Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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December 24, 2018

Is the New WordPress Format Stressing You Out?

If you use WordPress.org for your website, you were recently prompted to update the WordPress software to a new format. The new format is called Gutenberg (a bold move to compare website software with the printing press, but we'll roll with it), and it operates with a block system.

In case you're feeling a little lost, I'm going to lay out some basics so you can navigate your way around the new format without resorting to prayers or chocolate.

Feeling "at sea." Read on to keep your head above water.

An overview of the format

Blogging formats were previously laid out like word processing software. That is, they primarily featured text with add-in options like images and tables. But with people taking in more and more information through visual and audio mediums, blogging software is changing to accommodate.

WP's Gutenberg is laid out more like a magazine, newsletter, or presentation. If you've worked with Microsoft PowerPoint, you've already used this approach with various boxes holding titles, text, images, tables, etc. which you can adjust and move around to get the layout you want. Thinking of your website that way may help you make the shift from WP's old format to the new one.

It's all about blocks

Blocks are simply boxes that contain data—whether image, text, or plugin. The default block type is paragraph, which is your basic text box. If you add a new post and just start typing below the Title box, you'll get a paragraph of text. Each time you click Return, you'll create a new block of text.

But what if you want something else? You have three options:

  1. Mouse-click the plus-sign in a circle at the top left, which opens a drop-down menu of common options: Paragraph, Image, Quote, etc. Scrolling down, you'll see even more choices, including your own plugins. Clicking there will create a new block of whatever you chose.

2. Type Return to create a new, empty block and a plus-sign will appear on the left. Click that sign, and you'll see a menu of block types. Choose which one you want. 

3. Click anywhere in the block you're in and a menu will appear at the top left of the block itself. Where the block type is identified by an icon (a ¶ for a paragraph, a for a quote, etc.), you can click and choose a different block type.

At any time, you can change a block to another type by clicking that same icon. So if you type a paragraph and decide it's really a heading, just click that + and change it to Heading. Other text options include a List, Quote, Verse, and Preformatted. But more text options are available (like a Pullquote) from the plus-sign at that top left corner or by creating an empty block and clicking the plus-sign on the left side.

Working with images

As mentioned above, when you create a new, empty block, the plus-sign off to the left side presents you with a menu of options. Among those are Image, Media + Text, and Gallery. An image is just what you think—inserting an image into a block. From there, you can decide whether to keep the image in-line, center it, or move it left or right. If you move it left or right, text from paragraph blocks below will wrap around your image.

A Gallery is simply more than one photo in a single block. Lining up more than one photo was more difficult to do in the old WordPress, so this Gallery feature is a real upgrade. Just click Gallery, choose your photos, and it will display rather neatly on your page.

Media + Text allows you to place a photo and text that goes with it into a single block. This isn't the same as the wrap-text feature you get by moving an image left or right, but rather a way to specifically link image and text. For authors, this would be a great block for displaying a book cover with the story description and buy links off to the side.

This is how media + text will look. A good place for a book description here!

And Buy My Book links.

Using the sidebar

Several functions that were previously displayed in a menu above are now on the right-hand sidebar. You can view or hide that sidebar by clicking the gear icon (for settings) at the top right corner.

Once you're there, you have two options—to view Document settings or just Block settings. Within a block, you can change text color in a paragraph, add a custom URL link for an image, change the font size, etc. Clicking over to document, you'll see the place for categories, tags, featured image, and description. You can also change author there (nice for us, since we have four main hostesses of this blog!), as well as settings for publishing.

Saving and publishing your post

WordPress Gutenberg now auto-saves your work. WordPress itself just says every several seconds, but other sites claim its every 60 seconds. Regardless, you'll periodically see Save Draft at the top left corner change to Autosaving, then Saved, and back to Save Draft. Having lost a lot of work before, I'm really happy about the autosave feature. 

But when you're ready to save, schedule, or publish the post yourself, here's the scoop:

To save, click Save Draft. The word will change to Saving and then back to Save Draft. Warning: We've had some issues with saving and currently believe it's an update/theme conflict. If this happens to you, wait until you see the Autosaving message again, then refresh the page, and everything will be back to normal. If your theme creator is regularly updating, they should fix the glitch soon.

To Publish a post, simply click the Publish button at the top right corner. The automatic settings are to publish immediately. However, WordPress has now added a confirmation step! So after clicking Publish, you'll need to confirm that request for the post to go live by clicking a second Publish button. Having accidentally published a post before I was ready, I also like this new feature.

If you want to schedule a post, make sure you can see your right-hand sidebar (click the gear icon at the top right if you can't), click over to Document, and change the Publish - Immediately to the date and time you want instead. The Publish button at the top right will automatically change to Schedule. Again, you'll have a second step to confirm that you want to schedule the post and you'll click Schedule a second time.

If you just want the classic editor back...

Let's say you updated, but you want to go back to the classic editor. You can do that by installing the Classic Editor plugin developed and maintained by WordPress. Once activated, the plugin will disable the Gutenberg update and return you to the editor you're used to seeing.

But before you do that... Let me make a quick case that everything is headed this way. If you're in the middle of a book release or a blogging challenge or something, you may well want to go back to the Classic Editor for the time being. However, the block setup is how most newsletters—which authors should have—and marketing materials are set up. So if you can take the time to master the new format, it will help you in the long run.

And eventually, certainly by 2022 at the latest, WordPress will stop supporting the Classic Editor. Before then, many plugins that worked with the editor will no longer be supported because they will have changed over. So while learning curves can suck—and we had no idea when we decided to write books how much tech we had to learn!—this change can really be a good one for us.

One trick to get a classic editor feel without reloading the old software would be to use a single block for your text. In the Gutenberg software, if you type a paragraph and click the Return button, you get a separate paragraph block. But you can create a paragraph within the same block by pressing the Shift key while clicking Return. So Shift + Return makes a new paragraph within a block.

The tips above should get y'all started. Those of you who have worked in the new Gutenberg block format for a while might have found even more shortcuts (which we hope you'll share in the comments)!

Have you updated to the new WordPress? What features are you struggling to find or use? What would you like me to cover next time?

About Julie

Julie Glover would far prefer to write books and leave the technology questions to her computer-savvy sons. But necessity is the mother of frustration despair invention.

When not wrangling with software, Julie writes mysteries and young adult fiction. Her YA contemporary novel, SHARING HUNTER, finaled in the 2015 RWA® Golden Heart®. She is represented by Louise Fury of The Bent Agency.

You can visit her website here and also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

59 comments on “Is the New WordPress Format Stressing You Out?”

    1. Oh, it's coming, Pamela! You will be required to update at some point in the near future...but at least now you'll be ready. Poor Fae Rowen is mistress this month and was not expecting the change. It's been rough.

    2. It's just the new WordPress update, but the underlying software is called Gutenberg. I received a chance to use the Gutenberg format months earlier as a beta tester, which I did. But now everyone's getting moved to it.

  1. Hi, Julie. I've been using it for a couple of weeks, having been introduced to it when I was in a hurry to post one morning. Fun times, but I got through it. I miss wrap-text, but I can live with that. It also no longer shows "frequently used tags," which forces me to summon them each time or keep my own list (it'll remember one if you start to type it).

    The blocks, as best as I can tell, have eliminated line spacing options, which causes poetry to be double-spaced because a return at the end of each line becomes a new block (not so much a problem for prose). The only way I can think of to get around that is to upload a screen shot each time, but that will fill my media gallery in a hurry.

    All in all, the new editor seems to simplify tasks by taking away choices.

    1. I hadn't realized the frequently used tags feature is gone, but it does still work where if you start typing in an oft-used tag, it will provide that as a suggestion. And yes, the line spacing of quotes is too broad, in my opinion. I'm hopeful, however, that as WordPress gets feedback, they can add in more customization.

  2. Thanks for this. Luckily, my web hosting service included a plugin when they upgraded that allows me to stick with the "Classic" format until I have the time and patience to work on the features in bits and pieces. I'll save this post. It took me about an hour to upload a recipe and an image, then find all the sidebar stuff and figure out where everything was, like scheduling a post in advance, which is what I ALWAYS do.
    I do my newsletters via Vertical Response, which leaves WordPress out of the picture entirely, thank goodness.
    I'm sure there are positives for some, but for my blog, all I've ever done is copied and pasted from word, added an images, some links if necessary, and it was easy peasy. But apparently, a paragraph block wouldn't allow me to post the entire document, and I didnt' have time to find out the right option for that.
    Color me not thrilled.

    1. True, it isn't really laid out well to work in Word and import text in. It will still work, but then adding images could prove challenging. I have wondered if word processing software like Word will also shift a bit to a more interactive, block-based format since younger people have greater familiarity with it. But we'll see. I don't think some of our hearts could take it if they tried that now! Hang in there, Terry. We'll figure it all out together.

      1. I laugh at the "younger." I started with word processing with an Apple 2, then moved to a PC with Word Perfect, and have been using Word for decades now. Since it seems to be publishing industry standard, you'd think WordPress would be more compatible.

    2. Terry, I have tried it this way and the new software had a pop up that asked, "would you like to convert this to block format?" I said yes and then worked from there.

      1. I haven't seen that, but I'm going to schedule a chat with my web guru who said she's been studying Gutenberg since WordPress announced the change. But it still makes life difficult.

    3. Color me "not thrilled" either, Terry. The new color options for text may be easy, but there are not many. As one who must have the 256-color box of crayons, I'm not happy.

      1. I never had an issue with choosing color options for text in the "Classic" WordPress. I haven't looked into font choices though--that was something I would have liked, but I learned to live with the basics.

  3. Sigh. I am experiencing such technology learning curve fatigue I just don't want to tackle yet another new set-up. Thanks for the advice. I also read that if you use affiliate links on your blog you have to prepare for that before the update as they may be at risk.

    1. I hadn't heard that about affiliate links. In fact, I have another website in which I have affiliate links included, and they've been working fine. Now I'm curious... Will have to research!

  4. Thank you, thank you for the tip about shift+enter to get a new paragraph in the same block! I've been writing in Notepad & copy-pasting to get that effect, but this is so much easier! Now, if I can find where they've hidden my Templates...

    1. Yes, I have fiddled with it! A pullquote is a quotation of text within the post that you want to highlight. Like if you said something super-important and you want it to stand out, then you can use a pullquote. (You've likely seen this in nonfiction books too.) Using the pullquote feature, it provides space for enlarged text, a citation line in smaller text, and options to put the whole think in a colored block or set it off with lines above and below.

      However, one of the things I don't love about the software at the moment is how broad the line spacing is for quotes, and that happens here too. So a pullquote, while effective, takes up a lot of space. I expect to write about WP again next month, so I'll include a few features like this one! Thanks for the Q, Jenny.

  5. Thanks for this. I'm also weary of having to learn something new that is only a marginal improvement. I know it's great for some, but more complicated than I need. I appreciate your clear explanation. I'm dreading the change less. 🙂

    1. Glad we can decrease your dread, even a little. I suspect those who lay out full website with lots of images and variations in text believe this is a big improvement, but for those of us who are focused on writing—the text itself—not as much. But still, I think we can all figure it out, just like we had to figure out WordPress when we first started using it. I remember when I shifted from Blogger to WordPress and had a doozy of a time finding things!

      1. I'd forgotten about that move. RWA offered an email tutorial, via the PRO program. Made it through that, so yes, I'll make it through this one too. I appreciate you laying it out so clearly. Saving. 🙂

  6. Julie, this post came just in time--my site just updated. Thank you so much. I rarely print things out these days (unless I'm proofing a book), but I have to admit that I printed out this handy post as my "how to" set of instructions for the updated WordPress. Much appreciated.

    1. We've had that happen too, and I don't know why. It's especially true where dealing with italics or links. But I'm hoping that's a glitch they'll clear up soon.

  7. I've about gotten used to things changing, and they did warn us this was going to happen, but we really didn't know how MUCH it was going to change, until you did it, and then it was too late!

    Poor Fae was 'blog mistress' this month, and she's currently on the fainting couch, resting from the ordeal.

    But I know in a couple months we won't long for the 'old way'. Thanks for all this, Julie. You really shortened our learning curve!

  8. Thanks so much for this informative and well-written and documented (photos) post, Julie. I've been very hesitant about trying Guttenburg. But now thanks to you, I've got a great jump off sheet with a parachute. 🙂 Saving and sharing...

  9. Waving from the fainting couch...

    To say I'm not happy with the new Word Press is to put a mild spin on it. It has taken me three times as long to get a post close to adequate. And "close to adequate" does not cut it with a perfectionist. For me to resort to going to forums, public postings of code, and reading notices from a developer to find out that they put out the update while bugs were not fixed is, well, in my coding, cough, other life I would have been severely disciplined...as in fired. With extreme prejudice. I guess that about conveys my feeling about spending the last three weeks under-the-gun to get posts up and not being happy with no support.

    Except Julie. You're an angel.

    1. My halo is, as usual, a little crooked, but thank you. And since I'd already been through the update, I wish this had all happened in MY month. Oh well, it'll be my turn soon. Rest up!

  10. Thanks for the explanation! My new website is on the update and I was very confused. My website guy gave me some instructions, but I'm still very confused. I'll be printing this post and the relevant comments and just maybe I can figure out what I need to do. Right now I need to add buy links for my books. I just indie published three books in my romantic suspense series. And the covers are sitting there without buy links. My website guy is on vacation until January.

    1. If you're just creating a buy link, you can highlight the word you want to add a link to, and then click the chain link icon on the menu that pops up. From there, past the URL link to your book in the online bookstore. Then I suggest clicking the three dots on the right hand side, clicking on the Open in New Tab option, and then click the right-angle arrow button to insert the link. Hope that helps!

      Glad we could give you some tips, Barbara!

    1. Every new system has bugs, so you could wait a bit. But at some point there will be more bugs using the old system with newer plugins and so on. I'd suggest making the switch in the next few months, but trying to schedule a few days to play around with the new setup and get used to it. I've been using Gutenberg for a few months now and find it relatively easy to use.

  11. I’m getting more & more used to the new format, but it did help to read this through; helped a lot, Julie - thank you!

    Though new questions continue to emerge with use, the one I’m most interested in at the moment is once, but accident, I got the page to show across my whole screen, but haven’t been able to get it to do that again. I’m hoping I can get my posts to spread across the screen space when posted vs having a blank area to the right.

    My second most question (to myself) is, is there a spell check still available? 🙂

    Oh, and I’m using the new Twenty Nineteen theme.

    Thanks so much,


  12. Thanks, Julie. This helps a lot. But I still can't figure out how to choose a category for a post or add a tag without switching back to the classic editor. What am I missing?

    1. Hi, Evelyn! In the right-hand sidebar, make sure you're on Document instead of Block. Then scroll down the sidebar, you'll see Categories followed by Tags. Mind you, there are two scroll bars on the right side, and you'll need to use the one that scrolls down the sidebar. Hope that helps!

  13. Why mess up a system that is relatively straightforward and simple to use and works, with a half-baked, clunky, clumsy format that solves nothing and creates all kinds of problems, like having to spend hours fixing all the errors introduced by the "new and improved" system into finished pieces pasted from a word processor? The "preview" button no longer works. The page has to be updated before it can be "previewed." The simplicity and ease of use of the old system is gone. I don't care if all the newsletters are using "blocks" and Gutenberg. No matter the software, nearly every "improvement" seems to add little or no benefit and create all kinds of problems that take oceans of time to work through. I'd rather spend my time writing and posting than fooling with somebody's idea of an "improvement" that does nothing but complicate my life.

    And yes, I've used page design software and drawing software and presentation software. But that doesn't mean everything has to work like that kind of software. Anyway, I never found it difficult to place images, links to media files, etc., in the classic format. I don't see that this new format makes it any easier. Stick with the classic system that works from now on, and throw the "blocks" in the junkpile where they belong.

    1. Rod, you can certainly stick with the Classic Editor for the time being. However, at some point, support for that editor will end. I guess I figure that every system I've used I had to learn at some point, so this one is the same way. Best wishes!

  14. Julie--thank you thank you thank you for this post, which I've finally had the chance to read after all the Christmas doings around here. I'm in the process of re-inventing my blog, and was completely flummoxed by the WP update. Going to give it another try!

  15. Yes, the new format is stressing me out! I don't like it at all, but I'm trying to stick with it since WordPress won't support Classic Editor forever. I suppose the new format makes sense to computer geeks, but it makes no sense to me. The old way was so simple!

    Thank you for this post. I'm going to copy it and refer to it as I continue to learn the new format.

  16. This post is very great Julie. Since I myself write different blogs so it will give help to me as well. I am expecting a new update on this issue further in near future.

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