So I came in here to do a post about something completely different, but discovered that Wordpress has enabled their Gutenberg editor by default with the latest version of the software, and it’s both enticing and scary to try something new, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

On the surface it’s got some advantages I think for people who want to write pretty posts.

What’s immediately appealing is that everything is a block of “something” and you have to be very deliberate in what something you want that something to be. For example, if you want to insert a quote, you start a new paragraph and you select the “quote” block type and blammo, there’s your quote:

Gutenberg is more than an editor. Gutenberg contributors

Which is something that for years I’ve thought was missing from all the nice GUI editors bundled with netlog software. I’ve had to deal with the source-code HTML fallout of websites written with WYSIWYG editors, and for the most part what you see on the front end might be what you get, but how you get it is usually some form of Lovecraft-ian horror on the back end, with tags embedded in tags like they’ve been involved in a transporter accident.

A sequence of mildy gruesome accidents caused by Star Trek technology. And Tuvix

Not all transporter malfunctions are happy accidents

The ideal goal of a “block” powered editor in my mind would be to teach your users how to think in blocks, so that their HTML is structured and formatted from the get-go with the particular idiosyncrasies of that format in mind. I’m not sure if that’s what the authors of Gutenberg set out to accomplish, but it’s the ideal outcome I can think of from such a project.

Personally I gave up on WYSIWYG years ago because I wanted precise control over what I wrote and not have the editor insert it’s ideas of how to output my thoughts. I began using Textile (markup) and have since dabbled a little in Markdown, and if I’m truly not getting the output I want, I switch to plain HTML. So, my initial reaction to having Gutenberg thrust upon me was to immediately reach for the off switch.

As an aside - I wanted to write a quick footnote here, but by default Gutenberg does not appear to support them. I’m guessing there are plugins for this, or maybe a setting I’ve missed, but it doesn’t appear to be possible out of the box - something I cannot abide.

What I wanted to write as a footnote was that I did enable Gutenberg early as a plugin just to see what it was all about, but freaked out and turned it off immediately because change is awful and should never be tolerated. It’s possible that I left it turned on, and only thought I disabled it, but I’m pretty sure it’s turned on by default, and research is for chumps.

While I’m writing, I’m noticing what I’m going to presume is a bug that’s causing the cursor to reset to the top of the paragraph I’m writing every time the page auto-saves. This is annoying. It could be a setting or another plugin I have causing the issue though, so it may not happen to everyone.

In summary, what I’m hoping to find when I press publish is a concise and minimal HTML output on my final page. The block paradigm, and the beautifully crafted interface for building those blocks appeals to me on a technological level, and I truly hope that the Gutenberg idea sticks and is embraced by the Wordpress user base. While there appear to be some minor issues (that might be unique to my setup), the idea is sound and may go some way to improving the guts of the sites that use it, which is a win.

Addendum: Gutenberg is wigging out with my Textile plugin and adding an extra <br/> tag after every paragraph. Other than that, the output HTML is every bit as simple and elegant as I could have hoped for. I will need to find a resolution to the Textile/Gutenberg conflict some time, and it might simply be switching off Textile once and for all, but if you come here and the page still has giant empty space between paragraphs, you’ll know it’s not because of Gutenberg.