Changelog #52 -Planning, Scope and Team for WordPress 5.9, Roadmap for WooCommerce Blocks and Gutenberg 11.5

Gutenberg Changelog
Gutenberg Changelog
Changelog #52 -Planning, Scope and Team for WordPress 5.9, Roadmap for WooCommerce Blocks and Gutenberg 11.5

In this episode, Birgit Pauli-Haack and Grzegorz (Greg) Ziolkowski discuss Planning, Scope and Team for WordPress 5.9, Roadmap for WooCommerce Blocks, Gutenberg 11.5 Release and more 

Show Notes / Transcript

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Gutenberg 11.5

What’s discussed and worked on

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Birgit Pauli-Haack: Hello and welcome to our 52nd episode of the Gutenberg Changelog podcast. We’re recording this on September 16th, 2021. In today’s episode we will talk about the planning scope and team for WordPress 5.9, the roadmap for WooCommerce blocks and of course this week’s Gutenberg 11.5 release. 

I am Birgit Pauli-Haack, WordPress developer advocate and curator for Gutenberg Times. Again, I’m delighted to have with me on the show co-host Grzegorz, or Greg, Ziółkowski, JavaScript developer at Automattic and WordPress core contributor. Hi, Grzegorz, how are you doing today?

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Hello, Birgit. I’m fine. I’m looking forward to my vacation that starts this weekend. I’m going to Greece. It’s first time since two years going abroad, so I am really excited but also not so happy about all the paperwork that is necessary to travel these days.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, with all the COVID and vaccines and all that kind of thing, is that what you’re referring to with paperwork?

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Yes. I have five forms to fill in for myself and my family. It’s strange. I guess you know that because you traveled from the States to Germany a few weeks back.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. Yeah, we did. I scheduled my test that I have to do because the United States changed how they let people in. Now I have to have a test that’s not older than three days to get in although I’m vaccinated. It’s strange. It’s all strange.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Yeah, yeah. At least I don’t have to do any tests because I’m also vaccinated. That’s on the good side here.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, on the way in we only needed to show our vaccination records and be done with it. On the way back it’s going to be both. 


Anyway, we start our episode today with an announcement, with an announcement that Josepha Haden Chomphosy published the preliminary planning for WordPress 5.9. That’s supposed to be released December 14, 2021. Yes. It’s again just before the holidays and many sites will wait until January to update, but most sites it turns out update right away. We did this, had this exercise now for the last four years I think as far as I can remember.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Yes, even WordPress 5.0 was released on December 8th, 9th, I don’t remember exactly.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: 6th?

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Maybe 3rd. It was in December and we had the same discussion, why it’s happening just before Christmas.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Right. Yeah.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: We are a worldwide project, it is not only Christmas for people, some people don’t even know what that is and they just have their own holidays.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. The world does not stop when WordPress releases. We found that out with 5.0. The internet did not break and everything was going smoothly. I know there are a few US agencies that want to close down over Christmas and they just … yeah, I don’t think it’s a hard sell for them to say we do all the upgrades in January when we come back.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: It’s perfectly fine.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. I think so too, yeah. 

Again, as they did for 5.8, there will be a go/no-go decision for what will be in the release. That is scheduled to happen on October 12th. That’s about four weeks ago, in four weeks, sorry. That’s in four weeks. The feature freeze will be November 9th and then beta one is supposed to be ready for November 16th. People get cracking.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: I think this series is a bit smaller in the scope, so I think that those dates make a lot of sense. I think the schedule for the 5.8 was a bit longer, especially between the feature freeze there was two weeks, but at the end of the day I don’t think that matters that much.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Mostly not for Gutenberg because you patch back to the WordPress right away when you have bug fixes, yeah. 

The scope follows pretty much what Matías Ventura published earlier this month as the preliminary scope, so we will have blocks with intrinsic web design, then the navigation menus, interface, the user interface for the theme JSON. Theme JSON was introduced for theme developers for 5.8 and 5.9 will have the first version of the interface so users can also configure their themes and their block editor through that. There’s also refining of editing flows for block themes, a new default theme and additional design tools from the block editor. 

Then there are a few, Josepha called them hopefuls that might get in but they might not get in. Part of it is the pattern insertion and creation features so that you can submit patterns to the directory and then also insert them directly from the inserter. Right now you have to click the copy button and then copy/paste them. For 5.9 the meta team is aiming for insertion into the block editor. Then also unzip/rollback fail-safe, there’s a whole team working on that, more PHP unit tests and then improved compatibility with PHP 8.0 and 8.1.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: The last three items aren’t related to the Gutenberg at all, but in some ways they improve the overall quality on WordPress core, so it’s maybe somehow related.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Right. Right. Yeah. That’s that. The team is, release lead is again Matt Mullenweg with Josepha being the coordinator I think.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: And the marketing team lead.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: And the marketing team lead, yeah, with that. Who else is there already in the posting?

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: I’ve seen that a few days before and the list was still missing a few names. I don’t know if it was updated since then.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: That was quite a while ago. Here we go. September third was it published. The team, to go back to that, release lead is Matt Mullenweg, marketing and comms is Josepha Haden, technical writer is Jonathan Bossenger and those are the leads that are filled in. I think the rest is going to come together when the meeting is, the board chair meeting later on. All right.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Yes. There’s still time to volunteer if some of our listeners want to jump in and help with the release, even as people who just watch the process and be ready for the next major release to take this leadership role.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. Josepha asked for volunteers for triage lead and the release coordinators. If you don’t triage the bugs or the tickets that are supposed to go into 5.9 and see how they’re going you’re not going to get a release together. The coordinators are really important to get all the teams ready and working on this. I think there are a few volunteers already on the post in the comments section, but you can still throw your hat in the ring. That is about 5.9. I think the next date for that to watch is October 12th with the go/no-go because that will determine what exactly will come into the release from the navigation screen, new navigation blocks, see how far the gallery block, the new gallery block, refacted, is going. That’s still in the experiment. There are a few other things that might or might not come.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Yeah. I think the most important one would be the navigation block and the navigation screen. That’s quite a huge project that has evolved for quite a while.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. I think over almost two years. It’s also, I just saw and we’ll see it in the updates later there are some discussions going on that our listeners might want to chime in in terms of backwards compatibility. 

We promised also a Woocommerce roadmap regarding blocks. Darren Either from the team put a nice blog post together with a lot of information about that, what is happening and what is in the near future or what is soon happening. The high priority is to build robust blocks for checkout and cart, the shopping cart, that not only gives the store and their customers a much better user experience but also allows for extensibility for third-party tools. The blocks will become the default way to handle checkout and carts soon. They were a little bit cagey with dates and something, but it’s definitely something to watch out for. They will also have, for the transition, fallbacks to shortcuts and the shortcuts for cards and checkout and then if the extension isn’t optimized for blocks.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Yeah. We will include also a link to the GitHub repository that contains all the blocks. There are a few of them. They are very advanced I must say. In the WordPress core we have a lot of blocks, however they are more on the side of editing content so the complexity comes only in the block editor, whereas Woo, they do something really impressive on the front-end so those blocks are interactive, they are optimized in terms of performance. There’s some really impressive work on their side. I’ve been watching that for quite a while, this is in the works for over two years now, and they are improving. Their initial implementation, it was mostly bringing back compatibility from shortcuts, that was transitioned from shortcuts to blocks. I remember the first prototype, it was creating the safe implementation, the short code and that was just not working. Their block editor experience was the change but the rest has stayed the same. They have evolved in so many ways.

They also shared some ways for the users and shop owners, the checkout flows are now much more smoother and that leads to better conversion rates, which is the whole goal of this concept. It’s also, now you have the ability to preview how cart and checkout looks from the editor. It sounds, in our context when we talk all the time about the block editor the preview is something you just take for granted, but here we are, it’s improvement in their workflows. They were also talking about the iterations they are doing and how they are trying to use InnerBlocks to structure or architect their blocks. That’s also a great way when they are presenting in the post how it empowers users to add their own integration pretty easily. You have now a checkout form and you can inject any type of blocks, you can add a heading in any place you want, you can add, I don’t know, an image. Whatever you like you can add there and also reorder items like change headings. It’s something that wasn’t possible before and this just opens new possibilities.

I’m also happy to see that this flow is now becoming the default one, because it was present but it was only for some extensions that were in Woocommerce store by default. Now it’s open also to plug-in others. That’s the biggest change.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. I really like how Darren put the post together. He has many, many screenshots in there so you get really a good picture of what’s going to happen. Check it out. There’s also some work being done to prepare Woocommerce for the site editing feature that’s coming to 5.9 somehow, or 6.0. I think it was good for the Woocommerce team to wait until the block editor was a little bit more stable and had more features for extensibility. I’m glad that they found it now worthwhile to put it together and that the user experience is up to the quality that they wanted to. That will open up the signal also for other plug-in developers and also gives quite a nice set of example code that you can study if you are into reading code. As Greg said, we’re going to share not only post the show notes, but also the GitHub repository so you can check it out.

Now I have the last announcement, then we get to the release, our next live Q&A on the Gutenberg Times YouTube channel will be October 7 at 16:00 UTC, 11AM Eastern and 18:00 Central Europe Time. Sorry. Got all the times mixed up again. That is pretty much the story of this week for me. I go either way and I always go wrong, so I need to read it and pronounce it right. October 7, 16:00 UTC. We will discuss with experienced WordPress theme developers how they transition from building a classic theme to a block based theme and using theme JSON and also full site editing and the global styles as far as it’s already available. 

We will have as a guest Ellen Bauer. They published just recently their Aino theme. That is their block based theme and they have additional features in there that will cover that. Carolina Nymark, who’s on the themes team and also worked on the 2021 blocks, TT1 Blocks theme, that’s the block based 2021 product. She also has a site called full-site editing where she teaches full-site editing to theme developers. It’s great to have her on the show. Then the last one is Andres Norén who designed the 2020 default theme last year. He’s working on a new theme as we speak. Oh yeah, by the way, his theme Eksell is actually powering the Gutenberg Times site for, I don’t know, half a year now. I’m glad to have those two, Ellen and Carolina and Andres, on the show on October 7th.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Yeah, I think the line-up is just so great. I’m looking forward to this Q&A session. I think you did a great job convincing all the people who have so much experience building full site editing themes to be on the show.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. I’m really happy that they all make the time to educate our community on this. Also not only to be on the show, to take the time, but also take the time and work through this because we all know that, if you are an early adopter, you basically do all the bug testing and quality assurance for the team, but you also have to invest a lot more time because of course documentation is not yet complete or changes. It’s a major undertaking and I’m glad that these three are coming to the show and telling us what they have found.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Yeah. There is also this bright side that you are on the bleeding edge of innovation and you are part of the process and you influence how this all shapes up.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Absolutely.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: I think it has more pros than cons.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Oh, absolutely. Looking back, the three years, block editor, most of the early adopters have had, really a jump on the new technology and, yeah, were supported by big acquisitions or hired just right away because of their expertise that they have shown. It will be similar to theme developers that are early adopting these new features, even if it’s a little bit of a heartache or a headache, more a headache. It’s the cutting edge, indeed. Sometimes it’s the bleeding edge, you’re right.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Yeah. In this context, which makes me very happy, is that all three invited guests, they are in the community for quite a while and they seem to be aligned with the vision and they are adjusting their themes to be up-to-date, which is really impressive.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, they totally get the vision. All three of them have published quite a bit of their learnings. Yes, I will share a few links in the show notes so you can check them out, but definitely sign up for, register for the live Q&A so you get also your questions answered.

What’s Released – Gutenberg 11.5

That brings us to the Gutenberg 11.5 release. We are, as of today there is not a final release yet because there’s some problems with the build sequence.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Yeah, it’s some turbulence like during the flight. I mean everything is ready, it’s just the process didn’t end up successfully and it’s more of the technical challenge of the release process itself than something is wrong. Yeah, I hope at the time when this podcast will be produced and ready then the release will be out, hopefully today. We said the date for recording before assuming that everything goes out on Wednesday as usual.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, yeah. Well there was, the 11.5 release candidate is out or has been out for a week, so that’s what we are basing things on. There weren’t any changes on it from the features or the PRs, it’s just the build process.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Yes.


Birgit Pauli-Haack: All right. We have a few new features. Do you want to talk us through it?

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Yeah. Let’s start with the block support changes. In the previous episode we mentioned that gap block support feature. That was still an experiment. It was implemented on the team JSON side, but it was disabled by default. Now we have this support, there’s a UI for that. It’s pretty simple. In the dimensions panel, if I recall correctly, we have this control that allows you to change the gap between blocks. The name is still to be settled as far as I know because it has some, in the world of design there is something similar that might be confusing, but it was, you just change the numbers and it just increases the spacing between blocks. 

Related to that there is also a change in the group block. At the moment the group block has this layout option, layout control that allows you to change how it is presented. By default it just uses, every block in the group is in its own row, however this new feature is just integrated with the inserter that inserts a group block with every block in the same row. They are aligned, next to each other in one line, which is pretty nice for some complex designs. This is just, it was there in the group black, it’s just the new way of discovering this feature in the inserter, in the slash inserter when you are typing in the prompt in the editor.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. It’s the first implementation of the Flex layout that I think Riad actually put the basis in for with 11.4. Now this is the first iteration where one block is actually using that. Of course there will be more. In the PR, if you want to follow up on that, there are some links back to the Flex layout.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Yeah, but I think the Flex layout we talked about one or two episodes before.


Birgit Pauli-Haack: Right. Yeah, but there was not a block that came with it out of the gate. It’s also part of what’s in 5.9 being the intrinsic design of pages. There will also be, another change is actually that the bug report form, which is one of the most important forms on the GitHub repo, has received some changes. The ones that are here in that release are more cosmetic but I wanted to point it out, the new template feature of GitHub is now used and they created a new bug report form to remind people of all the information that would be helpful if someone would take on an issue to fix it. I encountered quite a few issues where we needed to find out what actually the user used, what versions they are or what are the steps to reproduce it. Those are very important information. If we have to read minds what’s actually happening, we might not get to reproduce the error or the quirkiness that is and we have to go back and ask for further information. That is just delaying the time of the fixing. 

Following the form is now much easier and you don’t forget anything. I also wanted to point that out for those who are in the GitHub repo. Let us know, or let the team know when there is something to be fixed or not working right.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Yeah, that’s a nice change. Usually it sends up someone needs to ask for more details. After a few weeks, if there is no answer, the issue is closed, which isn’t something we really want. It is just the reality because we cannot reproduce the issue.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. There’s no questioning the experience of the person who posts it, it’s just we need to see it, we need to be able to reproduce it to locate where the code change needs to happen to actually fix it. It’s just saving a lot of time and being very specific in what’s not working. Yeah. Yeah. Next the block library has got some new enhancements. One of them is using the block gap between column blocks, so that is another iteration of a new feature. Now you can….

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Yeah, but this has only changed on the CSS level for now. As the rich table in the PR set, it’s a stop gap for block gap.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Nice, yeah.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Fun with words. Yeah, but that’s the direction, I guess. Most of those layout related blocks should start using those design controls, elements, to make the experience more cohesive. That in general is the direction where it’s heading.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. There was an article in the WP Tavern about what controls somebody could use, should use or should be having out of default and not changeable, who’s having control over themes? I think there were some misunderstandings. Matías went into the comments section and clarified a few things regarding that. If you come across an article go into the comments and see what Matías has to say as well. Matías Ventura, the spark of Gutenberg, just to reiterate that. 

The video block got an enhancement to use the existing video poster image on insert. The video block has become quite powerful and quite flexible. There are six or seven different settings that you can have in the sidebar that you can switch on and off. This issue or feature is now that, once you assign a poster image to the video the first time, it remembers it. When you embed it into a page or post again, because it’s in a different context or it’s in a series of videos or something like that, you don’t have to assign the poster image again, it will remember it. It’s all about the effort to streamline the content creator’s workflow.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: There is also a change in the query pagination next and previous blocks. They are very low level blocks that construct the query pagination, which is part of Query Loop Block, but it shows how flexible the InnerBlocks paradigm is. There is now an arrow attribute that syncs next/previous block arrows.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. It was there before, but it wasn’t really good, visible in the sidebar or for people to check on. Now they are real settings that are big buttons that you can click so it changes. You were always able to change the text of your pagination from next to previous page or something else. You say low level, but it’s also quite an important block because, when you get to full-site editing and you write your own templates and you have a list of block posts from a category or from a tag and you have multiple pages of those, you want that query pagination to be available and also be usable. It’s quite interesting, especially for publishers that have online magazines or so.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: There’s also a change in the post outer block. You’ve got duotone support. At first I was surprised seeing that, but there is an avatar or the image of the user which got this feature, which is, again, a good to have way to apply similar effects to all images on your page.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, or just make it blend in more into the overall design because it’s a small avatar. To normalize it amongst all the others that you have on your site. There’s also, the wide alignment control now is only available if the theme provides the layout wide size setting. I think that’s a change to, so you can adjust that setting through the theme JSON again and not have to … yeah, you don’t have to do it through the functions PHP now.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Yeah. I think in the past you would enable full and wide at once, so it just gives you more grand control over those features.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, you can now decide, okay, I only want the wide but not the full, or you only want the full but not the wide kind of thing. Yeah. That’s a good point. Yeah. Thank you.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: There is also a quite important change for the navigation screen that’s being in the works and preparing for the final release. They are the undo and redo buttons in the editors, it’s the same feature that you have for the post content editor in the headers, it was just missing there. Definitely an important change.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Oh yeah, yeah. All in the streaming of the content creator’s workflow. Streamlining, yeah.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Yeah. It’s also related to the keyboard shortcuts. Some of you probably use command Z and command X. No.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: The redo? I don’t know. I never redo, I only do undo.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Yeah, command Z is the most popular one because you want to go back.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, I need to find out what the keyboard….

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Yeah, check this out in the Gutenberg editor when you go to the header and there is three dots, menu, then you have keyboard shortcuts as one of the options. That’s the simplest way to check all the shortcuts and learn new if you don’t know them yet.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. Yeah. There were other changes to the navigation screen. I just wanted to remind our listeners that it’s not yet in the plug-in per se, it’s still in experimentation so you need to go to the Gutenberg menu and the WP admin experiments section and then check the navigation screen so you can test it for yourself and try and help us get it tested and do a lot of bug fixes, bug reports there. There is also a change, the REST API team is working on creating the end points for the navigation editor for the menu. At the moment I think it’s all through the admin Ajax. The final version will use the REST API like any other places in the block editor.

Yeah, speaking of screens there’s a widget editor. It now received a widget group block for the widget screen which is quite nice now to follow the idea of classic widgets where you have a heading and then a widget. You can change the title of it and now you can add the heading and the widget into a group and then get it a little bit more contained and keep it together, style them and have a background of it and all that. It’s more what the user was accustomed to when dealing with widgets, the widget group helps with that.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Yeah. I would say it’s more to bridge the experience for everyone familiar with the widgets old screen. It seems like a good change in that regard.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: I like it, yes.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: I don’t know how it works technically. When you insert a widget does it wrap it with the group out of the box now?

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. I think you can highlight, like you do in the post editor, you highlight the things that you want to group and then you transform it into a widget group.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Okay.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. The widget group has all the group block settings as well in the sidebar. All right. 

There are some enhancements for the global styles or fixes. Now you are able to disable text and background colors via the theme JSON. I thought you were doing that before, but maybe it didn’t work.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Yeah. As far as I know it’s related to some mock-ups that were presented. The idea is that you would be able to disable almost all the color customizations one by one. Maybe that worked only for the link before. There’s a few.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, yeah. I think they changed a little bit the logic on how sub-components are shown in the color panel. Link color is enabled when the block supports it, the theme supports it, it’s launched by default. Yeah, it needs to be switched on or even the presets contain some solid value or the custom colors are used. Presets have some color. You need some color presets and the same is true for the text color, the background color and the gradients, although the gradients, you need to have either the custom colors in there or it’s empty, it’s disabled. For both the link color, text color and background color the block needs to support it, the theme needs to be supported and the defaults are different for each of them. Then the presets need to contain values for it. That’s quite a good set of logic there. 

Yeah, they streamlined all that logic and then now they are making the global styles available for all themes. That’s in PR 34334. I like that number, 34334. The preset classes for colors and font sizes were in the block library and they are now part of the global styles sheet that’s loaded later. That’s a change in the style sheets that are included by default. Then the preset classes look like the preset dev class. There are some changes. If you need to target those classes you might want to look at this again here. There is a post.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: I just shared a link with you from André is who one of the lead developers on the global styles project. He explains how the experience of using WordPress presets looked before team JSON and how it’s changed, how it got simplified. That would be a good read in this context. Also in the same PR that we are talking about, this 34, 334, there is a dev note sketched already that will be published later in the release process of WordPress 5.9. It also just covers what you, Birgit, just said. It’s pretty complex, so I guess that’s something that you should process at the time of learning how to use those presets.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. Then the media placeholder experienced another change. For now you can create a URL, if you wanted to add an image through the URL of the image you only could use absolute links. It needed to start with HTTP because it was a URL input type on the placeholder and that has changed to a text input type in some verification. Also now you can actually use local URLs. If you know the URL of your image that you want to add to a gallery or to a post, you can now use local URLs and don’t have to put in the domains, which is actually good when you move the site or move the site to a different domain, or you have just an image that’s somewhere in a different place than on the WP content uploads directory. That’s definitely a good thing that’s ….

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Yeah, I personally was surprised that when you are using an input HTML tag, when you set the tag to URL it expects the full URL. That was the original issue that caused….

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Right. Caused this change, yeah.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: … this change. Yes.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. I think it was only Firefox, but the browser developers are really tightening up the browsing experience. That was a part of their verification so you wouldn’t be able to add it to that.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: There is also a quite important change for team developers. Now there are default editor styles that are applied to teams without team JSON and without editor styles. Sounds complex, but it’s just something that is even considered for the minor WordPress edits like 5.8 to now. It just adds some basic styles to all sides just to ensure that the experience is better for the block editor in particular.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. This plays well out of the box even if the theme editor, the theme developer has not updated a style sheet for the theme. I think that’s a good place for the adoption of the block editor that we are all working towards, that more and more people adopt that, especially in the themes. If it’s nice looking out of the box and they don’t have to go back to the theme developer to style a column or to style images or the widened and full width or the media and text, that there are quirks, I think that’s a good decision now that theme developers can control it through theme JSON and their own editor styles. They can just the default styles. Yeah, that’s good work there.

New APIs

Ah, here it is. Of course, every time, and you hear me say this on this podcast quite a bit, every time you have a new feature you also need to provide the opt out of the feature. Here it is, allow themes with theme JSON to opt out of the block gap styles. There is a mechanism there how you do this.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Yeah, I think it’s also related to the fact that it was opt in add styles, so now that’s probably, it has become a default so now you need to have a way to disable that if you don’t like that.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Now we moved also to the new API sections with this item on the list.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Oh, yeah. Yeah. We have so many sections in this release note.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Yes, it’s very long this time.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: It’s very nice, yeah, but it’s also … it’s pretty much in the settings of your theme JSON. It’s settings, spacing, block gap, null. That’s how you opt out of that.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Quite a common way for all those global style related features. That’s the only item in the new API. Now it’s time for bug fixes. As usual, the list is very long.

Bug Fixes

Birgit Pauli-Haack: There seem to be not really big boo-boos that we have fixed. You find in the list under the block library fixes for the gallery block. I wanted to point out that those are referring to the gallery Refactor. This is the newly created gallery block. It’s still an experiment in the Gutenberg plug-in. If you want to do the navigation screen and test the new gallery block, you have to enable them also on the experiments screen of your Gutenberg plug-in.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: You can always test the new gallery block on the new navigation screen and that’s two things at once tested properly.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: But don’t do this in production. It’s called experiment for a reason. Yeah.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: I mean for new websites I wouldn’t worry at all about enabling the new gallery factor block. I think the fact that it’s in experiment still is only because of backward compatibility. 

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. I would not say only. It’s a big part. It’s a big part and it’s also part of the headaches that they have, but it’s also … if you want to switch it on and you need a list of test instructions, I’ll link in the show notes to the GitHub issue 29882, 29882, because there’s a list of 40 tests that you can do, everything that you can do with a gallery block, you should do. We are preparing, on the developer relations team we are preparing an official call for testing that would hopefully get more people involved. We will also reach out to the plug-in developers to make sure they know about the new plug-in, new gallery block and update their features. 

I know that the developer team has already tested the full plug-ins like CoBlocks and Jetpack blocks gallery blocks, but there are many, many more that need to be tested. If you have questions about that, feel free to DM me. Send me a direct message on WordPress Slack at BPH. Again, the test instructions that are right now out, that also the developers use, is the issue 29882, 29882. Of course we’ll link in the show notes. I just want to make sure that everybody knows this is coming and it’s cool. 

What’s the Refactor? We talked about it before, but we always have new listeners. The gallery block as it is now is just a feature parity with the old classic editor gallery block where you have a list of images and then they’re all pulled in, but you’re not able to do much with those images except for moving them. You’re not able to adopt styles that are only for one image. The new gallery block is now a collection of single image blocks with which come all the features that you can do from an image block like obviously duotone, be it applying styles, applying backgrounds, adding a different link to each image and all these nice features. It’s a much richer experience for editors and you have much more freedom for it. It needs quite a few testings. Because of that switch of the InnerBlocks the extensions will change as well. I tested it about two months ago and I found that the gallery plug-ins that I used were working fine, but I’m not using all of the gallery blocks. It might have changed because there was some development on that. Yes.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Yeah, definitely the best part here is that now it doesn’t matter whether you are changing a dual image not a standalone block or it’s part of the gallery block, you have everything unified, the same controls, the same capabilities. It’s pretty cool to see that working this way.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Also all the extensions that you have for the image block are now also in the gallery block which is cool.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. Cool is the right word.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Yeah. We are still on bug fixes. One of the changes that landed is for the writing flow, it’s in the block editor now. When you merge two blocks together the current position of the cursor is put in a better place than before. I don’t know what exactly was the issue, but it’s very annoying when you need to use arrows to move the cursor to the proper position when you change this type of modification, like when you have two paragraphs or similar text-related box.


Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. Then we get to the experiments but we have been talking about experiments before. Now you are able to put in the navigation block the site title as well as the logo and that makes it much nicer to assemble a header for a site when you use full site editing with that. It’s now really easy to have a logo and the site title and then the menu all in one line. Try it out and see if that works for you.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Yeah. I’m looking forward to see how the gallery block will evolve because the same feature that you have now in the navigation block could work there as well. I can imagine that you could inject a site logo also inside the gallery because why not, that would be also in some ways … you could have some designs where that would work. In general, the idea of InnerBlocks, this is what we really want because it just opens so many possibilities for designs that weren’t possible before. You had to hard code that in HTML in your PHP files and now it’s at your site, you just need to move some blocks around, insert something and then it just aligns nicely.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: It’s a good point, because now you could have, a three by three grid of images at the center could actually be a poem or something like that that is not an image but a text. The InnerBlocks really open up quite a few more possibilities, especially on the gallery block. That’s why the Refactor is so important and also that’s why it takes a little longer to merge into the plug-in because there are some things that need to be changed for backwards compatibility.

We also get, the social links now use the Flex layout. That means you can arrange the social links either vertically or horizontally I think and also have the block gap in between so you can have the distances also controlled. All kinds of different things are available now in the social links block.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Those design tools are really powerful. I’m looking forward to having them all stable and released as part of WordPress 5.9. I hope it happens.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: We need testers. We need people who test things. The more bugs you find, the better the release will be in 5.9.


Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Now we are at the documentation. This section, do you see something that is a bigger one? There is a lot of typos that were fixed or some tooling that was improved like ESLint, something that is more in general for the Gutenberg project. Some improvements to bring the documentation up to date, like replacing, we select calls from WordPress data package to use, a react hook which is called useSelect.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. Good point.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Yeah. I guess there isn’t anything very important that we have to mention today. Again, there’s a code quality. This section, it’s very long.

Code Quality

Birgit Pauli-Haack: But that’s your favorite section, right?

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Yeah, I mean it depends what’s inside it. There are some changes to bring code up to date, similar to what I said about using most recent APIs that were developed and some errors which is … for those who don’t know there are some special validations for the code quality that helps us catch some bugs. Whenever they show up or the tools get updated and they are better at catching those bugs we try to fix this as soon as possible.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Excellent. Yes.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: There’s a lot of refactoring that doesn’t have any impact on the user interface but helps for the longer, in terms of long term support for the project.


Birgit Pauli-Haack: No, I get it. That brings us also to my favorite section, the various section. There’s one item in there that I wanted to point out, that’s the vertical heading levels menu. When you insert a heading into the block editor, you get a list of levels, H2, H3, H4, H5, H6. Now you can have, the heading can now be vertical. I think it’s by default vertical now instead of horizontal as it was before so it only covers a certain different amount of content when you have the toolbar right next to the block. It’s quite nice to look at that. You just go with the mouse pointer up and down instead of left and right. That was a bit ….

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Yeah. I think initially in the first release it was also vertical, but then, at that point, there were only H2, H3 and H4 options in the menu so it was short and it was quite easy to … on the visual level it would look better, but then you had six options like right now and there was also text for each of them. It just was too much to see H1 and heading one, this is why those iterations were applied now.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. It also came from the query block, when you have other, not only the heading block but also the post title block or the archive title, then the context of that menu was a little bit different and you were covering up too much of that query block that you tried to template things.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Right, right.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. That was the other part. The heading is now multi-usage so to speak and not just a mere heading block. Yeah.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Yeah. The last item is a very important one. I hope that’s not the case for our listeners, but if you are using WordPress 5.6 then the Gutenberg plug-in won’t be supported anymore in that version. You need to have at least WordPress 5.7 to be able to still use the Gutenberg plug-in.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: To use the newer version of the Gutenberg plug-in.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: In general we recommend using the latest one because that makes everything so much easier, but we also know that, when there’s a new major version, some sites cannot be immediately updated. We wait for one more major release, but in the future we consider that this period of time would be shorter, maybe two months, three months, something like that. It also depends on the major release cycles. Now this year we have only three major releases. The plan initially was to have four. That wouldn’t be that much of an issue. With three releases it’s just too much time when we have to support code that is no longer necessary in the plug-in.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. To make this specific, if you are on 5.6, only Gutenberg plug-in until 11.4 will work with your WordPress. You can use the plug-in but you won’t get the updates after, unless you upgrade to the next version, 5.7, in your WordPress. I don’t know if I made it clearer.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Yeah. I don’t know, I don’t want to test that, but ….

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Well if you have any questions, yeah.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Encourage everyone to stay on the latest major version which is 5.8.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yes, 5.8.1, yes. All right. 

This was the Gutenberg 11.5 Changelog. It’s quite an interesting mix on that, but most of them are design tools and theme related and some of them are related to some blocks and also for the content creator flows. It’s a nice release again with a lot of people bringing … we have quite a few new contributors now on the Gutenberg repository which is a nice change.

What’s in Active Development or Discussed

Now we are coming to the section of what’s in active development or discussed. Because it’s so … the next big thing that comes into WordPress is the navigation block and screen, or that’s what everybody’s hoping. Daniel Richards posted an update on what are they working on. Of course it’s slow progressing and they’re migrating the navigation editor, I mentioned it before, to the REST API. Those changes have been merged and it’s all updating now. Lots of UI changes that are working now, the top bar, the editor top bar being updated, the main block inserter added and then fixes for the block styles. 

Now I can put the important part, good discussion is on the way, he writes, on how to provide backwards compatibility for custom fields on existing menu screens. That covers the part where now the plug-in advance custom fields has a section where you can augment the menu, in the classic menu, with additional fields and additional information. The discussion on that issue is how far should that … the team works under the assumption that it needs to all be backwards compatible and it’s the issue … if you want to follow up and not go to the show notes, 31551 is the issue with the navigation screen menu items custom CF options. There’s a discussion, Elliot Condon, the lead developer on the plug-in, is in the discussion as well, so help make this, we need you to also chime in.

Then what they’re working on next is that they want to have … in the current editor, menu editor you can say, “Okay, give me all the posts or all the pages.” You’re bulk adding links to your menu, that’s still in the works for the navigation screen, the block-based navigation screen and also to have theme JSON controls to configure the navigation block further. That still is in the works.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: It sounds like a lot of work to me.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. Those all … yeah.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Yeah. I’m sure all of those tasks are in progress, however to take them to the finish line is going to be quite a huge challenge because we have four weeks between go/no-go dates, so it really depends. Also I could envision that the new navigation block would be included in core but maybe not the navigation screen. There is a lot of ways to proceed in this regard. Let’s see how it works. I hope that the screen will be enabled. Opt in is the only option they consider, similar to the widget screen, that you need to enable yourself.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. Yeah. I think so, especially with the backwards compatibility. These menu plug-ins that are out there, it’s not only the advanced custom fields plug-in that modified the menu pieces or menu entity or the link entity in the menu screen or menus, there were other plug-ins, albeit the Mega Menus, albeit some others. They need to be backwards compatible. Oh, the other part was naming menus. When we build sites we sometimes have a footer menu, a header menu and a main menu and we need to name them and make them available to pull in into any other screens there and make them available for full-site editing as well. There are a few things that this powerful feature in classic WordPress, it’s hard to reproduce it and be as flexible as it is now.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Okay. That’s all about the announcement. I just wanted to remind that I’m taking time off. Unfortunately that coincides with the next Gutenberg release. Together with Birgit we decided to skip recording in two weeks. We cover two Gutenberg plug-in releases in one episode and that should be available for you in four weeks.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: That’s right. We will take a break from the podcast. I hope you are subscribed to the newsletter of the Gutenberg Times so you can still get some updates in between, or just visit the website in between. 

Before the end of the show I want to remind you that there is actually a live Q&A coming up on October 7 at 16 UTC, 11 Eastern, when we discuss the building, going from building classic themes to building block based themes with Ellen Bauer, Carolina Nymark and Andres Norén. We will entertain you there and answer all your questions. I’m thinking I will ask them to actually stay for, instead of 60 minutes to 90 minutes, because we will have some demos and we want to make sure that we answer all your questions.

There will be a link on the homepage of the Gutenberg Times and of course we will have it in the show notes. 

As always, the show notes will be published on This is episode 52. If you have questions or suggestions or news you want us to include, send them to That’s

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: I just wanted to remind that you also can reach out to us on Twitter. My handle is G-Z-I-O-L-O. You, Brigit, is B-P-H, right?

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Right. Right. Well I say thank you, Greg, Grzegorz, it was again a great pleasure talking to you. I wish you a wonderful vacation in Greece. Until the next time.

Grzegorz Ziolkowski: Thank you, Birgit and our listeners for being with us. You, Birgit, I wish you a pleasant flight back home. See you all in four weeks.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: All right. That’s it. Thanks for listening. Goodbye. 

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