October 28, 2022

Gutenberg 14.4 introduces Free Distraction mode, without distractions and redesigns the pattern inserter.

Important news for the default WordPress editor Gutenber with the new release.

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Gutenberg 14.4 was released today with the long-awaited support for distraction-free editing, better known as Editiing Free Distraction, to the delight of content editors around the world. It hides all non-essential user interface and frees up the canvas to focus on creating text-based content.

The mode can be activated in the options menu in the top toolbar. Distraction-free mode hides the toolbar at the top, all sidebars open, along with the insertion point indicator and block toolbar.

The project to improve the editing experience for textual content began with the first explorations in February, which turned into a PR that contributors have refined in recent months. This distraction-free mode is a huge improvement over the days when users struggled to type with various UI elements popping up and not showing.

Early in the Gutenberg project, contributors worked on several ways to improve the writing experience after reviewers said they found distracting and disruptive , that the concept of blocks it may not be fully compatible with the simple task of writing . The Block Editor introduced settings like Full Screen Mode, Top Toolbar, and Spotlight Mode, in part to mitigate the suboptimal writing experience.

Plugins like MRW Simplified Editor e Iceberg have attempted to bridge the gap, but that's not the same as having a basic built-in option for distraction-free writing. WordPress does so many things well, but I'd love to see it provide the best writing experience on the web, without third-party plugins.

Gutenberg contributors are back on this challenge again with one first exploration of what a drastically reduced interface might look like as a new setting to improve focus. The PR outlines the reasons for the exploration:

  • The post editor user interface is so cumbersome that it is difficult to focus. Things appear and disappear: mainly the floating block toolbar and the insertion point flash depending on where the mouse is on the screen.
  • Using the top toolbar consumes screen space.
  • Using a stripped-down interface doesn't reduce that much.
  • Writing and content creation in general can be more enjoyable on a blank canvas with little chrome to blur the line of thought.
  • Having the full power of the user interface at the push of a button (ESC) is quite simple.

Automattic-sponsored Gutenberg engineer Andrei Draganescu created a video to demonstrate what a “reduced interface” setup could look like. Specifically, this mode keeps the top editor bar hidden and prevents the block toolbar and insertion point from being displayed. It also hides the drag handle in the block toolbar and some icons in the top bar of the editor.

After some feedback, contributors agreed that it would be helpful to make the top toolbar available on hover. They also explored the possibility of detaching the panels from the top bar so that they float on the canvas.

In this mode, users familiar with keyboard shortcuts can still invoke them to bring hidden panels back to the front.

I wouldn't call it a write mode per se because for some people the best writing environment would be the default, or the toolbar at the top; for others it could be a spotlight, etc. The "stripped-down interface" (which I hope to rename "distraction-free") is more about removing the user interface from the canvas and more about working with keyboard and shortcuts.

said Matias Ventura, Gutenberg's chief architect.

Another important update in 14.4 is the redesigned pattern inserter . It has been updated to show categories before models are rendered, giving users a smoother visual preview as they browse the model library. Templates can be dragged and dropped from the preview pane into the drawing area.

Other notable improvements that users may notice include the following:

Performance benchmarks show load time improvement for both posts and site editors. Take a look at the release post to see the complete list of all changes and bug fixes included in 14.4. This version will not be included in the next release of WordPress 6.1 next week, but users eager to adopt these new features can get them right away in Gutenberg plugin .

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