On June 1 we’ll be retiring our older WordPress.com editor and transitioning to the more recent (and more powerful) WordPress block editor. Want to know how this may affect your site and what you can expect? Read on.
Reading on only confused the hell out of me. Are they going to remove the Classic Editor on June 1st?!
One of the subsequent comments / replies finally clarified what they mean ..
Comment – As long as I can still fire up and use the Classic Editor, I’m fine . . .
. . . but this post is a bit confusing in that regard.
You open with saying you’ll be retiring the old editor on June 1st.
You then make the exaggerated claim we’ll love the block editor (I don’t know any blogger that loves it; I certainly don’t). The most asked question I get is how to fire up the Classic Editor.
You close the post with saying we can still use the classic editor.
What am I missing? What are you retiring on June 1st? Bottom line: are you keeping the classic editor or are you about to make many users unhappy?
Yes, yes, I’m not supposed to ask questions here . . . but then, why post at all?
Reply – Thanks for asking! Sorry for the confusion. To clarify, there are currently three editors available on WP.com. The older editor that we’re retiring looks like this: https://a.cl.ly/L1u7ldwB The two editors that will remain are the block editor which looks like this: https://a.cl.ly/BluZe4w5 and the classic editor, which looks like this: https://a.cl.ly/L1u7ldNK
To explain in words that I can understand .. at the time of writing, in addition to the new Block Editor, WordPress.com has two different front-ends which relate to pre-block editor times: the original vanilla-flavoured version where the dashboard has white text on a black background; and an “improved” version called Calypso (although that name is seldom used in any of their material) that was introduced in 2015. This newsletter includes images of both front-ends.
In essence, new WordPress.com users from around 2016 were presented with the Calypso interface, while older users usually had a choice of either.
This was all before the introduction of the new Block Editor in late 2018. The dashboard for the Block Editor is based on Calypso.
Their blog is effectively saying that it is Calypso which is being retired. This will leave the original front-end, now known as the Classic Editor, and the Block Editor.
The question is .. what will Calypso users see on June 1st, 2020? My money is on the Block Editor in an attempt to get them to transfer to it. If this happens then click on the three dots icon (near the top-right-hand corner), scroll down to the bottom of the menu and click on “Switch to Classic Editor” if you do not wish to use the Block Editor.
I will check to see what actually happens on June 1st, and make any necessary modifications to this post.
Just for information. There were two maintenance releases back in December 2019, 5.3.1 and 5.3.2, which comprised a small number of security and bug fixes.
Several recent changes have been made to WordPress.com which are not part of the Gutenberg project.
My Home is displayed on the Calypso interface after you have clicked on My Site(s) as part of the login process. It contains a number of quick links which allow faster access to various parts of the system.
Page Layouts. When you add a new page you will now be presented with a screen which allows you to pick a layout for it. I would personally call it a template, but WordPress uses that term in a different context. There is quite a wide range of layouts. If you are not interested in any of them then simply select the blank layout. This blog describes the feature in more detail.
WordPress.com Block Editor UI Redesign
This appeared in my WordPress.com account last Thursday (March 26th, 2020). The general layout looks more professional. It includes redesigned icons, better spacing, text colour options and a range of initial block patterns that can be incorporated into posts / pages. See the relevant blog for more information.
I must admit that I am confused with the timing of this introduction. The features recently appeared in Gutenberg 7.7 which, when you read the section below on the WordPress 5.4 release, you will see is post WordPress 5.4?!
WordPress 5.4 Release
The latest version of WordPress was released to WordPress.org users on March 31st, 2020. It will follow shortly on WordPress.com. It incorporates 10 Gutenberg development releases, from 6.6 to 7.5.
FYI – Gutenberg releases appear approximately once a fortnight. They are mainly for internal use by the WordPress developers although they are available as a plugin on WordPress.org for anybody who is brave enough to play with it (but this is absolutely not recommended for typical users or for use on production sites).
WordPress 5.4 could be best described as a release which concentrates on polishing the block editor. It includes:
A new Social Icons block which allows you to incorporate links to multiple social media sites by using their standard logos. This is the sort of thing that you see on many websites nowadays, viz. a row of social media icons
The revised Buttons block now allows you to set up multiple adjacent buttons
Various updates to the ongoing accessibility and privacy projects
Full screen mode in the block editor is now the default on a new WordPress installation or on a new device. This means that the sidebars to the left and right of the display of the post / page are not shown. If you do not like this setup (and I do not) then you can change it by clicking on the three dots menu item in the top right-hand corner and un-checking the full screen mode.
A quick reminder on the overall Gutenberg project. It is said that it will consist of four phases:
Introduction of the block editor in phase 1
Expansion of the block editor to encompass other parts of the system in phase 2, e.g. menus, widget areas and the Customiser
Collaboration and multi-user editing in phase 3
And multilingual support in phase 4.
We are currently in phase 2, and tentative dates for further releases in 2020 are August for WordPress 5.5 and December for WordPress 5.6. I consider that this phase will probably go into 2021. Obviously, any talk of dates is purely speculative at the moment, given the COVID-19 virus.
It might be useful to know that work on the various aspects of phase 2 goes on in parallel. Decisions on what will be incorporated in any given release depend on the stability of the relevant software at the time, and on whether it fits coherently into the overall design at the time. For example, the navigation block (the menu in old money) was considered to be ready to go into 5.4. However, it did not fit coherently into the current design, and so it has been put on one side for the moment.
Work on the full-site editing feature continues. A prototype was developed back in September 2019 if you want to take a look at how it might possibly appear. I suspect that it will be WordPress 5.6, probably later, before it is likely to be released.
The block directory, a home for third-party blocks, is currently planned for inclusion in WordPress 5.5. It will primarily be for use by WordPress.org users.
The ability for WordPress.org users to control the automatic updating of plugins and themes is also slated for WordPress 5.5.
Finally, XML Sitemaps can be used by search engines to discover the content on a website with less fuss. A WordPress prototype, implemented as a plugin, has recently been developed. Presumably, it will eventually appear in the core WordPress product at some point.
Here are some notes if you have an interest in this subject:
The majority of the current development work in this area tends to relate to the use of the WordPress software, not to the website that you create / update. In addition, any new features are likely to be limited to use with the new block editor, not with the classic editor
However, there is a WordPress project which has been set up to look at accessibility on websites. Their Accessibility Handbook may provide some useful information
There is a theme review team which checks new themes for various things, including accessibility. If a theme passes the checks in this area then it is deemed “accessibility ready”. This relates to the theme itself, not necessarily to the website that you design with it
A visit to Martins restaurant became one of the highlights of our festival visits. It was situated in an unprepossessing street off Rose Lane (Rose Lane North) that you were only likely to find by accident if you did not know that it was there. I am not aware that it was widely advertised, relying mainly on recommendations by word of mouth. The Good Food Guide, as guides are prone to do I am afraid, provided a somewhat dry description of the place which in no way did it justice.
It attracted more than its fair share of celebrities; I read that Kofi Annan, replete with bodyguards, dropped in during the G8 summit. It was a relatively small and intimate place which was owned and run by Martin and Gay Irons, an extremely pleasant and unassuming couple. The emphasis was on the use of high quality ingredients; a scallop dish that we had there was among the top two or three scallop dishes that we have had anywhere. Overall, the food was of a high standard and the wine list perfectly satisfactory. Service was excellent, being attentive without being intrusive, as it is in too many restaurants today where the emphasis seems to be on getting you in and out of the door as quickly as possible.
The pièce de résistance was what we fondly remember as “Martin’s Cheese Show” – they specialised in unpasteurized Scottish and Irish cheeses. On earlier visits we had always been limited for time, rushing between shows, and consequently we never had time for a dessert. However, we eventually managed to organise ourselves so that we could spend a more leisurely couple of hours over the meal. The restaurant was fairly full on the evening in question, but we were first to get to the dessert stage having been the earliest couple to arrive. Being a cheese lover my choice was a foregone conclusion. Martin carefully threaded his way between the tables with the cheese trolley and the show, for that is what it was, commenced.
It took over 10 minutes, as he put on a captivating and frequently amusing performance on a subject that was very obviously a passion. He started with the Irish cheeses, introducing us to the likes of: Cooleeneye – made by Breda Maher in County Tipperary – he even produced a picture of Bridget the cow, one of the Kerry herd (although we did notice that Bridget seemed to change over the years!); and Ardrachan – made by Mary Burns in County Cork. Moving to Scotland, he introduced Lanark Blue, regaling us with the story of how the maker, Humphrey Errington, was unsuccessfully pursued by the “cheese police” – a tale of failed attempts to outlaw so called dangerous, i.e. unpasteurized, cheeses. Errington’s Revenge, Martin’s name for an evil-looking, life-threatening cheese, eventually brought the show to a conclusion.
I had noticed that, as the performance proceeded, other diners gradually started to listen in, until by the end the whole room seemed to be in rapt attention, all equally enthralled by the performance, so much so that every table appeared to have at least one person that plumped for the cheese, and of course they were each treated to a performance of Martin’s show. We sampled the show on subsequent visits and never tired of it. And yes – the cheeses were excellent. If you are a cheese lover then a visit to one of Mellis’s excellent cheese emporia is essential, as some of the above-mentioned cheeses can be found there.
I originally penned this piece around 2005. Unfortunately, the restaurant no longer exists. A great loss. I have resurrected this content, along with other items that come under the title of Edinburgh Memories.
We struck gold in our first year at the Edinburgh Festival when we picked Sibbet House from The Which Guide to Bed & Breakfasts, using that well-renowned and virtually infallible method of selection, “eeny meeny miny mo”. It was run by Aurora and Jim Sibbet.
When Janet rang to inquire whether there were any rooms available at the inn, we were fortunate to find that there was just one left. As repeated in the glossy literature that subsequently arrived, Jim promised over the phone to play the bagpipes at breakfast – but we went anyway.
The house had a wonderful hanging staircase that elegantly snaked its way up to the top floor. It was beautifully decorated and furnished by Aurora. The highlight was a French style drawing room that looked like something straight out of one those country mansions where visitors are allowed to look but not to touch. Well, the room was for use by the guests although we sat down very gingerly on the first occasion that we eventually managed to summon up the courage to cross the threshold.
The highlight was breakfast. Jim was “front of house”, with Aurora acting as the chef. He was an assiduous host, deciding on the seating arrangements, and ensuring that he introduced the guests to each other. He used any foible or relevant point of interest to break the ice, along with the occasional subtle sales pitch: “these are the Cohens, Susan and Cal from Washington DC, festival aficionados who have been staying with us for the last 15 years”.
Service was punctuated with: keen observations such as American guests’ use of cutlery – what are they doing with the other hand?; frequent demonstrations of his encyclopedic knowledge of bus routes for those requiring directions; taking bookings for bagpipe recitals after breakfast; and recommendations on places to eat, usually to the north of Princes Street, as he proclaimed that the Old Town was “foreign parts”.
This was followed by the daily joke, two if you were lucky, delivered in a dry style, perhaps accompanied by an anecdote or apocryphal tale. This could be followed by: a lesson in business; reviews of the shows that Aurora and he had seen the previous day; the role of organised religion in modern society (well in any society actually); plus totally unbiased views on the political scene (?!). They were all among the many topics in his catholic repertoire. It was always important to ensure that requests for extra toast were made between topics, so as not to disrupt the flow.
There were occasional references to the chef, protesting that, while he had been married to her for over 40 years, it was never going to last. Aurora’s arrival on completion of her duties in the kitchen was always the signal for a more in-depth discussion of the festival.
There was no discrimination: people of all nationalities, religions, political hues – even “woolly liberals” as he called us (for several years we used to sport a “Friends of the Earth” bag for carrying our bits and pieces around during the day) – were welcomed and encouraged to participate in the performance. His virtuoso routine was typically completed in around 45 minutes, but those who were acquainted with Jim, as we came to be, knew that we had only to toss an appetizing snippet into the air on one of his other little specialist subjects to get the performance extended to an hour, possibly more: Human Resources (a job in one of his previous existences); the effectiveness of Edinburgh City Council – discuss; shocking changes in local architecture; or his latest property acquisition were all staple items.
It was only the fact that the breakfast dishes were gradually disappearing around us, being quietly removed by a patient member of staff who had probably heard enough over the years to make a passable stand-in for Jim should the need arise, that we were eventually forced to face the day, and we departed to see some shows, have a few beers and a bite to eat, all to help kill the next 23 hours until it was time to experience this coup de theatre all over again.
This piece was written about 15 years ago, as part of our general Edinburgh experiences. I have resurrected it in honour of Jim Sibbet who is approaching his 90th birthday.
WordPress Version 5.2 was launched back in May 2019. Three minor versions (5.2.1 through to 5.2.3) subsequently followed at intervals, consisting mainly of bug fixes with the occasional enhancement. 5.2.4, a security fix release, appeared a month ago.
The latest major version, 5.3, has just been made available to WordPress.org users on November 12th, 2019. It will follow shortly to WordPress.com users. The main focus of this release is to polish current interactions and to make the user interface more friendly. A new theme, Twenty Twenty, is included in the release.
Development continues with new versions appearing every
fortnight as Gutenberg plugins (Gutenberg being the project name). Gutenberg versions
5.4 through to 6.5 have been incorporated into WordPress 5.3, along with bug
fixes and performance enhancements in 6.6 and 6.7 Changes include:
Improved handling of large images which have been uploaded via a camera. WordPress will now reduce the size of big images to a default of 2560 pixels.
The cover block now supports a greater range of nested blocks. It also has a resizing option and the ability to have a solid colour background, as an alternative to an image.
The group block supports the concept of nested blocks. A group can be saved as a reusable block.
The columns block includes various improvements: up to 7 columns in a block; the ability to size individual columns; and support for colour.
Typewriter experience keeps the user’s place on the screen by automatically scrolling down appropriately as he types, thus avoiding the problem of typing right at the bottom of the screen, or even worse beyond the bottom when you cannot see what you are typing.
A Social Links block has been introduced
Widgets. There are now 9 widget blocks which can be incorporated into the main content area of a page or post: calendar, latest posts, categories, search, shortcode, archives, latest comments, RSS and tag cloud. The idea of legacy widgets in blocks which was being mooted appears to have been dropped.
Site admin email verification. This new screen will
be displayed once every 6 months. It has been introduced because of problems
where sites do not keep this email address up to date, resulting in important
emails not being delivered to the current site admin.
Page templates. I have recently discovered on my WordPress.com account which runs the block editor that “add new page” now produces a display of various possible page templates that can be used. As I am not interested in any of them, I simply select the blank template.
Discouraging search engines. The method employed to keep a site secret, where this was required by the site owner, was only moderately successful. A change has been made to make it more likely that search engines will not display such sites.
Improved date / time component handling.
Site Health Check (WordPress.org users). Further
features have been added.
(WordPress.org users). PHP 7.4,
which is due out shortly, will be supported.
version 5.3 includes a lot of bug fixes and minor changes, generally making the
product more reliable, while ironing out some of the idiosyncrasies.
Accessibility improvements for WordPress users. There are 50 updates in this area, including improved media controls, darker field borders and improved button styles.
My experiences with
the block editor
I have been using the new block editor on my own website (bkthisandthat.org.uk) and on several other sites since January 2019. I have discovered a couple of minor bugs which I have reported, but I have generally found it to be stable.
My only concern at the present time is with tables. Before the block editor the user had to handcraft HTML tables. There is now a table block. However, HTML tables with empty cells or images will not convert correctly to a table block. The table block itself is somewhat rudimentary. In particular, it does not allow column widths to be specified, nor does it allow an image in a table cell.
I have dabbled with the media and text block and with the columns block. Neither is perfect at the current time. The media and text block does not appear to adhere to the margins that are used in the theme, at least not in my theme. The columns block is just about usable.
What will be next?
Gutenberg development has four phases:
the block editor
collaboration, allowing multiple users to co-edit content in real time
Phase two (customisation) is currently in progress which includes headers, footers, menus and sidebars. A proposed design under the umbrella title of “full site editing” was put forward in September where these various elements, as well as the main content section, are each called block areas. The block editor would be able to display all block areas, just as a post or page might appear on the screen, and to work on any of them. Alternatively, a specified block area could be displayed on its own and worked on. At a very rough guess, it is likely to be mid-2020 before such a major change appears, always assuming that the idea is carried forward.
Auto-updating old versions (WordPress.org users). WordPress supplies security fixes back as far back as version 3.7, which was launched in October 2013. However, the effort required to support these old versions is an ever-growing problem. It is now proposed that, unless they deliberately opt out, old WordPress.org sites will be automatically updated (one version at a time) until they are on version 4.7. There has been much animated debate on this subject. It remains to be seen if the proposal will be adopted.
WordPress Version 5.2, was made available on May 7, 2019. In summary, the functional enhancements in this release are mainly aimed at WordPress.org users although work has also gone into improving the general block editor experience. The changes will be incorporated into WordPress.com shortly, where appropriate.
The Block Editor (aka
Another wodge of widgets now have block versions.They are: RSS, Amazon Kindle embed, search, calendar and tag cloud
In addition, a legacy widget block has been introduced. This will allow you to incorporate widgets that were developed for old WordPress (pre-version 5) into blocks. However, I note that it is described as “experimental” at the moment
The cover page block now acts as a container which can contain multiple blocks. For example, it may have three blocks: a title, a paragraph of text, and a button, as well as the cover image itself
Disabling / enabling blocks. This is called block management. It is probably aimed at WordPress.org users who have incorporated collection(s) of third-party blocks into their system. For example, they may have installed a collection of blocks that includes a gallery feature. They only want the gallery feature and are not interested in the other blocks. They can disable those unwanted blocks to reduce the memory requirement
Performance improvements, particularly reducing the time taken to load large posts / pages.
Site Health Project (WordPress.org
This is an ongoing project, principally for WordPress.org
users. WordPress version 5.2 includes Improved Fatal Error Protection which
aims to catch serious errors before they produce the “white screen of death”,
allowing a login to admin to potentially resolve the problem.
In addition, there are two new pages in the admin interface (under
tools) that allow you to check out the health of your site via a number of
This subject seems to trundle on and on! 5.6 is now the
minimum version of PHP that can run WordPress. However, as I have mentioned
before, the PHP people only support version 7.0 and above. Unless there are
mitigating circumstances WordPress.org users should be on version 7.0 or above.
WordPress 5.2 will not now be installed on your site if you
are not on PHP 5.6 or greater. This minimum version requirement is likely to go
up to 7.0 before the end of the year .. famous last words!
Similarly, WordPress will now check that any installed
plugin is compatible with the version of PHP that you have installed. If it is
not then the plugin will not be activated.
WordPress version 5.2 includes a lot of bug fixes and minor
changes, generally making the product more reliable, while ironing out some of
Other Recent Changes
The following items are not related to the version 5.2
release, per se.
If you use the
Calypso interface, you may have noticed that they have just changed the
layout of the menu system
form. I said some months back that there was no facility within
Wordpress.com to add a contact form in the new block editor. A form block has
now been added (not sure precisely when it appeared)
dashboard colour schemes are available .. if you are in to that sort of
Fyi – it
is no longer possible to purchase a
custom domain if you are only using the free plan. Individuals who
previously did so are not affected by this change.
My experiences with
the block editor
I have been using the new block editor on my own website
(bkthisandthat.org.uk) and on the Ascot Volunteer Bureau website since January
2019. I have found it to be stable. The current issues for me are:
Slideshows are not currently supported in blocks
The table block is not particularly satisfactory
at the moment (although there are workarounds)
The converter (from classic editor format to blocks)
annoyingly decouples an image and the adjacent text (where they are side by
side), although they can easily be re-coupled.
There is no pressure at this time for users to convert to
the block editor. As I said last time, it has been stated that the Classic
Editor will be supported until December 2021. Perhaps the end of this year may
be a useful time to assess the current state of play and possibly consider converting.
What is coming up?
Sidebars and footers.
It is important to realise that the implementation of widget blocks thus far
has been limited to their use in the main body of the screen. What has not been
mentioned is the use of widgets in sidebars and footers where we have
historically used them. WordPress has now issued a Blocks in Widget Areas RFC
(Request for Comments). This means that they have a draft design for handling
widgets in sidebars and footers, and they are asking for some feedback before
continuing. It may be late summer or autumn before any agreed design is
Navigation Menu. Work
continues on the Implementation of the navigation menu as a block, but it is
unclear to me where they are with this. They were struggling to agree on a
design when last I heard.
Block directory. As
mentioned earlier, third-party blocks are currently installed as plugins,
usually in collections that consist of multiple blocks. I get the impression
that this is seen as a short-term solution. There are design discussions on
implementing a separate block directory whereby they can be incorporated
individually into your site. This facility will be principally aimed at
There is a proposal to revamp it, using blocks. It remains to be seen if this
gets off the ground, and if so when. WordPress.com users who use the Calypso
interface will not be affected by this possible change. See
this post if you are unclear about the different WordPress.com dashboards.
Finally, a few words on this subject which deals with improving the experience of individuals with disabilities. Please be aware, if you are not already, that WCAG 2.1 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) was issued in June 2018. Public Sector bodies, including central and local government, plus some charities and some non-government organisations (not sure precisely what “some” means at the moment), must comply with these guidelines by September 2020. There are two strands that concern us:
Using WordPress itself. An accessibility audit on the new block editor has just been carried out. It was commissioned by a 3rd party outfit called WPCampus. The report finds various problems although it has to be said that the study was based on WordPress 5.0.3, and that work has been carried out in the area of accessibility since that release. I expect that further work will be undertaken in the coming months. I will monitor what happens here and report back
The website that you create. It is your responsibility to address WCAG 2.1 compliance if it applies to your organisation. I will relay any useful information that I hear. Obviously, I would appreciate any information that you may discover on the subject.