As far as I can remember, the current WordPress editor has been pretty much unchanged. And while the familiarity can be a comfort for many, change is not always a bad thing. 

The new editor will be installed as standard on the next WordPress update and for those who have used Visual Editors, Gutenberg will be a pretty easy transition to make. At the time of writing (early August 2018), the editor is in beta mode, meaning that it’s out there for us to test. At present, most of us will have had to get familiar with shortcodes and snippets of HTML but Gutenberg is designed to make life a little easier for us. Let’s have a look at what it’s all about.

What is Gutenberg?

You’ll need at least WordPress 4.8 to use Gutenberg and for me, it was offered automatically as part of the latest upgrade. The current editor is still there in case you are having trouble with compatibility.

You can see that it’s a simple case of clicking Install and then Activate and once it’s installed, it provides you with an example post to show you what’s capable. At present, you can still switch back to the current editor in case you can’t figure out how to use the new version but first impressions are that it’s pretty intuitive to use and you’ll be a lot happier using it. 

First Impressions

Essentially, you’re building your blog posts through a series of building blocks, whether it’s text, images or videos or whatever. The sidebar of the dashboard adapts to whatever you are creating at the time so as I’m tying this, the sidebar adapts to the text settings. If you want to keep things simple, you can use the Text Settings for size but there is a Custom Size option should you need it. There’s also the option to add Drop Caps, which is a styling technique often found in magazines. It makes the first letter of the paragraph large, as I’ve done at the start of this paragraph.

Adding Blocks

Building your post is an easy affair. There’s a + button that brings up a list of things that you can add to your post and from there, you can add a Paragraph of text, a heading, an image, a video, a gallery or audio file. 

You can also add captions in the editor like this

If you’re used to distraction-free writing on sites such as Novlr, you’ll find Gutenberg easy to use. There is a toggle button in the top right that you can click on and it’ll hide the sidebar so you can focus on your post better. 

Duplicating and Resusable Blocks

One of the great things about the new editor is that you can duplicate boxes, meaning that you can don’t have to worry too much about formatting issues later on down the line. What I mean by that is if you create a block and need to reuse something similar later in the post, you can either Duplicate it or add it to Reusable blocks. You then don’t have to manually create the same box later. 

The Editor Sidebar

To the side of the editor is the Document settings, where you’ll find most things you need to select Categories, Featured Images and so on. You can also select the Author from the sidebar. For years, I had to create a post and then do a Quick Edit to select the author. There’s also the option to create a Sticky Page here as well as tags. Going forward, it’d be great to be able to customise what’s in the Editor sidebar.


First impressions are that Gutenberg will provide users with an easier and cleaner experience. There’s lots to explore with new features being added regularly. As mentioned, it’s still in development mode but I’m a big fan of distraction-free writing and I feel that Gutenberg will provide that.

For those used to working with Visual Editors, the transition should be an easy one. The ability to drop in whatever you want is a delight because for many years, I struggled with getting text and images lined up.

If you aren’t offered Gutenberg automatically, it is available from the WordPress repository and it’s worth getting the hang of it early because in a few years, it’ll be the standard editor that we all use.