WordPress news recap for September 2018

Gutenberg on the horizon

Do you like WordPress? Is there more news about it than you can take in? That’s what this post is for! I’m going to distill the news from the past month into a short(ish) post so that you can keep up to date with less effort. Sound good?

WordPress news highlights from September 2018 include:

  • Gutenberg goes beyond WordPress
  • Some important updates for popular plugins
  • One man walks 700 km for WordCamp charity
  • Google Chrome starts answering questions in the address bar

Let’s dig in.

WordPress + Gutenberg

It feels like over the last six months or so, WordPress news has been dominated by one thing: the addition of Gutenberg to WordPress 5.0.

Related: What WordPress 5.0 means for businesses

In the past month alone we have had the releases of Gutenberg 3.7 through 3.9, with some notable additions and changes to how Gutenberg works.

Many of these new Gutenberg updates are designed to help you focus on your content and not on the UI around it. For example: We now have the Unified Toolbar and Spotlight, which aims to clean up the writing experience and make it as distraction-free as possible.

Those who are not ready for the new editor will be pleased to know that WordPress project lead Matt Mullenweg is not calling time on the Classic Editor just yet. In a post on WP Tavern, Matt chipped in with the following:

“I don’t see any reason why we can’t maintain classic for the edit screen for many years to come.”

This statement seems to have pleased many, but it’s not going to alter the inclusion of Gutenberg in core.

In fact, if the stats over at the recently released Gutenstats are to be believed: we have surpassed, or are very close to surpassing, all of the milestones that Matt set out for Gutenberg to be ready for inclusion in WordPress core.

At the time of writing, Gutenberg had 430K active installations and 215K posts had been written using it. Gutenberg is also now rolling out to a subset of WordPress.com users so that they can gauge the reception for it there, too.

Before all of that can happen, though, we have to get through all the 4.9.x releases.

4.9.9 is just around the corner, but it doesn’t look radical – just some minor tweaks. The roadmap for the release focuses on four main areas: accessibility, internationalization, the Site Health Project (formerly servehappy), and preparations for Gutenberg.

Gutenberg integration continues at a rapid pace

Covering all of these developments could fill a lengthy post. To avoid that, I’m just going to list out a few that caught my attention this month:

Plugins and themes

Elementor adds a new way to navigate you page content

If you’re a user of the Elementor Page Builder then you’ve perhaps seen the new ‘navigator’ feature that was just released. It’s a draggable box that shows the elements, and nested elements, on your page in a simple list.

The idea here is that moving parts of your page about can be a little tricky. Let’s say that the section right at the bottom of the pages now belongs near the top. With the old setup you needed to locate it and manually drag it right up the page.

I honestly never saw this as a chore, but with navigator you just drag the row up and down and you’re done. Much faster and very cool!

Turn to the Dark Side

If I can choose, I always go for the ‘dark’ theme in an app. If you fancy doing the same to your WordPress admin, then the Dark Mode plugin might be just the thing for you. It’s still in beta, but in my tests thus far it’s working just how I’d like it. (Should this be in core?)

Easy Digital Downloads’ Bookings extension updated

If you’re a user of Easy Digital Downloads you might have noticed that their bookings extension went away for a ‘from the ground up’ rewrite. Well, that’s now done and bookings is back! It has a great new set of features and a shiny new UI. EDD is temporarily offering a 60% earlybird lifetime discount. If you need to add booking capabilities to a WordPress site, this might be worth a look.

Related: The top WordPress payment plugins

Advanced Custom Fields 5.0 released

Advanced Custom Fields got a major update this month with the release of 5.0 of their free plugin. In addition to the promised Gutenberg compatibility, you get a really nice UI update and a performance boost. Plus there are lots of new fields to play with: Link Field, Group Field, Accordion Field, oEmbed Field, Date Time Picker and the Clone Field – phew! That’s a whole lot of pro features now in the free version.

Related: Q&A with Elliot Condon of Advanced Custom Fields

‘New kid on the block’ page builder takes an interesting approach to updates

If you like to build your pages in the ‘traditional’ way, read no further. But if you like page builders, then Brizy might be worth a look. It’s got all the things that you’d expect from a modern page builder, except one thing – heritage.

Brizy is brand new, and the team hasn’t released all the features that older rivals have… yet. They’re going to release a new feature from their comprehensive roadmap every few days.

If you look at the Brizy blog, you’ll see that they are certainly delivering on their plan. If you’re looking for a new page builder to add to your arsenal, Brizy is shaping up to be a compelling option. You can, for a short time, still get a lifetime deal on Brizy Pro.

Gutenberg block repositories

As we mentioned in the news last month, some folks in the Drupal community are now embracing Gutenberg. If this video is anything to go by, it’s very exciting indeed.

And not only have we got a working version of Gutenberg within Drupal, but we have a new initiative called Gutenberg Cloud.

The Gutenberg Cloud project aims to have an online repository of Gutenberg blocks that are available to all, regardless of CMS. The fact that Gutenberg can be decoupled from a CMS means that blocks that go into the Gutenberg Cloud repo will be available for you to use in WordPress, Drupal, and whatever other platforms add compatibility.

If this project does not float your boat, there’s another option that also launched this month: the Gutenberg Block Library, featuring a growing collection of Gutenberg blocks. Use their clickable tags to filter the blocks. There are categories such as forms, food, Google, cards, and so on.

I’m almost certain that, as time goes on, we’re going to be deluged by many varieties of new Gutenberg blocks. If these projects can keep up with what becomes available, they will make our lives a little easier.

WordPress biz + community

Nepal gets a new WordCamp

The Nepalese city of Biratnagar will be the proud host of a WordCamp in December. It’s building upon a legacy of successful WordPress meetups. It’s by no means the first WordCamp held in Nepal, but it’s new and so well worth celebrating.

Related: Introvert’s guide to participating in the WordPress community

Would you walk 700km to WordCamp Europe?

Marcel Bootsman would, and he’s doing it for a very fine and noble reason. He’s walking to raise money for DonateWC, an initiative that helps people to attend some of the larger WordCamps around the world. Despite low ticket prices, these things aren’t cheap to attend. Flights, taxis, meals and data charges… it all adds up.

Speaking of adding up: Marcel’s donation page is doing just that, standing at a hefty €944 at the time of writing. Nice one Marcel and we hope that you have a great time on your walk!

Not WordPress, but interesting

Google updates Chrome to include Smart Answers

It you’re a Chrome user then you’re sure to have noticed that the browser has a new look. But Chrome version 69 has some additional features that you might not have spotted.

“Omnibox Smart Answers” is Google’s way of getting answers to you without even needing to perform a search. If you have a direct question and start to use the address bar in Chrome, Google will try to provide a direct answer. It’s an interesting feature for users, but perhaps you’d regard this differently if it’s taking traffic away from your site?

Related: Structured data – the who, what, and why of using Schema

Until next month…