Gutenberg News: What’s New in Gutenberg 9.7? | January 2021

On Dec. 23, 2020, the Gutenberg team announced the release of Gutenberg 9.6. In this version, they added drag-and-drop content blocks to the page builder. 

The release of Gutenberg 9.7 occurred only two weeks later, on Jan. 6, 2021. Gutenberg 9.7 boasts several user experience improvements. They’ve expanded the drag-and-drop content blocks, which now include block patterns

Keep reading to see what’s new with these last two releases of Gutenberg.

Gutenberg 9.6 Introduces Drag-and-Drop Content Blocks

Drag-and-drop content blocks were the hallmark new feature of Gutenberg 9.6. This functionality allows users to drag blocks from the inserter panel directly onto the canvas. 

This update is likely a response to a growing number of comments from users who wanted a drag-and-drop editor. Furthermore, the new feature aligns with their goal of making it easier for anyone to create a WordPress website. 

Gutenberg 9.6 also enabled the use of vertical layouts in the button block and rearranged the popover menu for buttons. Now the link icon is more closely aligned to the actual button.

Gutenberg 9.7 Improves on Block-Building User Experience

The Gutenberg team released version 9.7 right on the heels of version 9.6. The latest version includes several improvements to the user experience and expands the functionality of drag-and-drop content blocks.

Drag-and-Drop Block Patterns 

When Gutenberg developers released drag-and-drop content blocks in version 9.6, users could not use the new function with block patterns. The team remedied this in version 9.7 

Drag-and-drop placement can now be used with content blocks and block patterns. 

Improvements to Reusable Blocks

WordPress users have long had access to reusable blocks as an easy way to create and save custom block formats. 

It seemed like the Gutenberg team had forgotten about reusable blocks while they worked on full site editing (FSE) themes and block patterns.

However, several essential user interface (UI) improvements to the reusable blocks were included with Gutenberg 9.7. 

In particular, users can now drag paragraphs outside of a reusable block and place them elsewhere on the canvas. 

The team also removed the edit/save button on the reusable block. The blocks now save when the entire page is saved. Moving block patterns to the multi-entity save flow helps solidify a more seamless editing experience for WordPress users.

The release notes indicate that developers plan to continue iterating on the code for reusable blocks to make further improvements.

Improved Block Variations Experience

WordPress users can use the block variation application programming interface (API) to create a standard block and use it as the foundation for similar versions. 

Block variations are commonly used for embedded content or links to social media platforms. 

In the latest Gutenberg update, the editor now matches the variable information on the blocks around the interface. 

For example, let’s say you add a social media icon block and enter your Twitter profile information. When you add the Twitter URL, the Twitter icon now appears on the right-hand side of the page in the “block” menu along with the title “Twitter.” 

Likewise, the breadcrumbs at the bottom of the interface will display the name of the social media platform you’re linking.

Experimenting With Custom Templates and FSE Themes

Gutenberg has been redefining the website design process by moving over from widgets to a block-based FSE approach. 

One of the main obstacles facing WordPress and Gutenberg teams includes bridging the gap between a widgets-based editor and FSE editor as they release more functions. 

In Gutenberg 9.7, the team takes one step closer to ensuring the full-functionality of FSE themes. Developers currently have an experiment running that enables the use of “custom templates” with FSE themes.

Since FSE themes use HTML, the process for adding custom templates in FSE themes is different than the approach used in classic themes. 

Developers need to add custom files such as custom.html to the block-templates folder. Second, they have to add a customTemplates property to the theme.json root level.

Once custom templates are added, they’ll appear in the sidebar’s template picker.

Last year the WordPress team reached several milestones on the road to full site editing. However, for WordPress users, this also meant frequent changes and bug fixes. 

With Gutenberg 9.7, the team finally has some breathing room to focus on creating a seamless user experience. In 2021, we expect to see more significant changes, particularly involving the FSE editor and themes. 

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Machielle Thomas
Machielle Thomas | Content Manager
Machielle Thomas writes and curates web and email content for marketing professionals, small business owners, bloggers, and more.

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