What is Gutenberg and what does it mean for your WordPress website?

What is Gutenberg?

Gutenberg is the new WordPress editor, which is due to be released later this year. WordPress hasn’t  yet announced a date, but it’s widely expected to be in April or May 2018.

How is Gutenberg different to the current Editor?

Screenshot showing Gutenberg editor. The 'Common Blocks' pop-up is shown, overlaid on top of some sample 'lorem ipsum' text and part of an image.
Gutenberg’s ‘add block’ pop-up

The current editor is basically a text editor, through which you can edit all your different ‘post types’ like Pages, Posts, and any custom post types like Products, Portfolio items, Jobs, Events, etc.

To edit any of these things, you add text and maybe an image or two, and format it in a window that looks a bit like a word processor.

Alongside this, there are a few other ways to add and arrange content: via shortcodes, custom fields or other meta-boxes (those extra boxes which appear at the bottom of your edit page), through widgets, or by using different page templates.

Gutenberg aims to simplify all that.

It’s based on moveable ‘blocks’ of content. Every element on your page becomes a block. You can add blocks for text, quotes, images, galleries, buttons, videos, polls, tables, lists, forms, etc. In future, there will be blocks associated with your plugins too. For example, you may have custom blocks for products or listings.

With Gutenberg, you’ll be able to edit all these things in a consistent way, and rearrange them without cutting and pasting chunks of your page (and – as so often happened in the past – messing up the formatting by doing so!)

In most cases, you’ll also be able to see how your block will look in the editor itself.

Will Gutenberg break my website?


Gutenberg won’t break core WordPress features: your website will keep working, its appearance won’t change and your content will remain the same.

However, given that Gutenberg itself is still in development, it’s possible that some themes and plugins won’t be ready. Although this won’t “break” your website, it might mean that you can’t edit certain sections through Gutenberg.

Developers of widely-used plugins and/or those with big development teams (e.g. WooCommerce or Gravity Forms) are already working to make sure that their plugins are Gutenberg-friendly. As soon as it launches, you’ll find that these are ready to use.

But many WordPress plugins and themes are built by volunteers or solo-developers, or have been custom-built for a specific website. It’s possible that some of these won’t be ready in time.

If your site uses a lot of plugins, meta-boxes, or any kind of custom post-type, you should probably check with your website developer whether or not it will be affected by Gutenberg.

How can I learn how to use Gutenberg?

Of course, the best way to learn is by trying it!

You can install the Gutenberg plugin on a copy of your website and try it out. Note that the plugin is still in ‘beta’ (i.e. test) mode, so don’t install it on your live site unless you’ve already tested it.

Since it’s still in development, there aren’t many tutorials around yet. I’ve created a video to show you some of the basics. (11 mins 23 secs)

What if I want to keep the old editor?

Gutenberg will become the default editor when WordPress v.5.0 is released. However, if you don’t want that, you can install a plugin which will let you keep using the current editor:

  • Install and Activate the Classic Editor plugin
  • Go to Settings -> Writing, tick the ‘classic editor’ checkbox and Save.

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