In Ancient Days
I admit it. I’m a snob when it comes to editors. Before there was any such thing as WordPress, I had tried almost every word processor out there. I still have fond memories of PFS:Write; I still hate DisplayWrite 5; a part of me died when WordPerfect for DOS went under. Version 5.1 wasn’t graphical, but it was the best word processor I’ve ever used. Now, I use and heartily endorse Scrivener.
But I digress. I’m trying to talk about WordPress editors.
When I first starting using WordPress, I used the basic editor. It was fine. It let me type stuff and correct my mistakes. It let me put pictures kinda sorta where I wanted them. But it wasn’t enough. I wanted more control over formatting. I wanted templates. I wanted reusable text. So, I looked around and found what seemed to me to be the best at the time: Thrive Architect.
Unfortunately, that’s about to change.
Fall from Grace
At first, Thrive Architect did a great job for me. I had more precise control over where graphics went. I could more easily handle multiple columns. The editor was fast and crisp; it got out of my way and helped me get work done. I didn’t have reusable text blocks, but otherwise, it was fine.
At first, everything seemed fine. My subscribers saw e-mails that looked like this. Which is to say, which looked like the actual published article.
I can’t remember exactly when I started noticing performance issues, but as it is now, there are times when I get 10 or 15 paragraphs into a post, and what I type sometimes takes a few seconds to make it to the screen. I’m using an iMac with a 4Ghz Intel i7 processor. It has 16Gb of RAM. There’s no reason in the world what’s essentially a word processor should demonstrate lag like that.
One upgrade took my ability to test hyper-links from within the editor. I had to edit the link, highlight all of it, right-click, and use Chrome’s “Go to…” option. Thrive tech support was very nice; they even apologized for removing the feature. But it slowed me down.
Then the final straw: You know how when you subscribe to a WordPress site, you can get an e-mail of the post? Kinda nice, isn’t it? I love it when people subscribe to my site, and I want to give those subscribers the best possible experience.
Thrive Architect makes that impossible.
I subscribe to my own site using one of my spare e-mail addresses so I can monitor how the posts look in e-mail form. I can’t remember exactly when; it might have been around the time I upgraded my site to Jetpack Professional. But the e-mail version of the posts were older versions of the posts! Sometimes, it was just the outline or template.
That meant my subscribers, folks who had gone to the trouble of asking to see my stuff, were seeing garbage.
No, this isn’t a screen shot of the post prior to publishing. This is the e-mail that my subscribers received. It’s like 10 revisions previous! If you’re a subscriber, please accept my apologies. I’m taking steps to fix this.
I contacted both Jetpack and Thrive technical support. Jetpack asked if my posts written in the basic editor (like my collaborations with Irina from I Drink and Watch Anime) were showing the same symptoms. I hadn’t made the connection until then, but I realized the answer was no. Posts written with the original editor were working just fine.
Thrive tech support was very nice, just like before. They tried to be helpful. But the bottom line from one of their e-mails was this: “If the text is automatically fetched from the content, then it might be an issue because Thrive Architect stores its content in wp postmeta fields, which is a different database table than where WordPress natively stores it.”
It appears that Thrive Architect can’t work with Jetpack’s subscription engine. At least not consistently. To be fair, Thrive probably wants me to stay in their eco system and use their e-mail subscription tools. But that’s not what I want to do; I want to stay as close to the WordPress ecosystem as possible, and that means Jetpack.
Not only was Thrive Architect starting to get in my way as I tried to write. Now it was mistreating my subscribers.
But the basic editor was still too primitive to meet my needs. What’s a blogger to do?
A Challenger Appears
When WordPress 5 appeared, I tried Gutenberg. This was before I had used Thrive Architect very much. I found Gutenberg to be such a drastic departure from the basic editor that I went in search of something else. In fact, that’s when I settled on Thrive Architect.
Now that I want to move to another platform, I gave Gutenberg another try. Guess what? Thrive Architect’s model of treating everything like a block changed how I look at the WordPress editor. Now, Gutenberg seemed a lot more accessible. It made more sense to me.
When I type a paragraph in Gutenberg and press enter, it create a new text block. You can move text blocks around. You can insert illustrations between them, or to their left or right. It reminds me a lot of Thrive Architect.
Best of all? I can create text blocks and share them between posts. At the bottom of each of my series reviews, I include links to the other episode reviews on my site. Before code blocks, I had to go in and update every previous review with links to the new one. That means on episode 24, I had to update 23 other documents. Publishing a review took forever!
Thrive Architect has reusable code blocks, but not ones I can create. I solved the problem with Thrive Architect by using a plugin called “Raw HTML Snippets.” It’s a solid plugin, but it’s basic; the more full featured plug ins generated an HTTP 500 error when used with Thrive Architect. So that was another way it interfered with my creative process.
Another thing I like about Gutenberg is that no matter how long the post gets, I haven’t seen the lag I saw with Thrive Architect. I can test links again within the editor. Basically, Gutenberg addresses everything that had been bothering me about the basic editor. The editor once again helps me get work done by giving features and getting out of my way.
It’s almost as exciting as using PFS:Write again.
I’ll give Thrive Architect credit: When I cancel my subscription, the content I’ve already generated will still display correctly. However, if I want to edit it, I’ll need to go to extra lengths.
Before I cancel, I’ll need to redo my Episode Guides page using Gutenberg. Same thing with my Caw Out Awards page. It’s necessary, though. I can’t let my subscribers keep seeing old versions of my published articles. That’s terrible service! It’s the opposite of how I want to treat my subscribers.
If I can pull one lesson out of my experience with Thrive Architect, it’s this: If you’re looking for any plugin that affects your site in general, make sure that if you decide to cancel it, your content remains available. I may have fallen out of love with Thrive Architect, but I still respect its philosophy. But I just need an editor with better performance and stability.
And I need my editor to give my readers in general and my subscribers in particular the best possible experience.
Are you using Gutenberg? What’s your experience been like? What other editors are you using? Let me know in the comments!