Gutenberg, Not a Word Processor
What real editors should we use with Gutenberg? In my previous post in this series, “Gutenberg Doesn’t Suck as an Editor – Because It’s Not An Editor!,” I made what I think is a straight-forward observation: Gutenberg has caused so much heart-burn among creative writers precisely because it’s not designed to be a word processor. It’s designed to be a page markup tool to assemble various components, including documents, into a post.
Trying to use it as an editor, unless you’re an accidental masochist like me, is an exercise in frustration. And goodness knows we don’t need any more of that! So, let’s see which real editors to use with Gutenberg! Let’s return some joy to your writing experience!
Making Posting Fun Again: Real Editors to Use with Gutenberg
Use the right tool for the job. Write the post in a word processor; create images or gather screen captures; then put them together with Gutenberg.
Would you use Gutenberg to write novels? Short stories? Good gravy, no! So there’s no reason to use it to write posts. Instead, use Gutenberg for what it’s good for: Bringing the pieces together — document, images, video, whatever — and publish them in a post.
That’s easy to say. How well does it work in practice? I tried three popular word processors and would like to share my experiences with you.
TL;DR: All three are better as editors than Gutenberg, but there’s one that shines brighter than the others.
Before I present which real editors to use with Gutenberg, I want to let you know about my computing environment. I use an Apple iMac as my creative workstation. I use Windows 10 at work or as a gaming platform, but I don’t use it for creating content. That being said, the last two options I’ll talk about would work on Apple MacOS or Microsoft Windows 10.
I’m happy I saved my pennies and bought a refurbished iMac 27″ from Apple. The screen spoils me! Yes, that’s Miia on my desktop.
If you’re a real rebel, you’ll find that the notes about Google Docs apply also to Ubuntu. I use Ubuntu 18.04 LTS for development and as a backup creative workstation. I don’t like being tied into a single platform, even one that I find as pleasant as MacOS, so I try to keep Ubuntu as a backup. Of course, your mileage may vary!
Apple Pages is a word processor that MacOS users can get for zero cost through the Apple Store. It’s not my favorite; it feels like it makes me work too hard to do simple things. However, it’s free, and it’s makes me work less hard than Gutenberg. So it’s at least an improvement!
Editing with Apple Pages
- General Formatting: Paragraphs and sentences come across as expected. The flow between paragraphs works just fine.
- Styles: The styles do NOT translate. Using Heading 1 or Heading 2 in a Pages document show up as plain text when pasted in Gutenberg.
- Links: Links do not open a new tab. That’s a pain, but it’s something that’s easily fixed.
- Graphics: Graphics do not paste. There’s not even an indication of where they were in your original document. Sure, veterans will expect that, but if you’re experimenting, it’s a disappointment.
Yes, it worked. Yes, I remained 100% within the Apple eco-system. But no, it wasn’t the cleanest of experiences.
Here’s some evidence for using Gutenberg as a composition tool: After I paste a document into Gutenberg and want to check a link, I click on it. It pops right up in edit mode, and clicking on the button to open in another tab both sets that option and closes the popup. It’s almost like that’s how Gutenberg’s designers intended for it to be used!
I wrote my recent Let’s Blog Award post using Apple Pages as the test case.
Bottom Line for Apple Pages
It offers a much better writing experience than Gutenberg, but the lack of translation for headings and other styles is a real annoyance. If I had to rate it, it would be the third best or the real editors I tested to use with Gutenberg.
Google Docs is free. Well, until you hit a certain amount of storage. I use the free version for some of my work. It’s robust, it’s easy to use, and did I mention it’s free?
I’m a word processing snob. You probably got that impression from my previous post in this series! I mean, I even keep Word Perfect 4.1 (for DOS!) running under a VMware virtual machine running MS DOS 6.1. I still think WordPerfect for DOS is the pinnacle of word processing goodness. Yet, even I have to admit that graphic UIs help. Google Docs strikes me as the best combination of graphic UI richness and editing simplicity.
In this case, I do in fact eat my own dog food. Irina and I use Google Docs to write our collaboration posts.
Editing with Google Docs
- General Formatting: Paragraphs and sentences come across as expected.
- Styles: At least H1 came across. That’s convenient! I don’t have to worry about reformatting headings after I paste a Google Doc into Gutenberg.
- Links: Links do not open a new tab. I have to go through each and edit them. I learned to expect that!
- Graphics: Seems to be the same as Apple Pages — if I select the entire document after having pasted a graphic, it does not show up in the post. There’s no indication where it was, either.
Bottom Line for Google Docs
The only downside is that graphics didn’t even leave an indicator of where they should be. Otherwise, writing in Google Docs is a breeze, and so is pasting the contents into Gutenberg.
If I had to rate it (and I hate to say this), it would be the second best of the real editors to use with Gutenberg. Why do I hate to say it? Read on!
I have a love/hate relationship with Microsoft. Okay, I have a hate relationship with Microsoft. I was an OS/2 certified engineer, and I still feel angry about how Microsoft abandoned OS/2 in favor of Windows NT.
I really should learn to get over that…
Microsoft Word is probably as close to a standard as we have for word processing. It does everything anyone could expect from a word processor.
I’d like to joke around and say the experience was terrible (and yes, I still miss OS/2)… But honestly? It was the best experience of all three word processors.
Editing with Microsoft Word
- General formatting: No issues at all.
- Styles: No issues; everything came across smoothly. Almost too smoothly… And yes, at some point, I’ll forgive Microsoft about OS/2.
- Links: Links do not open in a new tab. Not surprising, since even Google Docs didn’t do that.
- Graphics: Did not come across; instead; it pasted a block asking for an image upload. That’s a step in right direction. At least I know where the graphic was!
Let me emphasize that last point: When I pasted a Word document containing a graphic, the location where the graphic would have been prompted me for an upload in Gutenberg. Honestly, that impressed me.
I wrote Other Sites to Crow About: 2018 as the test case.
Bottom Line for Microsoft Word
I hate to admit it, but Word performed the best of the real editors to use with Gutenberg. So, if you’re using Word and write WordPress posts, I have great news: Word works great with Gutenberg.
I Hope That Helps!
Honestly, reading so many posts from bloggers struggling with Gutenberg almost broke my heart. Maintaining the mindset to write creatively can be a chore. Adding a tool that fights you to the mix just makes things worse.
What I hoped to do in these last two posts was reframe the question. I tried to show that Gutenberg isn’t really an editor but a composition tool. I also tried to show how your favorite editor can remain your favorite editor — just pour its output into Gutenberg, add graphics, and you’ve got a post!
Do you use a word processor other than Gutenberg to write your posts? What is it? Please feel free to let me know in the comments!