Before Upgrading to WordPress 5 And Gutenberg

GutenbergWordPress 5 with Gutenberg is due for release tomorrow on 6th December 2018. While many people, on WordPress.com and other hosted WordPress providers, will not have a say about upgrading, they can mitigate the effects somewhat by installing the Classic Editor:

Classic Editor Plugin

For those with control over their sites, you can choose to upgrade to WordPress 5 or not (some postings by Matt Mullenweg had suggested that upgrading would happen automatically, but a few posts have been made clarifying that this would not happen).

Much of the community is recommending holding off upgrading until 5.0.1 at the earliest and I strongly agree with this sentiment.

Any upgrade you do, should be on a staging environment first so that you can test to verify that your theme and plugins will all work correctly after the upgrade to WordPress 5.

Whenever you do upgrade your live website, I would recommend having a complete website upgrade (database and files), so that you can roll back if necessary, and test immediately after the upgrade has completed.

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What If Gutenberg for WordPress Doesn’t Work For Me?

GutenbergGutenberg is coming. Gutenberg is included in WordPress 5 which is slated for release on 6th December 2018. This is avoidable in the short term, by preventing WordPress upgrading or by upgrading and then installing the Classic Editor plugin, but this plugin has been announced as only supported until 31stDecember 2021. After this the Classic Editor will no longer be supported.

At this point you either need to switch to Gutenberg or find an alternative to WordPress.

That alternative might be another CMS, another blogging platform, or a WordPress fork.

I mention that last as a new WordPress fork called ClassicPress has been announced which I’ve been looking into and I think it has possibilities. I’ll have more posts soon on ClassicPress as I continue my investigation.

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What Happens To My Existing Posts When I Upgrade Gutenberg for WordPress?

GutenbergUpgrading to Gutenberg is not necessarily a choice that users of WordPress will make for themselves. If you’re hosted on WordPress.com or deployed your site via a web host, you will have little to zero say about when you upgrade.

Your existing posts will be editable via Gutenberg, and will show with the entire post in a single block; be very cautious about allowing Gutenberg to migrate them to blocks, as in my testing I have found this usually corrupts the post (this may be due to how I’ve created my posts, but the conversion appears to hate any styling.

You can revert to the standard experience, by installing the Classic Editor, but any migrated posts will remain changed. The Classic Editor will remain available via a plugin, but it has already been announced that it will only be supported until 31stDecember 2021. After this the Classic Editor will no longer be supported.

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What is Gutenberg (for WordPress)?

GutenbergDo you use WordPress? Are you Gutenberg ready? Do you know what Gutenberg is?

For many people who would answer yes to the first question, I think there are probably many who would answer the second question I pose above, by asking (my third question) “what is Gutenberg?”

I’ve been aware of Gutenberg for quite a while now, as I am a hobbyist WordPress plugin developer, but it has been down my list of things to deal with.

Unfortunately, while I am still not ready due to other things I need to deal with, it’s time for decisions to be made. “Why?”, you ask; because Gutenberg is almost here.

Ok, time for a definition:

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. – Kinsta.com

This definition is a fairly common one that you will see; stating that Gutenberg is a new editor.

But, this isn’t actually accurate. Gutenberg as an editor, is phase one of the implementation of Gutenberg in WordPress. Introduced initially as a plugin, the description of the plugin starts with this:

Gutenberg is more than an editor. While the editor is the focus right now, the project will ultimately impact the entire publishing experience including customization (the next focus area). – Gutenberg Plugin

When WordPress 5.0 rolls out, it has just hit Release Candidate status, but the release date for the final is now not known, Gutenberg will become the default editor as it is rolled into the core of WordPress and ceases to be a plugin. Gone will be the old editor, unless you choose to install the Classic Editor plugin. This will only buy you a certain amount of time though, as that plugin is only officially supported up to the end of 2021. However, in the three years until then, later phases of Gutenberg will be created and integrated into the core of WordPress which will further change the experience.

And as the statement above shows, it will impact on every aspect of the publishing experience including customisation.

My big issue with Gutenberg (actually I have several), is that it mixes content with structure. In a later post, I’ll expand further on this. I’ll also do some other posts around Gutenberg including on blocks (going to be important) and the actual experience.

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WordPress and the Problem With Gutenberg

WordPressI’ve already posted about the problems I’ve encountered testing the Gutenberg Editor, which basically makes it unsable to me.

However, the problems go far beyond this as you can install the Classic Editor to retain the current functionality. The problem for the future, is that Gutenberg is not intended to simply be an editor, but a fundamentally new paradigm for site building with WordPress.

This appears to be a reaction from Automattic (the company behind WordPress.com and which controls WordPress.org) to the progress of Wix and Squarespace.

Gutenberg is intended to become WordPress’s answer to competition by these site builders, but, very unfortunately, this development seems to be driven by commercial pressures on Automattic for WordPress.com and without considering the needs of the wider WordPress community.

I am at the starting point of considering replacements for WordPress (on which I host several sites) as Gutenberg is unusable in current form and, from all appearances, Automattic is all in and will continue to rush forward with Gutenberg (there has been a number of, ignored, requests to delay the implementation of Gutenberg phase 1 in WordPress 5).

There is a very good, and long, write-up of the details and potential impact of Gutenberg on Delicious Brains.

From a personal point of view, I have two issues:

  1. I can no longer write posts the way I do, and from what I’ve seen so far, can’t post formatted code which works using Gutenberg. This means I can only use WordPress for as long as the Classic Editor is supported; which from the announcement will be until 2021 at the latest.
  2. I’ve added a lot of functionality to my sites by writing Plugins for WordPress (although not all of the plugins I rely upon have been released publicly); from my reading up on Gutenberg, much of the functionality I rely on in plugins for WordPress cannot be replicated easily in Gutenberg blocks and, if they can, will rely on me learning more development languages which I don’t have time for as things stand.

I have an issue to resolve with my web host in the next few days after which I’ll start taking a look at some alternatives. ClassicPress is a key one that I’ll be taking a look at, as it is a fork of WordPress 4.9 aimed at businesses and recently reached Beta release.

Gutenburg Editor Makes WordPress 5 Unusable (For Me) Without Classic Editor Plugin

WordPressIn the last post I noted that WordPress 5 would ship with Gutenburg as the defailt and highlighted how you could avoid this by installing the Classic Editor plugin.

I’ve been doing some additional testing, and I’ve discovered that Gutenberg will make it impossible for me to blog the way I currently do. I include a lot of screenshots and code samples in my posts, and Gutenberg is not allowing me to format posts as I do now.

Not only does Gutenberg force more clicks of the mouse to do standard tasks when creating a post, it is also stripping out the majority of the formatting I have in my posts.

As I use a lot of images and code samples, I write my posts in Notepad++, for word completion and syntax highlighting, and then paste into WordPress. When I do this, it either strips out the HTML formatting or removes it entirely. The same happens whether I am pasting into a normal block or an HTML edited block.

The posts I’ve tested with have ended up unreadable due to this.

While I can upgrade to WordPress 5, I can only do so if I also install the Classic Editor plugin.

WordPress 5 Releases With Gutenberg Editor As Default: How to Keep/Get Classic Editor Back

WordPressGutenberg has been available for a while as a buggy plugin for WordPress, but when WordPress 5 launches it will include Gutenberg in the core.

I’ve been testing my plugins against WordPress 5 and have had a try of Gutenberg.

My first impression was that it was very poor; I left it for a while and tried again and I’ve changed my opinion to horrific. It may be usable to non-technical people with no experience of WordPress (I’m not one of them so can’t judge that), but for someone like myself, Gutenberg just seems to hide everything away. Also on the hugely negative side, it adds a huge amount of unnecessary comments to a post.

The only positive is that the Classic Editor is still be available as a plugin:

Classic Editor Plugin

If you install the Classic Editor plugin prior to installing WordPress 5, it should remain the default editor even after the upgrade.

I do have concerns about the Classic Editor being shunted into a plugin and only updated until 2021.