WordPress 5.0. How to Disable Gutenberg

If you have a WordPress site, as most people, you need to know what Gutenberg is and how to prepare for its arrival. More importantly, you should be aware of the issues surrounding upgrading to 5.0 and how to officially disable Gutenberg.

WordPress 5.0 is set to be released in late 2018 to early 2019. This version of WordPress goes far beyond an upgrade. It is a complete replacement of the Tiny MCE editor we all know. It’s also a complete change to the WordPress framework, back-end, and the way content is stored and rendered with React JavaScript. The new editor in WordPress 5.0 is called Gutenberg.


A Quick Recap

I covered the introduction of Gutenberg in more detail on my previous post, WordPress 5.0 and What You Need to Know.

If you are used to Microsoft Word, or any other editing program, the new Gutenberg editor will be a complete and unfamiliar departure. If you are using a visual editor such as Visual Composer (WP Bakery) or Elementor, you’ll probably be disappointed with the Gutenberg experience.

The problem is Gutenberg is non-optional, being merged directly into the WordPress 5.0 core. It completely replaces the current Tiny MCE editor without an on/off switch, nor the option to choose. It’s also considered by many to still be barely in beta (testing phase).

The Classic Editor Plugin (see below) needs to be installed to disable Gutenberg. Many in the WordPress community, have been angered with having to install an additional plugin, and with the opt-out vs. opt-in approach.

It’s unclear why Gutenberg wasn’t introduced gradually to WordPress over time as a plugin, rather than a core feature. People also wonder why Tiny MCE wasn’t kept in its current form or design, with Gutenberg simply added as another button, or addon feature. Keeping the current UI (user interface) would have made the transition much smoother.

Both approaches would have allowed people to become more accustomed to the new editing experience, rather than being forced to immediately use something so different. Currently, Gutenberg is offered as a plugin for users to test. The one-star reviews of Gutenberg clearly show the discontent.

The Gutenberg Reviews as of Sep 2nd, 2018.

Love it or hate it, Gutenberg will become the new official WordPress editor in 2018 or 2019. Assuming you are not a fan of the new editor, here is what you need to know, and how to officially disable it.


Content Rendering and React JS

WordPress 5.0 is an entirely new framework for WordPress. It renders content via React JavaScript vs. the current html format. The new Gutenberg editor stores pages differently, wrapping ALL code in its own markup (comment tags). This has caused some backwards compatibility and layout issues for those testing Gutenberg.

Gutenberg code, courtesy of wp-tweaks.com

Here is a code example from a recent post written at wp-tweaks.com. The pic shows  the Gutenberg markup around some simple paragraph blocks. In Gutenberg, every single block has those beginning and ending tags.

Imagine a more complex layout with several images, columns, paragraphs, headings, etc. Then imagine a theme or plugin that uses its own comment tags. You can quickly see how these comment tags Gutenberg creates could become problematic.

If you uninstall Gutenberg, it should not break your site. However, some people who have tried the Gutenberg plugin, then uninstalled, have run into problems. They have experienced blank pages, and missing content. Likely their content is still there but has the new markup which may not be compatible with their existing theme or plugins.

This means, when you upgrade WordPress to Version 5.0, and save a page with the new editor, your content will be  changed. From my understanding, it will be stored in the database differently, with your content surrounded in the new markup (comment tags). You’ll be committed to the new framework.  Once you upgrade to 5.0, there is no turning back. It’s a classic case of apples and oranges. However, the Classic Editor plugin should alleviate these kinds of potential issues.


Disabling Gutenberg

There are two official plugins available to disable Gutenberg. You should at the very least have the Classic Editor Plugin preinstalled and activated before WordPress 5.0 is released.

1. The Classic Editor Plugin

As mentioned, the Classic Editor Plugin is the official OFF switch for Gutenberg. By installing and activating the plugin ahead of time, you should be protected when you upgrade to the WordPress 5.0 framework. At the very least, is should keep the current WordPress plugins, custom themes, and WordPress experience you are using intact – at least in theory.

2. Gutenberg Ramp Plugins

Gutenberg Ramp is the official plugin geared towards developers. It allows for full control over custom-post types. This will be useful for developers and agencies with heavily customized themes and integrations. It may also help with issues surrounding backwards compatibility.

 


Is Classic Editor Really the Answer?

As mentioned, the Classic Editor Plugin is the official OFF switch for Gutenberg. However, there are no guarantees, and problems could still arise as the new framework evolves. It may also be only a temporary solution. That was the impression given when the plugin initially launched. However, it now seems the Classic Editor has been given a longer life cycle.

Morten Rand-Hendriksen, has written on the paradigm, and why maintaining Classic Editor for the long term is simply not feasible.  In his recent post, Gutenberg, Forks, and the need for an LTS version of WordPress, he examines that issue in detail. (LTS means Long Term Support).

Many of us in the WordPress community also feel concerned. With the approach taken for Gutenberg, we simply don’t have the confidence or trust in Automattic or WordPress to maintain the Classic Editor.

If Gutenberg is their new flagship product, then why would they want to? At some point Classic Editor will be phased out, whether its months or years.  At that time, everyone will have to shift to the new editor – that is inevitable.


An Emerging WordPress Fork

We are now looking at ClassicPress.Net, a viable and maintained fork of WordPress 4.9.x, which recently emerged on the scene on August 21st. ClassicPress looks promising. We also like that fact it is independent of Automattic and being community driven. We fully intend to move a couple of our in-house sites to the platform, fully test, and give it serious consideration for future development. Although not officially launched, we’ll be writing about this WordPress fork (a Gutenberg alternative) in an upcoming post!

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