The block editor is coming to the mobile apps

I’m proud to announce that we’ll be shipping the first public version of the block editor in the apps with their 11.9 release. This release will be available for beta testers today (learn more about testing the apps), and the general public in March 11th.

What to expect

For this first version, our main focus was to build a pleasant writing experience with support for the most basic types of content.

Our data showed that 90%+ of the posts created on the mobile apps consisted of basic text and images, so we decided to focus on supporting the Paragraph, Image, and Heading blocks on this version.

Within those limits, we wanted this to be functional and usable as a replacement editor from the start, so we did a lot of work on making sure the little things that you would expect to work on an editor were there: pressing enter would create a new paragraph block, support for undoing and redoing edits, basic formatting,…

Known issues

  • On iOS, using typing suggestions sometimes removes spaces between words.
  • On iOS, dictation doesn’t work at the moment.
  • On Android, when you insert a Heading block it initially shows no formatting.

How to test the block editor in the apps

Once you have version 11.9 of the apps, the block editor will be available, but not always used by default. When you edit an existing post, it will detect if it has block content and open it in the block editor, otherwise it will open in the classic editor. If you prefer to edit a post with blocks in the classic editor you can still do so by going to the editor menu (•••) and choosing “Switch to Classic Editor”.

When you create a new post, it will use the classic editor by default. To change that, you can go to Me > App Settings and enable the Use Block Editor option, and every new post will be created in the block editor.

What’s next

After the release, we will start working on some UX improvements and visual refinements that didn’t make it in time, and any major bugs that comes up. Shortly after that we’ll also spend time adding support for the most common blocks and use cases.

Get involved

You can follow along on the Gutenberg and gutenberg-mobile Github repos, and if you have any questions or want to get involved, you can discuss here or find us in the #core-editor and #mobile rooms in Slack.

Gutenberg on Mobile

The mobile team has been looking at Gutenberg lately, and while it’s too soon to have a detailed plan, we thought we’d share an update on where we stand so far.

We want to support Gutenberg on the mobile apps. And for Gutenberg to be successful in the apps, we believe we must strive to support the full experience, and not a limited feature set. We believe Gutenberg and the concept of blocks has the potential to reshape the way people customize and extend WordPress, and the apps should be a core part of that experience. Getting this right opens up a level of extensibility on mobile that we have never been able to support with the existing plugin infrastructure.

To make this a reality, we have been experimenting with React Native the past weeks, and we keep doing research on what we’re going to need to build this. Our plan is to adapt Gutenberg to make its primitives run both on web and native platforms, then have some platform-specific components, like Aztec for RichText, or our own Media pickers.

We are still in the process of discovering what changes will be necessary, but so far we know that:

  • Blocks will have to rely on a given set of known primitives that are implemented in all platforms if they are to be mobile compatible, instead of using plain HTML.
  • We need to find a solution for styling. CSS is a given on the web, but not on mobile.
  • Blocks should not access the DOM directly, since React Native doesn’t use the DOM. There might be other JavaScript limitations.

Beyond technical limitations, Gutenberg and block developers will have to consider that their UI will run on different platforms and screen sizes, and use a design that works across all of them. We’ll hopefully provide a tool set to help block developers make their blocks mobile compatible.

There are still a lot of unknowns, but we are very excited about this project, and its potential to bring the apps closer to core and allow for much more customization than is possible today.

You can expect to see some discussion happening on the Gutenberg and gutenberg-mobile Github repos, and we’ll make another post here once we have a clearer roadmap. If you have any questions or want to get involved, you can discuss here or find us in the #core-editor and #mobile rooms in Slack.