at this link what you’re talking about?

        I have Windows 10 and I still have a normal desktop, but I did see that icon the link refers to on my taskbar. I shall now think of it as the Self Destruct Button. Thanks for the heads up.

        • Adding — I have no idea how long that icon has been on my taskbar. It must have been added during one of the nights when the computer restarted itself. Hmmm… I suppose they could remake “Poltergeist” with a heroine who doesn’t realize she has ghosts in her house because she thinks it’s just Microsoft “upgrading” her computer.

        • Yes, your link pretty clearly explains what it is and what it does. It’s just like the History listing in browsers: it lets you go back to an app + document condition you used recently. It lets you quickly switch not just to a currently open window but also to previously open windows.

          It is just an extension to the hoary old task switching alt-tab shortcut, albeit into the fourth dimension. 😉

          Desktop is still there, unchanged, if you choose to ignore the new tool. It’s just (optionally) more flexible than ever.

            • I have Win10 pro On one of my PCs, upgraded from Win7 Ultimate. That would be my home built desktop.

              The other three (tablet, laptop, and miniPC media Center) are all running Home. No difference in interface. They all act and behave the same by default.

              All got Timeline in April. I tried it but rarely use it since I use each box for a specific purpose.

              Corporate PCs are different because they are centrally administered and configured by the IT dept, who get to choose how Windows looks and works. You can’t necessarily judge other people’s Windows experience by what your IT department deploys to you because they have the ability to disable or lock-in specific features.
              Including the desktop.

              If IT chooses they can customize the Start Screen and force everybody to use it, disabling the desktop and even file manager. It is actually very useful in K-12 academic settings. Wouldn’t want children to access anything but what the adults allow, after all. And, as far as some IT dept are concerned, all users are children. 🙂

              And one of the features that corporate IT can and often do disable is automatic updates. Instead of MS being responsible for security and updates it becomes the IT department’s responsibility. Which makes sense: if they are deploying custom configurations with inhouse software they need to test to make sure the bug fixes don’t break their stuff. Or vice versa.

              • That makes sense about the IT department, but I’m still confused re the Home version you have. I’m assuming you’d have automatic updates turned off? I’ll be playing with the laptop again today so I’ll try and dig a little deeper. I have 10 on my laptop but as I very rarely use it, and have updates turned off, I can’t check it myself.

                • No. I don’t have auto update off.
                  That is only an option for corporate setups.
                  All I can control is when the updates get *applied*, not downloaded.
                  I can delay them but I can’t block them.
                  Not that I want to.

                  So far each update either fixes bugs or adds features.
                  Win10 has only gotten better: initially I used Classic Shell but I removed it. The Start Menu is back to its classic form and a it better after the updates. The old split control panel functionality is gone; the Settings apps now controls everything smoothly and pretty clearly.

                  Now, if you really want to stick with the current version, or the previous version (you can still roll back the last update since you got it less than a month ago) you could try this to disable the Windows Update service:


                  Not really recommended but to each their own.

        • No, that link is something different. I think I may have called the interface by the wrong name.:/

          My friend’s laptop was running Windows 10 Home & Student, and the desktop area was covered in small ‘windows’ to all sorts of junk like games and apps that you might find on a mobile phone [or the original 8]. To open a ‘real’ app. e.g. Word, you had to open the alphabetical listing of all ‘apps’. The list took up most of the desktop area. Couldn’t see any way to pin programs to the taskbar either.

  5. Gutenberg is unlikely to break anything on this site. Its not going to break Posts or Pages. There may be some plugins that it will interfere with, and it may interfere with Custom Post Types (like the various Book pages made by some plugins), but it will work flawlessly with basic WordPress.

    Basically, all of your existing content will be saved in an “HTML Block”. Now, NEW posts you makes with Gutenberg may have issues with this theme, if you try to do some of the fancier things that Gutenberg makes possible. But the issues will be weird margins and padding, nothing that would break this site.

  6. I use I’ve used for so long that I still have menu access to the classic Dashboard. I still use the classic Dashboard because it still has all the functionality that’s been dumbed down by the new ‘better’ interface.
    If Gutenberg dumbs things down again, WordPress may gain the swipers but it’ll lose a lot of the serious /bloggers/. -sigh-

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