Getting One’s Head Around The Full Block Editor

The biggest stumbling block (sorry!) to working with the Block Editor is thinking you need to do something extraordinary to write in it. Let’s get back to writing rather than worrying about the “blockade”. As the Block Editor prompt says, “Start writing”.

KISS!*

If you previously wrote in the MySite Visual Editor, give the following a try:

  1. If you’re not already writing in the Block Editor, add a new test post or page on your site. Add a title. Then,
  2. Just start writing on that line without selecting any block. The Paragraph block is the default block.
  3. Need a new paragraph? Tap Enter, just like you’ve always done. In the background the Editor will add a new block. (You do not need to first add a Paragraph block and then start writing your next paragraph.)
  4. Add an image? Tap Enter and type /im and an entire list of available image options will come up. Select the image block you want and follow the onscreen prompts. Alignment and other settings will appear in the block’s toolbar and sidebar. If you want a more detailed guide, have a look at this helpful video.
  5. Add a video or tweet or Facebook/Instagram post? Copy the source link and paste it into a new block you added by tapping Enter). The Editor will automatically add the relevant embed block. More detailed information on the Support site.
  6. Want to add a numbered/ordered list? Tap Enter and start your line with a number. The Editor will automatically change that to an ordered List block. Each time you tap Enter while creating a list, you’ll add a new list item until you tap Enter twice.
  7. Want a bullet/unordered list instead? Tap Enter, type * (asterisk) and then start typing. Tap Enter twice to exit the list.
  8. Have sub-items in your list? Start your list item line with a Space. (Tip provided in the Editor itself.)
  9. Want to add a quote? Tap Enter and type /quote, select the Quote block icon and then start typing. There’s also room for a citation at the end of the block.
  10. Want to add a link from your site to your text? Same as before. First highlight the text you want linked, click the “link” icon in the top toolbar and then in the pop-up window that opens, type a few words from the title of an earlier post or page. Click Enter to add the link.
  11. Want to add an external link to your text? Same as before. First copy (Ctrl+C) the link you want to add to your clipboard, highlight the relevant text in your post or page and then paste with Ctrl+V.
  12. Want to use Keyboard formatting shortcuts? They all work like in the old Visual Editor: Ctrl+B for Bold, Ctrl+I for Italic, etc. (Shift+Alt+H in the Editor will bring up the full list of available shortcuts.)

While there’s a world of blocks out there, if your posts are typically text embellished with some images, or mostly images with some text, you might not need anything beyond this.

*Keep it simple, silly!

TMYUITEIWB*

Here are some tips for taming the Block Editor that I shared in previous posts, along with a few new ones:

  • Reduce the number of blocks via the Block Manager to keep the Block Selector manageable.
  • Pin the Block toolbar to the top of your browser screen to keep it out of the way of your writing. You can do that in the Vertical Ellipsis (Options) sidebar. (If you aren’t yet familiar with the Block Editor’s multiple sidebars, you’ll want to read my previous post on getting under the hood of the Block Editor.)
  • Did you type something as a Paragraph and in the meantime decide it would be better as a Quote or something else text-based? No need to insert a new block and copy/paste the content. Click the block’s icon in the toolbar and a drop-down menu will appear where you can transform the block type. Alternatives available depend on the block content type. (See first illustration below)
  • Would your post “flow” better if you could move that piece of content (AKA block) someplace else in your post? Again, no need for the whole copy/paste/delete route. Click into the block and use the Move up and down arrows that appear in the block toolbar to reposition it where you want it. (See second illustration below)

Have you come across a shortcut or tip that made the Block Editor more manageable for you? Please share it.

*The more you use it, the easier it will become. It’s my new mantra-make it yours!

Learning More About Blocks

Since you’ve already checked out the WP Admin dashboard and the Classic Editor there and know that it’s the same dashboard that all WordPress users have, including our sites here on WordPress.com, dive into these video resources to learning the Block Editor that were originally prepared for WP users:

The change to the Block Editor generated not just a lot of angst and angry posts among WordPress.com users, it also created converts, some of whom have taken the time and effort to write up their own tutorials. Here are a few links that I’ve found so far (links open in a new tab):

I’ll continue adding links here as I find them (or if you leave them in the comments).

The full platform-wide switch to the Block Editor on our sites also apparently caught some users unaware, although WordPress.com initially announced it back in May 2020. Ideally you saw that announcement and the follow up post in August, but if not, you’ll want to make sure you are subscribed to the WordPress.com blog from today.

Block Patterns

If you want to explore more about each block and what you can do with it, the Support site has a full list and details of each and every available block. But there’s an easier way to get started with exploring blocks – Block Patterns in a test post or page.

And in a spectacular example of serendipity, the WordPress.com blog published today an announcement on “Introducing Patterns: Prebuilt Blocks for Beautifully Designed Websites“.

Themes

One of the big downsides to changing themes on an existing site to one of the full Block Editor styles themes was the inability to preview your existing site content using that theme. No longer! If you head to your site’s WP Admin> Appearance> Themes you’ll now be able to click through and see a preview of your site content in the Customizer before committing to a theme. This made my day! While there’s currently no facility in the WP Admin Themes dashboard that allows you to sort themes by feature, if you sort by Newest the Block Editor styles themes will appear first.

For those who want a full Block Editor style theme that has the most customization options, much like the older WordPress.com themes, Twenty-Twenty (and hopefully soon Twenty-Twenty One) should be your choice. All the free WordPress.com themes and the 82 Premium themes (still) available are Block Editor ready, but older themes may not take full advantage of the available block settings like the first group of “Recommended Themes” in the WordPress.com Theme Showcase.

As I’ve noted before, these lovely themes, patterns and layouts completely melt away when someone reads your posts via the WordPress.com Reader or other RSS feed reader like Feedly or if they are directed to the AMP version of your post or page from social media. In short, content, content, content!

Iterate, deploy, test! Wash, Rinse, Repeat!

To sum up, the changes to the editing experience on WordPress.com continue to be in flux and, in my opinion, are heading in the right direction for making the Block Editor a more user-friendly experience. If you run into a specific issue while working with the Block Editor, please let WordPress.com know about it. Given the number of users, browsers, devices and configurations, along with the number of themes, along with the number of available blocks means that it’s extremely important to report these issues to make WordPress.com aware of the problem.

The more we report issues, the faster they can be corrected and updated in the Block Editor for everyone.

From a user perspective, when a familiar utility fundamentally changes it becomes a source of anxiety. I do understand. Given the number people hosted on WordPress.com, and the amount of data we provide our hosts, I’d hoped that WordPress.com/Automattic might have considered past user reaction to previous changes to inform them on the sanest way to promote and integrate changes with its user base. Sadly, this again was not the case.

As always, the information in this post is correct as of today’s date. Changes are inevitable.

Featured photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

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This tutorial was published on wpcommaven.com and is part of a series on creating posts on WordPress.com since the change to the Block Editor took place.

Other posts in this series so far:

During November I’ll be taking a blogging break while I work on both The Helpdesk (launching in January 2021) as well as enjoying some personal down time. Stay in touch. See you then.

Featured photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Published by JenT

After 4 years hand coding HTML and CSS websites, 2 years setting up and running WordPress sites, I launched my first website on WordPress.com back in 2006 and never looked back. Since then, I’ve helped other WordPress.com site owners navigate through the ever-changing WordPress.com ecosystem. Find me at wpcommaven.com

3 thoughts on “Getting One’s Head Around The Full Block Editor

  1. I am, slowly but surely, getting used to ‘Gutenberg’. But I still don’t like it. It has far too many bugs; and the one thing that irritates me the most is that the longer I spend on a post, the slower it becomes. There’s clearly a memory leak in there somewhere, and it needs to be fixed!

    1. Hello and thanks for your comment. Glad to hear you’re getting used to the Block Editor and I hope you found something useful in my post.

      If you are experiencing technical issues while using the Block Editor on your WordPress.com site, the best place to seek help would be through the various official Support channels. They are in a better position to assist you. You can find info here on how to write a great bug report. Hope you get it worked out!

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