Latest Changes In WordPress: Thumbs Up or Down?

A new version of WordPress was released with a big fanfare this week, heralding upgrades to existing features and introducing some new elements.

I’ve been playing around with a few of the new and revised tools, trying to work out whether the advertised benefits stack up in reality.

I ignored all the features that are really aimed at people who are using a blog to support a commercial operation, like a restaurant or a photographic studio. As a “hobby” blogger if you will, I’m interested mainly in two things:

  1. will WordPress 5.5 make it quicker or easier for me to run my blog and
  2. will it give my readers a better experience.

Many of the changes I tested relate only to what is called the block editor (also known as the Gutenburg editor). This is where WordPress is putting all its focus and where any new developments will take place.

Now I know some book bloggers are using block editor and loving it. But there are many of you who much prefer to stick with the classic editor. Maybe you haven’t tried block editor yet or you did, and didn’t enjoy the experience. found it too complicated. Right now you still have a choice which to use but I’m hoping that hearing about these changes will persuade you to either give the new editor a go, or to give it a second chance.

Mobile Friendly

When you create a post or a page using the the block editor, you get a pretty good idea of how this content will look to your readers. Incidentally I think this is one of the major advantages of block editor. I got so frustrated when using the classic editor. I’d “publish” only to discover that all my efforts to align my text and images, had been wasted. The images were all over the place. You don’t get that issue with block Editor!

Even so, it’s still a good idea to do a content preview check before you publish or when you have updated some content. The new WordPress version gives the ability to preview your content on desktop, tablet and mobile screen sizes. So you can make sure your content is more accessible and readable for everyone visiting your site. With more and more people accessing web content via mobile devices, this is becoming increasingly important.

I found the preview function really simple to use. Not only can you see different preview versions you can open them in a new window, making it easy to flick back to your editing page.

Verdict: Thumbs up

Easier Editing

The editing process has been tweaked as part of the 5.5 version.

  • The toolbox, which is how you change the format of text or insert links, or change the size of a heading, has been enhanced. Formatting options for subscript and superscript text are now available.
  • It’s now easier to move blocks of text around using drag and drop
  • More ability to control the size of the text within each box
  • There are now more options to change the background colour of text blocks. In the earlier version you were restricted to a solid colour background, as in this example:

One Moonlit Night was written in the Welsh language and published in 1961 under the title Un Nos Ola Leuad. The first English translation was issued in 1995, followed by a BBC radio broadcast in English the following year.

But with a few of the content blocks, you can now opt for a gradient. Here’s how it looks if you choose the “Media & Text’ block.

One Moonlit Night was written in the Welsh language and published in 1961 under the title Un Nos Ola Leuad. The first English translation was issued in 1995, followed by a BBC radio broadcast in English the following year.

Some of those upgrades, like the text size controls, are good news. But I’m not all that wowed by the new options to add a gradient background. The colour palette is limited and the option is restricted to only a few special blocks. I’m looking forward to the day when I don’t have to put in a code (which I always forget) to get the exact shade of blue I’ve selected for my site. I could not get the drag and drop to work.

Verdict: Thumbs Down (I was expecting more)

On Page Image Editing

I was more excited about the new inline image function (or as I prefer to call it “on page editing”. This means we can now more easily and quickly edit photos and graphics as we build the page

As of WordPress 5.5, you can crop, rotate, zoom and adjust image positions without the need to launch the Media Library.

Just to give you a flavour of what’ possible, take this image which I’ve used on an earlier post.

In the older version of WordPress, if I’d wanted to edit this image, I’d have to either do that in my photo editing programme or open media library. I usually do the former because it gives me more control.

But with the new version, in 2 clicks I can change the image proportions and the orientation. I can also rotate the picture with a third click to give an image that is far more impactful.

If your book blog is predominantly devoted to reviews and the only images you use are book covers, then these image editing tools probably won’t have much appeal. But if you write other types of content, like discussion topics or list posts, and you want some appealing images to illustrate your point, no doubt you’ll enjoy this feature.

Verdict: Thumbs Up

Content Blocks

Most of the time when I’m creating a new post or a page I use the basic content blocks of:

  • headings
  • paragraphs
  • images
  • quotes

If I wanted to go further and create a professional looking layout, I could take advantage of an extensive library of other blocks. I could create tables, put text into columns, have galleries of images for example.

WordPress 5.5 gives even more layout options via something called block patterns. which are predefined block layouts allowing users to quickly add complex structures of grouped blocks.

Most of these are of no interest to me but there are one or two which could be interesting. This block for examples enables you to easily show text in two columns, giving more of a magazine look and feel.

The character and pursuits of the famous gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha

In a village of La Mancha, the name of which I have no desire to call to mind, there lived not long since one of those gentlemen that keep a lance in the lance-rack, an old buckler, a lean hack, and a greyhound for coursing. An olla of rather more beef than mutton, a salad on most nights, scraps on Saturdays, lentils on Fridays, and a pigeon or so extra on Sundays, made away with three-quarters of his income.

The rest of it went in a doublet of fine cloth and velvet breeches and shoes to match for holidays, while on week-days he made a brave figure in his best homespun. He had in his house a housekeeper past forty, a niece under twenty, and a lad for the field and market-place, who used to saddle the hack as well as handle the bill-hook. The age of this gentleman of ours was bordering on fifty; he was of a hardy habit, spare, gaunt-featured, a very early riser and a great sportsman.

Exploring these options however was a frustrating experience. So many of them are not compatible with the theme of my blog. Even those that do work, seem very fiddly to use so I think I’ll give them a miss. If I was running a blog to support a business I’d have more interest in getting these blocks to work. But the benefit for me outweighs the considerable effort and time I’d have to invest.

Verdict: Thumbs Down (great potential but not sold on the benefit to me right now)

There are further changes in the wind. Some of them were due to be introduced this month but have been delayed and removed from this version because of technical issues. A case of watch this space.

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on August 14, 2020, in Blogging and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 63 Comments.

  1. WordPress has somehow tricked one of my draft posts into the new editor. Can you tell me off the top of your head how I can edit the slug, it’s no longer with the Excerpt under Options.

    • Open the post – if it is in block editor mode, on the right side of your screen you should see a menu with options. Scroll down until you see the “permalink” heading – click that and the URL slug box should show up underneath.
      Hope this works for you

      • It did thankyou, but I seem now to have lost the classic editor entirely. I complained to WordPress and they gave me the joke answer – hover over the title and the option will reappear. No it won’t!

        • I wonder if somehow you have deleted the Classic Editor plug in? Go to wpadmin, plug ins and check the active plug ins. If its not active, look in the deactivated category. If its there, one click will reactivate it.

      • Thank you Karen. When I entered WordPress just now it told me to hit ‘plus’ and then locate/choose classic which I did and which gives me a simulacrum of the old editor including the omega symbol which I needed for characters for a Yugoslav title. Strangely, the image/book cover I used sits in the middle of the edit screen but on the left of the preview. I can see I am in for some trying days (and weeks and months). I checked Plugins and Classic Editor is available as an option but not installed.

        • I just found the answer – your site has been transitioned to the newer version of classic editor where you have to use it within the block editor. I just wrote a post about it. You should have received an email from WordPress alerting you in advance to the changes….

        • Bloody WordPress! I’m driving for the next week or so, but when I get home I’m just going to have to get on top of it. (I still long for the days do WordStar and Lotus/VP Planner, not to mention dBase).

        • Change is often hard but sometimes the anticipation is worse than the reality. I bet you it won’t be anywhere near as horrid an experience as you might imagine ….

  2. I can’t say I noticed many changes aside from the Block Editor. I guess I don’t use all the other fancy options! The Block Editor was annoying at first–I feel like I click around more to do the same thing that used to be faster–but I’m used to it now.

    • There are loads of functions I haven’t really got to grips with at all. some of them are not really of interest since they’re designed to support commercial activities like getting payments

  3. Sheree @ Keeping Up With The Penguins

    Thumbs up from me, all-round! I’m not that fussed on a lot of the new features – as you point out, a lot of them won’t be of much use to me as a book blogger – but the ones I am using are awesome. I had to help a friend out with her blog the other day and she was still using the Classic editor, it just about broke my brain. Blocks all the way, baby!

    • Have you found any particularly good blocks beyond the basic ones?

      • Sheree @ Keeping Up With The Penguins

        Hahaha I’m not sure which ones count as basic, but I love the custom HTML block. Compared to the classic editor, it saves me SO MUCH TIME (being able to insert a block of HTML and move it around with drag and drop, as opposed to having to convert the whole darn post into HTML and then triple check I move things EXACTLY RIGHT, lest I break the whole thing… can’t believe I used to live like that! Hahaha)

        • I just played around with classic editor to remind myself, as I wrote today’s post, of how it worked. I’d forgotten how cumbersome it is….

  4. if you’d asked me this question on Thursday I’d have said a big thumbs down as I’d just discovered it had changed. Well actually it changed mid post on Wednesday evening, so I left my draft post in Classic and came back to Block! I didn’t initially see how it would work for me. My posts are image/blurb heavy and I found it very clunky. It was taking way too long to do the basics that I wasn’t happy at all. I played with it on Thursday. Another day off on Friday so played a bit more. I’ve now found I can get my layout to look as it did before and there are some features that are new that I like. The notion of reverting back to Classic didn’t seem worth it as it’s only supported until 2022 so at some stage we’ll need to bite the bullet. Plus unless you have a premium site to upload a plugin, the ‘Classic’ option you can choose to load doesn’t come with all the previous features. My one big bugbear is the inability to justify a blurb without treating each block (ie paragraph) as a separate item. I like my text justified, maybe I’m just a bit OCD but I think it looks neater. However if I have to live without it so be it. I’ve revised Monday’s post to be formatted with Block and done today’s post with Block. It will get quicker and I think I’ve got a reasonable grasp of the basics so a tentative thumbs up.

    • The layout you ended up with looks good Jill. It does take more time initially but gets quicker as you get familiar with the block editor. You should be able to group different blocks together and format all in one go??

      • Thanks Karen. I’ve tried highlighting the text I want to change but justifying is no longer on the dropdown menu. Unless there is a way of grouping I’m missing I’ll have to live without. It’s not feasible to justify every blurb block by block. If it was for a review it would be OK, but my Kindle sale posts might have 40+ and that’s too time consuming.

        • Frustrating to find that if you group some blocks together, you then can’t apply any formatting other than colour of text and background. Seems pointless to have the group function if that’s all you can do. There is a plug in that will enable you to have more control – it’s called Gutenburg block editor tool kit. https://wordpress.org/plugins/block-options/. Of course if you only have the free WP version then you can’t use plug ins.

          Sorry but looks like you’ll have to do without justification. I never used that in all the time I worked in newspapers and in communications because it often means strange spaces between the words….. Text that is aligned left tends to be easier to read by the way

        • Thanks Karen, I understand why, but I guess I’m a bit OCD and I like to see a straight edge. It never seemed to leave words hanging. It doesn’t affect the left side, that is always straight anyway. Just seems a bit daft that I can justify an individual block but not 2 or 3 together. A well I’ll have to live with it. I do have a paid for site but not a premium one which allows the plug ins.

        • It’s your blog so you get to choose how you want it to look……:) Agree with you that it is ridiculous you can’t format multiple blocks in one go

        • I’m getting more used to it now. I’m living with the non justification and appreciating some of it’s positives. I’d prefer to get to grips with it now, than keep delaying the inevitable. I’m getting rather fond of creating reusable blocks that are a marvellous way of avoiding repetitive headings etc. Every cloud …

        • I’ve played with the reusable blocks but not extensively

  5. I love the new editing options, and the ability to preview on mobile is useful.

    • I think we are in the minority in liking block editor Nish 🙂 Some of the new options don’t interest me – they seem more geared to professional designers but I shall use one or two of them

  6. Thanks for your summary…but no, I’m sticking to the Classic. Honestly, the block editor drove me crazy.

    • I didn’t like it at all when I first used it. I didn’t know what I was doing at all….. but second time around it clicked and now honestly I wouldn’t be without it

  7. The new block editor is driving me crazy, but at least your post will help me learn to use it better, so thanks!

  8. I use my iPad to create and post and the block editor is useless in that. It also won’t work with my current template which means I’ll have to redesign which I can’t be bothered with. I’m still using the classic editor and will until I have no choice.

    • I haven’t had to use the iPad to create content for a long time fortunately. But I do remember it was a pain. The template incompatibility is a consequence of the WordPress focus on block editing. It means that template developers are putting their effort into designs that will work with block editor and not interested in fixing issues. As Block Editing has become the standard i think we’ll see more of those issues sadly

    • As I’ve said before I’ve tried Block Editor and use it on my travel blog but still haven’t transitioned on my WG blog. One thing that makes me mad is that since – I think – they introduced Gutenberg, that’s what they throw you into if you are on your published blog and see something you want to edit, so you click edit, but that edit page only brings up the post. It doesn’t show categories and tags. so then I have to click on WP Admin, search all posts, and click on the post from there to get the page where I can edit Categories and Tags. Is there something I’m missing?

      If and when I’m “transitioned” I’ll deal with it – I fear, like Shelleyrae that my theme may not be supported and I dread changing that – but I just can’t be as fascinated as you by all this. Like Bill, I just want to write and publish!!

      • I’m not sure what you are looking at when you say you are on your published blog and want to change something. Do you mean you haven’t logged onto wordpress at that point? I can’t find any way of viewing my blog as any of my readers would, and seeing an option to edit from there. Not sure I have understood you correctly Sue

        • When I am looking at one of my blog posts in a browser – as a member of the public would – but I am also signed in, so at the top of the screen I also see my WordPress menu bar – from left My sites, Reader, Amp and then over to the right side Write, my WP Gravatar and the Bell icon (for the notifications dropdown) – there is an Edit option on the post, right at the end after the Publicise icons, after the Related posts, and just before the Comments. If you click on that you can edit your post but only the text. I often remember a category or tag I’ve forgotten but the option to edit those isn’t there. (I can email you a screenshot if you don’t know what I am talking about.)

        • I’ve just sent you an email with what I hope is the solution …..

        • Thanks, Karen, I will check my emails later.

  9. Nup, not for me. My style is consistent: I write paragraphs of text with a cover image of the book on the RHS. If I’m feeling ambitious I’ll add a YouTube video every now and again.
    If that doesn’t appeal to readers, they probably don’t want to read the kind of books I’m writing about anyway.
    It’s a funny thing, every time WP ‘improves’ something, they mess up something else. For example, the editor that was supposed to replace the classic editor doesn’t allow you to put a border round an image, which I like to do when a book cover is white. The ‘new’ copy feature only copies the tags, not the categories. And preview in the new editor doesn’t allow you to open it in a new screen so that you can toggle between the two to make corrections. You have to close preview to do it.

    • I knew you weren’t going to be won over Lisa 🙂 I do sympathise though with the frustrations when something you value gets taken away. The border around the image was one thing I valued too.
      I’m curious though that you can’t have a tab with a preview and a different tab with the edit page view. When I click on preview, it gives me an option to view in new tab. I’m using google chrome as my browser – do you use Chrome too?

      • Not if I can help it. I had to use IE Explorer at work and I got to really like it and now I very happily use Edge. (But I use Firefox for banking because it’s more secure, only because of course the people inventing viruses like to invent them for the most popular browsers so they create more of them more often for MS products.)

        • It’s three years since I had to use anything in the Windows environment and I don’t miss it. It’s Apple all the way for me

        • I think that’s part of the reason Lisa ie that more viruses are invented for popular products. But there is also a design factor. Some software and hardware is designed better for security. It is still generally regarded, for example, that the Mac operating system is better at privacy and this is largely due to design and such things as how and where it processes data. Security is one of the big reasons why my husband likes Macs.

  10. My heart sank when you mentioned a new version because I’m new to WordPress and nearly caused myself brain damage getting to grips with it in the first place. I couldn’t cope with learning a new version. But I’ve realised that it’s the new version I had from the start, so phew!

    • Phew indeed! It is a bit of a learning curve but well worth it. There are loads of whistles and bells in the new version that you can happily ignore. Some changes are of a very technical nature that I didn’t even bother trying to understand

  11. I’m still using the classic editor option in Gutenburg. I found the block editor very frustrating and couldn’t get my posts how I wanted them, particularly choosing font and size and wrapping text round images.
    I wish they’d give those that want it the option to stick with the classic editor.

    • Choose text size I found easy – the toolbar on the right that opens up when you click on a paragraph block, gives you the choice of choosing a pre-determined style like medium, large, or specifying the point size which I prefer. You don’t see that in block editor? If you don’t know what I’m talking about I can send you a screen grab. Choosing font I haven’t found a way to do that yet because it seems more related to your theme

      Wrapping text around images is a fiddle. To get it to work in the two images with the coloured backgrounds I used in this post, I selected a special content block called Image+Text – but still had to play around with it a bit.

      By the way you CAN continue to use classic editor – it’s just that the effort of the WP technical team is devoted to block editor so if classic editor starts throwing a hissy fit on your site, they won’t be able to help you fix it

      • Thanks for this, I’ll continue to use the classic for a while at least, but keep plugging away with the block editor and see how I go. I did check and saw the choice of font sizes. I can’t image why the text/image issue should be so hard when it’s simple in classic.

  12. It has taken me a while to begin to get to grips with some of the new features, so your post is very interesting and helpful. As I’m a ‘hobby’ blogger too there seems to be a lot that I won’t use, but I like the blocks and the image editing. It takes me quite some time to get used to doing things differently, which is a bit frustrating, so I’m taking it slowly and trying things out one at a time. On the whole I think it’s an improvement – and it’s good to ‘challenge’ my brain. 🙂

    • Good to hear from someone who has been using this and getting to grips with it Margaret. Taking your time and experimenting is a good way to go. I have created a post which I use only as my plae to practice – I make sure never to press the “publish’ button on it.

  13. Thanks for this detailed report. Useful. As a hobby blogger, posting mainly text content, with the odcasional book cover chucked in I am grimly hanging on to the old version.

  14. I have been familiar with it for a year, as the French website I was translating for used it. It all depends what you do on your blog, most of the time it’s a real pain. For my homepage, see https://wordsandpeace.com it’s extremely hard, the Block editor doesn’t understand at all what I’m doing. I hope I can still use the “yoursite”/wp-admin/ for years to come, to easily do what I want and not be stuck by that awful editor

  15. Definitely excited about the image editing! Thanks so much for putting these tips together for us.

    • Something I suspect – but need to play around more to confirm – is that if you add an image from your image library that you used in the past. Then apply the new image editing tool, it doesn’t just change what is on your new page, It changes it in the library too. Which might not be what I want….

  16. I like the old editor (code for: I have not tried the new editor) – I write, it publishes. That’s all I’m interested in. Sort of. I actually spent the middle part of my life writing business code using Clipper, with some great pre-Windows graphics, and I really, really miss the ability to handle lots of data. I’m going to have to try the new editor on my business blog Billhtrucking.com which I started a couple of years ago so potential customers could see what I do, and what I currently am doing. I was really disappointed with the gallery function which adds new photos not at the top but at the bottom where you have to be motivated to scroll down to them. WordPress suggested I open another block for new pictures which might work in a limited sort of way but still means most of the pictures are sorted back to front.

    • When you create a photo gallery, the order in which you select the images from your media library determines the order in which they appear on the page. But then you should, on the page be able to change the order …..Give it a whirl and if it doesn’t work, let me know Bill

  17. Hello! ((((((Waving))))) It’s me over here with my head still in the sand!

  18. Some interesting little tweaks there, which may be useful. I haven’t had a chance to play with the new update yet but I like the idea of the image editing, that looks exciting.

    • That’s probably the most exciting development for me to. If I was managing blog sites professionally there would be loads of other changes I’d see valuable but as a non professional I really don’t have the inclination

  1. Pingback: WordPress Retires "Classic Editor": What This Means For Your Blog : BookerTalk

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