Here’s how to get rid of WordPress’s Block Editor and get the good editor back


So I have to skip my planned post for right now, in favor of good news for WordPress bloggers. I apologize for the insular nature of this, but, it’s news worth sharing.

This is how to dump the Block Editor and get the classic, or ‘good’, editor back. WordPress’s ‘Classic Editor Guide’ explains that you go to your — not your blog’s — account settings. That would be https://wordpress.com/me/account. Under ‘Account Settings’ look for the ‘Interface Settings’ section. There’s a toggle for ‘Dashboard appearance’. Click it to ‘Show wp-admin pages if available’, and save that setting. There! Now you have the usable editor again.

Here’s what it looks like:

Screenshot of https://wordpress.com/me/account showing the Account Settings / Interface Settings section. A red ellipse outlines the 'Show wp-admin pages if available' toggle.
There it is! ‘Show wp-admin pages if available’ and if they ever stop being available, I’m out of here.

Now for how I came to this knowledge.

About two months ago WordPress pushed this update where I had no choice but to use their modern ‘Block’ editor. Its main characteristics are that everything takes longer and behaves worse. And more unpredictably. This is part of a site-wide reorganization where everything is worse. Like, it dumped the old system where you could upload several pictures, put in captions and alt-text for them, and have the captions be saved. And somehow the Block Editor kept getting worse. It has two modes, a ‘Visual Editor’ where it shows roughly what your post would look like, and a ‘Code Editor’ where it shows the HTML code you’re typing in. And this past week it decided anything put in as Code Editor should preview as ‘This block has encountered an error and cannot be previewed’.

It’s sloppy, but everything about the Block Editor is sloppy. There is no guessing, at any point, what clicking the mouse will do, much less why it would do that. The Block Editor is a master class in teaching helplessness. I would pay ten dollars toward an article that studied the complex system of failures and bad decisions that created such a bad editor.

This is not me being a cranky old man at a web site changing. I gave it around two months, plenty of time to get used to the scheme and to understand what it does well. It does nothing well.

For example, if I have an article and wish to insert a picture between two paragraphs? And I click at the space between the two paragraphs where I want the picture? There are at least four different things that the mouse click might cause to happen, one of them being “the editor jumps to the very start of the post”. Which of those four will happen? Why? I don’t know, and you know what? I should not have to know.

In the Classic Editor, if I want to insert a picture, I click in my post where I want the picture to go. I click the ‘Insert Media’ button. I select the picture I want, and that’s it. Any replacement system should be no less hard for me, the writer, to use. Last week, I had to forego putting a picture in one of my Popeye cartoon reviews because nothing would allow me to insert a picture. This is WordPress’s failure, not mine.

With the latest change, and thinking seriously whether WordPress blogging is worth the aggravation, I went to WordPress’s help pages looking for how to get the old editor back. And, because their help pages are also a user-interface clusterfluff, ended up posting this question to a forum that exists somewhere. And, wonderfully, musicdoc1 saw my frustrated pleas and gave me the answer. I am grateful to them and I cannot exaggerate how much difference this makes. Were I forced to choose between the Block Editor and not blogging at all, not blogging would win.

I am so very grateful to musicdoc1 for this information and I am glad to be able to carry on here.

If you are one of the WordPress programmers behind the Block Editor, first, shame on you, and second, I am willing to offer advice on how to make an editor. First bit of advice: it should be less hard than using a scrap of metal to carve a message into Commander Data’s severed head for recovery 500 years in the future. There’s more that’s necessary, but get back to me when you’ve managed that at least.

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

16 thoughts on “Here’s how to get rid of WordPress’s Block Editor and get the good editor back”

    1. I am so very glad to be able to offer this and I hope everyone can benefit.

      I know nothing about why the change. From what I know about software development, my generic guess is something like this: after having a couple years’ experience with the WordPress technology and tens of thousands of blogs using it, they got a better understanding of how to store blog data for efficient storage and presentation. So they rejiggered the internal databases to store things that way. But then you need a layer of code that translates the stuff people write in into the internal-storage method. And the more kinds of things people might put in — text, images, sound files, movies, polls, et cetera — the more complicated that translation is.

      So probably at some point the translation code got patched together and complicated enough that it was too difficult to maintain. So the response would be to get people to enter their blogs in a way that more closely matches the internal storage. This makes for easier and more maintainable translation code. But then you have the problem that old users have this system they like, and that they’ll change away from only if the new method is clearly better in at least one way. And since the Block Editor method, whatever its benefits for data storage are, is clearly not better, the only way to get people over is to push them over.

      And, you know, I grant that people tend to be inertia-driven, and to reject any site redesign as a matter of instinct. Even if something new is better, they don’t want to relearn something just for the sake of relearning it. At some point you do have to push people onto the new site, especially if the old one has bugs or security holes that can’t be reasonably repaired. But, gads, you have to do that well. You have to have things that are now much easier, or suddenly possible, to make the new design enticing.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I hadn’t thought about whether the Block Editor was better for storage and retrieval. I figured they were just trying to reach all the people who didn’t like using HTML. Seems like so often people try to make their system “easier” to use and end up making life more difficult for those of us who actually use it.

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        1. I don’t know anything about their actual motives. I’m just making guesses based on what kinds of reasons I would have for writing a system like the Block Editor, based on my own modest experience on projects and the point where I decide to throw the old out and build a new.

          I understand wanting to keep the worse details of HTML away from people, and even more so if they’ve worked up their own XML that can handle text and images and movies and polls and whatever else in a way that makes sense to them. But the Block Editor just goes so wrong, so much of the time. The one thing I’ve heard that it does well is make it easy to relocate a block, if it’s in the wrong place. But I rarely have that problem and don’t see how the cut-and-paste routine that I know from thirty years of word processors isn’t a good way to handle that instead.

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  1. Oh god, block editors are so terrible and I wish every blogging platform would stop moving to them. My previous company’s main product for publishers was a block editor which was atrocious.

    Honestly I’d much rather see blogging platforms just provide a Markdown input field and maybe a WYSIWYG frontend (or at least live preview) to that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just can’t work out how a block editor is supposed to be easier to write in than a WYSIWYG editor. I can imagine, at least, that the blocks make for more efficient coding stuff behind the scenes. But I also tend to figure it’s the software’s job (within reason) to take what’s convenient for me and make it convenient for the computer. I just have not seen what problem I might have that the blocks make simpler for me.

      Also WordPress’s Block Editor is such a disaster in needless things too. Like, just scheduling a date and time for a post is a mess. How can anyone screw up ‘pick a date and enter a time’? They manage!

      Like

  2. I was also shocked when they hid wpadmin, and I chatted with WP support to learn about the secret config option :-) Hopefully, this option will survive! I am importing the contents of my blog also to my “archive” website … and this runs on my self-written static site generator, and it uses the WP backup xml files as input. I don’t want to tweak my parser!

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    1. I am doing everything in my meager powers to keep this intact. I might make a copy on my actual static web site that doesn’t have any other particular use right now.

      I hadn’t thought to get a full WordPress backup like that although it’s a good idea. I have basically all my posts saved locally from when I wrote them, although those won’t include most error corrections or late edits.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. When I started creating spam poetry, I was paranoid WP might suspend my account when an algorithm thinks that I am a spammer :-) So I routinely take backups ;-) BTW, the export tool is another feature that was difficult to spot after the editor change, even with “wpadmin” switched on again.

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        1. Oh, now, I hadn’t thought of the hazards of your Spam Poetry section. That does seem like it would get WordPress’s filters all nervous. Shall need to get some decent backups of my writing, and comments; thank you.

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  3. Thank you. I haven’t been very active in WP for the past few years (I left work to go back to school, in math of all things!, still remember your old-time post on bijection when I got to abstract algebra). I thought that maybe it was just me who couldn’t figure out how to get consistent results with the block editor. Elke pointed me back to your blog for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Also I’m flattered that I might have a post remembered by someone who’s gotten to a class where it could be relevant. I hope it didn’t make the confusion worse.

      It is everybody who has terrible results with the Block Editor. My love has been driven crazy with the way it will sometimes eat tags if one enters them too quickly. Tags! This is typing text into a text box and it’s no good at that.

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