Changelog #47 – Developing Block Plugins, Gutenberg 11 and Upcoming WordPress 5.8

Gutenberg Changelog
Gutenberg Changelog
Changelog #47 - Developing Block Plugins, Gutenberg 11 and Upcoming WordPress 5.8
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Birgit Pauli-Haack and Grzegorz Ziolkowski discuss Developing Block Plugins, Gutenberg 11 and Upcoming WordPress 5.8.

Show Notes / Transcript

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Show Notes

Building Blocks Plugins

WordPress 5.8 RC2

Gutenberg 11.0

What’s in the works and discussed

 If you have questions or suggestions, or news you want us to include, send them to changelog@gutenbergtimes.com.

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Transcript

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Hello, and welcome to our 47th episode of the Gutenberg Changelog podcast. In today’s episode, we will talk about developing plugins, Gutenberg 11 and WordPress 5.8 is getting close to release. 

I am Birgit Pauli-Haack, curator at the Gutenberg Times and I am here with my co-host, Grzegorz Ziółkowski, code wrangler at Automattic and WordPress co-contributor. Hey, Grzegorz, how are you doing today?

Grzegorz Zi├│┼ékowski: Hello, Birgit. Oh, so I feel awesome. The weather is very strange in Poland, this week it was hot at the beginning and yesterday we had a heavy storm with lightning. So I woke up two times during the night, it’s quite unusual for me. So quite an exciting week with a good ending and I’m really happy that we are recording this episode that is just before WordPress 5.8 release that is scheduled on July 12th.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: July 20th, yes.

Grzegorz Ziółkowski: 20, 20.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. And we have an awesome show for you today, we hope for you that it’s also be a little bit shorter than the previous episodes that were almost an hour or even over an hour. So we hope to get back to our half an hour.

Grzegorz Zi├│┼ékowski: Let’s see how it goes.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. So true.

Community Contributions

Grzegorz Zi├│┼ékowski: Yeah. So let’s start with community contributions first. One of the posts that caught our attention is from Rich Tabor. He is a senior product manager and WordPress Experience at GoDaddy. And he posted A Primer on Gutenberg Block Plugins for the WordPress Block Directory. So this block directory didn’t get enough attention so far, but it’s getting more interesting once the block patterns directory evolves so those two should be more popular in the future. So Rich, he walks us through the process of submitting his plugin to the WordPress Directory, and he himself wrote Markdown Comment block that allows you to add a block that is only visible inside the editor, and you can add your own comments using Markdown. And that’s a nice idea to leave a note for yourself for the future, or just to share some ideas with your friends that maintain the same site.

But Rich, he covers his experience of submitting this block and how it looks in practice, and he encourages everyone to start treating this block directory more seriously because it will allow a lot of nice experience for the users in the future, because it allows to install the block directory from the editor using the Inserter, which is like a nice improvement to the flow.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. And so to just narrow it down, it’s not the block collections that have been in the block plugin directory for the block editor for ages now, well, three and half, two and a half years. It’s the single-block block directory that goes into the Inserter where you can download, you can search and then download right there. I really love that block directory because it only does one thing, the single block does one thing, one thing well, and you don’t need to download 70 other blocks that are in some of the collections. So thanks for Rich to put this out again and remind the community that that is possible and that it’s actually a much better experience than having a block collection in the directory.

In the same space as Comment Block, Ella van Durpe, developer on the Gutenberg team, she published a plugin for private note taking in WordPress. It’s called Hypernotes, and Justin Tadlock covered it on the WordPress Tavern, so you can read about it there. But it’s using your WordPress blog as your private note taking space with categories and using the Gutenberg plugin with it. And there were some new experimental PWA capabilities introduced in the plugin for the WordPress admin, and I know what PWA stands for, that progressive web apps, but what is the difference there, Grzegorz?

Grzegorz Ziółkowski: So in fact, this PWA concept is a set of features that allow you to bring more integrations in with the operating systems, like with the mobile phone or with the desktop. So one of the experiments that is already in the development branch of Gutenberg is the capability that allows you to install your website as a shortcut on the desktop or on the mobile. And this is for WP admin specifically, and this is one of the first integrations that is possible. The others, there is also PWA plugin from Google. Google is the company behind this whole concept that start to promote that a long time ago, and the plugin is maintained by Google with the help from Weston Ruter, former customizer maintainer, and also Alberto Medina from Google, and folks from XWP.

And the plugin has a broader goal to bring other capabilities like offline support, exposing the special file called manifest that allows you to cache in on your computer, JavaScript assets, styles, and also cache whole pages. So I’m using this plugin on my website, this PWA plugin from Google, and so what it does is when you visit one of the pages and you go to another, if you go back, it just searches from the cache, from this manifest, so it doesn’t need any network request to search the page. It has a lot of limitations, so if you are using some external integrations like tracking pixel advertisements, it won’t work quite well. But in general, this is something that Ella is particularly looking into to allow that for WP admin, which is much more contained on what’s inside.

So in the future, I guess her idea would be to have this Hypernotes plugin that works completely offline, and you can write your notes and send them to the server only when you connect again.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. It’s really great to have that because the local storage part is very interesting, especially when you go through, work on it in the tube, on the subway, or you have spotty connections on your mobile and you still are able to finish your work with all that. So I think that’s a great progression pardon the pun for Gutenberg and going a little bit outside of what it is now for 5.6. And if you are interested in developing WordPress plugins, Alex Standiford, he’s a developer at Sandhills Development company, those are the guys behind the Restrict Content Pro, EDD, Easy Digital Downloads, and the Sugar Calendar. And he has started a site called WP Academy, and his first course is the WordPress Plugin Development course with all the new Gutenberg stuff in it.

He also posted a blog post about the API Fetch WordPress Library, and he titled it, The WordPress Library You Didn’t Know You Needed. And he goes much deeper into how you can use it, not only for Gutenberg development but also for the other parts of WP admin or plugins. 

Grzegorz Zi├│┼ékowski: Yeah. It’s a general purpose library, so the idea is that there is window.fetchapi in the browser, so this a wrap around that which adds several features to this concept. And it allows better integration with WordPress, so it allows pre-caching some responses on the server and then just use that in the browser. Gutenberg uses that for the reason for the post, so it’s served already in the HTML, and then you just have it already available when you are trying to use that on the client.

And there is more, I don’t remember really, but it won’t unite with other libraries that are built on top of that like WordPress Core Data, which works with WordPress REST API. So if you want to use some network request, this is definitely something that you could explore and see if that fits your use case, because it’s something that would be supported by the WordPress Core for long.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: And if you want to dive into it, the post, Alex Standiford, of course we will share it in the show notes. 

WordPress 5.8 RC2

So that brings us to what’s released and WordPress 5.8 is in Release Candidate 2. Next Tuesday, today is Friday July 9th, and next Tuesday the Release Candidate 3 is scheduled. We’re getting so close and there are lots of changes, again, in this release. So if you are a plugin developer or a theme developer, it’s about time that you test all your products with the next version WordPress 8. And the WordPress 5.8 field guide is out with a ton of development notes of all of that. So there is a ton of information about the plug editor, the template editor, the theme changes. Most of them are opt-in except for the blog-based widgets part. That would be really important that you check on that.

And users can install the classic widget plugin if it doesn’t work well for them. It would be really, really helpful if you shared all the quirks and what doesn’t work just right with the team, so the widget editor can get some fast iteration on that. It’s also about the template editor, the landing page concept, the first version of the full-site editing piece comes in, but that’s opt-in. So it won’t be turned on for classic themes, it will only turn on for those who have a block theme installed for those sites. But you can use the theme.json configurations and settings capabilities already in your classic theme as soon as you have a theme.json file in your route directory, it will pick up on it.

But there is more in 5.8. There’s WebP image support now comes to WordPress which is really a jump into making images smaller, the images are smaller, page load speeds are getting faster. So it’s definitely something that improves the web for everybody. And then there’s also a little change for the plugin header and the update URI. So with plugin that are not in the repository could potentially override those in your WP admin, that’s now kind of fixed. The REST API changes and site health got some interface changes. The bundle theme, all of them, all the 20 themes that are bundled with WordPress get Block Pattern. So that’s actually a great feature so you don’t have to change your theme if you’re still on 2016 or ’15 and you still get the Block Pattern.

So those are just the highlights of the 5.8 release. Go read the field guide, read the dev notes we will have on the Gutenberg Times. The last three weekend editions also had links to the dev notes regarding the block editor. 

Grzegorz Zi├│┼ékowski: Yeah. I guess there will be more of those dev notes in your next newsletter because there were a few last week. And in general, I think that we could have a full episode only talking about this field guide and the changes coming to WordPress 5.8. It’s one of the biggest releases, ever probably, and the number of dev notes is overwhelming. So if you have a free day, just reserve the whole day to read all the announcements. And probably, that’s not enough and that’s only just the skimmed version of what’s included. There is also a lot of developer-oriented changes that are highlighted in this field guide. So that’s a lot to process, so definitely take your time and make sure that you at least are aware of the higher level changes.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Thank you, yeah. And those are only the dev notes, so developer notes. I know that the documentation team and Anne and Daisy and they are working very hard to update the user face, the end user documentation also on the support pages. So you can actually read up about it quite early. And it’s actually a first that Gutenberg end user documentation is going to be published around the release of the version, and that is basically thanks to Anne McCarthy who has spent the last, I don’t know, four or five days writing documentation. And I’m sure she’s a little cross-eyed, but she does a phenomenal job, so kudos to Anne forÔÇŽ.

Grzegorz Zi├│┼ékowski: Yeah. She’s everywhere and she’s doing a fantastic job and that’s great.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, that’s true.

Gutenberg 11 Release

Grzegorz Zi├│┼ékowski: I guess we can now talk about Gutenberg and the 11 plugin release, and the release was released on July 7, on Wednesday, and this release is focused mostly on stability, bug fixes, very small enhancements. And yeah, I guess this is also the time when the preparation for the next major release happens or you can see a lot of issues created that I am to cover what’s next, and we’ll talk about that at the end of the show. And now, let’s jump into the enhancement section. 

Enhancements

So the biggest change that was introduced is that for the two special types of blocks, which are template parts and reusable blocks, it was quite confusing for users when they were editing inner blocks in there.

So let’s imagine you have a reusable block that have a couple of nested blocks like a group, inside this group that would be, for instance, a column and then there will be a paragraph, a heading and so on. So the biggest confusion users had, that once they went deep inside, they might lose the track if they are editing the reusable block on the template part, or they are just editing regular content. So to mitigate that issue, there was a change introduced that brings an overlay to those blocks. So when you click for the first time on the block, it will just select the block. It won’t go to the block that you are pointing at directly.

So this feature existed before. I don’t think it will ever be released to the WordPress core, but it was in a plugin last year. And it works in a similar way, but for some reasons it was too heavy for all the types of blocks, like columns, media and text, and the cover block. But in this particular case, I personally think that it’s a great fit because that combined with the outline, blue outline that’s added to those special blocks, gives you a better overview of what you are actually editing in a given moment.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, that’s awesome. It was not only once, but at least six or seven times where I changed my reusable block and said, “Oh, I didn’t want to do that.” I forgot to make it a regular block, kind of converted first, so I had the changes propagate over the whole site, and I was really happy about that. So this now prevents me from doing that, or at least have another mental block in there. 

A lot of enhancements were actually for the widget editor, and they mostly have to do with the Legacy Widget is pulling in the classic widgets into the block editor, so you can edit them also with that. And so do you have anymore information about that, Grzegorz?

Grzegorz Zi├│┼ékowski: So I know that this particular block, it’s only available for installation on the widgets screen, so in the customizer or on the separate new widgets page. And yeah, in general there are a lot of compatibility issues that need to be resolved, so I guess this is related to reports that were sent by users. I was on vacation for a week so I didn’t follow that so closely, but yeah, I guess that’s all aboutÔÇŽ.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. And I think we will find a few more incompatibility issues once it’s released into core, but the whole team is on standby to fix those very quickly. 

So another enhancement was for the media and text block, and it now allows the drag and drop media replacement for the media and text block. And I say yay to drag and drop and yay for the media text block getting some love. Thank you. 

And then the global styles and templates received another enhancement and is to allow, well there are many, many more enhancements, but this one stands out to me that it now allows longhand and shorthand properties for the theme.json, meaning if you have a property style like padding, you can do padding:0 or padding-left or padding-bottom or padding-top to make that available in the theme.json. And I think that’s very missing before. 

Grzegorz Ziółkowski: Yeah.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, go ahead.

Grzegorz Zi├│┼ékowski: There are two changes that I wanted to cover that are related to the post about WordPress API Fetch Library. So there is a change, and this is a change to the wrapping library called WordPress Core Data. So we had a few issues with integrating REST API, because for the REST API, you can have different contexts. So there can be view, edit, and such, depends really on the end point. And we struggled with that from the beginning, and because depending on how you call this REST API endpoint, it will return a different set of data. Even if that’s same, like for the post with the ID, if you have a different context then it will be something a bit different.

So we didn’t have that covered and that was required for WordPress 5.8 to fix that finally and the fix landed, and now you can just define this context when you want to bring something, and this allows us to remove direct calls to WordPress API Fetch Library. So it’s some interesting context for that. And this was an interesting change because there is an improvement, other that there is window.abortcontroller API in the browser that allows you to cancel a pending request, and that’s now integrated with the same API Fetch Library. So that’s another interesting weapon to use when you are dealing with some integration with Gutenberg.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, no doubt, especially because then you can handle it also in your plugin or in your block that, yeah, if there’s no reaction to the external service, what else are you going to do? And this is really nice and help you with that. 

API

And then there’s a new API in the WordPress 11 version, and you can now define a default template used for the template mode. So the template mode is a template editor and when somebody clicks on an edit, you can kind of give them a default, or a new, as a theme developer you now can give them a default template that has a few things already in there, they are not starting from scratch, and you have control over it.

Grzegorz Zi├│┼ékowski: Such a nice improvement. 

Bug Fixes

And now we are in the back fixes section, and this one’s huge.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Oh, my God.

Grzegorz Zi├│┼ékowski: And it’s nearly, yeah, it’s nearly 70 items. And, of course, there are a lot of back fixes related to the widgets editor. And there are two of them that are quite important and I believe they were backported to WordPress 5.8 release. 

So first of all, the classic block got removed from the widgets editor, and because this is something that mostly exists for the back part compatibility with the post editor, so it didn’t make that much sense in this context. And also, blocks related to full-site editing that the new blocks that were introduced recently to the WordPress Core, and they were disabled for the widgets editor. And the rationale behind that was that they didn’t play well in this context because there have several differences that aren’t covered in this specific screen. Or more importantly, I believe that was more for the Customizer which is another set of requirements. So those blocks were disabled there, so you won’t be able to use query load block or site titles, site logo, and such blocks.

And I believe that’s for good for now. I hope that this will improve over time and those full-site editing blocks will be enabled also on this screen, so to give that full capabilities of the experience.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Awesome, thank you. Yeah. Yeah, there were a lot of there were 24 bug fixes for the widget editor alone in this release, but the block library also, the query block got some bug fixes, the group block, as well as the button block, now you can use the border support for the button block and the style and the classes. And the button block actually reacts to that, even…. And then the category block has some two bug fixes, and then, so one of the FSE blocks, as you called it Grzegorz, that’s the full-site template editing blocks, there’s the site title and the site title blocks tagline block, and one bug fix is that they are now in a read-only view when the user doesn’t have the right permission to change them, like an administrator would have. So that is now fixed.

Grzegorz Zi├│┼ékowski: Yeah, that’s interesting because I guess the testing initially was done mostly in the context of template editing, where you have these permissions. However, once you start using them inside the post, it’s a different story because there are so many levels of access for posts.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yes, yeah. Get that, so all of a sudden your editor or your authors could change your site title. You can’t have that. 

Grzegorz Zi├│┼ékowski: I guess it still wouldn’t be possible, but it was a bad experience for the user because they would see some sort of errors when trying to save that.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Oh. I got it, I got it, yeah. 

So there are many, many more bug fixes. I think we could talk about it another three hours. There’s one that you wanted to highlight, Grzegorz, that’s the fix the select all behavior in the editor.

Grzegorz Zi├│┼ékowski: Yes, just because these are nice features. So once you are in the block, if you click select all, it will select the text inside the block if that’s a paragraph or heading. Once you click this shortcut for selecting all again, it will just select all blocks. So it wasn’t quite working well, but it’s pretty handy if it works as intended.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Oh, is that the Ctrl+A kind of select all behavior?

Grzegorz Ziółkowski: Depends on the operating system, right.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Right, right, yeah.

Grzegorz Zi├│┼ékowski: Yeah. It’s Cmd+A on Mac.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: At the Mac. Yeah. But yeah, okay, got it. 

Grzegorz Ziółkowski: Yeah, you can also use, if you are using the trackpad or mouse, there is also select all option when you see this in the operating system. There are several ways how you can access that.

WordPress Core Compatability

Birgit Pauli-Haack: So we come to the next section in the release notes that is concerned on the WordPress Core compatibility, and there was one thing that stood out. Well, it improved the script integration for WordPress Core and the Block Library, and also had a unify handling for the block view script. That was all kind of updated. But there’s another one that’s auto enable the template editor for themes with a theme.json only. We mentioned that before, that the theme editor is only an opt-in, and that’s how you can opt in if you have a theme.json in your classic theme, or a block theme enabled there.

Documentation

We come to the documentation settings, and of course, a lot of documentation has to do with the new features and the block editor, block API, the widget block editor. And there’s also an architecture page that adds a schema explaining the relationship between the packages that comprise the post editor. And I think that is, it’s a huge undertaking to make that all visualize that, and I think it’s a great first start if you kind of get new into block plugin development to learn how all those scripts at WordPress, at Edit Post or WordPress Data or WordPress block editor versus WordPress editor versus WordPress blocks have, how they are related to each other and what each of them do, because the names are not always show what it actually are used for.

Grzegorz Zi├│┼ékowski: Yeah, I think Riad did an outstanding job on the editor and incredible, great job here at covering that because it’s very difficult to explain how all those pieces fit together, and the visual representation speaks to most of the people. And it’s not only helpful for co-contributors when they want just to figure out how a given set of functionality, how it can fit in the bigger picture, but it’s also good for plugin authors, because that they can get a quick understanding of the pieces used inside so they can just treat that as a reference and try exploring APIs in a given area that fits their use cases.

In general, it’s also quite complex how this architecture has evolved. I remember the times when we had only six modules that were at the beginning, now we have, I guess, 50 packages that interact with each other. 

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Do you mean 5-0?

Grzegorz Ziółkowski: Yes.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: 50?

Grzegorz Ziółkowski: Yeah.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: That’s quite a number, man. Yeah, but that also shows you, there’s a lot of behind the scenes foundation in the Gutenberg editor that is kind of pushed away outside of the normal use of the block editor, but it gets really…. We will share a link to the architecture schema in the show notes. Normally we don’t share any of the change log items because we point to the release notes and do that, but this one I will share so you can find it quickly when you come back to your computer and want to follow up on something you hear on the podcast.

All right. Oh, of course, another part of the documentation is the technical implementation details for the widgets in the Customizer, because it’s now combining two different architectures, the Customizer architecture with the block architecture, and comes back to the widget Customizer. And somebody called it kind of the Frankenstein API, or is it Ari? I’m not sure. So the documentation about that is now available and you read up about it when you start bringing your widgets to the Customizer, or convert your widgets to blocks and then see them in the Customizer.

Grzegorz Zi├│┼ékowski: Whatever you call it, Frankenstein or not, it’s alive.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: It’s alive, yes.

Grzegorz Ziółkowski: Yeah.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Nice.

Code Quality

Grzegorz Zi├│┼ékowski: And that bring us to the code quality section, and this one is getting bigger with every release. I guess this is also the nature of those plugin releases that are during the release cycle of WordPress, because they are more focused about improvements than about creating new features. And one of the things I wanted to highlight is the end-to-end test that was written, it was written by Ella van Durpe and it’s interesting because it ensures that integration with third parties scripts for blocks works with the iframe editor. And it’s also a good example if you want to check how to do such integration for the block if you would like to develop one. So end-to-end test, it’s not only ensuring that the integrations work, but also it’s, from my perspective, a great way to check how some things can be done because for some of those tests, there are small plugins created.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, excellent.

Grzegorz Zi├│┼ékowski: And there is also a change that promotes one of the linting rule in JavaScript code base. So that’s the change that was introduced. It took us several months to start referencing data stores inside Gutenberg by their imports by the packages that export them. So like for example, the block editor, it has a store that allows you to interact with the block editor. And if you want to use it in the plugin, there are two ways. You can use the hard coded name when you are using API from WordPress data, like use select or use dispatch. But you can also use a direct import and there’s a store variable that you can import, and this brings more benefits to the Core, but it’s also fine for plugins especially if you are using WordPress scripts and build capabilities available there, because it will ensure that all the dependencies that you need to ensure that your scripts work properly will be automatically brought.

And we struggle with that in Core, and it’s now all fixed, that’s why we could finally enable this role and that will prevent those type of occurrences in the future.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Well, that’s awesome. That automatic testing and especially on code quality and linting, it’s really helpful when you start writing code for blocks or for Gutenberg, yeah, because there’s one mistake already eliminated. 

Tools

In the tools section, there are quite a few changes as well for testing, for CSS styling, again, for linting and workflows, but you wanted to highlight for our listeners the Emotion 11 upgrade. 

Grzegorz Zi├│┼ékowski: Yeah. I just wanted to highlight because this is related to the work on the UI for the global styles. So there is the team that works on bringing a new set of components, UI components, and behind the scenes they are using Emotion Library, which provides a CSS-in-JS solution. So if someone wants to get familiar with that, I recommend checking this library. And it was brought to the recent demos and the version, so I just wanted to highlight that this concept exists and it’s only inside WordPress components package. And the reason why the decision was made to use this approach, which is completely different to all other places in WordPress Core, because instead of using CSS file, that is bring to the user in the browser with the link, instead it’s JavaScript that injects everything using the most recent browser APIs.

And this allows for better integration, mostly for people who use WordPress components outside of the block editor inside the WordPress. So let’s imagine if you want to create a subpage inside WP Admin, and you would like to use WordPress components, this would, if you would like to build, use only the subset of components with this CSS-in-JS solution, you won’t need to bundle all existing CSS. It will just pick whatever you need. So that’s a save for the bandwidth when you are using those solutions outside.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. And that’s a part of the whole development phase to bringing the G2 components, that Q started last year and Mark and I, we talked quite a bit on it in earlier episodes when they first started on creating those, and now it’s coming into Gutenberg. And so sooner or later, all the components are actually there. A few components are still missing or need to still be created, but that will … Yeah, I don’t know what’s the roadmap for it, but it will come to the WordPress WP admin with that as well, yeah, to use those components. So I’m really excited about that because all of a sudden, you can make your plugin settings pages and all the other pages that look like Gutenberg and you don’t have to come up with your own interface and it’s a unified interface for the users. So I am so happy that this is coming along. It’s still a ways to go, but yeah, keep an eye on it. All right.

Experiments

Grzegorz Zi├│┼ékowski: Yeah. I’m surprised that the experiments section is so small this time. It looks like everything that was experimental was moved to WordPress Core and it’s now considered staple. So we have only six items on the list for the navigation block and the editor and for the site editor. But those seem like small changes.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, they seem more like bug fixes than enhancements. And it’s of course clear that in the last four weeks, everybody was really fixed on the widget editor and the template editing experience, which is part of the site editor. But yeah, you’re right, they are out of the experiment stage and they are now coming to Core. But I know that quite a few are actually in the background are working on getting the navigation block and the navigation editor ready to be migrated to Core in a later version, but that’s the focus. And then, of course, the rest of the site editing experience, the full-site editing experience which will go into high gear right after the WordPress 5.8 is released, I would think.

Speaking of which, so this bring us to the end of the Gutenberg 11 version release notes, and now we are heading into the section, what’s in active development beyond 5.8?

What’s in Active Development or Discussed

And Mat├şas Ventura updated his milestones issue on GitHub, and he has updated in various ways.

Grzegorz Zi├│┼ékowski: Yeah, I think he created a new one because the old one was huge…. It had six or seven sub-milestones, and it was a lot of work. But most of the work is already done, so it was more practical to close the old one. 

And so he shared high level items for now, so there are a few sections. So one is general improvements, so this is related to existing functionalities like alignments, the query load block, the list view which is the old navigation view, Remote, I don’t even know the name.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Block Navigator was theÔÇŽ.

Grzegorz Ziółkowski: Block Navigator, yes. And there is also an issue that describes a new browse mode that is going to be worked on. But the other parts that are something that you should be already familiar with if you are following along our podcast, is the template editor, patterns, styling, like styling I mean global styles and similar stuff, and the navigation block and the navigation editor screen.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. So you can definitely comment on that, you can follow up, there are some sub-links to issues, like if you want to talk about the list view or want to see what’s happening with the list view or the query loop there, he had some links to the sub-issues there. 

Robert Anderson also highlighted or posted an issue, the widget editor refinements beyond 5.8, and it’s of course, part of it is to smooth out the rough edges in the UI that are supporting of the implementing position style and widget layout. And then improved performance and stability, knowing that there were just in this release, 24 bug fixes for the widget editor, there’s definitely room for improvement on that. And then improve extensibility, and that’s the last part is once it’s all stable, how can plugin developers, theme developers, tap into the widget editor to include additional features or manipulate it for their theme and plugins. Definitely worth a read, and we will share him in the show notes.

Grzegorz Zi├│┼ékowski: I think that you should also expect a post, a monthly occurrence of the what’s next in the Gutenberg plugin, in development. And so probably most of the items will be covered there. But I haven’t seen this post yet, so probably it’s still in works because of WordPress 5.8 and all the work necessary for that.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. If I remember correctly, on Wednesday during the editor meeting, Core editor meeting in Slack channel #core-editor, Hector mentioned that he is preparing the post, but he wanted to wait until 5.8 is out, and then also cover not only July, but actually cover it for August and have the July focus like it is on the widget editor and get WordPress 5.8 out of the door and then prepare for the next release. 

And speaking of which, Anne McCarthy published a high level feedback or summary of the high level feedback from the full-site editing program, just to cover all what happened in July, and with links to issues, explains where the sum of the problems still lie that come out of the testing experience and the various testing calls.

So one is to improve the settings experience, there are certain things that need to be worked on, have to do with a query block, the columns block, and how they behave in the editor. Then also make the editing modes distinct, and Mat├şas kind of picked up on that, so when are we adding the aside work template part? When are we doing content? How do we edit in the query block? And there are some refinements certainly necessary, especially for the placeholders and initial configuration stamps when a user accesses that part of the website totally new and how they get into it and learn their way around it. Also solidify the what you see is what you get experience, and the desire for preview content. So there is, the preview part is still a little bit in the works because right now, there is no frontend preview, it’s just a preview in the editor. And that didn’t seem to satisfy all the testers’ needs in then to figuring out what they did and what they didn’t do and how it looks on the frontend.

Also, of course it has to do with the discrepancy between what you see in the editor and what you see in frontend, and on both sides, there is work to be done and it’s also planned, of course. And then ensure reliability, robustness in the saving process. There was some inconsistent behavior noticed when multi-entity saving. So just maybe see it in the reusable block where now that when you change the reusable block and you go over to publish, there’s a little dot next to it. I think that’s visually too subtle to see that there are, “Oh, we have multiple entities that we touched. Yeah, we touched this template part and this template part and the reusable block and the content of the post, and everything is going to be saved on one published thing.” So I think there’s some refinements to be done.

And then of course, increase usability of the overall experience is another chapter in this long post by Anne McCarthy, and she does a phenomenal job leading us all along on that program and how to get feedback to the developers and also discuss a few things how they can be better or if the developers don’t know how to solve those because they have multiple options, to kind of pick the best options that they can do. All right, anything else you want to point out, Grzegorz?

Grzegorz Zi├│┼ékowski: No, just to cycle back on this post, I think that’s phenomenal job on the side of combining everything together because this is just a collection of links to some existing issues that were already reported, and some of them are worked on, some of them are more difficult to tackle, some of them will smooth out the experience quite easily. And it’s just seeing that so much thought was put into grouping them and finding a good solution to bring the clarity of what can be worked on. And I agree with most of the items immediately without even going to the issue that it’s something that should be tackled.

So that’s really a great job, and you don’t see that very often in the flow and some regular contributors rise an issue. And then you then struggle with this first step of combining together similar issues, ensuring that they are actionable and so on. So it’s like, you can imagine having 1,000 issues, processes by end and just you have, I don’t know, 20, 30 issues that are on point and they will ensure that the next cycle for the major WordPress release will be really productive.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Well, and what Anne McCarthy did was summarizing all the experiences that people brought back in the program while they were going through 7 and 8 testing calls, and I think the summary of everybody who went through the experience is what Anne actually published here. So it’s not that she made it up out of her own mind and said she’s product manager, no, it’s all coming from the community. And some of the testing calls were translated into Italian, and some of them are translated into Japanese, so also from outside the English-speaking community, there was some great feedback and some meet-ups did group testings. So it’s the summary of all these initiatives that happened in the community and that are in that post. It’s not just from one person, and I really like this experimental outreach program for new features and I hope we have a few more of those in the upcoming year for additional features that are coming to the full-site editing experience. So great job in putting the first experiment out there and bringing that back to the developers and focus on those things. Yeah.

Grzegorz Zi├│┼ékowski: Yeah, just one thought. So I said that there is like 1,000 issues, because this is what I exactly meant, these are actual reports for the user, for the meet-up groups and so on. So at the moment, we have over 3,000 issues reported on GitHub for the Gutenberg project. And that’s a lot, and it’s nearly impossible for a single person to make a good judgment on what to work on. And whereas here, it’s this pre-work. It’s like if you would just say that you no longer can send any issues to the Gutenberg repository, but it goes to Anne, she processes that, and she brings that back. It’s like this step that is something that I would love to see more from other folks in the community, being on the side of combine. Like the triage team is doing a lot of work, but it’s not enough because it’s not something that, I don’t know, 10, 20 people can do, it’s something that needs to be coordinated with so many people. It’s so hard, and there was never a good solution for that so far.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. And I think that also helps if you are a WordPress contributor and you have a few hours to contribute every week, and you want to make the biggest impact, go through some of those summary posts and pick the issues that are linked in them so you can work on that and actually make a real difference. It’s a different approach and some other developers most of the time do an open source project is that they have a personal itch to scratch. And it’s what they wanted to have in the software most or the strongest, and this is kind of turning it a little bit on the user focus side and say, “Okay, this is what the users tell us they really need, and can we work on those.”

So it’s a different approach on that and I really like that that is now happening and it’s available to contributors to answer the question, “What should I work on?” It’s I think the most asked question in the open source project. And then some people say, “Well, you work on what you want,” and that is not helpful. If you can point to some of those posts and say, “Well, there are six different areas you could work on, grab an issue in there,” it’s much more streamlined and more satisfying for a new contributor or an old contributor. Yeah.

Grzegorz Zi├│┼ékowski: So yeah, definitely if you go and pick one of those issues, you will make a great impact on the user experience for the people who maintain the 30% of all websites on the web. So that’s a huge group to … something you should aspire for. Because I know, you can make a huge impact by doing some other changes, but those will impact the daily life.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. And that’s a good point to end our show on. So we take listener questions. If you want to have questions about what we’re talking about, just send an email to changelog@gutenbergtimes.com, or you can catch either one of us on Twitter. Our DMs, direct messages, are open. My Twitter handle is BPH and Grzegorz’s Twitter handle is Gziolo, G-Z-I-O-L-O. 

And if you like the show, we’d appreciate a review on iTunes or Stitcher or any other podcast directory. It helps more and we would like to connect with you. It’s the only way we can connect with you and your emails when you send them in. As always, the show notes will be published on gutenbergtimes.com/podcast, scroll to the number 47. And if, as I said, if you have questions, suggestions, send them, or news that you want us to publish, send them to changelog@gutenbergtimes.com, changelog@gutenbergtimes.com. 

So thank you, Greg, so great to see you and talk to you about this great new release and WordPress, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend. It’s Friday and it’s evening in Poland, right?

Grzegorz Zi├│┼ékowski: Yeah. Yes, it’s about to be dark. It’s not so fun, but it’s a weekend, so it’s great. So thank you, Birgit for another great show, and see you in two weeks.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: And thank you all for listening and goodbye.

Grzegorz Ziółkowski: Bye.

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