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WordPress Retires “Classic Editor”: What This Means For Your Blog

There was one important change missing from my recent post on upgrades to the WordPress platform. At the time it went live, I hadn’t seen the official announcement WordPress that they are retiring the Classic Editor in the next few months.

Fortunately Hugh who blogs at hughsviewsandnews.com is more on the ball than I am and just alerted me to this announcement which will have big implications for all of you who love the Classic Editor. 

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

So what exactly is going on? 

From Classic To Block Editor

To understand that, we need to backtrack to 2017. If you were blogging before then via WordPress you created your content using Classic Editor (for ease of reference I’ll call this version 1).

It looked like this:

WordPress Classic Editor Version 1

In 2017 WordPress began to showcase a replacement editor called Gutenburg in “an effort to simplify into one elegant concept: block”. People who wanted to continue using Classic Editor were told all they had to do was install the Classic Editor plug in. When activated, this restored the Classic Editor (version 1) and hid the new block editor (“Gutenberg”).

This version 2 looked like this:

WordPress Classic Editor – version 2

Matt Mullenweg, founder and CEO  reassured users that support for the Classic Editor would be available for “many years to come.” Last year, WordPress refined their position. Classic Editor plugin “will be fully supported and maintained until at least 2022, or as long as is necessary”, according to their blog.

But then in May this year, WordPress announced:

On June 1 we’ll be retiring our older WordPress.com editor and transitioning to the more recent (and more powerful) WordPress block editor.

Essentially this means Classic Editor version 1 will not exist after June 2020. though the timing later shifted to August 11. WordPress said:

From August 11 on all WordPress.com accounts will start to switch from Classic editor to the new Block editor. It will happen in phases, and you’ll get an email to let you know to expect the change.

And why is this happening? According to WordPress:

There are exciting new features in the pipeline that require the new WordPress editor. It’s not technically possible to retrofit them into the older, Classic editor, and we want to make sure everyone can take advantage of them as they become available. With all WordPress.com users publishing with the Block editor, all WordPress.com users always have the latest and greatest.

End Of Classic Editor As You Know It

If you’re a die hard fan of Classic Editor and hate the new block editor, that statement “all WordPress.com accounts will start to switch from Classic editor to the new Block editor“, might have sent you into a spin. You’d be forgiven for thinking WordPress is forcing you down the Block Editor path.

It’s true that Block Editor is what they really want you to use. But fear not, you can still use Classic Editor. You just have to access it in a different way.

To use what I’ll call Classic Editor version 3 you have to add a “Classic block” to your post or page. You can do this in two ways. Both start by clicking on the small plus symbol which brings up a simplified block menu.

The simplest method is to just type “classic” into the search field in the menu.

There is a slightly longer method which I mention only because it gets you familiar with the full suite of blocks (ready for the day when you’ll have to use block editor completely).

In this method, in the simplified block menu, click on the “browse all” text – your screen will now show, on the left, the full block menu. Scroll through the various blocks in the Text category until you find the one called Classic. Then just click to add.

Whichever method you use, the result will be the same.

Your screen will now look like this:

Not too dissimilar to version 2. You get the same tools and options and in the same spot. WordPress recommends that you use a single Classic Block for each post or page, rather than try to mix in other blocks. For more details about how to work within the new Classic Block environment check out this tutorial.

What’s not clear to me is what happens to older posts and pages that were created in earlier versions of Classic Editor? Will they automatically be upgraded to the newer version? If so, will the formatting be retained or are you likely to have to do some fixes?

Time To Get Prepared

WordPress have said they will notify each blog owner about the timing for switching their site from classic to block. Some of you may have already been notified. If you’ve made the switch, it would be great to hear how it’s worked out. Did it go smoothly or did you hit any problems?

For everyone else still using Classic Editor, I’d highly recommend you start preparing to make the switch to the Classic Block. Create a dummy post that you can use for practice, getting familiar with the tools and how the block works.

If you do that ahead of the notification you’ll have gained valuable experience and confidence in using the Classic Block. Plus, you’ll avoid the nightmare that one day you fire up your WordPress account ready to create a new post, only to be confronted by a completely unfamiliar screen.

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