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!

Update: Ctrl+A now selects all the blocks instead of just the one. It looks a bit weird, but at least it works. Other shortcuts like Ctrl+Home still don’t function.

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

I've been writing about web hosting and WordPress tutorials since 2008. I also create tutorials on Linux server administration, and have a ton of experience with web hosting products. Contact me via e-mail!

Comments

  1. This is what I’ve been saying all along – roll Gutenberg into WordPress.com as the default editor and then have it as an option via Jetpack or a standalone plugin for self-hosted installs.

    Reply

  2. Ah, this is honestly everything I feared that would happen.

    What I fail most to understand about Gutenberg’s purpose is my experience as a writer. When I’m typing something out, I don’t want to have to stop each time and focus on stupid blocks. If I wanted a site builder, I’d have installed one already.

    I installed the “Classic Editor” plugin. Literally cannot be bothered with Gutenberg, and I’m so miffed by the intrusiveness.

    Reply

  3. this is BS..you may as well just send a virus to millions of people and let them figure out whats wrong with site now…forget the phone too..what asinine person thought this was a good idea to do to millions of people..DUMMIES

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  4. I run many WP sites and one of them is a Meetup alternative. The majority of group admins struggle using the editor. They are not technically minded. They would get totally lost using a page builder – any page builder.

    Page builders for WP are nothing new and are a good option for those who want to use them. But the key word is “option”.

    The attraction of WP is its versatility. You can make your sites as simple or complicated as you see fit. If they make this hard-coded and block any plugin that tries to disable it, then they are going to lose a lot of long-term users.

    Meetup revamped their platform in December 2017, alienating the majority of its users. It seems companies are not interested in what their users think. If they think they have a good idea, they deploy it whether users think it’s good or not.

    Criticism is tolerated at first, then policed and finally blocked. Already the WP moderators are deleting posts that don’t support Gutenberg. Why companies deliberately shoot themselves in the foot is beyond me.

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    • It’s as if someone thought “Let’s make it modern“, and to hell with usability 🙂

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    • 100% agree. Currently I’m working on a project where Gutenberg will fit brilliantly. Taking the stress out of content creation for the editors who, may be great writers but, are mainly not particularly tech savvy.

      Then on other projects, Gutenberg just gets in the way, like this article suggests. In those projects, the writers just want to write and are well aware of how to add images, use pull quotes etc. For these I’m readying an email explaining how to dump in an HTML block as per usual.

      The problem is, you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

      Reply

  5. If they want to kill WordPress, this is one if the ways to do it. OMG!

    Reply

  6. Blablabla says:

    So to resume, y’all are suffering from neophobia.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neophobia

    Reply

  7. It is a new thing, all my theme bought from themeforest not support this editor.
    I think it may take long time for plugins which base on default tinyMCE to cover to Gutenberg.

    Reply

  8. Ok so when Gutenberg finally rolls out in 5.0, why don’t everyone not update to that newest version of wordpress. I do not like not updating, but I would make an exception here. Plus, install the classic editor plugin on top of that. This Gutenberg is not only going to affect the editing portion, but also how the front end is designed. Many of us web designers design custom themes on wordpress. This will dramatically increase my costs as it will lengthen development time. Bottom line. Do not switch to Gutenberg. Revert back to a previous version of WordPress that is not using Gutenberg.

    Reply

  9. Exact. I agree perfectly with you. It is the impression I had when I found myself in front of him.
    The WordPress team is making a resounding mistake, implementing it by default.
    In my opinion if they really wanted it, they would have to offer it as an alternative to the classic editor, which can be set from the settings panel.
    Moreover, just yesterday, writing a post, and using the classic version on Gutemberg (it is possible as if it were a block), I realized the disappearance of the media button (!!!): it is not possible to insert in the “classic” block media like photo or videos or gallery.
    Rejected!

    Ps. Sorry for my poor English!

    Reply

  10. opensource says:

    Also, that feel of a CMS update being so invasive with themes and plugins baffles me, it is WordPress still open source?

    Reply

  11. I understand concerns about the new system of doing things – it takes time to get used to it.

    All I read here is based on personal taste and habits, and doesn’t provide any valid arguments against the new direction in WP.

    It posses more of a challenge to those of us that do coding – learnig React as essential part of the new core, than adding or editing content.

    Get used to it. It ain’t going away. And the more you prolong the switch, the less prepared you will be when it becomes unavoidable.

    Reply

  12. I tried Gutenberg, I liked some new options they offer, but switched again to the classic editor because I found problems they have to fix.
    For instance, image files could not be centered (although this option was chosen).
    I could not change the color of links.
    I tried many things but couldn’t fix both issues.
    I don’t have these issues with the classic editor.
    If they solve some problems, I will definitely use it, it’s almost identical to MailChimp’s editor.

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  13. The whole custom made page attribute functionality of my website crashed, disappeared. And it all felt like demonetisation, you have something useful to do but can’t do it.

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  14. You have described exactly what my experience and feelings have been. I moved rather recently (over the past two and half years) most of my sites to WordPress (about ten of them, I had only two WP sites earlier), confident that I had found the perfect, lasting solution for my heavily text-content oriented sites. Continuity was for me the keyword. It cost me many weeks of work, not mentioning expenses for paying a designer for doing some things I could not do by myself, but I saw that as a long-term time investment.

    When I started discovering Gutenberg a little less than a year ago, it depressed me. The entire logic of Gutenberg runs counter the way I am publishing my websites. If I had seen a CMS like that, I would never have switched to WP. I can probably use Gutenberg for two or three of my sites, but not for the other ones.

    For the time being, I will disable Gutenberg and stick to the Classic Editor. But it is clear that the WP management does not intend to keep the Classic Editor working for many years – a few years, certainly, but I am not sure that it will be there in ten or fifteen years. True, there might be other editors available by then that could be used as substitutes for Gutenberg. But there is no certainty.

    I am following with much interest the ClassicPress project. I am tempted by such a fork, while wondering if there is a promising future for it. I would be quite interested to read your comments about that.

    Reply

    • In all honesty, I’ve simply started to type out all my posts in Word 2016, and then copy paste. Earlier, there used to be compatibility problems if you did that, but no more.

      Reply

  15. I run a local club website. I have no HTML / CSS etc training. Basically, I type text in and add the odd image.
    I am finding no advantage to the new editor and several disadvantages, of which the principal one is simple unfamiliarity. It is frustrating to find I can’t do things I already learned how to do, so I must learn anew.

    I understand “Gutenberg” will eventually be the only editor available, other than the “Word” option suggested by Bhagwad Park , above. I may well follow his example.

    Reply

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