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.
When Irina from I Drink and Watch Anime and I collaborate on posts, we use Google Docs exclusively.
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!
8 thoughts on “Real Editors to Use with Gutenberg”
I really loved WordPerfect. I’ve written many a short story and novel in it. And then we tried to install it on my “new” (old but new to me) computer and it basically threw up and then said we would have to just rent Microsoft office. Sigh. That really irks me. I don’t like updates. I don’t like changes made just for the sake of changing things. Been a lot of that in the last ten years. Which leads to a whole ‘nother rant. So, Google docs for me. It does make collaboration easy and it’s plenty workable for something you are publishing online anyway. Thanks for going to all the trouble and the post!
I gotta say, Gutenburg sucks as a markup and composition tool, too. 😛 IMHO
“I don’t like changes made just for the sake of changing things. Been a lot of that in the last ten years. Which leads to a whole ‘nother rant.”
I remember learning software interface design in the mid 1990s. Things like the principle of leash astonishment and the like. Modern UIs seem to hide things for the aesthetics — but, um, what about usability?
“Thanks for going to all the trouble and the post!”
You’re welcome — I hope it was helpful!
“I gotta say, Gutenburg sucks as a markup and composition tool, too”
I would love to be able to disagree, but, well… you’ll notice I never said it was good! It’s just a better composition tool than it is an editor. Which isn’t saying alot, I admit…
Since it’s a standard, I always used Microsoft Word to write posts. I am in fact getting away from Google Apps mostly because of their privacy issues. Sure, Microsoft has it’s issues, but it’s not as bad. I subscribe to the business version of Office 365 Business Premium, which is now Microsoft 365 Business Standard, which provides the iOS/iPadOS Office apps, the full Office suite, a web version, hosted email with your own domain (including shared mailbox support for additional emails without additional cost), and online storage. I think it’s a better deal than Google paid offerings (I refuse to use free since they sell your data. After all, if you are not paying for it, you are the product.). Also, Word has better Grammar (including style checks) and Spell check, which Pages and Google Docs lack.
On the Mac, I kind of experimented with MacJournal since it had the ability to publish posts to WordPress, but of course it had drawbacks, especially how it handles images with WordPress as the inability to add captions. I know a lot of people were using Windows Live Writer with WordPress, but it’s a dead product although Open Live Writer, a fork of that program still lives on. Also, Microsoft Word on Windows can publish blog posts through a template, but not on the Mac version.
But still, I prefer doing all the writing in Word first and then do the image uploading last. Also, I am still using the Classic Editor and I will be doing so forever. Gutenberg is hot garbage for blogging. Automattic has to take the Classic Editor from my cold, dead hands before I use that piece of crap editor.
” I am in fact getting away from Google Apps mostly because of their privacy issues. Sure, Microsoft has it’s issues, but it’s not as bad.”
For my blog posts, I don’t worry much about that because they’re intended for public consumption. But your point’s well taken. I’m _not_ writing my novel with Google Docs, in part for reasons of privacy.
Plus, Scrivener just works better for novels!
“I think it’s a better deal than Google paid offerings ”
I actually keep a Google paid account just to keep up with their features. I like seeing Microsoft compete with them and vice versa — it’s good for consumers. However, in the last few years, I’ve sensed a lack of focus from Google, and on top of privacy issues, they tend to retire products prematurely. That kept me from adopting AngularJS, for example.
“But still, I prefer doing all the writing in Word first and then do the image uploading last. ”
In my experience, that’s a really clean, fast workflow. Word’s really good at it, too.
“Automattic has to take the Classic Editor from my cold, dead hands before I use that piece of crap editor.”
I really don’t understand what Automattic is doing. I understand them wanting to offer a block editor because it works well for composition. But why take the classic editor, a mature product, away from bloggers? Especially given the uproar?
That’s just bad customer relations.
well i did think about trying something other than guthenberg since your first post. so i started writing a post and without much thinking i started doing it in word, it seemed like it would do well. guess this post confirms im on the right path.
and my experience does as well – i found myself not thinking about images or the length of each paragraph, i was just converting what was on my mind into text
That’s great to hear — thanks for sharing your experience!
Sounds like that’s exactly how it should work. Mind to text, without any hassles inbetween.
I use google docs. Not because I had done any research, just because it was free and clean. It always worked for my purposes. I frequently even use notepad to jot down ideas as I am viewing things, but I have never used it for writing a post (that would be pain). That being said I have tons of notepad junk strewn across my PC.
Always appreciate the insight you share on these posts even if they are just shop talk.
Just for myself, I prefer Google Docs for writing over even something as ubiquitous as Word. It just feels better to me. It’s a lot better for collaboration, too, though I didn’t really examine word processors from that perspective.
I can’t imagine using Notepad to write posts! Thought Notepad++ might not be so bad…