This set of FAQs is aimed at individuals who might describe themselves as modest WordPress users who may not have not been keeping up with the development of Gutenberg. It is not aimed at expert users.
I have penned it because I have not found a succinct summary of the options that are available to existing WordPress users of the TinyMCE editor (which has been at the heart of WordPress for many years) now that WordPress 5 and the Gutenberg editor (aka the new block editor) have been released. Note that the old editor is now referred to as the classic editor.
I will maintain the information in this post until such time as somebody writes a better summary. Feedback on errors, omissions et cetera is welcome.
PS I have now found some frequently asked questions in the WordPress.com support pages.
The article is split up, as follows:
- WordPress.org users
- WordPress.com users
Last updated on 22nd August, 2020.
What is the Classic Editor?
Prior to WordPress 5, the TinyMCE software was used as the editor. With the advent of WordPress 5 it is now generally referred to as the Classic Editor. I will use the Classic Editor term from now on in these FAQs.
What is Gutenberg?
Gutenberg is the name of the project which developed the new block editor in WordPress. In essence, all content is split into blocks; there are text blocks, image blocks, embedded blocks .. everything is a block. The first test version (0.1) of Gutenberg appeared in June 2017, and at the time of writing we are on version 5.3. The software was initially implemented as a plugin which WordPress.org users could incorporate into their sites to try out.
What is in WordPress 5.0?
In late 2018 Gutenberg was incorporated into the core WordPress software. This was a Major Major Major Major change (apologies for the frivolity – people of a certain age may know who he is!? .. no looking it up in a search engine!). Version 5.0 was released to WordPress.org users on 6 December, 2018, and WordPress.com users started to see it two weeks later.
Why does WordPress.com not mention WordPress 5.0?
Automattic, the owners of WordPress.com, tend not to mention versions of WordPress. They also tend to use the term “new block editor” rather than Gutenberg.
What if I do not want to install WordPress 5?
There is no reason why you have to install it. There may be valid reasons not to, e.g. you want to wait until you are confident that it is stable; or you may be using plugins that are not yet compatible with WordPress 5. Whatever the reason, there is no pressure at this time to move from WordPress 4 to 5.
Can I stay on WordPress 4 and just use the Gutenberg plugin?
This is not recommended. The plugin will continue to exist but it will be used in the development of Gutenberg V2 when widgets and navigation menus will be turned into blocks. So, it will not be stable, apart from possibly introducing unwanted effects.
What preparation do I need to do prior to installing WordPress 5?
The minimum preparation should be to check that your theme and plugins are compatible with WordPress 5.
What if I am happy to install WordPress 5 but I do not want to use the Gutenberg editor?
There is a Classic Editor plugin. If you install it, this will ensure that you continue to use the Classic Editor which will be supported until at least December 2021. At the time of writing, more than 4 million users have installed this plugin.
Do I have to convert all my content to Gutenberg?
This assumes that you intend to embrace Gutenberg and its features. It is important to realise that all existing content will be correctly rendered on your website without you doing anything. For example, there is no need to do anything with old posts that are never going to be altered. So, the answer is no.
How do I convert a post or page to Gutenberg?
When you open a post or page for the first time in the Gutenberg editor the content will be contained within a single block, called a Classic Block. This acts just like the Classic Editor with one or two exceptions. If you wish, you can keep it as a single Classic Block within Gutenberg. Alternatively, you can convert it into multiple native Gutenberg blocks. To do this, click on the three dots icon that is on the toolbar which is related to the Classic Block and select the “Convert to Blocks” option.
What if I want to mix and match the Gutenberg and Classic Editors on a per individual post or page basis?
This is not possible. Gutenberg will act as the editor unless you have installed the Classic Editor plugin. The only option within Gutenberg is to keep the post or page as a Classic Block, thus allowing you to edit it using the features of the Classic Editor.
What does the WordPress.com blog (dated August 13th, 2020) relating to the classic editor experience mean?
Read it for yourself. It appears to be saying that WordPress.com users will shortly be forced to use the new block editor. However, they can continue to use the classic editor functionality by using the classic block. In essence, when you open a post or page in the new block editor for the first time your content will be contained in a single classic block. If you want to use all the block editor facilities then you would use the “convert to blocks” function at that point. However, if you want to continue to use the classic editor functionality then you simply leave it as a classic block.
In summary, it appears that you are being forced to use the framework of the new block editor, but you can continue to use the classic editor functions if you so wish.
If and when this change occurs, the following questions which relate to the use of the classic editor will no longer be relevant, as it will no longer be available.
What if I do not wish to install WordPress 5?
WordPress.com is a hosted service and you have no control over which version of WordPress that you use. You will be using WordPress 5, whether you know it or not.
What if I do not wish to use Gutenberg?
So long as you do not click on anything that encourages you to switch to the new block editor (or to try it out) then you will continue with the Classic Editor. It has been stated that the Classic Editor will be supported until at least December 2021.
Can I control which will be the default editor?
If you are a new user (post 19 December 2018?) then Gutenberg will probably be your default editor. If you are an existing user then the Classic Editor will be your default editor unless you switch to Gutenberg. At the time of writing this switch can be done in two places: in the panel at the top of the editor screen which is invoked via the wp-admin dashboard; or in the three dots settings options (top right-hand corner of the editor screen) if you are using Calypso.
Can I switch back to the Classic Editor?
Yes. However, beware that there are no guarantees that any block editor features that you may have used (and saved) will work with the Classic Editor.
The switch option can be found in the Gutenberg editor screen by clicking on the three dots icon (near the top right corner of the WordPress window). The “Switch to Classic Editor” option is at the bottom of the list. Beware that this option may be hidden (off the bottom of the screen) if the window size is too small or the font size in use is too large to display all the options in the list. If it is hidden you can now (from WordPress 5.3) scroll down the list. This was previously a bug which I had reported.
Can I mix and match the Gutenberg and Classic Editors on a per individual post or page basis?
Yes if Gutenberg is the default editor and you use the wp-admin dashboard. It is not currently possible if you use Calypso. In the wp-admin dashboard:
- creating a new post with the Classic Editor. Do not click on add post in the wp-admin dashboard, as that will bring up the Gutenberg editor. Click All posts instead, and select Classic Editor from the Add New dropdown box at the top left of the screen (as shown on the left).
- If you are editing an existing post and Gutenberg is the default editor then clicking on the name will bring up the Gutenberg editor. However, hovering on the line below the name will display various options, including the Classic Editor, if you want to use it rather than Gutenberg. See the screenshot below.
Do I have to convert all my content to Gutenberg?
This assumes that you intend to embrace Gutenberg. It is important to realise that all existing content will be correctly rendered on your website without you doing anything. For example, there is no need to do anything with old posts that are never going to be altered. So, the answer is no.
How do I convert a post or page to Gutenberg?
The process is slightly different, depending on whether you are using the wp-admin dashboard or Calypso.
Wp-admin dashboard. When you open a post or page for the first time in Gutenberg the content will be contained within a single block, called a Classic Block. This acts just like the Classic Editor with one or two exceptions, e.g. there is no insert contact form option. If you wish, you can keep it as a single Classic Block within Gutenberg. Alternatively, you can convert it into multiple native Gutenberg blocks. To do this, click on the three dots icon that is on the toolbar which is related to the Classic Block and select the “Convert to Blocks” option.
Calypso. When you open a post or page for the first time in Gutenberg you will get a message asking you if you want to convert the content to blocks or not. If you answer in the affirmative then the conversion will be done. If you click on cancel the content will be displayed as a single Classic Block, and you will have the features of the Classic Editor. You can convert it into multiple native Gutenberg blocks at some later date if you wish. To do this, click on the three dots icon that is on the toolbar which is related to the Classic Block and select the “Convert to Blocks” option.
Do I need to check the results after I have converted a post or page into blocks?
Yes. It may be necessary to do some manual changes. What follows is a list of issues that I have discovered with the converter. It is obviously not meant to be a comprehensive list, and some of them may disappear as (and when) changes are made to the converter:
- images will probably need to be resized
- slideshows on WordPress.com did not get converted in 5.0. I do not know if this is still true. If it is then you will need to recreate your gallery. Note that there is now a slideshow block which you will find in the Jetpack list of blocks.
- any handcrafted HTML tables are converted to table blocks. However, beware the following
- images in table cells are not supported
- each column is the same width which may not be appropriate
- empty cells are not converted, and can screw up (technical term) the appearance of the table.
- if you have an image alongside text you will probably find that they have been decoupled, i.e. the text appears underneath the image. To couple them, align the image to the left or right depending on which side you want the image to reside.
Please contact me if you have any queries. I would also appreciate it if you could let me know if you discover any information which is now out of date.