Writing with WordPress (5.0 through 5.8)

WordPress has shifted its focus from powering blogs to empowering people to build sites. I think this is okay all in all, but—for me—the “typing a bunch of words” experience has taken a few steps back and I’ve had to shift workflows.

I’ve written many posts directly in Gutenberg over the last few years and a handful of things that bugged me at the beginning have become fluid. Other things, like the inability to select specific lines of text across multiple paragraph blocks, are problems baked into its design that will likely never be fixed.

My biggest issue now, whether it’s because I have too many tabs open, or the fault of Gutenberg itself, is that typing becomes a drag. It’s not as bad as interfaces of old in which you could type twenty characters before they started appearing on the screen, but there’s a slight delay that is often irritating enough for me to notice.

Part of me thinks it may be due to developers’ focus on Chrome instead of Firefox. Another part of me thinks it’s because the editor has to account for so much non-text-typing stuff that it’s just bogged down all the time.

I’ve decided, at least temporarily, that switching to a native app for writing is the right move for me. Doing so is disappointing because I lose the ability to edit a post on both my computer and phone, but the fluid typing experience it offers is enough to ignore that annoyance.

For the last several months, I’ve written posts in Ulysses on Mac OS. At first I tried publishing directly to WordPress, but that flow is not well oiled and does not support editing an existing post. I’m also wary of the block markup Ulysses sends, as it could all of a sudden become incompatible with that defined by Gutenberg.

I’ve now switched to writing the post in Ulysses, previewing it as HTML, copying the HTML, and pasting it in Gutenberg. I’ll then tweak some formatting directly in the block editor and publish.

My most recent thought is that I should embrace my difference in opinion and implement my own local editor on the front-end using something like ProseMirror. This allows me to remove all of the cruft in the admin—dozens of JavaScript files that have no business impeding the typing experience.

I have an experimental project setup locally that’s working fairly well as text only and I’ve already decided I may not care if it supports media. My biggest annoyance is the actual typing of long form text. If that is solved properly in a first draft, then I have no issue going back through and editing blocks once the text is established. It would be an incremental and welcome improvement over the workflow I’m using now.

As Sarah mentioned on Twitter the other day, if there’s an organized (open source) effort to provide a world-class writing experience in WordPress, I would absolutely invest my time.

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