WordPress for iOS and Gutenberg Don’t Get Along

When it comes to editing and crafting content on the go, the WordPress Mobile apps are a good choice. The question is, how does the editor in the iOS app interact with content written in Gutenberg? Let’s find out.

Quick Edits Turn Into Lengthy, Frustrating Fixes

For testing purposes, I used a simple scenario that many users may run into. I’ve written and published a post in Gutenberg using paragraph, unordered lists, and image blocks. I then used the WordPress for iOS mobile app to access the post, correct a typo, and save it. The goal is to see if content is affected by saving it in a different editor.

Here is what the content looks like written and published in Gutenberg.

Content Written and Published in Gutenberg

Here is what the post looks like in the iOS app. It displays what appears to be Comment shortcodes at the beginning of each paragraph.

Gutenberg Content in WordPress for iOS
Gutenberg Content in WordPress for Ios

After correcting a typo and saving the changes, this is what happened to the post. As you can see, what was supposed to be a quick fix has turned into a lengthy process of fixing the entire article in Gutenberg.

Content Written in Gutenberg After Editing in the WordPress for iOS App

All of the content runs together as one giant block. To say that this is frustrating is an understatement, especially if you’re on the road and don’t have access to a desktop or tablet that can load the WordPress backend. 

Here is what the content looks like in Gutenberg after saving the edits in the iOS app. There are large gaps and a few of the blocks have warnings stating that they appear to have been modified externally.

Content in Gutenberg After It Was Edited in the WordPress for iOS App

Clicking the convert to block buttons turns the messages into blocks but it doesn’t return the formatting and in some cases, content goes missing. Before editing in the iOS app, this block contained a quote with a citation. Now it’s empty.

Quote Block Is Missing Content

WordPress has post revisions so I was able to quickly restore the breaking changes introduced by the iOS app. But this user experience between Gutenberg and the WordPress for iOS app is a great example of how something so simple can easily turn into a perceived disaster by users and ultimately, tarnish the new editor’s reputation.

Searching the Gutenberg repository on Github for iOS produces some results, but none refer to the compatibility issues I experienced.

I found out the hard way and will not be making any more changes to posts written in Gutenberg in the iOS app until compatibility between both editors exists. I recommend you don’t as well unless you want to fix a lot more than a typo.

19 Comments


  1. I’ve posted concerns to the developers of the mobile apps, I use Android heavily. And they are only just now starting to look at planning. I’m a little frustrated that neither the Gutenberg team or the mobile app team hasn’t gotten together long before now to figure out the roadmap ahead. If the mobile apps don’t get in on things now it’s going to make Gutenberg adoption that much more of a terrible experience for users.

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    1. The mobile team have been working on the native Gutenberg experience for several months. They’ve been laying a lot of groundwork, which you can see (and even experiment with!) in the gutenberg-mobile repository.

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      1. OK, I reached out a month or 2 ago now and at the time I didn’t see hardly any discussion around it. I don’t get a chance to spend a lot of time in the Slack channel but up until the end of March post on make.wordpress.org/mobile (which I follow) there had been little, or nothing, posted on anything about Gutenberg. I’m glad to hear that there is something to play with. I guess given that there are very regular Gutenberg updates on make.wordpress.org I would have expected more on the mobile side as well. I will keep tabs on both the GitHub repo and the Slack channel for updates. Thanks!

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  2. I don’t know how well mobile safari or the other skinned browsers masquerading as something different on iOS handle the WP backend but Android and Windows devices don’t seem to have a problem it. Apps were once upon a time, a necessary and good thing. Now they’re just another codebase that continues to accrue unnecessary technical debt.

    It was a goid run but now the aging WP app should maybe just be discontinued in favor of crafting a great experience within the browser. With the modern web tech, there’s little good reason to avoid developing one experience for all. Perhaps the WP app could even just suggest using an actual browser for the better experience to transition folks. Anything that iOS can’t handle that’s probably on Apple rather than WP or Gutenberg.

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    1. There are certain advantages to native apps: simpler offline support, faster code, and they often have better access to the native APIs that mobile devices offer. Mobile platforms are slowly expanding their APIs to work with web apps, too, but it’s slow going.

      The mobile team are looking at getting the best of both worlds, though: gutenberg-mobile compiles Gutenberg to work as a native component. So, we get something based off the same code base (ensuring the mobile apps can easily keep up with the latest Core features), while also offering the speed and experience that native apps can do. 🙂

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  3. Gutenberg is not compatible with any remote publishing, that is not designed specifically for it. This was the first observation me and others made when gutenberg 1.0 released. Everybody that uses remote publishing will have to ask its author to update it to support gutenberg.

    … but its actually even worse, as gutenberg do not support displaying block information in a human readable way, every new block you will add to your site will be a case of hit and miss if you will need to edit it remotely without using a browser for it.

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  4. I’m sorry you ran into those problems, Jeff. 😢 Thank you for bringing them up, I imagine more people will run into similar problems as Gutenberg is installed on more and more sites.

    The mobile team are heavily focussed on creating a mobile native version of Gutenberg, which is super cool, (and has exciting implications for how quickly we can bring the next phases of Gutenberg to the mobile apps), but unfortunately doesn’t leave them with much time for handling Gutenberg compatibility in the current mobile editor.

    For now, I’ve opened issues for the Android and iOS apps, to redirect editing Gutenberg posts to the site, rather than using the mobile editor. This isn’t ideal, of course, but it’s just a temporary measure to ensure you can’t accidentally wipe out the formatting on your post. Once the mobile native version of Gutenberg is ready for wider testing, this can be turned off.

    I’d expect to see updates on the make/mobile blog as mobile native Gutenberg becomes available for testing. 🙂

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    1. Maybe it is time to properly and transparently state that gutenberg is going to break all kind of backward compatibility, instead of ignoring the real issue?

      While automattic have an interest in fixing the mobile apps for users of wordpress.com, what about all the other client and publishing tools? who will fix them? how will site owners with a “one off” app, will even know that there is anything to fix?

      Will this be announced only at the release of 5.0 when it might be late to do anything about it?

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      1. Nobody is denying that some tools will potentially need to update how they’ll work, particularly if they’re tied very tightly to the markup that’s stored in post_content. This will mostly affect generic tools, like the mobile apps, which are often used in conjunction with the wp-admin interface.

        Custom tools will be able to update at their leisure (or not at all, if they so choose): if site owners are only using an app to publish content, it will continue to work as normal: posts that haven’t been touched by Gutenberg will continue to be processed and displayed exactly as they are now.

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      2. Custom tools will be able to update at their leisure (or not at all, if they so choose): if site owners are only using an app to publish content, it will continue to work as normal: posts that haven’t been touched by Gutenberg will continue to be processed and displayed exactly as they are now.

        Sorry, but to me it sounds like you are contradicting yourself. It is impossible IMHO to claim on the one hand that gutenberg is the only editor that will be, and on the other that people will be able to keep using their tools the old fashioned way if they so choose. At the very least there should be a big notice before the first gutenberg post is published, or a post is converted to gutenberg, that this is a one way street.

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    2. I imagine more people will run into similar problems as Gutenberg is installed on more and more sites.

      Au contraire!

      Why would people even want to try this when it is clear that merge in Core in the beginning of the 2nd quarter of 2018 is simply not happening (as we’re already passed that).

      More and more it seems we have nothing to worry about until at least the beginning of next year, which means a very long 4.9.x run :)

      Let’s focus on GDRP instead, as that actually does make a real world impact!

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  5. Speaking of correcting typos, “The goal is to see if content is effected by saving it in a different editor.”
    *affected

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  6. Why is there even a “mobile team” for Gutenberg? Isn’t today’s SW development supposed to have a mobile-first perspective, from the beginning of the project?

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    1. They’re two different projects. 🙂

      Gutenberg works on mobile, the mobile experience is an important part of ensuring everyone can use Gutenberg from any device.

      The “mobile team”, in this instance, are the folks who maintain the WordPress iOS and Android apps: adding native block support to those apps takes a bit more work, and is happening in addition to the work that goes into making sure Gutenberg works in your mobile browser, too.

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    2. Agreed. That team’s resources seem like they’re potentially being squandered and would be better used if repurposed to other areas of WordPress such as the Gutenberg team, the WordPress core, Fields API, REST API, etc.

      Right now they only have deal with two mobile OSes. However, dare I say it there could be a new mobile platform on the horizon soon enough which they would probably either decide to exclude until it became more popular. If more resources were directed towards a single, unified front it wouldn’t matter how many mobile platforms came into being as there would be no exclusion, extra work just to achieve an acceptable experience on mobile platforms but there would be feature parity.

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  7. Now how amazing is all that, they have polished GB for quite some time now and it turns out to break even that. Well there are most probably just a few people out there who would like to change their posts via an iphone and i just bet they are all developers whose opinion just does not matter anyway…
    The more time goes by, the less i understand what is the real purpose of GB? I mean at the beginning it was clear that they wanted to make the experience easier and better that is okay. But it is just staggering how much complicated it turns out to become as they release newer and newer versions that are still breaking these or those. Many people who already looked behind the scenes also tell that the whole code is just a crap behind the scenes, i would not judge it as i still have not taken a look on the methods but the facts stated in this article say just enough in that regard. If a change of mind will not happen, GB will be a really bitter experience for the WP community i think. People do not need just simplicity and good looking design, actually they prefer reliability over these. And exactly in this regard GB simply just can not keep up for really long time now.

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  8. The more I hear about this project, the more it makes me think it was named after Steve Guttenberg of Police Academy fame, and they just dropped one of the “t’s” to make it sound cool… ;-)

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  9. In order for people to freely express themselves Gutenberg has to work.

    I have run into numerous small businesses and NGOs who once they contacted a so-called web designer are amazed at the work I do for them (at a discount) with WordPress.

    There is no other platform I would even consider using to do that work given the time constraints of “my day job” which Is based entirely on WooCommerce- another Automattic product.

    150% growth year over year in six figures using WooCommerce would not have been possible using Magento, BigCommerce, or Shopify.

    And I consequently would not have been able to do work for those NGOs and small businesses at a discount.

    Content is still the king and queen of e-Commerce and the mobile web. It will go to whatever platform makes it possible.

    I spend a lot more on Google than other search engines, because of ROI- not the codebase, not the APIs, not the personal preferences I may have- because of the data and the user experience.

    “If for some reason, we make some big mistake and IBM wins, my personal feeling is that we are going to enter a computer Dark Ages for about twenty years.” – Steve Jobs

    We all need to, including myself, get on our damn keyboards and rachet this thing up or we are going to be MySpace.

    Matt and the team at Automattic gave me a lifestyle and a living I would never have had an opportunity to have otherwise (basically for free) and now we’re doing it for plug-in developers and agencies?

    Perdona me, I designed the logo on the door people walk through to go to work everyday. I created that business thanks to WordPress and WooCommerce.

    I train people we hire weekly on how to use WordPress. It simply is not feasible to sacrifice the needs of the many for the needs of the few if we want to live in a world where small businesses and NGOs make a difference in peoples lives- and Gutenberg, perhaps by default, is the only realistic viable solution.

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