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Gutenberg 12.4 Includes Accessibility Improvements, Categories Reminder, and a Tag Cloud Outline Style

Gutenberg 12.4 landed in the WordPress plugin directory earlier today. With the push to get WordPress 5.9 out the door next week, it can be easy to forget all the development behind the scenes, waiting to make its appearance in future versions of WordPress.

The latest release focuses more on polishing existing features and introducing a few nice-to-haves. Accessibility improvements are always a welcome sight. The update adds an always-available close button in the block inserter for screen readers. And, when closing the list view, the focus state moves to its button.

Some theme-related blocks have also been relocated within the inserter. Post Template, Pagination, Next Page, Previous Page, and Page Numbers were previously housed under the Design category. Now, they are appropriately under Theme.

Broken Site Editor When Opening Block Inserter

WordPress site editor. Inserter is missing its scrollbar, and the canvas has a fixed height and scrollbar of its own.
Scrollbars gone wrong in site editor.

Gutenberg 12.4 seems to introduce a new bug inside of the site editor. When opening the block inserter, its scrollbar does not appear. This creates a long list of blocks down the side of the page. The canvas area gets set to a fixed height with its own scrollbar.

This issue does not prevent inserting blocks. Nor does it make the site editor unusable. It is more of an annoyance than anything.

This creates a big usability issue. If you try to insert a block after scrolling beyond the height of the content canvas, you cannot see where it gets added until scrolling back up the page.

There are also other scrollbar-related issues. The Site Logo and Image blocks have them in the site editor, and the problem is the same for patterns in the inserter.

Thanks to Anne McCarthy for being a second set of eyes, confirming this issue, and reporting it.

Categories Added to the Pre-Publish Checklist

WordPress post editor as shown before publishing.  In the right panel, the pre-publish checklist is shown.  The highlighted area shows a tab with the suggestion of selecting a category.
Assigning a category before publishing.

Categories now have their own section in the pre-publish panel for posts. If the user has not selected one, a new tab will appear that reads, “Suggestion: Assign a category.” The user can then open it and check any they want to add to the post.

I am a fan of this addition. Even as someone who writes daily, I must routinely remind myself to select a category for my posts. Meta information like this is something I always leave to the end of the writing process, and it is nice to have a reminder. I would also welcome a featured image check.

Post Excerpt and Content Block Transforms

WordPress site editor with the Post Content block selected.  In the toolbar, the "Transform To" dropdown is open, and the Post Excerpt block is highlighted.
Transforming Post Content block to Post Excerpt.

This is one of my favorite enhancements in the Gutenberg 12.4 release. Users can now transform Post Content to the Post Excerpt block and vice versa.

One of my complaints with Automattic’s recent Livro theme was that it shows the full post content instead of excerpts on its blog and archive pages. I had to remove the Post Content block and insert Post Excerpt to change it.

This is relatively easy for someone as familiar with the site editor as me. However, some users could unintentionally put the replacement block in the wrong place and mess up their entire layout. With the ability to transform the blocks, they can do it with just a couple of mouse clicks.

Outline Style for Tag Cloud Block

WordPress post editor with a Tag Cloud inserted into the canvas.  On the right, the Outline style is selected, which adds a border around each of the tags in the cloud.
Outline block style.

The latest release adds a new Outline style for the Tag Cloud block. I have said it multiple times, but it might be worth repeating. I dislike Gutenberg adding in too many new block styles. It feels like theme territory. The core system should focus on the foundational features, and themers should extend it with custom options.

It is not that I dislike the outline design for tags. It was the first custom style I added for the Tag Cloud block when designing my own theme. However, every new block style adds some potential burden to theme authors.

One of those issues is that themes need to support it. For example, the padding used for the Tag Cloud links is too large for some theme designs. It is a hardcoded value, so designers must explicitly overwrite it to tone it down. Alternatively, they must deregister the block style if they do not want to make it available.

We need to leave some fun things for third-party developers to implement. Otherwise, themes become less and less relevant.

Paragraph Font Family Support Removed

After happily reporting font-family support for the Paragraph block in Gutenberg 12.3, it is disheartening to lose it in a mere two-week span. Developers reverted the recent change.

Andy Peatling cited a few reasons behind the decision in another ticket:

  • We should keep font family as an option if it exists, but it should not be the default for any blocks.
  • We don’t yet have a good way to add custom fonts, so it’s quite limited.
  • Once we have a better fonts API we can surface this more in blocks that are more likely to need font family changes (site title being an obvious one).

The web fonts API was slated to land in WordPress 5.9, but it was punted to a future version in November 2021. Work on the project is now ongoing within the Gutenberg repository. Until it is complete, font-family options for any new blocks will likely stall until the new API is in place.