Today, December 6, 2018, the WordPress.org team has released WordPress 5.0 "Bebo" to the general public.
By far the biggest change in this next major version of the WordPress CMS is the new "Gutenberg" editor that has replaced the CMS' previous, aging, and nameless WYSIWYG editor.
According to Matt Mullenweg, the creator of the WordPress CMS and team lead behind the WordPress 5.0 development team, the Gutenberg's "overall goal is to simplify the first-time user experience of WordPress."
And Mullenweg appears to have succeeded. The new editor is not only simpler to use for people with no previous WordPress experience, but is also a joy to work with for developers. Gutenberg looks more like Medium's editing experience, and converts an article's code into source code that's much easier to work with if you're a developer, theme, or plugin maker. But let's take a closer look at it.
The new Gutenberg editor is built around the concept of "blocks."
These blocks can be paragraphs, images, image galleries, citations, audio players, headings, large cover images, videos, source code blocks, and so on. You name it.
Once users add a block, editing controls specific for that block appear.
Tens of more options are now available, compared to the former classic WordPress editor that only featured 10-15 editing options. Gone are the days of needing a WordPress plugin to expand the default editor, or gone are the days of editing HTML code because the editor doesn't support working with certain content types.
Furthermore, the new Gutenberg also makes it a lot easier to preview how a page's content looks right away. Editing in Gutenberg is now more similar to styling text in Word, rather than a clunky web editor.
In previous versions of the WordPress CMS, the editor would generate HTML code from what the user has typed. With the new Gutenberg, articles are still rendered in HTML on the site's frontend, but there's now also an intermediate syntax. This syntax is a godsend for developers, as it's easier to interact with at a programmatic level.
This should allow devs, theme, and plugin makers a new and more powerful way of working with dynamically user-generated content.
But despite how good the new Gutenberg is, there will always be users who don't like change, and will prefer to continue using the old classic editor they've been using for years.
The WordPress team said today that they will continue to support the old editor until 2021, when it would finally be wound down.
But the old editor will not be part of the official WordPress CMS anymore. It's been spun off as a separate plugin that users can download/install from here. Hours after WordPress 5.0 was launched today, the plugin has already amassed over 600,000 installs.
But no matter how good the old editor may be, Gutenberg is cooler.
One of the reason is the concept of "reusable blocks." Basically, when users create a block, if they need to use it somewhere else, they can hit a button that converts it into a "reusable block."
When they need it in other blog posts or pages, they can simply hit a button and insert a previously saved button.
The reason why "reusable blocks" are a game-changer for the WordPress community is because they offer a solid alternative to using "shortcodes" as styling elements.
Sure, shortcodes won't disappear, as they're used for far more than text styling, but they won't be such a central element in the post editing experience as they were in the past.
And here's one more thing about 'reusable blocks' --they can be edited at any point.
This means editors can make site-wide changes in seconds, without having to manually edit hundreds or thousands of articles.
And just like any major WordPress upgrade, WordPress 5.0 comes with a new default theme.
The WordPress CMS team has a tradition of naming themes after the upcoming year, so meet "Twenty Nineteen."
Last but not least, there are the under the hood changes.
The main addition to WordPress 5.0 is support for the newly released PHP 7.3. This version of PHP will be officially supported until the end of 2022, and WordPress 5.0 was specifically built to work on top of it, mainly due to the performance boosts it allows.