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WordPress
What is Gutenberg?

WordPress: What is Gutenberg?

You might have felt some tremors in the WordPress world. There is something brewing. Something called Gutenberg. It’s the new editing environment in WordPress and the impact it’s going to have will be massive. Some welcome it with open arms, while others are critical. There is also a large group of WordPress users who don’t have a clue what’s going on. Here, we’ll introduce Gutenberg.

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Gutenberg is the first step for a bright new future for WordPress

It’s something many people often gloss over, but Gutenberg is not just a new editor for WordPress. It’s the start of something much bigger. Gutenberg lays the groundwork for incredibly exciting developments. Gutenberg is stage one of a three-pronged roll-out strategy. First, WordPress will get a redeveloped editor, after that the project will focus on page templates and in the final stage WordPress will become a full site customizer. You can imagine, this gives us endless possibilities and it is a necessary step to keep WordPress the #1 CMS for years to come.

Today, we’re focusing on stage one. The new Gutenberg editor will land in WordPress 5.0 sometime this year. As it stands now, it is not nearly finished, but loads of people are working around the clock to turn this editor into a solid and stable product. We have a big team working on it as well, both on the editor itself and our integration with it.

Opening Gutenberg for the first time

When you open the new editor for the first time you’re probably looking for the interface we have all grown accustomed to. That, however, is gone. We now have a very clean writing environment, with great typography and lots of space for your content to shine. On the right-hand side, you can open the settings — per document or per block — by clicking on the cog icon. Clicking on the three dots beside that cog lets you switch to the code editor so you can make your edits on the code side of things.

gutenberg blank canvas

Now, seeing this screen might cause you to turn around and run — please don’t. We all know people have a hard time changing from one thing that they know well to something new. Even Marieke had reservations regarding writing in Gutenberg, which she addressed in a post.

People find it hard to accept change when they don’t see why it’s necessary to change something that was working ok. Well, in this case, it’s relatively easy to understand: to get ready for the future, WordPress needs to adapt. Gutenberg introduces concepts and technologies that help make WordPress future proof. Most visible right now? The concept of a block.

In Gutenberg, everything is a block

Gutenberg introduces blocks. Previously, your content lived inside one big HTML file and for every enhancement there had to be something new: shortcodes, custom post types, embeds, widgets and the like. All with their quirky interfaces and weird behavior. Now, you can build your content precisely like you make a LEGO set: all from one box, following a standardized and straightforward set of instructions. In the animated gif below, I’ll quickly show you some blocks and add an image as a block:

By using this blocks concept, you can now determine what every part of your content is. Not only that, you can define their specifications per block. So, for instance, you can turn a single line of text into a quote by changing its block type. After that, it gets a new set of options that you can set. You can change the type of quote, its placement, text decoration et cetera. This goes for all blocks. There are blocks for, among other things:

  • Paragraphs
  • Lists
  • Quotes
  • Headings
  • Code
  • Images
  • Galleries
  • Shortcodes
  • Columns
  • Buttons
  • Widgets
  • And a ton of embeds

Every block you make can get its own layout and settings. And you can save these as reusable blocks!

Gutenberg

Reusable blocks

One of the coolest things about Gutenberg is reusable blocks. Think of these as a completed block that you can save along with its settings. For instance, if you’ve made a cool looking layout for the intro of your blog articles, you can save this as a reusable block. After that, you only have to go to Add Block -> Saved to pick your reusable intro block. How cool is that!

This is an incredibly basic example, but you can think of a lot more complex uses for this! How about a complete gallery where you only have to drop in the images. Or a multi-column article template with great typography for killer blog posts. And of course, developers can hook into this as well, so there are bound to arrive some great blocks that’ll make our lives so much easier. There is no limit to this. This is all made possible because we have full control over all individual blocks.

Yoast SEO and Gutenberg

We’ve been heavily investing in Gutenberg since the beginning. We have several developers that are helping to improve Gutenberg full time. Also, we are actively researching how, why and where we should integrate Yoast SEO inside Gutenberg. Even for us, the possibilities are endless. We won’t be able to build everything we’re dreaming up right away, as we’re focusing on giving you the best possible basic integration from the moment Gutenberg gets released. But, keep in mind, there is a lot more to come from us!

Let The Gut Guys explain Gutenberg for you

Two of the most active Yoasters in the Gutenberg development team is our UX designer Tim and software architect Anton. These guys are so passionate about Gutenberg that we’re featuring the dynamic duo in an exclusive video series called The Gut Guys — Gut as in ‘good’. They will show you around the Gutenberg editing experience and explain the why and how of the new editor. We’re regularly adding new installments. Watch it and subscribe!

Need more? Check this essential talk

We know thinking and talking about Gutenberg can be tiring, but that’s mostly because we are keeping those thoughts in the now. We should most definitely look at the broader picture and see where Gutenberg can take WordPress. To explain that, I’d like to ask you to invest 45 minutes of your time in watching this essential talk by Morten Rand-Hendriksen.

Conclusion to what is Gutenberg?

There’s no beating around the bush: Gutenberg is coming. We’re getting ready for it and you should as well. The new editor will probably take some getting used to and it might break some stuff, but in the end, we will get a much more streamlined environment with a lot of cool possibilities down the road.

The most important thing you can do right now is installing the plugin. Play with it, test it, break it. Add every issue you find to Gutenberg’s GitHub: things that don’t work or should work better. We need as many eyes on this as we can, so we need you. Don’t just talk and yell: contribute! Your contributions will make or break this project.

Read more: ‘Gutenberg: Concepts for integrating Yoast SEO’ »


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54 Responses to WordPress: What is Gutenberg?

  1. Will B
    By Will B on 16 April, 2018

    Will Gutenberg Always be a Plugin? Or will it eventually completely replace the “Classic” WP editor?

    • Edwin Toonen
      By Edwin Toonen on 17 April, 2018

      Hi Will. Gutenberg will become the default editor in WordPress 5.0. The old editor will remain available for a while as a plugin called Classic editor.

  2. czpcraft
    By czpcraft on 15 April, 2018

    Good Morning.
    Once Gutenberg arrives and we install; what happens to all my previous posts? Do I have to rewrite/rearrange in blocks to save them in archives for later linking or an ebook?
    Also will this be harder for this minimum tech Grandmother?
    Thank you

    • Edwin Toonen
      By Edwin Toonen on 16 April, 2018

      Hi. Your previous posts will be fine after you move to Gutenberg. They won’t be block-based like the new ones you write, but you can change this should you need/want to. There is an option called Convert to Bocks which lets you turn old posts that appear as a solid block to individual blocks without you having to do anything else.

  3. Michael Y.
    By Michael Y. on 15 April, 2018

    Weebly – Welcome to WordPress 😏😀

    • Edwin Toonen
      By Edwin Toonen on 16 April, 2018

      We’ll see, Michael, we’ll see ;)

  4. Anda
    By Anda on 15 April, 2018

    I’m using the Gutenberg plugin and everything seems to be working ok so far, except for the fact that when I make changes to posts that have been published already, they appear as unpublished after I make the changes. If I click on Publish again, I’m being prompted to a screen that says Review Post. I clic on “review” and is not taking me anywhere. If I try to exit the post it’s asking me if I am sure I want to exit, as if the changes haven’t been saved. If I exit anyway, the changes appear to have taken place and the post is actually still published. So all this weird dialog takes place in the dashboard, but it’s confusing. I believe that is something that needs to be fixed. Or am I doing something wrong?

  5. Anton
    By Anton on 14 April, 2018

    I question the priorities. I can imagine they have seen what page builders do and they’re eager to copy that UI. But file and asset management, db management, css editing, page or post management (you need a plugin to copy a page!), security and so on could be improved drastically, giving theme developers and page builders a more robust and flexible platform.

    • Edwin Toonen
      By Edwin Toonen on 16 April, 2018

      Hi Anton. Sure, there are loads of things to fix and there are a lot of people who don’t think the current editor is the worst part of WordPress. It isn’t, of course. In my opinion, Gutenberg will turn out to be the start of an overall refresh of WordPress, both from the inside as well as the outside. There is a lot going on right now and I, for one, am eager to see where it’ll lead.

  6. Mohammed Shafeeque K A
    By Mohammed Shafeeque K A on 11 April, 2018

    How it will effect SEO. Page builders always slowing website. Is it good for SEO or bad

    • christie
      By christie on 16 April, 2018

      I would love to know this answer too. Thank you for the question!

      • Edwin Toonen
        By Edwin Toonen on 17 April, 2018

        Hi Christie and Mohammed. To be clear: Gutenberg will be an editor first. It will only be turned into a page builder once all the pieces of the puzzle fit and all the technology has been fleshed out. That will take a while. For now, it looks like Gutenberg will perform just fine.

  7. Joyce Grace
    By Joyce Grace on 11 April, 2018

    I have the same concerns as other commenters – what about site load time? Does Gutenburg solve this out-of-the-box and from the ground-up when implementing their solution? I feel like this makes WordPress just like every other DIY editor out there. There was a market for those systems, and a market for the WP crowd – the ones who wanted a site built properly, with knowledgable coders. I’m all for advancing technology, but this doesn’t seem like anything new. And if it doesn’t solve the problems that other page builders bring with it, then I don’t see how this is future-proofing. Does anyone know more detail around this? How are the “Gutenburg people” addressing this before release? Can you imagine over 20% of the world’s websites suddenly facing slow load time issues as a result of this roll out? Surely, someone has thought of this, right? I guess I have more googling to do… but surprised this article doesn’t address that question.

    • Edwin Toonen
      By Edwin Toonen on 11 April, 2018

      Hi Joyce. Gutenberg will not be a full page builder from the start. It’ll take a lot of work for it to get there. First, we get a new editor with loads of interesting concepts and workflows. Only after that has been fleshed out, work will start on the other parts of WordPress. The performance will definitely be high on everyone’s agenda. If nothing else, we at Yoast have it high on our agenda, as well as accessibility and we are sure to keep pressing for these important matters.

  8. Tim Oxley
    By Tim Oxley on 11 April, 2018

    Sounds like WP is catching up with(and making a big fuss about) what the page builders have been doing for some time.

    • Edwin Toonen
      By Edwin Toonen on 11 April, 2018

      Hi Tim. Yes, they are eventually looking to become a page builder. The start, however, is ‘just’ a new editor that’ll bring some cool new functionality to WordPress.

      • Tim Oxley
        By Tim Oxley on 15 April, 2018

        You wonder what will happen to good page builder providers like SiteOrigin. Oh well, that’s progress, I guess!

        • Edwin Toonen
          By Edwin Toonen on 17 April, 2018

          There are loads of opportunities for page builders to build on the foundations of Gutenberg. Smart developers will jump at the chance to make something new and awesome.

  9. Elena
    By Elena on 10 April, 2018

    “Now, seeing this screen might cause you to turn around and run — please don’t. ”
    I’m sorry to tell you that I’m still running and so my clients will do. I’ll stick on Classic editor plugin until the new editor come closer to the the old. I HATE this white thing.

    When you have something that “we have all grown accustomed to” as you said, then you don’t change it into something totally different. Change must be slow and smooth.
    If I’m dark all my life I cannot get blonde overnight and expect everyone to say wow! Mind you the change to a tool that is used by millions and among them are old people with just a little knowledge about new technologies that want everything to be obvious.
    I can write more about compatibility with plugins and themes, about the old sites etc but I guess you have already heard them by others.

    It’s a good effort that you are trying to persuade us and make it better for us but this is not possible yet.

    I just hope Yoast to work with classic editor plugin because I’m very font of your plugin and regard it as one of the best SEO tools.

    • Edwin Toonen
      By Edwin Toonen on 11 April, 2018

      Hi Elena. Thanks for sharing your concerns. First: Yoast SEO will most definitely support both Gutenberg and the so-called Classic editor.

      Of course, the advent of Gutenberg has us worried as well. We can imagine that a lot of people will be scared to open this editor for the first time. Especially if they had much trouble learning the old editor. We’re not happy about the speed of these developments as we’d rather have a longer time to get ready for this. But the thing is, it’s coming and we need to get ready for it.

      Yoast is helping build and improve this, because we have a product that people expect to work out of the box when Gutenberg is launched. We, therefore, are working around the clock to make the experience as good as possible. Personally, I’m excited by the prospect of Gutenberg, but I see a lot of roadblocks as well, pun intended ;)

  10. info3480
    By info3480 on 10 April, 2018

    So what is the plug in to get started? just Gutenberg?

  11. James Denning
    By James Denning on 10 April, 2018

    I have a picky comment about the Tim and Anton youtube videos. I would prefer fewer longer videos. Currently they are so short that the introduction takes a significant portion of each. With these shorter videos there is hardly any information in any one extremely short video and this becomes annoying. Please make just a few longer ones.
    As a degreed, professional software engineer with 40 years of industry experience I will relate a recurring issue I have had that I found in Gutenberg. Whenever I thought I had finished an app that I thought was flawless I would give it to someone in the marketing department. They would inadvertently break it within a minute. On that note, when I first tried using the Gutenberg plugin yesterday I found that I could easily text wrap around an image but when I tried to use drop cap the text would suddenly no longer wrap. This may seem inconsequential but when you are trying to sell this to the WordPress base it destroys credibility. I imagine it is caused by something I am doing incorrectly but that is not the point. This needs to be somewhat more idiot proof than this.

    • Edwin Toonen
      By Edwin Toonen on 11 April, 2018

      Hi James! Your comment about the Gut Guys videos has been noted. We were already looking at making the videos longer and more in-depth. Thanks for watching!

      Yes, there are still quite a few bugs regarding floating and working with more complex layouts. They’re working hard to fix this. You’re welcome to contribute on the Gutenberg GitHub if you find bugs, issues or if you have solutions.

  12. Michael
    By Michael on 10 April, 2018

    It sounds like it will increase the code and dilute the SEO. Any thoughts about this? And what about previous posts? If you open them to the editor and “update”, do they “convert”?

  13. Nancy
    By Nancy on 10 April, 2018

    I’m a newbie WordPress blogger and am still using the free theme Twenty Sixteen. As I get smarter about WordPress, I think I need to get a more feature-rich theme. Should I wait until Gutenberg is implemented? Any anticipated roll-out date for Gutenberg – in 2018 or 2019?

    • Edwin Toonen
      By Edwin Toonen on 11 April, 2018

      Hi Nancy. No need to wait! You can pick a theme that’s Gutenberg ready and start working. The Gutenberg editor will probably appear in a month or so and the new full-scale site builder is a long ways away.

  14. Mitch Rezman
    By Mitch Rezman on 10 April, 2018

    It appears the weight of Automattic is slowing development – I am not a coder but building beautiful sites with the page builder Elementor enhanced my design skills after simply watching their exhaustive video library

    While we await the Gut Elementor I’m placing dynamic nav menus where ever I want

    as opposed to (from WordPress.org)

    “It turns out that writing the simplest possible block which contains only static content might not be the easiest task. It requires to follow closely the steps described in the documentation. It stems from the fact that you need to create at least 2 files and integrate your code with the existing APIs.”

    Yikes!

  15. Giorgio
    By Giorgio on 10 April, 2018

    Dunno if you created this page using Gutenberg or for whatever reason your page is so slow to complete a “full” download. By “full” I mean that even when it seems that the page is fully loaded it’s not.
    (the icon in the browser continues to spin for a long while and partially freezes the mouse pointer)
    For SEO experts (that surely must know that the page loading time is one of the most important factors, this makes me thinking a lot.
    Please comment…

    • Edwin Toonen
      By Edwin Toonen on 11 April, 2018

      Hi Giorgio. Ah, this has nothing to do with Gutenberg. I see the animated gif I included on this page is rather large. Will try to get its file size down. Thanks for pointing this out!

  16. Tiffany
    By Tiffany on 10 April, 2018

    This is the first I’ve heard of this. It sounds amazing! But I’m wondering what will happen to old blog posts. Will they remain the same or will we have to go back and update every blog post we’ve ever published so they include these blocks?

    • ilias
      By ilias on 11 April, 2018

      I would make the same question. I have one more though. Will it be possible to switch between post builders?

    • Edwin Toonen
      By Edwin Toonen on 11 April, 2018

      Hi Tiffany. You don’t have to do anything. Everything will be like it was. In Gutenberg, your old posts will be one big block of HTML. If you’d like to spice them up using the new features in Gutenberg, you are welcome to do that of course. You can use the Convert to blocks features to turn your old post into blocks that you can freely edit.

  17. runbei
    By runbei on 10 April, 2018

    One of the GREAT dangers in working with block-based layouts is that it will further the current disastrous trend, promoted by enthusiastic but unaware developers, of creating horizontal layouts without the slightest clue that it’s destroying readability and sensible, user-friendly flow of content. ‘Nuff said – sure, use blocks; they’re very handy. But beware of the user – or become a Web usability loser.

    • Edwin Toonen
      By Edwin Toonen on 11 April, 2018

      Sure, that’s a valid point. The readability of content should always prevail over its looks. And yes, making it easier for users to do ‘cool’ stuff increases the chance of them abusing that. It’s something that’s bothering me as well.

      There, however, ways to go around this in Gutenberg. Theme developers can specify just what exactly can happen inside their themes. Take, for instance, the color picker in Gutenberg. That’s a cool addition, but it begs to be misused. Instead of offering users all the colors in the world and thus messing up the color scheme of the theme, developers could limit the colors to say five. These colors would fit right in with the theme and, therefore, be a great fit anywhere. These little things will turn out to be a big deal.

  18. Up SEO
    By Up SEO on 10 April, 2018

    Why is this plugin better than the actual wordpres integrated page editor?

    • Edwin Toonen
      By Edwin Toonen on 11 April, 2018

      Gutenberg uses a simple to understand concept for everything. You can just pick whatever type of content you need and apply it to a block. But for me, reusable blocks are the main attraction. You can style a particular block how you like — however complex — and save it together with its settings. After that, you can reuse it with a single click. Just imagine the possibilities if all your favorite plugins start offering and supporting reusable blocks.

  19. Matt
    By Matt on 9 April, 2018

    “To get ready for the future, WordPress needs to adapt. Gutenberg introduces concepts and technologies that help make WordPress future proof.”

    Can you explain how this new editor makes WordPress future proof?

    • Dave
      By Dave on 10 April, 2018

      I don’t really think that Gutenburg would make the site “bloated and slow” (slow maybe depending on the arguments). Because if gutenberg would be the new editor then there’s no “overwriting” in the database that most page builder do.. But let’s just see..

      • Edwin Toonen
        By Edwin Toonen on 11 April, 2018

        Hi Dave. My point exactly. There is no reason to think that WordPress would become bloated and slow all of a sudden. Sure, there are still loads of technical issues to overcome, but I’m confident that the team will get there. Exciting times!

    • Mike
      By Mike on 10 April, 2018

      Users are more and more familiar with page builder plugins or even integrated front editors that some frameworks provide. As a web developer I can already see the effects on my work. A tech-savvy user can do a lot without my help. Agencies love these builders, since they don’t have to pay for somebody who knows how to write good markup. A CMS not supporting these features will probably loose market shares.

      Page builders usually result in bloated and slow websites. This will furthermore damage the reputation of WordPress as a slow CMS. Some weeks ago, I built an extremely lightweight WP website. The theme consists of only 4 files (including functions.php, style.css and screenshot) and needs only 1 server request. Was a pleasure to build this site.

      • Edwin Toonen
        By Edwin Toonen on 11 April, 2018

        Hi Mike. As with all technology: you can do great things with it, but you can also mess things up. Gutenberg can become a fantastic page builder if we put our backs into it. A solid editor should make everyone’s work enjoyable.

  20. chrisball
    By chrisball on 9 April, 2018

    I have tried Gutenberg and it did not agree working alongside Siteorigin Widgets or my theme. It’s a great project & hope it integrates seamlessly with all current plugins, but until that happens I am going have a reserved judgement on this.

    This is also bad news for companies that make a living selling page builders, it may render them useless in the future. I use Smart Slider 3 for presentations on my website, and am hoping it will still work correctly after the integration of Gutenberg as it is a great tool.

    • Edwin Toonen
      By Edwin Toonen on 11 April, 2018

      Hi Chris. Many plugin developers have reservations towards Gutenberg. Some find it hard to get their plugins ready before Gutenberg is fully fleshed out. There are so many things going on at the moment that is hard to build on something that changes daily. I can understand that. But on the other hand, I would urge plugin developers to get to work now. If you find there are parts of Gutenberg that don’t sit well with what you do — or you might get some awesome idea to extend the new editor — there’s still time to fix it.

      The Gutenberg team said from the get-go that they are not looking to put anyone out of business. Their goal is to improve WordPress and make it the number CMS for many years to come. A fantastic, modern WordPress is good news for all of us as it will attract more and more people to the platform, thus making the market bigger for all of this. We’re all in this together you know!

  21. Mike
    By Mike on 9 April, 2018

    I have very mixed feelings about the new editor. I hope it will do a better job than the usual page builders. I never recommend a page builder plugin to my customers for several reasons: They are slow, and a broken plugin will result in shortcode hell. The HTML source code is crazy in terms of DIV use, and the customers tend to build much more complicated layouts than necessary. Let alone that all these fancy grid layouts are simply useless on mobile devices.

    I sincerely hope that Gutenberg will do a better job. My greatest concern is, however, the excessive use of DIVs. While this is not a big deal as long as you stay with WordPress, it can become a major issue, if you change the CMS. A simple editor creates very clean HTML that can be easily migrated to other database driven applications. Try this with a complicated DIV structure! It is very unlikely that the editor of the new CMS will support the same block system. As a result, all DIVs would be editable. One mistake, and the whole site could break. This is, why I almost never use DIVs in content that should be editable by the customer.

    • Edwin Toonen
      By Edwin Toonen on 11 April, 2018

      Hi Mike. First things first: Gutenberg is an editor, not a page builder. Not yet, anyway. The team does see it eventually become one. With Gutenberg, the editing environment gets its first update. It makes people aware of the block concept that is going to dominate WordPress from now on.

      I don’t know how it will eventually solve all the technical issues you are raising, as you do have some valid points. I think the Gutenberg team would be happy to receive your feedback, so please comment on the project on GitHub.

  22. Magda van Tilburg
    By Magda van Tilburg on 9 April, 2018

    Dear Yoast Staff!

    Does all this block philosophy means one does not need themes anymore? For it seems one can make a totally new interface with all these possibilties. I also gather that no longer child themes are necessary?
    Thanx, great guys&girls!!

    • Edwin Toonen
      By Edwin Toonen on 11 April, 2018

      Hi Magda! For the foreseeable future, you’ll still need themes. It will a long time before Gutenberg will turn WordPress into a full-scale site builder. And even then, we don’t how that will turn out. So, please keep your — child — theme as the new Gutenberg editor will probably work fine.

    • Mike
      By Mike on 9 April, 2018

      This is very unlikely, since other page elements like sidebar, header and footer need much more functionality than even a powerful editor can provide. Additionally, it would let to extremely bloated source code. The often used page builders, for example, create a hell of DIV cascades.

      • Edwin Toonen
        By Edwin Toonen on 11 April, 2018

        You are correct, Mike. Gutenberg is a very long way from being a site builder but that’s exactly what their plan is. We’re just going to have to wait and see how this pans out. There are still loads of technical challenges to overcome.

      • Mitch Rosefelt
        By Mitch Rosefelt on 10 April, 2018

        I recently saw Gut at a WP Meetup.
        The dev who showed it to me was very enthusiastic. When I asked if we could still edit the source code, we found that capability and IMO, the source code for the block was poor. He had not looked at it. The obvious danger is that poorly coded blocks will be replicated infinitely.
        IMO, the #1 issue which needs to be improved in WP is the file management. Organizing pages, posts, and the media library without a folder structure is pre-modern-computing. The WP ecosystem gives us great capabilities on a budgt, but it is its own OS. As digital content creator for 25 years, I find this deficiency shocking.

        • Edwin Toonen
          By Edwin Toonen on 11 April, 2018

          Hi Mitch. You are right, WordPress isn’t a very modern and elegant system for managing content. We operate a large, very popular site ourselves and we keep running into little things that make our work harder than it should. Now, that’s not something Gutenberg is focused on right now. In the first stadium, it will be a replacement for the editor. In the future, we’ll probably see a lot more happening with WordPress itself.

          • Jeremy
            By Jeremy on 12 April, 2018

            So, they are heading in the direction of what Squarespace and many others offer? I fear change..


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