Elementor & WordPress 5

What so many clients think happens in Photoshop

So here I am mucking about with the Elementor Page Builder plug-in. It’s actually pretty impressive. I got clued into this one when I had a situation with a client that’s implementing the, gods save us, still in continual development Gutenberg plug-in that will become the default editor in WordPress 5 – apparently any day now.

Oh. never mind. WordPress 5 dropped on December 6, while I was writing this.

So here I am. what is probably the most reassuring is the actual WISIWYG – what you see is what you get-ness of the the plugin. It actually uses the display styling and CSS of the theme, as opposed to the TinyMCE back-end editor – which more closely resembles MS Word. I do note one issue is that a right-click activates an options pop-up menu, instead of the spell checker of Mac OS. So something to bear in mind and work around. But still rather interesting, and refreshing to NOT have to continually use Preview Page to see what the edits actually LOOK like.

Another glitch I came across with Elementor was that the widget menu does not work well with my Wacom Tablet. But that might be an artifact that I’m running an older Mac Pro (Mac Pro 5,1 Mid-2010) and the driver is not quite 100% on the aging-but-stout beastie. I did manage a weird two handed workaround, scroll it with the trackpad, and select with the tablet stylus. Okay weird, but us Art Guys are used to that.

Page Builders

It is not hard to discern Automattic’s intentions with Gutenberg. With the rising popularity of increasingly sophisticated and easy to use services that use integrated Page Builders, such as Squarespace, Wix, Webly, Shopify, LightCMS, and the like,  even most ISPs offer some sort of Web Builder functionality in even their basic hosting. WordPress wants to stay competitive and offer a page builder style editor, built in, right out of the box. Their task is to get the thing to work.

In WordPress 4.9 Gutenburg was offered as a beta plug-in alongside a Classic Editor plug-in so brave or reckless users could switch back and forth. The process went through a raucous series of updates and bug-fixes with wildly variable glitches while the Automattic team feverishly laboured to get the editor ready for the WP 5 drop, which was repeatedly pushed back. The posts in the WP support forums range from supportive to desperate to startlingly incendiary.

One of my colleagues who has a fleet of WP sites for his clients, has immediately upgraded all of them. Brave man. That’s an experiment writ quite large. I will be watching his blog to see what comes out of that confident leap. For my money–and my clients–I have a healthy paranoid respect for a point-oh release of ANYTHING. There is almost always a shakedown period users shake out, and complain bitterly about the bugs. Having had… variable experience with software and systems upgrades over the years, my expectations are …. tempered.

First take Recommendations

For the time being, my instinct is to hold off on the WordPress 5 upgrade till there are more reports from the brave users and developers – willing or unsuspecting – who took one for the team, i.e. all WordPress users everywhere. If you’re curious, or want to test things, there are a couple of other options.

You can install Gutenburg as a plug-in in your WP 4.8+ installation. I would also make sure you had the Classic Editor Plug In installed alongside. This gives you the option to use either editing environment in the back end. You pages and posts will remember the mode used previously, and they seem reasonably cross compatible at the present time. If you like the idea of a Block style visual editor, but Gutenburg is not doing it for you, a similar, but mature builder plug-in like Elementor is a workable option.

The Classic Editor can be installed in WordPress 5, if you seriously have a preference or find the Gutenburg block-style builder gives you hives, you can fall back to the classic editor. – tho’ WP does warn that support for Classic will not be eternal. I am almost certain that some developer will release a TinyMCE editor plug-in, if they are not feverishly already coding away.

Another option is to install a separate stand-along intallation of WordPress 5 in it’s own directory, and expreiment, while leaving your existing WP 4.x site or blog alone. I am considering this very process here, will let you know.

What ever path you choose, backup, backup, for the love of the gods, backup. Let’s be careful out there.