Sometime in the fall, we will get WordPress 5.0. This new release is called Gutenberg after the 15th century Bible printer. I have installed a beta version of it on a test website called gutenberg.johnastewart.org, and wrote this post using the new interface.
Last week I attended a talk on the coming “Gutenpocalyse” at WPCampus 18. Many of the concerns are technical, namely will the new version work with the vast library of plugins and themes built for WP 4.0. The bigger concern for me in supporting the 4,000+ WP users at OU is the new user interface.
Writing a blog post or creating a web page in WordPress has traditionally been modeled on using a word processor. There is a bar of buttons at the top of the screen that allow you to bold or italicize text and additional buttons for converting text into a numbered list or choosing a preset format for a header. It’s not a true WSYWIG interface in that the sites CSS modifies the look of the document after it is published, but students and faculty have more or less gotten used to the interface.
The new Gutenberg interface looks more like it was modeled on the writing interface for Medium.com. You get a big blank white canvas with an obvious place for a title and a first paragraph. After that, you’re encouraged to add additional ‘blocks’ to the post or page.
A block can be a new paragraph, an image, a video, a code chunk, a widget, or several other things. Each of these blocks can be individually styled using a menu bar on the right hand side of the interface. This makes it easy to make the text for one block bold or bigger or a different color than the paragraphs around it. You can style each image to align where ever you want it.I like the new interface. I think it’s easy to write in, and I think Gutenberg makes it easier to add images and other media.
The main questions for me is “When do I start teaching Gutenberg?” Last year, WP announced that Gutenberg would be rolled out in April, 2018. April came and went and now we’re hearing that it might be released in August. I am scheduled to teach at least half a dozen WordPress workshops in August, and I will probably be in classrooms with a few hundred students, so the exact date is of some concern to me. Right now, I’m leaning towards configuring our servers so that all new users get the beta version of Gutenberg by default. Rather than introducing users into the old interface in August and then asking them to learn the new interface on their own at the end of the month or whenever it comes out, I think it’d be better to just jump into the new system, even if WP isn’t quite ready to release 5.0.
Playing with this post in both Gutenberg and the old interface has me ready for the change. Maybe the hardest part of the Gutenberg transition will be waiting for this 15th century typesetter to be ready for print.