WordPress has a new publishing experience in the works: get ready to make your words, pictures, and layout look as good on screen as they do in your imagination, without any code.
You might have heard of this project, it’s called Gutenberg, after another invention that revolutionised publishing — but are wondering what it means for you. Who will see the biggest difference, and what it will change for your everyday workflows? Everyone, and everything. The Gutenberg editor uses blocks to create all types of content, replacing a half-dozen inconsistent ways of customising WordPress, bringing it in line with modern coding standards, and aligning with open web initiatives. These content blocks transform how users, developers, and hosts interact with WordPress to make building rich web content easier and more intuitive, democratising publishing, and work, for everyone, regardless of technical ability.
It’s great that so many people think WordPress is the best way to get their ideas on the web, and it’s easy to unlock the power of WordPress if you know how to write code, but not everyone does. And now, you won’t need to.
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What is a block?
One of the things you hear a lot about during discussions of Gutenberg are blocks. These blocks are a unified way to style content that currently requires short-codes, embeds, widgets, post formats, custom post types, theme options, meta-boxes, and other formatting elements. By allowing rich customisation without deep knowledge of code, blocks make good on the promise of WordPress: broad functionality with a clear, consistent user experience.
The current WordPress editor is an open text window, it’s always been a wonderful blank canvas for writing, but when it comes to building posts and pages with images, multimedia, embedded content from social media, polls, and other elements, it required a mix of different approaches that were not always intuitive:
- Media library/HTML for images, multimedia and approved files.
- Pasted links for embeds.
- Short-codes for specialised assets from plugins.
- Featured images for the image at the top of a post or page.
- Excerpts for subheads.
- Widgets for content on the side of a page.
The stages of Gutenberg
Gutenberg has three planned stages. The first, aimed for inclusion in WordPress 5.0, focuses on the post editing experience and the implementation of blocks. This initial phase focuses on a content-first approach. The use of blocks, as detailed above, allows you to focus on how your content will look without the distraction of other configuration options. This ultimately will help all users present their content in a way that is engaging, direct, and visual.
These foundational elements will pave the way for stages two and three, planned for the next year, to go beyond the post into page templates and ultimately, full site customisation.
Gutenberg is a big change, and there will be ways to ensure that existing functionality (like short-codes and meta-boxes) continue to work while allowing developers the time and paths to transition effectively. Ultimately, it will open new opportunities for plugin and theme developers to better serve users through a more engaging and visual experience that takes advantage of a toolset supported by Core.
There are a number of resources where you can learn more about the project and ideas behind it.
- Gutenberg, or the Ship of Theseus: with examples of what Gutenberg might do in the future
- Editor Technical Overview
- Design Principles and block design best practices
- Development updates on make.wordpress.org
- State of the word 2017 with a live demo of Gutenberg
- Morten Rand-Hendriksen’s talk ‘Gutenberg and the WordPress of Tomorrow‘
- The project FAQ section
- Discover talks on WordPress.tv about Gutenberg