Anne McCarthy and Birgit Pauli-Haack discuss Gutenberg 14.4 WordPress 6.1 release and what’s next for WordPress 6.2.
- Music: Homer Gaines
- Editor: Sandy Reed
- Logo: Mark Uraine
- Production: Birgit Pauli-Haack
- Introduced Gutenberg Interactive Fiction Engine by Artemio Morales
- What art can you create with WordPress 6.1? The Museum of Block Art is looking for submissions using WordPress 6.1 and the evolving design tools available.
- WordPress 6.1 Release Candidate 5 (RC5) Now Available for Testing
- WordPress 6.1 Release Day Process
- Help Test WordPress 6.1
- Dev note WordPress 6.1: Extending the Query Loop block
- What’s new in Gutenberg 14.4? (26 October)
- Gutenberg 14.4 Introduces Distraction-Free Mode, Redesigns Pattern Inserter
Learn WordPress and other educational sources
- Introduction to Block Development: Build your first custom block.
- Using the WordPress data layer
- 2-part Series: how to build a custom WordPress block that supportsAdvanced Custom Fields by Ryan Welcher
- Video: Distraction-free mode: my new favorite way to write with the block editor
- Styles in the block editor
- Extending the Query Loop block
What’s Next for 6.2?
- GitHub Tracking Issue: Phase 2: Customization
- Gutenberg Contributors Explore a New Browse Mode for Navigating the Site Editor
- Hallway Hangout: Discussion on wrapping Phase 2 (26 Oct)
Stay in Touch
- Did you like this episode? Please write us a review
- Ping us on Twitter or send DMs with questions. @gutenbergtimes and @bph.
- If you have questions or suggestions, or news you want us to include, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Please write us a review on iTunes! (Click here to learn how)
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Hello and welcome to our 75th episode of the Gutenberg Changelog podcast. In today’s episode, we will talk about Gutenberg 14.4.0, upcoming WordPress 6.1 release, and what’s next for 6.2, and so much more. I’m Birgit Pauli-Haack, curator at the Gutenberg Times, contributor to the WordPress core team and documentation team, and WordPress developer advocate. And I’m here with Anne McCarthy, WordPress product liaison for WordPress open source project and triage co-lead for WordPress 6.1 release team. Good afternoon, Anne. How are you doing today? How are you doing?
Anne McCarthy: I’m doing great. I’ve had extra coffee today and I’m very excited to talk about everything you have on your list. There’s a lot of fun and complex things happening that really help move WordPress in a solid direction. So we have a lot to cover.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. And it’s going to be a great show, because it also needs to get everybody listeners kind of over the withdrawal that you will have. Yesterday, I looked at the calendar and realized that we will be on a November break almost for the Gutenberg Changelog. Work, travel, and holiday schedule is all going to interfere with our regular programming here. So I’m glad that Anne is here as my resident expert on all things WordPress 6.2 and we can talk a little bit about the future.
But first we have community contributions, and I found a blog post by Artemio Morales who calls himself an electronic literature creator, and he has introduced us to his Gutenberg interactive fiction engine. So what’s interactive fiction? It’s software simulating environments in which players use text commands to control characters and influence the environment. Works in this form can be understood as literary narratives either in the form of interactive narratives or interactive narration, that so far Wikipedia.
When using Artemio’s demo, all you see at the start is an image with some text and then three different links to continue that story. And depending on which link you click on, the story continues differently. So there are two paths. You go into the forest and then you come on two paths, one goes further deeper into the forest. Guess what happens now? Or you go down to the town and see how many people you see there. And these are the choices, and that’s how the story continues. Of course the creator part is coming up with all those different options and Gutenberg and the plugin that Artemio created helps you with putting the stories together. It’s really an interesting concept. And so he had some ideas on what you could do with it, and then you can choose your own adventure YouTube series for instance, or interactive comics or audio stories with branching pass, marketing or educational content, or even multimedia posts incorporating elements from all the above. So it was also interesting for me to read about the history of interactive fiction. So yeah, check it out. We will have the links in the show notes, of course.
Anne McCarthy: Yeah, I think it’s such a neat thing that he’s working on and one of the things that I actually follow up with him whenever I saw that post too, because I run a side project along with a few other community members called the Museum of Block Art, where we create art with the WordPress block editor. And when he was describing and looking at the different interactive elements, I was like, man, you could really, the whole intent of the website right now is to have it be a virtual museum, and what would it look like to actually use this functionality on the Block Museum Site since it’s meant to be pushing the edges of WordPress and thinking really creatively. What would it look like if the experience of the museum itself was also pushing the limits of it? And it’s already using site editing and all this sort of stuff. But this would really, I think, take it to another creative element and make it a very, very meta kind of way, even more cutting edge. And so I’m hopeful that we can maybe get some functionality on there and demo it with the block museum as part of the efforts here.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: That’s an interesting idea. You kind of have different walks through the museums.
Anne McCarthy: Yeah.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: It’s going to be really interesting. Yeah, I also could see that that maybe even be a story that is interactive narrative. Yeah, that’s a fiction and that’s posted as an art exhibit on it.
Anne McCarthy: Yeah.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: So a writer can put something. Well, there is the November challenge of the National Writing Association or so coming up. Maybe that’s something to look into it. Yeah. And you mentioned the Block Museum, we had just on the Gutenberg Times, you published a submission to the virtual museum of block art using tools and features for WordPress 6.0. What exactly are you looking for?
Anne McCarthy: Yeah, so this actually ties in nicely with all of this. So part of one of the ideas for the walkthrough and interactive element is when thinking about going through a museum, one of the things that I love is you’re kind of walking through and you see how based on periods of time, especially in a museum with a lot of, maybe not necessarily modern art but more historical art, you see how the tooling changes and access to paper unlocks the ability to do this, or access to different materials becoming more accessible, suddenly everyone’s using a certain color or whatever it is, or they know depth perception. I think there’s some interesting elements there. And so one of the ideas that I’m trying to work on right now is thinking about the Block Museum over a longer period of time. So what was available when WordPress 5.9 versus let’s say WordPress 6.9, ideally the tooling and what’s possible for the creation of art evolves, and I think it’d be so neat to have release-based art exhibits.
So I just set up the site super quick, because it’s WordPress using just a couple cray loop blocks, which is really cool. So there’s different exhibits. So there’s a 5.9 exhibit, a 6.0 exhibit, and now I want to have a 6.1, especially since so many design tools are coming to WordPress 6.1. There’s kind of an explosion of them, and I’m very keen to see what that unlocks in terms of art and the submission there. So I’m just looking for anything you want to create with WordPress 6.1. It can be before the release if you want to test stuff. I know the release is around the corner, and it can be anytime after leading up to 6.2. I just think it’s going to be a really, this release in particular, feels like it’s going to unlock a lot of creativity and I think it’ll be neat to visually show that at the museum.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, I think so too. And I’m really looking forward to what’s coming to the workers, to the museum as submissions because now with the be it the border control or be it the background or the gradients and all that, there are a lot of options to apply art, apply color, apply different forms and shapes that you can build with it. And there are some great examples already in the museum. So if you are not so creative and want to see what other people do, head on over to the blockmuseum.com. Is it a block-museum?
Anne McCarthy: Block-museum. I always forget sometimes.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. So these are the two community contributions today talking about art. I’m really excited about that because all of a sudden it’s away from making money or away from, oh I need to get my blog post posted and making products or something like that. Yeah, I’m really excited that we talk about it together. So what was released is the next section and…
Anne McCarthy: Yeah, let’s dive into that. So WordPress 6.1 release candidate four is actually now available for testing. This was not published on our WordPress news site. Just kind of sometimes with release cycles there’s some additional RCs released candidates that are released right before just to make sure different high-priority bugs are addressed, but they’re not as necessarily major. So in this case I think two things were fixed. So you may not see it on WordPress news but know that it has happened and there’s now an RC4. So release squad is working super hard and behind the scenes to get final pieces in place and ready for the dry run. And then the final release is scheduled as a reminder for November 1st. And then Hector shared details about the release day process and earlier post if you’re a nerd like me and to know what actually happens.
And if you listen to this episode over the weekend before the release, it would be amazing if you could take some time to test 6.1. Brian Alexander, who is the, I think, test team lead and also the test lead for this release has instructions that make this really easy to follow. That will be in the show notes for helping test the different features of 6.1 and truly pick and choose whatever grabs your interest because it all helps. And I’ll do a special plug for any more developer focused folks, it would be great to test the typography as well as using block to put parts in a classic theme. And if you want to go even further, there’s a lot of stuff with filters for extending theme JSON and all sorts of things in the field guide. But I’m particularly keyed up around some of the developer features right now and getting feedback, even if it’s just like maybe you don’t find a bug but you find a way that would be more useful for you in the future. It’d be great.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: And then definitely it holds through for the testing part theme and plugin developers, please, please, please see that your products still working for WordPress 6.1. Most of you are already doing that, but there’s always one out, maybe not. So I just urge you to start that.
And with that, we are coming to the Gutenberg plugin release. It’s 14.4.0 and I’m pointing that out because, well this week first time release lead JuanMa Garrido pushed the plugin over the finish line and Michael Burridge contributor on core documentation. He pointed out that Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1440. That’s 1-4-4-0. So just a little tidbit there. I like these coincidences.
Anne McCarthy: I love that.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Come together. Yeah. Mind you, it took about 144 plugin releases to come to this point. So that’s also a good number.
Anne McCarthy: Wild, to think about. Yeah.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. And before I forget, Michael Burridge is also the main creator of the newly released course on Learn the WordPress it’s called Introduction to Block Development: Build Your First Custom Block. And if you are a developer and found block post about getting started with block development not deep enough or too basic, you are invited to step to do the step-by-step tutorial on building a real life example of a block for the editor, from setting up your development environment, using create block scaffolding, that’s your official tool, to testing your first iteration of the block and also do some debugging. And as you work through the project, you will add configuration options that enable the user of your block to customize the look and feel of it and to the liking in match maybe a style guide. So this is a great course to get started with, and even if you have bits and pieces already in place, I learned a lot from it when I was going through this. So it’s definitely a worth looking through it.
Anne McCarthy: It’s so cool to see that course out there. I think it’s going to be huge for so many people.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, and I think within the first week, 40, 50 people already took it and three were already through it. So it definitely fills a need there. But I got us totally sidetracked and I could even go more sidetrack, because there’s a second course in the Learn site that could be, that’s an advanced course. It’s about using the data layer of Gutenberg for others than the editors. So you can use it for your plugin settings pages or something like that. So how far off astray could we go with that?
All right, let’s get back. So in the enhancements, there were two things that are developer related and I’m just pointing them out, because they might be important. One is the service side render has now a new attribute that skips the block support attribute. So there’s a little bug in the service side render when it’s pulled into the block editor admin feature, it duplicates the CSS. This fixes it, but it also adds another attribute to it. And this service side render function, or package actually, is used by 620 plugins. So I’m giving it a shout out here right away when it actually makes it in a good move plugin. So plugin developers can test it even already before it makes it into 6.2 or something like that. It’s a small change for most of them, but they might tap into that before that.
And then the second part is that the great block scaffolding we just talked about that’s used in the course allows now custom keys to be generated for the block JSON file and the package station file. So the use case that kind of triggered that was that a feature that a developer wanted to use the ACF plugin for the custom fields and use the official scaffolding tool to create a block for it. But they needed to do a lot of manual adjustments for the right keys.
And so that kind of got the developers working on it. And now with the variant flag and the no plugin flag that will come in that already available, and there is a dev note out there talking about that by Ryan Welcher. You now can use also the custom key to actually build ACF blocks with the official scaffolding block. And Ryan Welcher also has a three-part series on how to build custom WordPress block that supports advanced custom fields on YouTube. So that gets us another sidetrack here a little bit, but even if you don’t use advanced custom field plugin in part one, Ryan also walks you through how to retrieve and update post metadata while the block editor using the use entity prop hook and also shows you how to modify it so you can use it in the query loop block. And the field will then also display on archive pages. Yeah, if you want to start with create Block, now is a good time to learn more about it. And even if you don’t use ACF, the first video of this series will definitely be of interest for you.
Anne McCarthy: There’s so much awesome work has been done around upgrading all these tooling to make it easier for people to get started. And Ryan’s does a great job of training these things and making it really accessible. So yeah, also if folks have ideas for what they want to see more, I know Ryan’s always open to suggestions there, too. So yeah, I hope folks dig in, because there’s a lot of good stuff there.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Big props also to Grzegorz Ziolkowski and also Damon Cook who’s a developer advocate at WP Engine. They both also commenting on it and also pushing this release over the finish line or the PR and figuring out what the architectural approach would be. So yeah, good way for the tooling. Yay.
Anne McCarthy: Yeah, very cool. Next up, we have a couple different items that are all in the kind of block libraries, so expanding what’s possible, or in one case restricting what’s possible to start the list block, which has recently been split apart so that you can actually have nested blocks within it and have inner block control. And what’s neat about this is typography controls are now added to the list block. So now that you have that support in place and that each list item is an individual block, you can actually customize the list so that maybe the first item’s bigger than the third item, or you have different coloring or you can do all sorts if you control each individual list item on its own and then add in topography controls, it really opens up some neat options for displaying your content. I already have a post that I’m actually working on, then I’m like, “Oh, I needed this.”
So I’m very excited to see it out here. I actually didn’t see it was being worked on until this release. So it’s another part of the larger effort to address and expand design tooling consistency, which is a really huge part of running the outreach program. Comes up a lot where it’s like, why can I do this in one block and not this in the other block? And it kind of marries the best of both worlds where it’s taking advantage of the list block being revamped to use inner blocks and including these tools. So I’m very excited to see that. I don’t know. Birgit, you write a lot of posts, too. Do you have anything that you’re keen to use with that?
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, definitely. I can see that each list item can have a different font. Yeah. Or there’s some nice cool font that you can now add to your blog post even if you have a very neutral typography normally. So these things stand out and then yeah. But I like it.
Anne McCarthy: I think it’s cool. The next thing we have is block locking and adding to related to block locking. It adds content blocking to the navigation block, meaning the inability to edit the contents of the block. And if you’ll remember right now, currently for most blocks, you actually can only lock the ability to remove the block or lock down the ability to move it. So to delete the block or to move it. And this adds content locking, which is eventually going to be expanded ideally to all blocks to the navigation block specifically, which kind of matches the functionality of the reusable block. So it’s kind of bringing this functionality that you see that you would expect elsewhere to a really powerful high impact part of the site. And I can see this being really useful, for example, if someone has a classic theme, they adopt a template part to have a header, and then they’re adding the navigation block in there for someone to manipulate.
But let’s say you don’t want them to actually change the contents of it. You can actually use this new locking option as an admin to lock it down. So maybe an editor or can’t go in there and mess things up. So it’s just expanding that kind of support. And I think it’s a great call for folks who are site owners or agencies. It ties into larger efforts to offer more curation tools for the editor as well. And I’m really excited to see these experiments and to add specific blocking and very intentionally two different blocks to then get feedback about how that experience is before we roll it out elsewhere. So I think there’s going to be some good insights coming from that experience as well. So check that out.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, definitely. Yeah, if you look at the bigger picture of that, it almost kind of gives you similar functionality to the reusable block, but you can narrow down the content blocking. So if you have patterns where you want, that the content is reused over multiple pages, you can put it in a template part and the content is also locked and then have the same call to action in the footer or in the header of things. Yeah. So it’s a really good. 6.1 has a few of the things already for image blocks and also group blocks I think. But now coming into the navigation block is really good as well.
Anne McCarthy: Yeah, it’s great to see. Related to more tooling, the image block is now going to have a toolbar button to add a caption. So basically instead of it being something that to add and remove a caption, you’re able to just have it built into the block tool toolbar, which is a really easy way to see it at a glance. I’m very intrigued to see how this lands and what feedback comes up from it. I could see it being really useful. I wonder if people are going to be able to discover it pretty easily, because the icons, I think it’s a little bit like a couple dots at the bottom of a square. So I’m curious to see what feedback we have and what that looks like. But ultimately it should help people find the settings they expect in a readily accessible area. Yeah, and I know, Birgit, you were telling me before we started recording that if you add a caption in the media library and then you insert an image that it’ll appear automatically when you hit the add caption as well in the toolbar.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: It’ll automatically appear when you add the image to it to their canvas, then it shows the caption. But you can of course remove it, but when it’s empty you get the button up there. So you’re right, discoverability might be an issue there because it’s not always there. It’s only there when you need it, but sometimes you don’t know things that you need it if you don’t see them. Yeah.
Anne McCarthy: Yes. Yeah.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: But what I really like is that it’s now one of the efforts to make the editor look like the front end. And the image right now has always a little space on below for the add caption feature. And if you don’t do it just has a little more space there, and it doesn’t show you the front end. It’s not the same as you would see on the front end. So that’s why I think people worked on it and now we need to figure out what’s the best approach on the button and the tool.
Anne McCarthy: Agreed. Very. Especially as some of the work involves around adding a captions element too, I think it’s exciting to see all this sort of stuff being wedded together.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: And when they manage how that works, the image caption, then once the feedback is in and there’s an iteration out there, that will be added to audio and video and also to table because for whatever reason tables have a caption.
Anne McCarthy: I don’t know that historical reason behind that. I know that is interesting. Yeah, this is again one of those things where I think it’s neat where we have functionality we might want to roll out more broadly and instead it’s done in steps and kind of integrating from there. So I think there’s some good stuff that can come from that.
Switching gears a little bit, this is kind of headed into the block intersection, and I am stoked about this feature. I have to admit that I was following this PR. So it’s introducing distraction free mode, and I was following this PR,, I was looking at it and I looked at it months ago and I’ve been laser focused on 6.1. So I hadn’t looked at in a while. I hadn’t used it in a while. And I was writing a post for this week and I was testing it out, and I was absolutely blown away by this feature.
So it really strips down the editor to the bare basics where the block toolbar is gone, the top toolbar also disappears, you can bring it back on hover, and it’s a mode you can toggle on and off. So I just think I’m going to be using this constantly going forward, because I write in a fair amount just rambling on my personal site. And I am definitely one of those people who doesn’t use necessarily a lot of images or have very complex content. I really do just tend to write pretty basic posts with just words and just let it fly. And it felt so nice to be in that editor experience where you’re not necessarily seeing all the plus signs everywhere. You’re not needing the block tool bar, you don’t need the quick inserter at all times. You don’t need the top toolbar visible.
I’m hardly using block settings. And instead you can kind of just free your mind up to focus on writing. And I did a quick video because I was so excited. I mean this was literally 11 o’clock at night and I was like, I couldn’t stop thinking about how good it felt. And I don’t have that very often with technology. I’m pretty critical with technology. So whenever I have that kind of feeling, I just put together a very quick, I think it’s less than two minute, video showing the distraction of free mode. And so genuinely this is something that I’m very excited about and I’m also so deep in the site editing world that I think it’s really important we pause and think about the core writing experience. So this is one of those improvements that I think a lot of folks will be excited about and saying that they can explore. It’s also very new. So feedback is very much needed and bugs will be found and we will iterate as open source does. But yeah, I could ran about this for probably a full hour. I don’t know if you’re getting…
Birgit Pauli-Haack: I’m there right with you. Yeah, the distraction free mode is certainly something that I was looking into quite early when the Gutenberg editor came into WordPress, and I know that I tested and I wrote about it, the plugin that Rich Tabor and his teammate Jeffery Carandang put together, it’s called Iceberg. And that was a plugin that you could put on your site and then have distraction free writing, and it almost felt like a typewriter if you had the right fonts to it. And it really helped. I really loved it. And somewhere in the Gutenberg Times is certainly another is a review of it. But now it comes to core, and I’m really excited about it. I think the feature is driven by, of course we all put our opinions in there, but it is driven by Andrei Drananescu and I had a conversation with him, I said, “Well, we could even remove more.” And so I would go back to the classic editor without the toolbar, but I can see how that quite a few writers will actually embrace it and use it just as their editing experience and they go back to just writing and don’t have to be bothered up paragraphs or blocks or anything of that. Yeah, yeah. I’m excited to learn what other people think about it, and I hope they’ll write about it, and let us know.
Anne McCarthy: Especially before there’s a welcome feature. I think that’s the only concern. I saw there’s some follow up, there’s some accessibility stuff and then there’s also, wait, we need to actually tell people what this feature is. Because it’s a jarring different when you turn, because you’re like, wait ,where did everything go?
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Is it broken?
Anne McCarthy: Yeah, Yeah. It’s like wait, all my tooling went away. But I think once we get some of those requirements in place, it’ll be rocking and rolling.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And what’s also made it into this release is the redesign of the main pattern inserter. And the difference is that the categories show up and you click on the inserter and then use the pattern tab. What you see is only the categories of the patterns. And then when you click on the category, you see a preview of the patterns that are in there. And that is kind of comes also from some of the feedback that we got for patterns. So it’s kind of cool to see how that works. I find that inserter be a little bit too crowded when the patterns are actually kind of underneath the category and then I don’t see all the categories and all that. So it’s a nicer experience I feel about it.
Anne McCarthy: Especially when thinking about scaling up the patterns and all the work that’s being done there. I think that’ll be a huge improvement to the experience of finding and managing all the different patterns that are now baked into a lot of themes.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. The next item is just a shout out for that the embed blog has now a variation to support the Tumbler dashboard URLs and of course with Tumbler also coming to use the Gutenberg block editor, it’s definitely good to have an embed block that can link out to other Tumbler blogs. The next one is toggle the navigation menu sidebar. And that’s an interesting development or iteration on the navigation block with using the sidebar to actually display the menus that you know from the classic menu editing, now you have a little bit more space to look at the menus and select them. Before it was a little bit cramped just in the navigation block interface. It’s a little bit, has more air to breathe. So check it out and see what to think about it. Have you tried it out, Anne?
Anne McCarthy: No, not yet. I truly have been so deep in 6.1 stuff, and I have tested some of the new UX management generally with the navigation stuff, but this is different. So yeah, I’m excited to test this out. It’s probably of one of the things I’m paying attention to for the outreach program, because once 6.1 ends, we can dig into the next call for testing.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Right, right. Yeah. And then you have in the documentation settings, there are always changes that come with the release, but those changes are actually available on the block editor handbook right when they’re merged kind of 15 minutes later. But it’s good to have them in the release. There are two things that I wanted to do a shout out. One is the document, the current state of the layout block support. It explains in the architecture section and the style sections, how those block supports are supposed to work that come with 6.1. There’s also a dev note available in the field guide, but that has much more detail in it. And of course our show will share the links in the show note. And also for the extending the query loop block, that is a feature that comes with 6.1 as well. And a lot of people are waiting for that, especially plugin developers and agency developers because they deal with so many custom post types now they can control what the query loop is using as a query or the data that it’s using. So that’s published in the block editor handbook as well as have a developer note available in the field types. I’m really excited about that extension possibilities for the query block.
Anne McCarthy: Yeah, I’m also. It’s amazing to have that documentation in place so promptly. I know we’ve struggled with that in the past. And so again, as always, there’s stuff that you’re missing that you want to see, especially with career loop stuff. As you mentioned, agencies plugin offers and they really need that there. And I know it’s a big one that folks have extended the Gray Loop block from Core. And so the hope is rather than needing to fully extend a lot of stuff, you can just use a variation and have what you need baked in core without having to do a lot of maintenance. So please check that out, give us feedback, let’s make it as useful as possible.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, it’s really important to kind of see what Core does in a once in a while, even if you have used or develop for the block for the last five years, because some of the things you can take off your plate that you don’t have to maintain it. it’s standardized and the Gutenberg developers and core contributors will maintain it for you, and you only need to look at your variations for that. So yeah, there are quite a few things coming, and I think it’s the time now that once the foundation and the developers know how everything kind of will work together with site editor, with a post block, and also with the theme, there was a lot of moving parts that needed to be together and come together before any extension would be feasible or extension features or hooks and filters would be feasible to put in. And now I think it’s the time where everybody’s kind of thinking about how can we standardize extending the block editor. All right. Yeah. Are we at the end? I think we are.
Anne McCarthy: I think we are.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: At the end of the Changelog for the Gutenberg 14.4.0, and now on the eve of 6.1 release, the developers have already started to look at the next version and what can an updated tracking for various features that are too common. So you have been knee deep, if not year deep, into all the work and what are the highlights that you see coming to 6.2?
What’s in Active Development or Discussed
Anne McCarthy: Yeah, I know I keep getting the numbers wrong, which is just hilarious. Yeah, it is so exciting to see what’s going on. I really feel like there’s a lot of momentum particularly I want to call out attention to the title. The issue is Phase Two Customization. I’m pretty sure the number is Gutenberg number for the GitHub repo is a 33094 in case you’re a nerd and want to dig into it. But a lot of work has been done basically even before, way before 6.1 was out the door once there was feature freeze to say okay, what are we doing next and what can we do to actually thoroughly wrap up this phase two work where there’s a stable foundation, we can begin exploring phase three and what are the main tasks to do. And so there is that main issue that I mentioned that’s going to be updated on a regular basis going forward.
So a lot of work has been done to pull together the phase two customization issue that will be updated basically going forward until it’s closed. So I like to call it out. I know it’s tough to keep on top of GitHub and everything like that, but every once in a while there are issues that, especially overview issues if you look at the label for overview, that really gather efforts and if you want to pay attention at a high level and be a bit more involved and necessarily just paying attention to the next WordPress release, this is one of those. And there are numerous tasks, I’m going to give a snapshot, which is what I did yesterday in our hallway hangout of just kind of the main task where things are just because I think it’s interesting. Work has been completed on two tasks.
Dev work is underway on nine, we’re in the design stage for three tasks, meaning we still need to finish finalizing some design. Dev has been assigned but hasn’t yet started the work on three tasks as well. Work is stuck on one thing that I’m following up on, and there were three originally and got that down to one. And then work is stuck. I know to track this down. Work is stuck either due to a problem, like developers aren’t sure to move forward or design and development are going back and forth, or there’s been a time lapse of 14 plus days. That’s how I defined it is basically has there been a lull in activity, and there are 11 of those that are in that state. And so part of the work right now in the next week or so is to get that 11 number way down, get work going, get involved there. If you’re interested in contributing to the project, this would be a great way to get involved.
Lots of folks are gathering around this and as you mentioned at the top, there are a couple that I want to specifically call out of things that I think will be bigger than others to solve. So one is introducing a browse mode. And we keep using the word mode, which I think is misleading for browse mode actually. I think it’s more about redefining the experience of navigating in the site editor. So both in terms of when you enter the site editor, what do you see, what’s the first thing you see, and right now you’re brought into whatever is powering your homepage, and you’re placed basically into a template. And imagine instead you’re being brought into, still maybe your homepage, but the sidebar is automatically open so you can see how to navigate between things, see templates, see your styles interface. It would be in the same sidebar as this other stuff rather than shoved into the right hand side, which unless using right to left languages.
But I currently find that information architecture to be pretty confusing. The browse mode work is both about redefining the information architecture and allowing you to actually navigate between different parts of your site that you’re editing with more ease. Right now it’s pretty like you have to leave this, and enter this, and all that sort of stuff and this would allow kind of more fluidity and also potentially in time, part of what’s being done is bring back actual content editing in terms of posts and pages to the site editor experience and creating more pathways between all the different editors from the template editor, to the post editor, to the site editor, all that sort of stuff. So how can we bring this together to a cohesive experience and present it in a way that allows folks to navigate where they need and edit what they need in a way that actually is a bit more intuitive. So I’m very excited to call that out, and I don’t know if you have anything to add around that.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: I’m totally excited about it, because I really hate going from the site editor to the post editor and have to go back, back, back and then kind of come in again and it looks like the same editor, but it’s a little bit different, and the tools are a little bit different. So I like that this browse mode or whatever you want to call it, will kind of unify the experience. And I know from the outreach program’s call for testings that there’s always a little bit confusion on are we editing now a page, or a post, or is the template of a page of a post? I think there’s quite some confusion around that, and it probably won’t go away because it’s such a technical distinction that the visual distinction is fairly close to nothing. So you can get lost in those two editing modes. So bringing it together at least in one section where you’re just going to switch off, okay, I’m browsing now. I’m looking at everything and then now I click and I’m somewhere, and then I click the edit button and then go back.
It’s almost like the customizer when you were using that to do some updates on the homepage with site title or changing where you also see where the places are, what you’re editing in the front end view. And I think there are quite a few hurdles to overcome with that, but I think it will make it class better than it is now with the two modes there.
I don’t know if the two modes will really go away. You always can probably edit the templates, but it’s definitely, it will help with the confusion.
Anne McCarthy: And I think even being able to see that you have a separate section for content versus templates, I think alone will be helpful. I think that’s part of what’s adding to the confusion. So I’m also very keen to test this. This is one of the top items I have in my mind for the full sighting outreach program. I always have a running list of things that I pay attention to. You would not believe my GitHub notifications, but this is one of the items that I’ve really been waiting for and wanting to see what we can do to get early feedback on. Because I do think it’s going to be a game changer, but with anything you implement, there’s going to be new problems and new confusion that arises in trade offs. So knowing what those trade offs are, and then making sure we’re able to push people where most of the time they’re able to get it right. That’s always the aim.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Right, right.
Anne McCarthy: So yeah, that’s a big one to call out in that experience.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: And we’ll share the issue number is 36667 just in case you want to rush to the computer and look it up. But I also see that the issue itself is almost a year old, so I’m also thinking that that was was on hold to kind of finish some of the site editor functionality before you can think about what would need to be in the browse mode displayed or how would it interact with the existing stuff. So I’m glad that there is some patience there with waiting on things before it’s released too soon or worked on it too soon when other things are not stable yet. So I really like it. I’m looking forward to it and see what other people talk about it. Yeah. What else?
Anne McCarthy: Ditto. Yeah, so the navigation block I have to call out and that is a big… I think we kind of do a disservice and we just talk about the navigation block, because it’s really how do you manage navigation for the entire site and the navigation experience for the entire site. And the block is one piece of that, and it connects to so much. And so there’s a lot of work from looking at, I was talking to Yellen this morning who’s a designer who works for Automattic, we’ve saw a lot of work with the navigation block around what if instead of directly manipulating the navigation block, you actually manipulate it in the block settings so you could actually drag and drop, and it was kind of more familiar to the old menu experience. What would that look like? And part of the work here is everything from that kind of stuff to how can you allow folks to have more control over the responsiveness of a navigation block item.
And so there’s also some technical underpinnings around using different fallbacks and making sure there’s more fallbacks in place for when you’re switching from a classic theme to a block theme and making that as out of the box intuitive as possible. Currently there’s a really annoying convert to links thing that’s very confusing and not user friendly and very technical in some of the fallback situations. So there’s so much work to be done there. And I just want to call that out as something that I know a lot of people bring up as a major pain point. It’s something I hear about constantly. Did you know the navigation block is not easy to use?
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Some people have other words for it, and I totally agree. Yes,
Anne McCarthy: I know. And it’s very interesting because I think there’s a split between both people who just want one navigation menu and it’s very simple and very contained. And then on the flip side, there’s people who want to create a mega menu. So I hear feedback about all sorts of things and I promise there are people working really hard to get it right. That’s another thing we’ll also be testing pretty extensively. And so I had to call that out. Another whole area of work as part of this wrapping up, phase two is around patterns. And so I like to quote Miguel, who is another coworker who said something like, “Up until this point, it was like…” I’m going to get this wrong, I’m going to butcher it. But he said something around, up until this point, it was all about blocks and now going forward so much is going to be about patterns, because that’s the way to really harness the power of blocks.
And so a lot of stuff needs to be done around pattern categorization. We talked about the pattern inserter redesign and how that helps things be more scalable. But right now for example, there’s a category of patterns called query. What on earth does that mean? Especially what is that? And especially when that’s probably going to be the most commonly used pattern because the query block is an advanced tool. So why patterns should fill that gap and should make it really easy to do the basics of displaying posts. But people may not actually look into the query pattern, because that is more technical. So we need to do everything from revamping the categories to finishing up bundling the headers and footers so people regardless of theme, have easy access to those patterns. And reevaluating even how we show patterns from a theme versus patterns from the pattern directory and integration with the pattern directory as well. So there’s a lot of work to be done there across on numerous different things to really bring the power patterns fully into the experience. So that’s a huge, huge area of work.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: But I think we pushed this quite far already with the multiple ways pattern can actually make it into the site, be it the pattern directory, be it with a theme. You can also put it in a plugin and say, yeah, I don’t know. And it’s so easy to bring something to a website that is already predesigned and then kind of feels like native to your own site when it kind of follows the theme. And I think that’s a strong suit from the panel directory that when you add them to your site, it kind of seamlessly. And I think there’s still some work to be done there, but seamlessly was with your colors, with your theme settings that it kind of picks up on that. That would be really cool. But for that you definitely would need more standardization on color palettes and font sizes and these kind of things.
So I think it will always be mainly theme-driven, the pattern part. And that’s why I like that you can see the pattern now in the theme directory of the block themes. And also for classic themes if a classic theme has balance. Yeah, they also will show up in the block theme in the theme directory and yeah, I don’t know if we talked about it.
Anne McCarthy: That’s very cool.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: We talked about it. Yeah. I’m just worrying, the speaking about the theme directory, what you also see now in the theme directory is the style variations. And when you click the style, they are now displayed underneath the screenshot. And when you click on that, the screenshot actually changed into the color setting. So it’s a really neat system that the meta team came up with. So try this out. It’s the first iteration, so it might not work for all themes, it definitely works for block themes that have style variations. And if you know that a theme has style variations, but they don’t show, please let the meta team know so they can fix whatever keeps the style of variations to show. It’s another kind of tangent. Sorry about that.
Anne McCarthy: No no, it’s a great tangent, because I think it’s really important. It’s part of how can we show the power of the next generation of themes and actually bring that into the theme directory? Because that is a weird piece of this is evolving the theme directory as well. And it’s saying a lot of blocking authors have given feedback around as well as, hey, we’re doing all this work, this theme is so much more complex, it can do all these sorts of things, but it’s not reflected in the theme directory. So how can we bring that in?
So I think it’s a really cool, which actually relates to the final thing I know we talked about, but retaining decoupling templates from themes and having templates be something that when you’re switching themes, you can actually retain them. And right now themes are tied to templates, so when you’re switching around, they’re basically “lost” or you can switch back to the theme and get it, but you have to bring it with you manually.
And that has been brought up for a long time. This has been raised as a flag. And I can imagine a future where you’re in the theme directory, a block name, and you still see those style variations, you see the patterns and then maybe you see the templates, and maybe you can pick and choose from each what you want to use. And so I think we’ve done some neat expirations around far into the future, blocking, switching and combining and merging and what that looks like. Obviously very futuristic almost, but we’re getting closer to that and that’s part of the work being done is improving the experience of switching from classic to block and then also in between blockings themselves. So yeah, lots of exciting stuff being done.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: And I like that we are now at the point where we kind of pivot from what we knew before, like template and themes and template parts. They’re all together, and now we are kind decouple them and make it user friendly, because you don’t want to put all the work into creating a template for your post or for your categories, and then you switch a theme and then you lose all that. So that’s definitely not what a user-friendly system would be, but it also adds a little bit, if not quite a big complexity to the system and to see what is what and where does it come from? Especially when you want to debug and you have to figure out where did the user get this pattern and where did the user get this template purge? And how is that same templates still there? Kind of. Yeah. So it’s going to be really interesting to see what happens next there.
Well, thank you. Yeah, thank you so much for at least giving us a broad overview, and we will certainly share that phase two customization updated tracking issue and keep you up to date here on the Gutenberg Changelog. Yeah.
So this brings us to the end of the show and this was a great way to talk about all of it. What’s in WordPress, what’s in Gutenberg, what’s in the view, what’s in art and in fiction. So is there anything that you want to give a shout out to that we haven’t talked about but it’s really close to your heart or that people should know?
Anne McCarthy: I have something cheesy to share, which is we’re coming up on two years of when the first call for testing for the outreach program started. And I had a hallway hangout yesterday with a group of, I think almost like 10 folks. And I missed people. I’ve been doing this for two years with people that around the world who I haven’t seen. And I just want to give a lot of props to the WordPress community for engaging with these things. And a lot of stuff has just been experimentation and figuring out what works and what doesn’t and people being vulnerable and sharing and showing up. And I just was filled with a lot of gratitude yesterday thinking about, remember the first hallway hang out I ran, I think two people came, and no one knew what it was and it didn’t seem very useful. And now people come and really give a lot of time and attention, and then I missed people. And that’s a really wonderful feeling. And at the end of the day, we’re doing this for each other and for the open internet. So yeah, that’s just a cheesy way to end, but it just was very much on my mind thinking about how much it really is a collective effort.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, that’s an excellent way to end the show. Thank you so much.
Anne McCarthy: And thank you for all the stuff you do, too. The regular Gutenberg changelog podcasts are just excellent resources for people, so it’s an honor to be on here and have a chance to nerd out with someone else rather than alone in my apartment.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. Well thank you for, yeah, we have been working on this together for quite a while, and yeah, it’s always a pleasure to have you on the show, and thank you for spending time with me today and working us through that.
And dear listeners, thank you so much also for listening to it. And if you want to write a review on iTunes or Stitcher or Podcaster or wherever we get it, and we would like to read it aloud here. So let other people know how you feel about the Changelog, it helps with the distribution. And as always, the show notes will be published on Gutenbergtimes.com/podcast. This is episode 75, and if you have questions or suggestions or news you want us to include the next time, send them to Changelog@gutenbergtimes.com. That’s Changelog@gutenbergtimes.com.
So thank you, dear listeners. Thanks again, Anne McCarthy, until the next time.
Anne McCarthy: Thank you. Goodbye everyone.
Birgit Pauli-Haack: Goodbye.