WordPress.com front-ends

I refer to WordPress.com’s front-end dashboards at different times. This short item is simply to explain that WordPress.com has two different front-ends.

The original front-end to WordPress is invoked through the wp-admin dashboard. This is still the case for WordPress.org users and for older WordPress. com users. Here is an example ..

WPBeginner.com

In 2015 Automattic, the owners of WordPress.com, introduced an alternative front-end, called Calypso. They will try to persuade you to use it rather than the wp-admin dashboard. They say that it is faster. I must admit that I have not found it so, and it is also missing some of the features that can be found on the wp-admin dashboard. Anyway, it is there and some of you may be using it. Here is an example of the Calypso dashboard ..

Calypso dashboard

Some users may find that there is an option on the Calypso dashboard (probably at the bottom) to switch to the wp-admin dashboard if you should wish to do this. An alternative method, if this option is not shown, is to change the url by typing wp-admin after the domain name.

FAQs on WordPress 5 and Gutenberg

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:

  • General
  • WordPress.org users
  • WordPress.com users
  • Other

Last updated on 22nd August, 2020.

General

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.

WordPress.org users

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.

WordPress.com users

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.

Other

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.

Second December 2018 Update

Sorry to write another newsletter so soon but there is a lot going on. Version 5 has been available for WordPress.org users for two weeks, and there have been two bug-fix releases so far. WordPress.com users appear to be just catching sight of it now.

WordPress.org users

There have been two bug-fix releases of WordPress V5 so far:

  • 5.0.1 (released on 13 December, 2018) focused on security fixes. They have also been applied to previous versions of WordPress, back as far as 3.7
  • 5.0.2 (released on 19 December 2018) focused on performance improvements. There were 73 bug fixes.

5.0.3 has a target date of 9 January, 2019. Note that if you have installed V5 and have the auto update facility enabled then these bug fix releases will be installed automatically.

The plugin directory now contains a section at the beginning for block-enabled plugins. There is talk of putting them in a totally separate directory.

WordPress.com users

It looks as if WordPress V5 has just started to reach WordPress.com. If I sound not altogether confident, that is because Automattic never mentions versions of WordPress, nor do they mention Gutenberg (it is simply called the new block editor). The reasons for my claim are:

  • The appearance of new invitations to switch to the new block editor. The old invitation to try out Gutenberg which appeared on the main dashboard has now disappeared. If you use the dashboard to invoke the editor then this new invitation appears across the top of the screen when you go into edit post or page. If you use Calypso it appears in the right-hand sidebar within the editor. Beware that if you do make the new block editor your default editor there is no way to switch back at this moment
  • Twenty Nineteen, the new default theme which uses Gutenberg, has now been made available to all WordPress.com users.

I said in the last newsletter that there appeared to be no way in Calypso to invoke the classic editor for a specific post / page if you had set Gutenberg to be your default editor. I now see that the more settings button within the Gutenberg editor (3 dots icon top right) has a feature which allows you to switch to the classic editor for the currently opened post / page.

The bottom line for WordPress.com users is .. if you want to continue with the classic editor, as least for the moment, do not accept any invitation to try or switch to the new block editor.

What Next

There is talk of version 5.1 in late February although it is not clear to me precisely what the scope of this release will be, other than more bug fixes and a PHP upgrade notice for WordPress.org users.

Gutenberg V2. General design ideas are being kicked around for the implementation of widgets and menus as blocks, which will happen later in 2019. The Gutenberg plugin will remain in existence for WordPress.org users to test these changes.

Links

Here are some useful links ..

Release notice for WordPress 5.0

Support Article on Gutenberg in WordPress.com

A recent explanation of Gutenberg blocks (15th Nov 2018)

December 2018 Update

This newsletter focuses on the options that will be available to WordPress users when version 5.0 is launched. As some of the options are not yet set in stone for WordPress.com users, I will, if necessary, re-issue this newsletter when they eventually become crystal clear. These items are in red in this issue.

Preamble

There have been five beta versions so far, and we are currently, at the time of writing, on release candidate 3. The general opinion is that it is not ready for release. In the November 2018 newsletter I said that the target launch date was November 27th, 2018, and that if it was not met then it would be put back to January 22nd, 2019.

Well, we have passed the first target date, but all the signs are that Mr. WordPress is intent on reneging on the backup date, and is pressing ahead to release it as soon as possible despite the clamour to delay it. Hence, I am writing this newsletter now rather than waiting for some unknown surprise date. In fact, I have just found out this morning that December 6th, 2018 is the new target date.

Some reported bugs are already being put on one side for resolution in 5.0.1 or later. These are the bug-fixing releases which may appear fortnightly.

I will cover the options for WordPress.org users and WordPress.com users separately. In each case I will mention the following topics: the installation of version 5.0; the default editor; and the choice of editor for individual posts / pages. Note – I will simply use the term post from now on rather than say post / page each time. Suffice it to say that where post is mentioned it also applies to page.

Options for WordPress.org users

As version 5.0 is a major release, you can decide whether to install it or not. You may sensibly decide to delay it until you are ready and you are confident that it is reliable. If you do propose to install it please ensure that any plugins that you use will work with version 5.0. As an aside, if you want better control of WordPress updates there is a popular plugin called Easy Updates Manager (over 200K activations) which you might check out.

You can disable the new Gutenberg editor in version 5.0 by using the Classic Editor plugin (or optionally the Classic Editor Addon plugin). This will allow you to continue to use the existing editor which will be supported until at the least the end of 2021.

If version 5.0 is installed and the Gutenberg editor is enabled you can still use the old editor for individual posts:

  • creating a new post with the Classic Editor. Do not click on add new post in the wp-admin dashboard, as that will bring up the Gutenberg editor. Click All posts instead, and select the appropriate editor from the dropdown box at the top left of the screen.
  • If you are editing an existing post and Gutenberg is enabled then clicking on the name will bring up the Gutenberg editor. However, hovering on the line below the name, as shown underneath, will display various options, including the Classic Editor, if you want to use it rather than Gutenberg.

Options for WordPress.com users

WordPress 5.0 will be installed. Unlike WordPress.org users, you have no say in the matter. There is a question mark, as to when this will happen. A sensible approach would be for them to launch it gradually to groups of users .. but who knows!

Enabling / disabling Gutenberg. At the time of writing, the majority of WordPress.com users can choose to try out Gutenberg or not on 4.9.8 (the current version of WordPress). However, There is no information on whether a similar option will be made available in 5.0, e.g. enable Gutenberg (or not).

Choice of editor for an individual post. There are two ways to use WordPress, via the original wp-admin dashboard or via the more recent Calypso front-end.

Wp-admin dashboard

If the Gutenberg editor is enabled you can still use the Classic Editor for individual posts:

  • creating a new post with the classic editor. Do not click on add new post in the wp-admin dashboard, as that will bring up the Gutenberg editor. Click All posts instead, and select the appropriate editor from the dropdown box at the top left of the screen.
  • If you are editing an existing post and Gutenberg is enabled then clicking on the name will bring up the Gutenberg editor. However, hovering on the line below the name will display various options, including Classic Editor, if you want to use it rather than Gutenberg.

Calypso

This alternative front-end was introduced in 2015. WordPress.com will try to persuade you to use it rather than the wp-admin dashboard. They say that it is faster. I must admit that I have not found it so, and it is also missing some of the features on the dashboard. Anyway, it is there and some of you may be using it. The accompanying image shows the top level menu for Calypso.

At the time of writing, there is no ability to choose the editor for a post. If Gutenberg is enabled you get the Gutenberg editor. If it is not enabled you get the Classic Editor. I guess that this may change in WordPress 5.0. We will have to wait and see.

Other Notes

The classic block. When you edit a post or page with Gutenberg for the first time the content will appear as a single classic block. You can retain this format if you wish. The formatting icons will effectively give you the same facilities as can be found in the Classic Editor. However, if you are happy to fully embrace Gutenberg then you can convert the content into multiple native Gutenberg blocks.

Switching Editors. If you go into the Gutenberg editor by mistake then simply exit it. If you have saved a post or page in the Gutenberg editor, and then you subsequently decide that you wish to revert to the Classic Editor, a message will inform you that some formatting may be lost in the process. So, beware.

November 2018 Update

Summary

If you do not want to read the detail that follows then the latest information can be briefly summarised as follows:

  • The major news is that the launch of WordPress 5.0 (the Gutenberg release) is currently set for November 27th, 2018
  • If this date is not met (and my money is on it not being met) then the launch will be put back to January 22nd, 2019
  • There is talk of subsequent minor releases every fortnight initially to fix bugs .. 5.0.1, 5.0.2 et cetera
  • My confidence in the reliability of WordPress 5.0 when it is eventually released has taken a nosedive in recent weeks. I plan to continue to use the current editor until such time as I consider that the dust has settled
  • It has been announced that the Classic Editor (i.e. the current editor) will be officially supported until at least the end of December 2021
  • WordPress.org users should be using version 7 of PHP from January 2019, as version 5.6 will no longer be supported after December. Version 7.3 is due to be released shortly but it should not be used until WordPress announces that it supports it. 7.0, 7.1 and 7.2 are ok.

The WordPress Rollercoaster

I previously said that version 4.9.9 would be launched in early November, and that it would focus on preparing the way for 5.0 (the Gutenberg version). This sensible approach (to my mind) was abandoned. The pressure to get Gutenberg out as soon as possible resulted in a change of plan. Work on version 4.9.9 was halted almost before it got started and all the focus was switched to version 5.0.

The WordPress version 5.0 project is being led by MattWullenweg (Mr. WordPress himself), a sure indication that he is determined to launch it ASAP. Quite a few people were convinced that he wanted to make the big announcement of its arrival at Wordcamp US, a conference which takes place in early December. You can read his “plan” here. The initial target date for the release was November 19th, 2018.

Beta versions of 5.0 have been around since October 24th (beta 4 is due out today). However, significant bugs have been found, leading to general cries for a delay. Another factor has been a big hoo-ha on the subject of accessibility in Gutenberg, i.e. the ease of use for individuals who require assistive technology. The target date has now been put back to November 27th. If that date is not met the launch will be delayed until January 22nd, 2019.

Latest Gutenberg Information

Gutenberg 4.3 is the latest release. In theory, the development of new features in Gutenberg was halted around early July. In practice, new items continue to be added. I will mention just a few of them.

Distraction-free writing

There has been much criticism that the Gutenberg user interface “gets in the way” of free-flowing writing. A number of features have been introduced to placate these critics:

  • The positioning of the toolbar which relates to the current block just above the block was one particular dislike. A unified toolbar option now allows you, if you wish, to position the toolbar at the top of the screen instead.
  • Spotlight mode is another new option. When set, it greys out all blocks except the one that you are currently working on.
  • Thirdly, there is a full screen mode. This removes the dashboard items on the left of the screen. So, not actually full screen but simply a larger area.

I feel sure that further changes are likely in this area, and indeed to the general user interface which has come in for some stick.

Classic block – insert media button

I had previously mentioned that there was no insert media button in this block. This has now been rectified. However, there is still no insert contact form option. If you need to insert a contact form you will have to use a shortcode to do so. See the contact form support item for further details. Note that existing contact forms will continue to work OK.

Multiple reusable blocks

The reusable block which was introduced some time back was somewhat limited in its usefulness. It has now been extended. Multiple blocks can now be exported and subsequently imported elsewhere.

Media and Text Split Block

As the name implies, it allows you to have text alongside an image. I do not like the initial implementation: there are no facilities to vertically align the image within the block; and the text does not wrap round underneath the image. I will monitor it to see if any changes are made to the implementation.

My Experiences with Gutenberg on Wordpress.com

As a WordPress.com user, I decided to act as a guinea pig in late September and try out Gutenberg on my bkthisandthat.org.uk website. My main objective was to ensure that my existing content would work with Gutenberg. I currently use the Independent Publisher 2 theme which is aimed at people who want a simple theme where the word is king. Here is the link to my feedback in early October if you have not seen it.

It was moderately upbeat in tone. However, I had another play with Gutenberg recently and immediately hit a problem which was not there before. Converting a post / page to Gutenberg resulted in all images being duplicated! The problem has not been resolved at the time of writing. Hence, my current mood is somewhat downbeat, given that this is such a basic item of functionality.

On the plus side, the problem with pasting content from Word into Gutenberg seems to have been resolved.

How to control which editor you use on WordPress.com

I do not know! There is still no news on this front. It is said that Gutenberg will be the default editor. Question – will we be able to specify the Classic Editor as the default? There is talk of making a link to the Classic Editor plugin available on the WP Admin dashboard. However, it is not clear if it would only apply to WordPress.org users. The phrase “we are considering” keeps appearing on this general subject. It seems obvious to me that they want people to use Gutenberg, and will only allow them to specify the Classic Editor as the default if they absolutely have to .. and that they will not make a decision until the last possible moment.

The current set up in WordPress 4.9.8 is that if Gutenberg is activated then it is treated as the default editor when posts / pages are accessed via the WP-Admin dashboard. However, there is an option on the second line (underneath the name of the document on the all posts/pages directory listing) to select the Classic Editor instead.

PHP

This item is only relevant to WordPress.org users. WordPress server-side code is written in the PHP scripting language, of which there are various versions. Although WordPress will work with PHP 5.2, that version has not been supported for some time. The minimum version which is currently supported is 5.6 but support will also cease for that at the end of December.

Version 6 of PHP never officially appeared, so that means that you should really be on version 7 in January 2019. There are currently three versions: 7.0, 7.1 and 7.2. In addition, version 7.3 is due to be available in mid-December although it should not be used until WordPress announces that it supports it.

You should check with your ISP or support person as to what version of PHP you are currently using, and then arrange to be on some variant of version 7 if you are not already using one of them.

Miscellaneous

New default theme. If you have used WordPress for two or more years then you will know that Automattic was in the habit of producing a new default theme annually, usually around December time. There was no new theme last year, presumably because the emphasis was on Gutenberg’s development. However, it has been announced that there will be a new theme to accompany WordPress 5.0, unsurprisingly called Twenty Nineteen. Also unsurprisingly, it will be a Gutenberg theme!

Support for the Classic Editor. There has been a fair amount of clamour for information on just how long the Classic Editor will be supported after Gutenberg has been launched. It has recently been announced that the Classic Editor will be officially supported until at least the end of December, 2021.

Classic Editor plugins. I have been asked to explain the difference between the Classic Editor and the Classic Editor Addon plugins for WordPress.org users. The Classic Editor plugin currently has over 500,000 activations, so obviously quite a few people want to stick with the current editor, at least for now. However, it is still possible to inadvertently activate Gutenberg. This is a potential problem for any site where more than one user has administration rights. The Classic Editor Addon plugin installs the Classic Editor plugin and then removes all mention of Gutenberg from it. The bottom line is that they are both effectively doing the same thing; it is just that the Classic Editor Addon adopts a safety-first approach to avoid any accidental activation of Gutenberg.

Activity is a new feature on WordPress.com. It logs details of changes on your site which you can browse. It sounds as if people on the free plan will be able to see the last 20 items, while those on paid plans will see items from the last 30 days. There are various plugins on WordPress.org which can provide logging information for those users, the most popular being Activity Log.

Beyond WordPress 5.0

Plans are already taking shape for subsequent versions.

As mentioned, there will obviously be room for bug-fixing releases in the early days .. 5.0.1, 5.0.2 et cetera.

The next stage of Gutenberg development will minimally include the following: widgets will become blocks; there will be menu navigation blocks; and nested blocks will be supported. Quite what else may appear in block form in the short to medium term is not yet clear, at least not to me.

Also, expect changes / new functionality in the areas of privacy and accessibility.

Experience with Gutenberg on WordPress.com – Late Sept 2018

From late September 2018, selected WordPress.com users have been given the opportunity to try Gutenberg out. I have been trying it out on this website. My main objective has been to ensure that my existing content will work with Gutenberg. I currently use the Independent Publisher 2 theme which is aimed at people who want a simple theme where the word is king.

Please note that all observations in this post relate to tests that were performed during the last week of September, 2018. If you are reading this some months later it is possible that things may have moved on. Caveat lector (let the reader beware).

You probably know that there are two ways to invoke the editor in WordPress.com, via the original WP Admin dashboard or via Calypso. If you activate Gutenberg at the current time you will find that it only operates through the dashboard where you can decide whether to open a post / page in the Gutenberg editor (the default) or in the Classic editor. Opening a post or page in Calypso is limited to the use of the Classic Editor.

You may not have heard the term Calypso but WordPress.com users should recognise it from this screen capture. Clicking Site Pages or Blog Posts invokes the editor.

I started off with my largest document “A potted history of Association Football in England” which weighed in at 21K words. This is not a straightforward document. It includes: a quotes paragraph; a self-built HTML table of contents with links so that a reader can jump straight to a specific section; standard images from the media library; images from the Getty Images library (which are implemented by using shortcodes); and a number of bordered sections built with HTML which contain information which does not really fit in with the natural flow of the text. A brief explanation of shortcodes. They are essentially macros. One use is to provide the same functionality in the main body of a post or page that is available in some of the popular widgets, e.g. to display a gallery.

Opening the page in the Gutenberg editor for the first time results in the display of a single Classic block. This can be edited in a similar fashion to how you work now. You could in fact keep the document as a single Classic block if you so wished. However, the major drawback at the moment is that you cannot insert an image or a contact form into a Classic block. I have previously mentioned this deficiency. To me, this renders the Classic block practically unusable. I do not know if they are going to rectify this problem.

One of the options is to convert this single Classic block into multiple native Gutenberg blocks. This task took 25 seconds for my large document. While this was not unexpected, there was no indication that anything was happening, leading to the “did I really click on that option? .. should I click it again?” syndrome. Now, it has to be said that the vast majority of posts and pages are relatively small and they should observe no significant delay when performing block conversion.

Observations on how successful the converter was

Standard WordPress facilities were converted without any trouble. This is good news.

However, where a user makes use of HTML to produce effects that the current version of WordPress does not provide “out of the box”, the converter struggles.

My table of contents no longer worked. The section labels (they call them anchors in HTML) had disappeared. It appears that the converter is quite fussy about how they are defined, whereas the current version of WordPress is not. I had to manually alter all my section labels in the original version of the footie document, and then the converter worked OK.

My bordered sections which are enclosed in HTML div and /div statements were also not correctly converted. The borders disappeared and what should have been one block turned into two, and sometimes more, blocks. I was forced to set up a custom HTML block and recreate the bordered section from scratch. This was a bit painful. Fortunately, there are only four of them in this document.

I subsequently extended the testing to various other documents on this site.

The local history of Sunninghill & Ascot is currently the most popular item on the site. It includes several shortcodes to display galleries. They converted without any trouble. It also contains a table of contents. Forewarned by my experience with the footie history, I manually changed the section labels so that the converter would not get upset.

I use HTML-created tables in various places on other pages in my website. The converter recognised the fact that they were tables and created table blocks, albeit not very satisfactorily. Cells that contain images were not displayed in the editor but did appear on the rendered website page, while empty cells just disappeared totally. In addition, a table block, whether an existing table that has been converted or a newly inserted table block, insists on making each column the same width, not something that I want. Somewhat bizarrely, my converted tables appeared with the correct column widths in the editor but not on the website. I have to say that I am not impressed with table blocks at the moment. When I implemented the original HTML tables as custom HTML blocks they worked satisfactorily. I propose to adopt this approach until such time as the table block is improved.

Other Observations

One idiosyncrasy of WordPress is that the display of a post or page may look different in the editor from how it looks on the website, i.e. you do not necessarily get WYSIWYG. The degree of difference can vary from theme to theme. It seemed to me to be more pronounced in Gutenberg, but this may just be the Independent Publisher 2 theme that I am using?

Please note that any existing posts / pages whose content remains unchanged will display satisfactorily on the site, i.e. it is not necessary to convert them.

Re performance, loading the very large footie history page on the website was sluggish on the existing version of WordPress, and it was even slower on the Gutenberg version of the page. I had already decided to split it up into multiple pages .. something which I have now done.

Finally, I tried out a copy and paste from another application. I have been in the habit of penning the initial drafty words of my articles in Microsoft Word, and then at some point copying and pasting them into WordPress. The words in this post were originally part of a larger article in Word. When I pasted this content into a paragraph block it included the Word formatting as well as the text. In WordPress 4.x there is an option to just paste the text, but there appears to be no similar option in the paragraph block. My workaround was to create a Classic block, set the paste as text option, perform the paste, and lastly convert the classic block into Gutenberg blocks.

September Update

Some short notes ..

Some WordPress.com users have started to receive an invitation on the dashboard to try Gutenberg out. This includes me (on my WordPress.com account). Do not take up the offer unless you are prepared to be a guinea pig. WordPress.org users have been receiving the invitation for a number of weeks now.

There is going to be a version 4.9.9 of WordPress which is currently slated for release on November 5th. This will presumably push the date for 5.0 (the Gutenberg release) back. As they originally said (way back) that it would be released sometime in 2018, I guess that there will be some pressure to get it out in December? Who knows!

I get the impression that 4.9.9 is an attempt to clear the decks of any current problems / issues (a) to ease the effort required to implement 5.0 and (b) to minimise any problems that WordPress.org users who choose not to install 5.0 immediately (for whatever reason) may encounter.

WordPress.org users who are happy to install 5.0 when it hits the streets but do not want to use Gutenberg should install the Classic Editor Addon plugin. This can be done now. Consult your developer / support person before taking this step.

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.

May Update

The two main topics in this post are the introduction of GDPR and an update on Gutenberg. In addition, I have included minor items on website verification services and site icons.

GDPR

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect on May 25th, 2018. Hopefully, you have already assessed what it means for your organisation. With respect to your website, you should minimally have a page which describes how you deal with privacy matters, including cookies and emails. The cookie and forms / emails sections in the privacy page of the Ascot Volunteer Bureau website might give you some typical words, if you need them.

WordPress has had an EU cookie law widget for a number of years. If employed, it will bring up a cookie & privacy policy message when a user first enters the site, similar to what you find on most websites these days. It also includes the ability to specify a link to your privacy page, if you have one. The message appears as a banner at the bottom of the screen.

WordPress 4.9.6, which includes some GDPR functionality, has just been released to WordPress.org users. As usual, WordPress.com users will see it shortly. Versions 4.9.1 through to 4.9.5 over recent months have simply been maintenance releases for bug and security fixes. This release also contains a number of fixes, but its main focus is GDPR.
I get the impression that 4.9.6 introduces the first tranche of GDPR functionality, i.e. there is more to follow. I am not sure that it will be relevant to the WordPress users that I know, but obviously it is up to you to decide whether that is the case. In summary, the facilities include:

  • A privacy policy page template (if you have not already got a privacy page)
  • Facilities to send an email to a user who has requested details of the personal data that you hold about him and / or for said personal data to be removed from your site. This email asks the user to confirm the request(s)
  • The returned email from the client then goes on a to do list which the site administrator will subsequently action. The result will be a zip file which contains the data that you hold for that person on your WordPress site
  • If you allow comments on your site then the name and email address of the commenter will be stored in a cookie. The first time that a person comments he will be asked to opt-in to this process.

It is important to realise that this functionality is limited to the data held on your website. It obviously does not deal with any personal data that you may hold manually or in other systems. This article in Wptavern gives an overview of the proposed functionality in 4.9.6.

Gutenberg Update

Work continues on its development (to be released in WordPress version 5.0) with new test versions appearing roughly once a fortnight. We are currently on version 2.8 of Gutenberg. Much of the recent work deals with quite low-level functionality which is mainly of interest to developers of plug-ins and themes, and not to average users such as ourselves.

Recent changes to the editor
The new features that I would mention at our level include:

  • a pagination block where you wish to split a post or page into multiple pages. A list of pages appears at the bottom and the user clicks on the next page that she wishes to view. This is similar to an online ordering system where the list of possible products is usually split into pages;
  • a spacer block to provide better control of spacing, as the name implies. Precise spacing has always been a tad problematic in WordPress;
  • some reasonable facilities to allow an image to sit alongside text (a facility which I use quite heavily in the present editor). The initial versions of Gutenberg had no facilities in this area;
  • a columns block.  This block was introduced on a trial basis a couple of months ago. It appears as if it is now here to stay
  • and a table of contents in the editor for quick access to sections within a post / page. However, it only operates where you use the heading styles, and it is only useful in larger posts or pages.

In addition, a significant amount of effort has gone into the user interface, prompting discussions which have resulted in some of the changes being discarded, a case of two steps forward and one step back?

The rapid rate of change on the project shows some initial signs of slowing down, but I think that I will stick with my guestimate that it is unlikely to be officially released before late summer or early autumn.

Thoughts on what WordPress 5.0 will mean to existing users
What is of most concern to existing users is the degree of change that may be necessary on their sites to accommodate Gutenberg. I have a clear(ish) idea in my mind how version 5 will operate for WordPress.org users. I am less clear how WordPress.com users may be affected, principally because there is virtually no information on this subject from Automattic, thus far. Anyway, here are my thoughts at this point in time, for what they are worth:

  • The functionality of the present editor (now called the classic editor) will be available, alongside Gutenberg. It is not clear which will be the default editor, or if you will be able to specify which editor you want to be the default. However, the bottom line is that you will be able to continue to use the existing editor. This is obviously good news for those users who do not wish to change. However, I wonder how long this may last, particularly as the plan is that Gutenberg will eventually be implemented in other parts of WordPress.
  • If you open an existing post / page in the Gutenberg editor it will appear as a single classic editor block, and you will be able to use the basic tools of the current editor. So, this is another way to avoid using native Gutenberg features
  • There is then a facility to convert this single classic editor block into multiple native Gutenberg blocks if you want to move your post / page over to pure Gutenberg

Finally, I assume from what I have said above that you will be able to mix and match classic editor and Gutenberg editor-based posts / pages on a site, although I have not seen this spelt out by anybody so far.

Plug-ins and Themes
Wordpress.org users who make use of plug-ins and / or third-party themes will need to ensure that they work with Gutenberg. There is now a Gutenberg Plug-in Compatibility Database which may provide you with the information. It contains about 500 entries at the moment. Otherwise, you will need to check with the authors of the software.

Finding out more
The level of change has arguably not slowed sufficiently yet to warrant investing too much time and effort in getting up to speed with Gutenberg. However, A Tour of the Gutenberg Editor for WordPress by Rachel McCollin is worth a read to give you a flavour of the editor at this stage of its development (May 2018).

If you wish to follow the Gutenberg project slightly more closely I would suggest the following sites: Gutenberg News and Wptavern.

Website verification services

Does it irk you that a set of search results which shows your website, also shows that Norton (or other anti-virus software) does not know if it is safe or not?

Search engines have tools for verifying websites. They can send you a key (which they tend to call meta key content) which you put on your site. The search engine and the anti-virus software can then work out that your site is safe.

Settings > tools > available tools in the WordPress wp-admin section allows you to enter the meta keys for a range of search engines. It also provides links to the tools in these search engines, e.g. Google webmaster tools, where you can find out what you need to do to get a meta key in the first place.

Site icons

A site’s icon appears in various places, most notably alongside the site title in a browser tab or in a list of favourite sites. If you do not have a site icon then the standard WordPress icon will be used, i.e. a white W on a blue background.
If you have a compact logo, or similar image, that you wish to use as your site’s icon then first upload it to the media library. You will find the facility to change the site icon in general settings. For further information, including the size of an icon, see https://en.support.wordpress.com/site-icons/.

test post

here is some text ..

and some more rhubarb.

and yet more ..

 

Ascot Durning Library – picture courtesy of Christine Weightmanggggggggggggg

Date of Meeting AgendaMinutes
October 12th, 2019ReadRead

Some barebones text to sit here for no particular reason.

Some footer rhubarb.