Advanced Custom Fields to Add Gutenberg Compatibility in Version 5.0, Slated for September

The Advanced Custom Fields (ACF) team published an announcement today, assuring users that Gutenberg compatibility is in the works and will be available in version 5.0 of the free version in September 2018. The plugin, created by Elliot Condon, makes it easy for developers to add custom fields to WordPress edit screens, including posts, users, taxonomy terms, and media.

ACF is widely used with more than a million active installations. Developers have been concerned about whether or not their custom fields would continue to work on their clients’ websites after the new editor makes its debut in WordPress 5.0.

Gutenberg treats legacy metaboxes as second class citizens in the interface, stuffed at the bottom of the new edit screen. Metaboxes should, however, continue to work as expected. The ACF announcement lets developers know what to expect for how their metaboxes will appear inside Gutenberg:

By default, our beloved metaboxes are pushed all the way to the bottom of the screen in an awkward attempt to retain compatibility. This placement feels very much like an afterthought from the Gutenberg developers and creates a disjointed editing experience for those of us (1+ million awesome ACF users) who extend the edit screens with extra fields.

While this setup isn’t ideal, we will continue to work within the system to ensure that ACF is integrated into the Gutenberg UI to the fullest extent possible.

The free version of ACF will introduce Gutenberg compatibility in its version 5 release, which is slated for early September 2018. The compatibility update will only apply to version 5 and later, so the ACF team urges developers to running 4.x to upgrade to 5 as soon as it becomes available. Developers can also elect to upgrade early by turning on ACF’s Early Access feature.

The most surprising news is that ACF is introducing its own “ACF Blocks,” an acf_register_block() function that allows developers to register their own custom blocks without having to learn JavaScript.

One of the big selling points of Gutenberg is the ability for developers to create custom blocks. The challenge is that the process is very JavaScript-intensive and not so friendly to PHP developers. But never fear, because ACF Blocks is here to turn that narrative upside down!

We have been hard at work building a PHP friendly game-changer for you to quickly create new block types using ACF fields to power PHP templates!

ACF Blocks may be an unexpected development for those using the plugin, as the ACF team’s recent tweets have frequently communicated their disappointment with Gutenberg.

The availability of the ACF Blocks function is a strategic move that continues to make ACF indispensable for users who may not have made the time to improve their technical skills with regards to extending Gutenberg.

“Using ACF to make custom blocks was something I thought could happen, but not necessarily would happen,” WordPress developer Roy Sivan said. “They proved me wrong, and its a big deal.”

The news should come as a relief for developers who have used ACF liberally on client sites and feel under the gun with Gutenberg’s proposed time frame for inclusion in core. The ACF team is working to make sure developers’ customizations continue to work as seamlessly as possible when WordPress 5.0 is released.

15 Comments


  1. That quote editor is a great example of how the removal of WYSIWIG simplifies life for everyone. Easier for editors to add content, easier for designers to style it, easier for developers don’t need to maintain.

    Gutenberg tries to be both article editor (Medium) and page builder (Squarespace). I wish it focused on one thing.

    Backend WYSIWYG editor also adds complexity, as developers need to style both frontend and backend.

    Say, a user created an image gallery in Gutenberg, now we want to change the markup of all galleries on the frontend. How we do this? Since Gutenberg doesn’t store gallery attachment IDs in JSON, we have to parse HTML via PHP to retrieve attachment ID from “data-” attribute, which is a horror.

    Now imagine the same gallery editor, but without WYSIWIG part. Where each image is a simple square that can be reordered. Where data is stored in a simple array. It becomes to much easier for everyone.

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    1. Now imagine the same gallery editor, but without WYSIWIG part. Where each image is a simple square that can be reordered. Where data is stored in a simple array. It becomes to much easier for everyone.

      Yes, I’d like a non-opinionated gallery field so I could style it as a slider or a carousel or a masonry grid in the frontend.

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      1. Which is essentially what ACF is doing. So this step of somehow getting ACF “back on track” or just simple compatiblity is one in the right direction.

        cu, w0lf.

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  2. I’m happy for ACF users and developers. ACF is the most popular plugin for custom fields, and its compatibility is crucial for developers. We’re at Meta Box has done this work months ago when the original plan of releasing Gutenberg was April. I was hoping ACF announced this move earlier because it’s a big concern for developers.

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  3. Game changer, ACF team is awesome.

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    1. I think he only qualifies for Australia – but I’d vote for him if I could!

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  4. Great, ACF! Waiting for it so long. Unfortunately, metabox.io is one step ahead. The game is quite interesting now, hah. I moved to use Meta Box in recent projects but now will consider going back with ACF.

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  5. Excited to see how ACF works both with Gutenberg and to improve upon Gutenberg. I manage alot of sites that rely heavily on this plugin.

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  6. Gutenberg is nowhere near ready and shouldn’t be forced into 5.0. It will be, but the idea that the edit screens I’ve created using ACF will be screwed over so that Matt can compete with Wix, et al is infuriated and the team has mismanaged this from the start with some of the worst communications and process (externally visible process at least, e.g. roadmaps and timeline) that I’ve seen.

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    1. Your edit screens are not going to be screwed over though, that is your misconception. Just install the classic editor or Gutenberg ramp plugins and your edit screens will stay as they are.

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      1. Installing more plugins as a workaround just to keep things functional isn’t a long-term solution though. Gutenberg might be great for certain types of sites but might not be the best experience for others. I’m not a fan of my ACF fields being pushed all the way to the bottom and clients having to hunt/scroll to manage pages – I typically prefer to build my own interfaces with flexible content fields and hide the default TinyMCE editor. It still feels like Gutenberg should be available as a standalone plugin for those that want the builder/drag and drop editing experience, not rolled into core as the default.

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  7. Guttenberg and the ACF blocks builder is great for editing content. But ACF is not only used by developers for the content of a post but for the settings as well.
    For instance, you could have a related post meta box created with ACF and populating this box is part of the editing process. This is not going to be replaced by a block in the Guttenberg editor.
    Meta boxes are still very needed in order to allow more granular settings, taxonomies, relationships… And it’s a long-term need.

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