August Update

We are getting closer to the point when Gutenberg will be implemented in the core WordPress software. So far, it has simply operated as an optional plug-in for WordPress.org users during its development. This is an update on the current status. If you do not want chapter and verse then it can be briefly summarised as follows:

  • Gutenberg could appear from late August onwards, although I consider that November is a more likely date
  • there is still no clear information as to how a user can decide which editor he/she wants to use, assuming that there will be a choice.

Background on Latest Developments

Many of you will have worked on projects (not just IT) where management applied pressure to implement them sooner than would be wise, usually because they have made promises to clients or people further up the food chain. Gutenberg is a classic example of this phenomenon.

Matt Mullenweg, Mr. WordPress to all intent and purpose, decreed in an address to a conference of European WordPress users back in June that August would be the target date for implementing Gutenberg. Fatalists, such as myself, consider that this is not viable given the current state of the software, at least not without sacrificing reliability.

The Proposed Timetable

The original plan (not publicised) mentioned two more releases of WordPress 4.9: 4.9.7 at the end of July; and 4.9.8 around mid-September. On that basis WordPress 5.0 with Gutenberg installed might have appeared around early November. However, the following revised timetable was made public by Matt Mullenweg at the above-mentioned conference.

WordPress 4.9.7 was launched in early July. It was limited to a straightforward bug fix release although the original intention had been that it would include some functional changes.

WordPress 4.9.8 was due to be launched at the end of July. It was in fact launched on August 2nd. In summary, it includes:

  • a “Try Gutenberg” Call Out, i.e. it contains a screen to try to get you to give Gutenberg a try. What some people are calling a nag screen! Mullenweg’s objective is for 100K sites to try it in August, creating 250K posts / pages in the process.
  • An updated version of the current editor (TinyMCE)
  • Some fixes and minor changes to the privacy functionality that was launched back in May to support GDPR, although there are no new features in this area
  • 40+bug fixes

PS Jungle drumbeats mention the possibility of WordPress 4.9.9. Presumably, this is a backstop in case there are so many initial problems with Gutenberg when people try it out that they feel the need for an interim release to cure them before the big bang that will be version 5.0?

WordPress 5.0 is slated for ”August and beyond”. This will be the Gutenberg release. My money is on “beyond” .. November?

Latest Gutenberg News

Information on the latest Gutenberg features is given below, New development was effectively frozen in early July. Apart from minor changes the focus from that point onwards has been on testing.

Widget blocks. You may remember that these blocks allow widgets to be displayed in the main body of the screen, not just in a sidebar or footer as at present. Two additional widget blocks have been added: Post Archive and Recent Comments.

The Video block now has various settings: autoplay, loop, mute and displaying playback controls.

Inline image is a new block type. I have wittered before about the ability to have images alongside text, mainly because I make heavy use of this facility. After various debates on how this should be implemented they have now come up with this new type of block.

Columns (beta) block. I did not explain this very well last time. The Text Column block has been around since the first Gutenberg test version. As the name implies, it allows you to have multiple columns across the page. Columns (beta) is something quite different. It provides one or more containers across the page (currently limited to two), each of which can consist of multiple blocks. In essence it provides a nested block capability. The following picture shows a very simple example where there are two columns, each containing an image block followed by a heading block and a text block.

The main rationale for the Columns (beta) block is to provide tighter control over where individual pieces of content are displayed on the screen. I get the impression that this facility is liable to be subject to change. Why else would they call it beta?

Classic Editor Block. I mentioned last time that one option for users who adopt Gutenberg might be to limit its use to this type of block, the idea being that it will continue to give you the facilities of the current editor. On closer inspection there are a couple of things missing – there are currently no facilities to add an image or a contact form. I notice that the lack of these features has been pointed out to the developers. It remains to be seen if they do anything about them, at least in the short term.

Disabling Gutenberg. At least one person has developed a plug-in to disable Gutenberg and continue with the current editor. The one that I have seen is called the Classic Editor Block Addon. However, this option will only be available to WordPress.org users and to WordPress.com users who are on the Business Plan.

There is still no clear information as to how the use of Gutenberg / the current editor will be managed on a site by the user.

Apart from people on the Business Plan, WordPress.com users are still in the dark about Gutenberg and how it will impact them. In theory, any news should initially appear in the WordPress.com blog https://en.blog.wordpress.com/ In an odd way the lack of news may be good news. It is difficult to imagine that Automattic would spring a major change on their users overnight unless they will not be forced into using Gutenberg.

Some Useful Resources

https://testgutenberg.com/ allows you to have a play with the Gutenberg editor. It is based on version 3.0 of Gutenberg which was released in early June (3.4 is the current version).  If you hover over an area of the document the outline of that block will be displayed along with the type of block that it is. If you then click on the same spot the relevant editing buttons for that type of block will be shown just above the block itself. You can go ahead and edit the block if you wish. Do not click “the submit for review” button in the top right area of the screen.

The official Gutenberg information site is also supposed to let you play with the Gutenberg editor. At the time of writing it looks distinctly messy and I would not use it personally. I merely mention it in case they improve it and thereby make it a useful resource. Beware that if you access this link, at the time of writing you mostly get an empty screen. Click refresh to see the content.

https://youtu.be/P6CyTF32K2w is a four minute video introduction to Gutenberg. The delivery is a bit on the quick side for my personal taste (perhaps it is just my aging brain!) but it is worth a look.

Other WordPress News

Finally, several items which are probably not relevant to the majority of you, but I mention them here for completeness.

Unencrypted websites. Google continues to put pressure on sites to use encryption. Version 68 of the Chrome browser which has been rolled out from July 24th, 2018 will put a “not secure” message on the address bar line of all pages that are not encrypted. From October this message will appear in red. All WordPress.com sites are encrypted so this is not relevant to them. However, WordPress.org users will need an SSL certificate to encrypt their sites. This may come free from your ISP, or more likely you will have to pay for it.

Sharing options from WordPress.com to Facebook. It is no longer possible to share posts in WordPress.com with your Facebook account. Facebook no longer allows third-party tools to share posts to your Facebook profile. If you use the WordPress.com Publicize facility to share posts to your Facebook profile please read this article to see how you may be affected by this change.

Podcasts. WordPress.com now allows sites to host and manage their own podcasts. Further details can be found in this article.

Free stock photo library. WordPress.com has partnered with Pexels to provide access to stock images. The option will be found under the Add image button in the editor.