My Thoughts After Using Gutenberg For a Year

This time last year (2019), Gutenberg had arrived in WordPress 5.0.

At the time, it felt like it was rushed into the WordPress product – unpolished, buggy, ever-changing – more like an Alpha than a final release.

Like hammering a dodecahedron shape into a round hole!

It took some time for me to be able to move this site over to Gutenberg due to issues with overlapping blocks and my heavy use of Advanced Custom Fields, which did not have 100% support at the time.

Blogging With Gutenberg

When I started using Gutenberg for my blog posts around April last year, it seemed that every week something in the UI would change – a bit like Facebook.

Whether that was the way something popped up, moving meta boxes, the icon changes to the way selecting copy using <CTRL>+A would sometimes highlight the text inside a block and at other times choose all blocks on the page – I still can’t figure out the rules for that one.

My spelling is terrible, like really bad, so I rely on spelling and grammar checking to make my blog posts readable and flow nicely.

Grammarly With Gutenberg

I use Grammarly – yes I know some people think that it’s just a keylogger. I beg to differ – it is a tool that I quite frankly can’t do without.

The problem is that Grammarly only works in the confines of a single Gutenberg block and I hate that.

It’s not Grammarly’s fault; it is the way Gutenberg is designed, splitting everything into a block.

I think this is nuts and goes against the natural way we all write articles and stories.

Writing Stories vs Pages

Yes, an article contains chunks called sentences and paragraphs, but the “story” flows over the context of them altogether.

Headlines, sentences and paragraphs all go together to make up a story which Grammarly can’t diagnose because Gutenberg splits everything down into their components.

I’m sure other similar browser add-ons have the same problem – maybe you can correct me if this is not the case.

I do think that building a page in Gutenberg is a better or should I say faster experience now than using the classic editor TinyMCE.  

But, a page on a website is very different than a blog or story.  

A page consists of independent parts – bits of small stories interlaced with headers, banners, boxes and all the fancy gizmos that we have at hand today. It does and should have flow but not in the same way as an article story.

I can’t write a blog, a story in Gutenberg because it drives me nuts.

Goodbye TinyMCE – A Farewell From Automattic

I’ve tried using classic editor blocks and writing my copy in there. However, it felt restrictive and counterintuitive having the TinyMCE inside a small block window.

Automattic has said they will only support the Classic Editor plugin (hence TinyMCE) until 2020 and that is a problem.

I don’t want to set up a writing system that I know will not be officially supported in only a couple of years.

Yes, there will be third-party plugins released that will continue to extend TinyMCE in Gutenberg, like TinyMCE Advanced.

However, without official support from Automattic, I can see TinyMCE’s popularity wane overtime in the WordPress ecosphere.

Google Docs With Gutenberg

So, now I write all my blog posts in a Google Doc with Grammarly happily correcting my spelling and grammar.

Once I’m happy with the story, I paste it into Gutenberg, watching it rip apart the story into the unnecessary paragraph and headline blocks with me correcting the mistakes in block translations that it makes – although these are becoming less frequent.

The one that bugs me the most is having to remove the carriage return form the end of each paragraph block because blocks use padding and margins for space between them – again a counterintuitive way to write.

When was the last time you padded the bottom of your paragraph when writing a story?

Then I add the WordPress specific components I want my post to include – tables, video link, gizmos etc.

I do hope that Gutenberg evolves into a better writing experience and that they continue to iron out all those UI issues.

Until that time comes, I’ll be continuing to write all my blog posts in Google Docs!

Please let me know in the comments below how you find writing blog posts and stories with Gutenberg.

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Wil is a dad, WordPress consultant, WordPress developer, business coach and mentor. He co-organizes the WordPress Sydney meetup group and has been on the organising committee for WordCamp Sydney since 2014. He speaks at many special events and contributes to the WordPress open source project. His likes are chillies, craft beer and electrogravitics.

2 thoughts on “My Thoughts After Using Gutenberg For a Year”

  1. I quite agree, although my process is different. I struggled with writing posts in the block editor for a while, but I’ve ditched it in favour of the classic editor again. I did try editing in a Markdown file and pasting in, but like you, found block problems to be tedious.

    But it goes beyond the initial writing experience. Regardless of how you draft your post, you will need to edit it once you’ve got it into WordPress and looked at it on the front end. Having each piece of text being a block makes this infuriating. Tooling up a few things like adding classes to links is an exercise in frustration in the block editor, driving you further into more and more blocks to get things done the “block editor way”. Welcome to div soup.

    I’ve gone back to writing in the classic editor, and using CSS columns to get a readable layout. It’s less grief, and works well in browsers other than Firefox (who promise to eventually catch up with IE11).

    Conversely, the block editor is pretty good for business websites with no posts! Building a site this way is quicker and easier, and the resulting site doesn’t suffer the performance issues of a site made with a typical page builder plugin.

    It’s just that the block editor makes for a truly horrible writing experience.

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