A Major Update Is Coming to WordPress – Here’s What You Need to Know

WordPress version 5.0 will bring with it something big. Codenamed “Gutenberg,” it is perhaps one of the more quietly exciting projects in web technology this year. Gutenberg is a total revamp of the WordPress text writing and editing experience and is easily one of the most significant changes WordPress has seen, well, ever.

Here’s what you should know about Gutenberg and how it will (and will not!) affect your site.

A Unified Writing Experience

WordPress as a blogging tool is excellent in its management of content, but the writing experience has its issues. To start, it’s just a simple text box with a toggle between a “Visual” editor and a “Text” (HTML – actual underlying code) space. While developers are comfortable working in the code, most users aren’t (nor should they be expected to!). Unfortunately, it’s tricky to produce rich content in a predictable manner when using the less-than-reliable Visual editor.

Put simply, what content you put into that text box isn’t necessarily what you get when you publish your post. Similarly, have you ever downloaded a plugin and copied a shortcode it provides into your page, only hoping it would provide the functionality it promised?

Current WordPress writing experience

Fundamentally, Gutenberg aims to shrink the gap between what you see when you write and what you see when you load the page.

This means less surprises, since what Gutenberg shows in its blocks is a close representation of the actual HTML that will result. But it also means more power, since plugin developers will be creating blocks that enable everyday WordPress users to add rich features like images, videos, maps, and more to content.

Gutenberg Is About Blocks

Your post content in Gutenberg is comprised of blocks. Think paragraphs, or headings that lead into paragraphs, coupled with videos or images. Almost everything in Gutenberg is a block.

The same content, but in Gutenberg. Note the blocks!

Blocks make it easy to manipulate individual sections of your page, re-order and style them. They enable plugin developers to provide ready-to-go blocks that you, as the content creator, can drag into your post for powerful functionality. And if you have a certain block you anticipate you’ll want on many posts, you can easily save your own blocks for re-use.

This creates a straightforward writing experience: You load the page, see a white canvas, and begin typing away. Your content is broken into logical, individually-modifiable, easily manipulated sections. Best of all, when you save the page, what you published is really is what you get!

It Shouldn’t Affect Much (If You Don’t Want It To)

Let’s say you have just installed WordPress 5.0, and, along with it, Gutenberg. Now what? Do your dozens, if not hundreds of existing blog posts immediately fall to dust? Of course not! As jarring and disruptive as Gutenberg could be, the WordPress team is setting out to make this update seamless.

Upon first updating to WordPress 5.0, your post content will appear unaffected, unchanged, and absolutely how it was. Excellent.

The code under the hood is built to be flexible to hop between Gutenberg and “classic” content. And if you really don’t want Gutenberg, the option to use the current editor will be available.

The WordPress team is working with plugin developers to switch shortcodes over to Gutenberg blocks and preserve plugin functionality to the best of their abilities. Popular plugins should see rapid updates to join the newly updated WordPress 5.0.

Change Is Coming in 2018

Gutenberg is still just a plugin that you can try on your site. It’s a project in active development with code updates and user experience tweaks occurring on a daily basis. However, WordPress 5.0 will ship with Gutenberg this calendar year, so it’s coming sooner than later.

Change isn’t always comfortable, especially for something with such a passionate and large user base as WordPress. Make no mistake, the WordPress team is taking a bold step with Gutenberg to keep the writing experience modern while making it simultaneously easier to use and more powerful. The stakes are high: If this vision pays off, WordPress will surely solidify its place as a premier content management system for the Web.

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