Gutenberg 0.6.0 was released over the weekend with significant changes to the way paragraphs are created within text blocks. In previous versions of the plugin, pressing enter would create a line break inside a paragraph. This release modifies the behavior of the text/paragraph block to split the block when a user presses enter. (Line breaks can still be created by pressing SHIFT+ENTER.)
This update is a small improvement in that it hides the text formatting bar when you continue on with a new paragraph, but the slightest scroll or move of the mouse brings it back into view. Contributors are considering adding a buffer at some point that would only trigger the UI after the mouse moves a certain number of pixels.
Unfortunately, the “New Paragraph” placeholder text is intrusive and distracting. It is a constant, unwanted reminder of the structure of your document, which is not helpful if you are trying to stay in the flow of writing.
Gutenberg may improve the experience of vertically stacking differently formatted content, but the writing experience still needs a great deal of work before it can be comparable to what WordPress currently provides. The new editor still gets in the way of writing, instead of silently enabling it.
After browsing the Gutenberg repository’s 400+ issues queue, it’s clear that contributors are aware of the jarring experience for writers and are working to improve it in every release. However, the beta software is not anywhere near ready for long-form writing, as the intrusive UI places too many cognitive demands on the writer.
New Blocks in 0.6.0: “Cover Text” and “Read More”
This release introduces a new “Cover Text” block that includes background, text color, and full-width options. Color swatches are available in the sidebar block options and contributors are planning to add filters to allow plugin and theme authors to supply a custom palette.
Version 0.6.0 also includes a new “Read More” block that inserts a read more link with instant visual feedback within the content.
This release also brings several improvements to existing blocks, autosaving for drafts, and initial support for undo/redo keyboard functions.
Gutenberg’s Negative Reviews are Piling Up on WordPress.org
Gutenberg contributors are regularly shipping weekly releases, with many features added as bare bones placeholders that will be iterated on in future releases. New blocks are being developed simultaneously with core editing features. Some testers have bemoaned the proliferation of blocks that may seldom be used while the basic writing experience continues to lag behind.
Gutenberg plugin reviews are currently averaging 2.3 out of 5 stars on WordPress.org, with 46 1-star reviews, 21 5-star reviews, and a handful in between. While the reviews are not a full representation of all who are testing Gutenberg, they provide a small window into users’ current expectations, delights, and frustrations with the editor. Gutenberg contributors are monitoring these forums and using the feedback to create bug reports.
Many reviewers have left 1-star ratings, begging WordPress to keep it as a plugin instead of adding it to core. One reviewer even took to verse to further elaborate on his one-star review titled “A Visit from St. Gutenberg” with an adaptation of the classic poem “The Night Before Christmas:”
A bundle of blocks he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a coder just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
“Who needs MCE, when we have blocks and so many?”
Many reviewers find Gutenberg to be “unnecessarily complex” for actions that were previously easy to perform in the editor.
“I have several websites – two are for business and include blogs (technical posts, how-tos, etc),” @quantaweb said. “I’m also the editor of a literary magazine. This doesn’t work for any of these sites. It’s not easier to write blogs with it, and it does nothing to ease the work of importing critical essays and poetry into the literary magazine — and formatting them — either…Gutenberg is unnecessarily complex.”
Some of the 1-star reviews come laced with threats to move to another CMS and splinter the WordPress community if Gutenberg is included in core.
“By removing all the traditional editor buttons and trying to make a minimalist design the usefulness and ease of use has been drastically reduced,” @ovann86 said. “I found myself either not being able to do very basic content management or having to click, hover and look for the buttons – instead of them being visible and available immediately…If this was made core I would likely be forced to move to another CMS.”
Early testing of beta software is not for everyone, as many are unable to look past the initial bugs and clunky implementations to see the potential of the editor to improve WordPress’ severely fragmented content creation experience. Matt Mullenweg jumped onto the forums as recently as two weeks ago to respond to testers’ feedback.
“We definitely agree it’s not ready for prime time yet, that’s why we’re doing extensive public testing and iteration while it’s in the plugin phase,” Mullenweg said. “Thank you for your feedback and I hope you try it again in a few months with an open mind.”
It’s interesting also to see the distribution of the rating. There are many 5-star ratings and 1-star ratings and very little in between. It seems that people either love it or hate it.