Anyone who’s gone into the WordPress dashboard to create or edit content is familiar with the visual editor, a version of TinyMCE, that has been in use since the beginning. Now 15 year’s down the line, and the world is getting ready to switch to a new editor: Gutenberg.
Project Gutenberg was named after Johann Gutenberg, the 15th-century German inventor of movable-type mechanical printing in Europe. According to the WordPress team, “Gutenberg is more than an editor. It’s also the foundation that’ll revolutionise customisation and site-building in WordPress.”
When will the switch happen? When WordPress version 5.0 ships.
On November 9, 2018, WordPress’s Matias Ventura made it known that the release date is tentatively November 26, 2018; the day after Cyber Monday.
The new editor will transform how users create content. Instead of using one block of text as is currently the case, Gutenberg introduces reusable content blocks that allow you to create flexible, rich, layouts on blocks and pages.
Take a look at a WordPress admin dashboard today, and this is what the current editor looks like:
Below is what the Gutenberg editor looks like. You can see the types of blocks available when you click the plus sign to open the popup menu on the left: blocks for formatting, layouts, widgets, and embedding.
Also within the dashboard, Gutenberg gives you even more options for formatting and customising, as shown by the menu on the right of the page. For example, it will be possible to add a cover image complete with an overlay without using theme customisation or CSS. See the options on the right in the picture below:
There is an ongoing debate in the community about the pros and cons of Gutenberg, the release schedule, and the fact that it will break our (precious) WordPress sites. I bet many people are feeling quite anxious and holding their breath.
Sure, this will be a significant update to the WordPress core, changing the way we do things and affecting our favourite themes and plugins. However, Matt Mullenweg and crew have been working on this “disruption” for more than a year, and users have been testing the beta version.
No matter how unsmooth the transition might be, the good news is you can avoid or minimise disruption on your site. Preparation.
1. Update Your Themes and Plugins
Theme and plugin developers continuously release updates to ensure that their software is compatible with WordPress core and other plugins. With the impending major core update, missing an update means that your theme or plugin does not include Gutenberg-related enhancements. Get into your admin dashboard and update now!
2. Backup Your Site
I know many colleagues who rarely make a backup of their sites. Check with your hosting plan to see if it includes daily site backups. If not, back it up.
This can be done manually from your control panel aka cPanel, or by using a plugin like All-in-One WP Migration.
3. Test-Drive Gutenberg
Since version 4.9.8, WordPress has put out an invitation in your dashboard asking you to try the Gutenberg plugin, and you have the option to use for creating and editing posts and pages. You also had the option of disabling it. If it’s not in your dashboard, go ahead and download it.
Now is the time to activate Gutenberg and treat yourself to an orientation.
Isn’t it great when someone shows you around your new neighbourhood or campus and explains the do’s and don’ts? You don’t have to wait for 5.0 before you start learning how to use the new tools.
4. Download Classic Editor Plugin
Some kind souls in the community developed a free plugin that allows you to keep the current, classic editor as your default. If you choose this approach, you can carry on with the old editor even after the 5.0 update. Once you activate the plugin, you’ll have a new option in your Writing settings as shown in the image below.
5. Control Your WordPress Version
Still worried that the 5.0 update will happen at a time when you really don’t have the time to check on things? Make use of Easy Updates Manager plugin to choose when to install version 5.0. Once the plugin is activated, the settings are easy to configure.
As I said, this major core update might be a huge success; everything might run smoothly with no broken pages or mishaps. Just like Y2K, we may soon be wondering what the fuss was about.
True that, but I would rather err on the side of caution. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.