Try Gutenberg: What WordPress 4.9.8 means for you

Last year, the WordPress team announced a major change. Known as Gutenberg, WordPress would shift from a editor similar to a word processor and adapt a new content block-based editor. Since then, they’ve been hard at work preparing Gutenberg for its public release. Recently, WordPress announced that it would include the option to try Gutenberg in WordPress 4.9.8, releasing July 31. What does this mean for your website?

Gutenberg is currently beta software

The WordPress 4.9.8 release will offer the opportunity to try Gutenberg, but that doesn’t mean Gutenberg is perfect yet. It’s come a long way since it was originally released in beta form, but the 4.9.8 rollout is essentially a public beta offering. Gutenberg isn’t considered to be “finished” until WordPress 5.0, which will release later this year — perhaps August or beyond, according to their timeline.

With this in mind, remember that Gutenberg is still in beta, which is programming-speak for “still in testing.” The WordPress team wants to get more people trying out Gutenberg to get a better idea of what people like and dislike about it and what needs to be fixed, but installing Gutenberg now is essentially choosing to be a tester for new software. At the time of this writing, WordPress 5.0 still has over 400 open tickets, or issues still needing to be resolved. Some are more serious than others, but you’re still working with an unfinished product.

Is beta testing a good idea for you?

WordPress is open source software. That means many people from around the globe are working together to create the product, and contributions from “the community” — in other words, anyone who uses it — are welcome. One way to help is to test unfinished software If you decide to help, great! However, be aware of a few things before you decide to jump in:

  • If your website is crucial to your business, you might want to hold off on beta testing. As mentioned before, Gutenberg still has quite a few open tickets. Something might not work quite right, and you don’t want to break a website that absolutely needs to work correctly.
  • Gutenberg is substantially different from WordPress as you currently know it. If you’re really busy or struggle learning new things, you might want to hold off on beta testing. Ultimately, most people will probably prefer Gutenberg in the long run, but with anything new, there’s a learning curve.
  • Some plugins and themes are not yet compatible with Gutenberg. We’ll provide more details on this in next week’s WordPress tip, but be aware that some themes and plugins are not currently compatible with Gutenberg. We expect that many of these will resolve compatibility before WordPress 5.0 releases later this year, but for now, it’s a good idea to ensure theme is compatible and all your essential plugins are too.

How does Gutenberg work?

Whether you’re going to try Gutenberg in a couple of weeks or wait for the WordPress 5.0 public release, it’s a good idea to get a leg up on things and start learning Gutenberg now. Even if you wait until later this year, Gutenberg is still coming your way very soon. You can always opt out and keep the classic editor, but more and more themes and plugins will be optimized for Gutenberg after it becomes the default editor in WordPress 5.0.

Gutenberg is a content block-based editor. Instead of functioning like a word processor as the current editor does, Gutenberg enables you to build posts and pages with blocks. The most basic blocks are paragraph and image blocks, but blocks also exist for tables, buttons, columns, and more. Developers can also create custom blocks for Gutenberg, meaning it’s almost infinitely expandable. For a basic overview of Gutenberg, see “Introducing a New Way to WordPress” on WordPress.org.

Learn more

If you’d like an in-depth tutorial to guide you through the new WordPress experience with Gutenberg, we’re releasing a new course to help. The Learn WordPress course will launch on July 30, 2018 — one day before the WordPress 4.9.8 Gutenberg preview releases to the public. Check back for more information on the course on or after July 30!

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