7 Reasons to Not Switch to the Gutenberg WordPress Editor

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I’ve been using WordPress since 2010. Ten years of blogging on my personal blog, and hundreds upon hundreds of freelance articles on dozens of others. I’ve been doing this a long time. So when I heard that the new Gutenberg WordPress editor was close to completion, I was itching to try it out. I love new software, and get a kick out of shaking things up. So I was hoping to be blown away.

I wasn’t. Oh boy, I wasn’t!

Now I know that beta versions of plugins are buggy, so I’ve already cut it a lot of slack. I wrote a full-blown post of 1500 words on Gutenberg yesterday, complete with screenshots and everything else. I came away stunned that WordPress could release something like this on the unsuspecting public.

Before I get into the problems, I have to write a short description of the major paradigm change that Gutenberg brings.

No Single Text – Everything is a “Block”

You think you’re writing a single document. Let’s just say that Gutenberg thinks otherwise. The new editor doesn’t treat your post as a single entity. It splits everything into blocks. Paragraphs, images. Even headings get their own block!

Here’s what I mean. In the screenshot below, the heading is a separate section from the paragraph above it. Note the popup menu and trash icon to the side of the heading which has my mouse over it:

Blocks in the WordPress Gutenberg Editor

And it takes this concept to the extreme, which ends up creating problems. So here’s a list of 10 things that bug me about WordPress’s revamped Gutenberg editor.

Problem 1: Shortcuts Function Only Inside the Block

Experienced writers use navigation shortcuts to move quickly from one part of the document to the other. It’s so common that I don’t even remember what those shortcuts are – it’s all muscle memory. Need to go to the beginning of the document? I watch as my fingers type in Ctrl+Home.

Except…in Gutenberg that doesn’t happen. Other shortcuts that apply to the entire document don’t work either. For example:

Pressing Ctrl+Home

Expectation: Cursor goes to the top of the page
Reality: Cursor goes to the top of the current block! (Paragraph, image etc)

Pressing Ctrl+A

Expectation: The entire article is selected
Reality: Only the contents of the current block are selected!

See what I mean? This is ridiculous. This is all the same article. Not fifteen different ones!

Problem 2: Shortcuts for Headings and Paragraphs Don’t Work

Professional writers know to use keyboard shortcuts for creating headings and paragraphs. The classic WordPress editor has taught us that Alt+Shift+2 creates a new “H2”. Heading. Pressing “3” instead of “2” makes it H3. Little things like this save time, and keeps us in the flow. No need to move our hand to the mouse.

But Gutenberg breaks this, and years upon years of muscle memory. Now pressing shortcuts like Alt+Shift+2 merely selects the line of text. It doesn’t convert into a heading. Is this a bug, or intended behavior? I hope it’s not something WordPress intends to leave for later, thinking that it’s a low priority. That’s Google’s strategy, not Automattic’s!

Problem 3: Horribly Distracting Popups Upon Mouseover

You know the main use of my mouse pointer while editing? To place my cursor where I want to start typing. Either to make a link there, or select some text with the keyboard for formatting, deleting an extra space, or correcting an error.

You know what I DON’T use my mouse pointer for? To move the paragraphs up and down! I also don’t use it to get a “menu”, a trash icon, and a whole bunch of other stuff. Gutenberg however, obliges by filling my screen with trash whenever my mouse pointer happens to hover over a “block” (which is basically everything).

Here it’s helpfully asking me whether I want to move the current paragraph up or down:

Movement Icons for Blocks

Like, why would you do this? How many times have you moved your mouse over a paragraph with the intention to displace the thing up or down? What is the use case here? Is this actually something that people want?

Forget about “distraction-free writing”. Gutenberg is “distraction heavy” writing. It’s not just you and words on the screen. It’s you, lines demarcating blocks, unhelpful icons everywhere that disappear and reappear as you move around the article.

Very zen. NOT!

Problem 4: Accidentally Creating Blocks

Let’s say I want to add another sentence to an existing paragraph. I click the end of the last line. Easy, right? Apparently, Gutenberg often seems to think that I want to create a new block instead. Then I have to go and delete said block (Aha – so that’s the reason for the trash icon!)

The line between “placing your cursor” and creating a new block is very thin. You better have pinpoint precision with that mouse.

Problem 5: Word Count is No Longer Automatically Visible

I often quickly peek at the bottom of the WordPress editor to get a quick idea of the number of words on the page. I to do this without breaking my flow, and without distractions. That functionality is chopped in Gutenberg.

Instead, we get a new “Information” icon at the top of the page which gives us the count when we click on it:

Information Button to Get Document Details

Along with other unhelpful stuff like the number of paragraphs and blocks. Seriously – in 10 years of writing, I have never once been curious about the number of paragraphs in my article (or blocks). Who needs this stuff? And while designing it, did anyone pause to think about whether or not it’s useful?

Problem 6: Some Boxes Below the Editor are Now Missing

Some themes like Genesis have useful options below the WordPress editor. For example, you can change the layout on individual posts or pages. I don’t personally use it, but others might have gotten used to that functionality.

But the Gutenberg WordPress editor axes it. Again, I don’t know if it’s a bug, or whether they expect us to find that option elsewhere. And if it happens with Genesis themes, I’m willing to bet that a lot of your other plugin boxes below the editor are going to disappear.

Adding on, basic stuff like custom fields are missing! Custom fields are a great way to specify individual parameters for posts or pages. Like say a special image URL for Facebook. Or a special image apart from the featured image for the post. Earlier, you could hide or show these options using the “Screen Options” button at the top. That facility has been removed in the new Gutenberg WordPress editor.

I’m told there’s a separate plugin for custom fields. But yeah, that’s what we need. One more plugin to enable by default into WordPress.

Problem 7: HTML Code is All Messed Up

Along with blocks, Gutenberg seriously screws up the HTML code generated by the editor. On the top right, there’s a menu with the “Code Editor” option. But here’s the junk it produces:

HTML code is all messed up

 

Now you may say that these are just comments, and it doesn’t matter that they’re there. Except that it does bother me. I like to keep things as clean as possible. And if you want to transfer your Gutenberg code to another WordPress editor or HTML viewer, then these junk comments will follow as well. I just don’t like that.

Using the Classical Editor Instead

I don’t know how it’ll be in the final version, but right now you can revert to the classical editor after installing the Gutenberg plugin. You can find the option in the list of posts from the WordPress admin as shown here:

Access the Classical Editor

Though I suspect that this will be going away soon once Gutenberg is fully integrated into WordPress.

Final Thoughts on the Gutenberg WordPress Editor

Some of you may say that these are just the problems of a beta plugin. I disagree. These look like deliberate design choices to me. Stuff like ditching global text shortcuts are a natural outgrowth of the “block” mentality. No one took an “accidental” decision to put a separate button for the word count. I’m sorry, but the new Gutenberg WordPress editor is just a bad replacement for what we have now.

Yes, the current editor is a bit slow and outdated. But it’s been refined over years to give us what we need. Gutenberg chucks a huge bunch of that learning out of the window and expects us to get used to it.

Sorry, but that’s not going to happen. Not unless they change it in a fundamental way. In the meantime, I’m going to be composing my posts in Microsoft Word.

About Bhagwad Park

Bhagwad has been writing WordPress tutorials for years. He also creates tutorials on Linux server administration, and has a ton of experience writing about and using web hosting products! Send me an e-mail!

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