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Comprehensive Guide to the New WordPress Gutenberg Editor

WordPress was introduced in 2003 and has evolved from a simple blogging platform to a full-fledged content management system. It has also grown to be the most popular CMS. It currently powers over 30% of websites on the Internet. One of the main reasons behind this growth and popularity is the constant evolution WordPress has gone through.

In December 2018 WordPress introduced a new block-based editor called Gutenberg. The Gutenberg editor replaced the TinyMCE editor that people have grown used to over the years. This is one of the major updates to WordPress in recent times.

The Gutenberg editor introduced a significant change to content creation. It uses blocks for various content types. In this article we will take an in-depth look at how you can use blocks. We will also go through other features of the new editor.

What is Gutenberg?

As mentioned earlier Gutenberg is a block-based editor. This means you will not have access to the regular single edit field for content editing. Instead, you will use blocks for different content types such as text, images, CTA buttons, archives, blog posts, categories, etc. You will no longer have to use HTML and shortcodes as previously done in the classic editor. However, these are options that can still be used in the Gutenberg editor. Gutenberg takes content editing to a whole new level.

Blocks are simply elements for various content types. Gutenberg allows you to reposition blocks easily. You can change the alignment of blocks and reposition them vertically as well. Making changes to the content inside blocks is easy. Simply click within the block to start making changes. Editing pages and posts in the back end using Gutenberg will give a similar view to the front end. Gutenberg creates a user-friendly environment for content editing.

Different websites have different purposes. Gutenberg understands this and allows you to create custom blocks.

Here is a visual comparison of the two WordPress editors.

Comprehensive Guide to the New WordPress Gutenberg Editor - Classic Editor
The classic editor that was available in older versions of WordPress. This was a text editor with editing buttons similar to Microsoft software.
Comprehensive Guide to the New WordPress Gutenberg Editor - Gutenberg Editor
Gutenberg editor available in WordPress 5.0 and above.

Both editors are different both visually and in functionality.

Working with Gutenberg blocks

1. Discovering blocks

Click on the + sign in the top left-hand corner as shown in the screenshot below. This opens the content block section that organizes blocks into various groups.

WordPress Gutenberg Editor - Discovering blocks

Under the “Most Used” group you will find blocks that are often used by you.

Under the “Common Blocks” group you will find typical blocks such as the paragraph block, image block, headings blocks, links blocks, etc.

Under the “Formatting” group you will find blocks that are helpful in formatting such as code block, custom HTML block, classic editor block, table block, etc.

The “Layout Elements” group has blocks such as the columns block, media and text block, spacer block, separator block, etc.

The “Widgets” group has blocks such as embedded shortcodes, archives, calendar, etc. These were widget elements in the classic editor.

The “Embeds” group has blocks useful for external integrations such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. In the classic editor, you would usually have to use plugins for this kind of functionality.

To add a block, click on the + sign in the top left-hand corner and click on the relevant block that you would like to add. You can use the search section to search for a block.

WordPress Gutenberg Editor - Discovering blocks

Alternatively, to add a block in the content area of your WordPress post add a forward slash / and type the name of the block to search for it. Click on the relevant block to add it. An example is shown in the screenshot below.

WordPress Gutenberg Editor - Discovering blocks

2. Customizing blocks using the block manager

As you can see from above there are several blocks available for you to use. Often you may not need all these blocks and your workspace will be cluttered by unnecessary blocks. You can use the block manager to disable blocks that you don’t need.

In the top right-hand corner click on the More tools and options button and then click on the Block Manager.

WordPress Gutenberg Editor - Customizing blocks using the block manager

In the block manager, you can unselect blocks that you don’t need.

WordPress Gutenberg Editor - Customizing blocks using the block manager

The Gutenberg interface

The Gutenberg interface has 6 main sections. Each section is explained below.

WordPress Gutenberg Editor - Interface

  1. Allows you to add a title for your page or post.
  2. The plus sign allows you to add new blocks for your content.
  3. Allows you to undo and redo changes.
  4. This is the setting area. It is similar to the classic editor. It allows you to add a featured image, define tags, select categories, change the status, visibility, etc.
  5. The block tab allows you to edit block-specific settings.
  6. The preview and publish button are self-explanatory. They allow you to preview your page or post or to publish it.

Building a basic layout with Gutenberg

The best way to discover the Gutenberg editor is to use it. We will guide you on how you can use the Gutenberg editor to create a simple WordPress post with text, images, and an embedded video. This will get you started on using Gutenberg as you discover it more comprehensively.

Step 1: Add a title for your post

Start off by adding a title for your WordPress post as shown in the example below.

WordPress Gutenberg Editor - Add a title for your post

Step 2: Adding the columns block

The columns block allows you to easily organize your content into columns. You can use up to 6 columns.

In the content area of your WordPress post add a forward slash / and search for the columns block. Click on it to add it.

WordPress Gutenberg Editor - Adding the columns block

Once added you will need to select the appropriate layout for the columns. You can select any of the pre-built layouts or you can create one yourself. For this tutorial, we will use the 2 columns layout.

WordPress Gutenberg Editor - Add a title for your post

Step 3: Adding content to the columns block

Once the columns block has been added you can now start adding content to each of the columns. To add content, you will have to add blocks to each of the columns. Click on the + sign in the left column and add a paragraph to it.

WordPress Gutenberg Editor - Adding content to the columns block

Add some text to the paragraph block as shown below.

WordPress Gutenberg Editor - Adding content to the columns block

Step 4: Adding the image block

To add an image in the right column, click on the + sign in the right column, search for the image block and click on it to add it.

WordPress Gutenberg Editor - Adding the image block

You can either insert an image from the media library, upload one from your computer or add one from a URL.

WordPress Gutenberg Editor - Adding the image block

An example is shown below where an image has been added to the post.

WordPress Gutenberg Editor - Adding the image block

Step 5: Customizing individual blocks

In the steps so far, we have added 3 blocks. The columns block, the paragraph block, and the image block. Each of these blocks has some customization options.

To access the customization options of the block, select the relevant block that you would like to customize and click on the block tab as shown in the screenshot below. The columns block settings will allow you to increase or decrease the number of columns. The maximum number of columns you can use is 6.

WordPress Gutenberg Editor - Customizing individual blocks

If you select the paragraph block you will have access to different customization options. You can change the text size, use a drop cap, add some background color to the text, change the text color and add additional CSS classes.

WordPress Gutenberg Editor - Customizing individual blocks

If you select the image block you will have access to customization options of the image block. You can select the shape of the image, add some alt text, select the size of the image and add some additional CSS classes.

WordPress Gutenberg Editor - Customizing individual blocks

Step 6: Changing the alignment of the blocks

Depending on the theme that you are using you will have the option to change the alignment of the blocks.

To change the alignment of the columns block, click on the change alignment button and select the appropriate alignment as shown below.

WordPress Gutenberg Editor - Changing the alignment of the blocks

Similarly, to change the alignment of the image block, select the image block and click on the change alignment button as shown below. Again, the options you have here will depend on the theme that you are using.

WordPress Gutenberg Editor - Changing the alignment of the blocks

Step 7: Changing the position of blocks

Once you have added multiple blocks you can easily rearrange them by clicking on the move up or down button. An example is shown in the screenshot below. We have added a cover block and wish to have the cover block on top of the columns blocks.

WordPress Gutenberg Editor - Changing the position of blocks

As shown below the cover block is now on top of the columns block.

WordPress Gutenberg Editor - Changing the position of blocks

Switching to the code editor

Often, you need to access the code of the content that you are creating. In the classic editor, you could easily do this by clicking on the text tab.

WordPress Gutenberg Editor - Switching to the code editor

In Gutenberg, the process is slightly different. To access the code of the entire post or page click on the More tools and options button in the top right-hand corner and select the Code Editor.

WordPress Gutenberg Editor - Switching to the code editor

Alternatively, you can use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Shift + Alt + M.

Gutenberg keyboard shortcuts

The Gutenberg editor comes with standard keyboard shortcuts. Once you get used to these, you will find yourself working much faster. To access the full list of keyboard shortcuts, use the Shift + Alt + H. This will give you a pop-up with all the keyboard shortcuts available.

WordPress Gutenberg Editor - Keyboard shortcuts

Create reusable block templates

If you have a layout of blocks that you would like to reuse in other pages or posts, you can save that layout as a template to reuse later on. You will need to name your template and you can insert it in other pages or posts just like a normal block.

To create a reusable template, select the blocks that you would like to use, click on the more options button and then click on Add to Reusable Blocks.

WordPress Gutenberg Editor - Create reusable block templates

Define a name for your template and click on save.

WordPress Gutenberg Editor - Create reusable block templates

Conclusion

At first, the Gutenberg editor may seem difficult to use. Initially, you may even have difficulties in performing minor actions that you have taken for granted. However, once you get used to it, it becomes a great tool to have at your disposal. You should easily be able to build layouts, create new pages and posts. As you get a hang of advanced Gutenberg blocks you will have greater flexibility than the classic editor.

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