Gutenberg 5.5 was released with the long-awaited Group block, previously known as the Section block. It was renamed to avoid confusion with the HTML5 section element and prevent potential overlap with future site/theme type sections, such as headers, sidebars, and footers. The first iteration of the Group block supports the ability to nest other blocks inside it and the ability to align the block and any of its child blocks that include alignment settings.
“It’s a minimal version at the moment and improvements about the flows to add inner blocks, group/ungroup blocks are expected in follow-up releases,” Gutenberg phase 2 technical lead Riad Benguella said. In testing the feature I found that it is indeed a rocky start and far from intuitive to use but a more refined grouping experience will be developed after further testing and feedback.
The Group block lays the foundation for a future where WordPress themes may evolve to become block templates. In response to a comment about how the Group block could essentially replace the widget management interface, Benguella offered a glimpse of how Gutenberg will eventually transform the theme industry:
In a world where themes are made of block templates instead of php templates, there’s no need for widget areas.
That said, Gutenberg is a huge change for WordPress and its community. With the new blocks concept, Phase 2 is about helping the WordPress community adopt this new concept without completely changing what a theme means in WordPress. We shouldn’t just abandon existing themes and switch into full-site editing without an iterative plan.
We’ll eventually get there where everything is made of block templates and blocks but we need to make smaller steps first and the first one is the ability to use blocks instead of widgets in existing themes.
This release also includes a few minor but useful improvements, such as automatically populating the link field when the selected text is an email.
The Gutenberg team is also making progress on the new widgets screen with a barebones testing version in place that will allow them to start investigating and tackling technical issues related to this screen. It’s not functional yet but provides a place to further explore the block editor in this context.
The bug fixes included in Gutenberg 5.5 will be in the upcoming WordPress 5.2 release, which was previously targeted for April 30. There is currently a proposal open for pushing it back to May 7, due to the number of open tickets.