Updated to WordPress 5, and so far the new Gutenberg editor is more annoying than useful.

There isn’t just one main window in which you edit the content of your post. Instead you fill that window with drag-n-drop blocks. They’re all supposed to be optimized for different content, but in practice they’re…really not.

Screenshot: an editing window with two “Shortcode” blocks, then a “Paragraph” block.

Notice how there’s paragraph text in one of the “Shortcode” blocks, and one shortcode in the “Paragraph” block?

Well, when I preview the post, the results are Exactly The Same. It makes absolutely no difference what block things are in. You can even put valid HTML in the “Shortcode” block.

So what’s the point of making it a separate selectable option at all? Why bother wrapping your content in this extra level of fluff?

There is a “Classic Editor” block, which combines the power of many of the others (Header, Paragraph, Shortcode, List, HTML…), plus all the menu options for each, plus menu options you can’t get anywhere else! (Say, the Special Character button, for when you just gotta have a quick ∑.)

Screenshot: a Classic Editor block (with the menu hidden), compared to some others.


(Again, this looks identical in an actual post.)

Some these blocks do behave slightly differently…but not in any useful way. The effects of certain keystrokes vary depending on what block you’re in. (For instance, ctrl+A in a Paragraph block selects the entire post; in a Shortcode block, it only selects the contents of that block.)

It’s like if Photoshop shortcuts occasionally swapped around depending on what layer you were working on.

So that’s extra effort for the writer — either you memorize all the specific keystroke changes for every block, or your keyboard is going to be doing unexpected things on a regular basis. For no noticeable benefit to the end user. C’mon, guys.

Some of the image/media blocks look more promising. They make it easier to do embeds or auto-align images into galleries. Things that were possible in the Classic HTML editor, but genuinely less intuitive.

Screenshot: testing the “Gallery” and “Media with Text” blocks.


“Gallery” is a quick-n-easy way to create Tumblr-style photo spreads, which is nice.

I thought this might offer a new way to arrange the BICP archive page, but no dice. You can link gallery images to predetermined URLs (like the media page for that specific image), but not custom URLs (so I can’t link a chapter cover to the actual start of the chapter).

You can add captions, but they appear superimposed over the image — I can’t find any way to make them appear underneath instead.

Screenshot: left, the original layout. Right, where I tried putting chapter covers in a 3-column “Gallery” block, followed by descriptions in a 3-column “Columns” block.


…it came out off-center, and there’s a whole extra row of space between the two widgets that I don’t want there. (And I had to edit the HTML anyway, to add a <div clear=”left”> before the Gallery, otherwise it came out all kinds of wrong.)

Bonus headache: as-is, if I decide I want to insert a new thing in the middle of the chart for some reason, it’s easy. All the code is together; I just paste the new stuff in the middle. With Gutenberg blocks, I would have to individually redo every row of every block.

Oh, and a couple of general complaints:

When adding tags to a post, the “Choose from your most used tags” option is gone! You’ve gotta either have your whole list memorized, or look it up separately every time, or do your best to guess what relevant tags you’ve used before.

I don’t see an automatic wordcount, either. That used to show up at the very bottom of the editing window. No more.

And with the Classic Editor, if you switch to HTML mode, you get straightforward HTML that can be easily copy-and-pasted to other sites. Say, Dreamwidth, or the AO3, or a different WordPress blog. Well, I did some c&p out of Gutenberg’s HTML mode the other day, and it completely wrecked the spacing.

Good news, though! So far, Gutenberg only applies to regular blog posts. The interfaces I use to queue new comics (in Comic Easel for BICP, and in Webcomic 5 for Leif & Thorn) are unaffected, and none of my customizations are broken.

There’s a whole Classic Editor plugin that you can use to override Gutenberg even for standard blogging. I’m not going to go that far — there are a couple of useful things here. Like this purely aesthetic gallery.

And there may be other Gutenberg features I end up liking. Or some of those might be added in future updates. Either way, the best way to find out about them is to be an active user.

But I’m probably gonna use Classic Editor blocks for just about all my text content, and do a lot of sighing when it gets weird on me anyway.

(December talking meme.)