Ignoring the hyperbole in the title, blogging is a hard gig with a million things to do and any change becomes a massive challenge. With WordPress trialling their new editor, a new mountain has appeared. And while at the moment you have the option to just ignore it, looming ominously in the distance, ultimately the only way to know whether it is actually going to be that much of a problem is to actually get in there and give it a go. So that’s what I’ve done for nearly two weeks and while I know they are still working on features and things, these are my current thoughts on it. With the thoughts of others scattered throughout via Twitter – thanks to those who shared their experiences.
Now, this post isn’t actually about tearing apart WordPress or the idea behind the new editor. Basically because, the idea is kind of cool in giving bloggers more control over layout and how the post looks and being able to integrate different kinds of media within the post. That is, as I said, kind of cool. The execution however is a leaving a little bit to be desired, however with one or two exceptions, at this point I’ve managed to work around most of my major issues and the more I use the new editor the faster it gets to put posts together.
That said, I must admit, I’m in the minority of bloggers I know in that the majority of my posts are drafted and edited pretty much entirely in the editor. I do copy content out and save it as a word file after the fact, but essentially all my drafts begin their life inside WordPress (unless it is a collaboration in which case the start over on Google docs for the most part. And that leads me to the number one issue I have with this new editor.
Hitting enter when writing text automatically starts a new block.
And you might think, so what? Start a new block. See the problem with that comes when you want to format or edit your text before going back and adding images and the like. Because you can currently only format one block at a time. So the more blocks it adds, the more you need to individually format.
Then again, you also can save blocks as reusable, and once you’ve formatted it once you can instantly insert that block into a new post saving a huge amount of time. So, for something like my signature, that I apply at the end of almost every post, spending the time playing around with it, and editing it in html to actually insert line breaks rather than having multiple different blocks and being able to insert images into it, is actually worth the time because I only needed to do it once and then give the block a sensible name in my reusable block list and now it is a simple matter of ‘add block’, search for name, insert and it is done.
Just so you know, being fairly average at computers (I can use them but I’m not into coding or the like) my previous method of having a consistent signature across posts was to edit in html view after I created a signature, copy the code from that into a word document and then paste in the html view every time I started a new post. That kind of required me to have the word doc where I’d saved the signature open and accessible while in the wordpress editor and to be honest while that worked well enough, it wasn’t exactly a neat solution.
I personally see the saving reusable block thing as a huge advantage, though that comes with a couple of minor points:
- Editing the block and saving will apparently update the block everywhere it is used. Now, on paper that sounds great. If I want to add a link into my signature, it would now automatically update across multiple posts rather than having to go and change them manually, or shrug and just assume that any post before such a date will have the old signature. Or my episode links will now automatically add to all the posts that I’ve added that block to so, again theoretically, if I added the block at the start of the season and to every post after, editing the block by adding the latest link, all episode reviews would have a link to all other episode reviews. Which is kind of cool… provided it works and I don’t accidentally do something to destroy the block across every post.
- However, if I’ve saved a block purely for the formatting, I need to remember to convert back to a regular block before I start editing and not to save it as a reusable block after I’ve edited. So for the headings I’m currently trialling at the top of episode reviews, because adding colour to a heading was pain in the neck, I saved one as a reusable block, insert it at the top of a new post, convert it, and then change the series name to whatever I’m reviewing. It saves me formatting time but I keep freaking out that I’m potentially altering other posts in the process and then have to check to make sure they are still as they were.
- Also, it isn’t clear yet how many reusable blocks can be saved or whether I’ll actually remember what name I’ve given half of them so some might never get used again and just be sitting in some kind of data storage limbo.
Moving away from reusable blocks, the single content type allowed in most blocks is really quite frustrating. So before I added a list in but there was a bit of a lead in to the list. The sentence introducing the list is in one block and the list is in another. Incidentally, because the introduction is a paragraph, I can change the text colour and add background colour to that block if I like, but I can’t in the list post (unless I manage to edit the code just right and don’t get an error message which is a fairly common occurrence because not all html code is acceptable in wordpress so sometimes even knowing the code isn’t enough to edit the block without encountering an error).
There is a media and text block that allows you to have media on either the left or right side and then text beside it which I have found useful for my weekly summary posts but even then there isn’t much flexibility in layout. You can’t wrap the text around the image or video, merely place it in two columns side by side.
While I’m at it, I’ll throw in the part where I can’t centre justify my text anymore. Left, right or centre but no more centre justify and that seems like a fairly elementary thing to fix.
Let’s get a few more negatives out of the way. The scheduler. I hate the new scheduler so much right now. I’m learning to get on with it, but the basic loss of being able to see when my other posts are scheduled while scheduling a new post is really horrendous. That and we are back to scheduling posts in whatever time zone WordPress has set rather than local. This was what it used to be like even using the old editor, but then they changed it to local time.
However, it meant that during my first week at least, posts that had been scheduled using the old editor were still scheduled in local time and in the new editor I had to do time conversion to schedule them appropriately (4 am my time Saturday morning is 6pm Friday in WordPress schedule time incidentally) and for awhile it was really making me want to scream in frustration because I’d be scrolling through the scheduled posts and checking my written schedule (yes, I’m old school and still record in an actual notebook) and my posts wouldn’t be in the right order. Such an unnecessary frustration.
What will annoy me more is when they just randomly change it back to local time as they have done once before but they don’t bother to send out a notification of such a significant change that will have a huge impact on those who schedule posts.
And then one more minor gripe, the gallery. I can no longer make a slide show with images or preview what the gallery will look like or decide to have my images appear in random order and just a lot of functionality of posting multiple images is gone. I’m kind of hoping these features are coming but again, it seems like something simple to include so not sure why these features have gone AWOL.
That said, I’m kind of feeling there’s a lot of positives. Inserting tweets, video embeds, the survey short code, has never been easier. Once I decide how I want my standard posts to look and set the reusable blocks I need, creating a post should actually be a fairly quick process. The media library is much better than it was and adding alt text and descriptions to images has never been easier. I haven’t reverted to the classic editor because I really haven’t felt a need to do so and I do believe that once I get my head around this new one, there are many things that will be faster and even in just a week (scheduling multiple posts a day), I know that some things have gotten faster.
Still, it is one thing to know that something has potential to be good and another to see that a post of yours has just gone out with all your words mangled because it was one you copied and pasted from an outside source into the editor and then foolishly assumed that the way it previewed would be the way it would post (silly writer).
And when struggling to find the block type you need because you aren’t sure what it is called, wanting to move an image and being unable to, just wanting to be able to apply a change to the font or format of multiple text boxes simultaneously and realising you absolutely cannot… new things are hard. They are frustrating. And particularly when they have a massive impact on the time it is taking to prepare a post (already a fairly onerous task), and sometimes you don’t end up with the result you want, the challenge can seem insurmountable.
The good thing is, that when the challenge is too hard at the moment you can switch back to the classic editor if you have to. And if you are copying and pasting text from other sources the majority of the time, I’d actually recommend it – that text blending thing where it removes spaces randomly is really irritating. The other thing is that there is a huge community out there and so far asking questions on twitter about the editor has brought many to the surface willing to offer advice, or at least relate to the same issue and how they worked around it. I also managed to have a fairly decent help chat through WordPress when trying to help someone else who was having an issue.
On that note, I did turn the question of what is good and bad about the new editor over to twitter and I’ve tried to share some of the responses throughout the post if you want to check out the issues others have encountered. But, if you’ve tried the new editor, leave a comment of your experiences below and help others learn from what has worked for you and what hasn’t.
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