Using Block Templates with Gutenberg

Block templates are one of my favorite new features in Gutenberg. You can specify a list of blocks that automatically appear in the content editor, and you can customize what appears in each block by default.

You can also lock the template so no additional blocks can be added. This is a great replacement for metaboxes in many cases. You can control the content structure without sacrificing the visual editing experience. 

Block templates are currently set for an entire post type, but you will soon have more granular control to define them in page templates and other contexts.

Quick tip on implementation

I first build the page in the Gutenberg block editor. Then I add the code below to the theme, which prints out an escaped version of post_content. This shows me the blocks and parameters I need to build the block template.

I’m using ea_pp() below (code here) but you could also use print_r().

/**
 * Display Post Blocks 
 *
 */
function ea_display_post_blocks() {
	global $post;
	ea_pp( esc_html( $post->post_content ) );
}
add_action( 'wp_footer', 'ea_display_post_blocks' );

That helped me build the following block template:

'template' => array(
	array( 'core/heading', array( 'level' => '5', 'content' => 'Role' ) ),
	array( 'core/paragraph' ),
	array( 'core/heading', array( 'level' => '5', 'content' => 'Responsibilities' ) ),
	array( 'core/paragraph' ),
	array( 'core/heading', array( 'level' => '5', 'content' => 'Qualifications' ) ),
	array( 'core/list' ),
	array( 'core/heading', array( 'level' => '5', 'content' => 'Highlights' ) ),
	array( 'core/paragraph' ),
)

Which looks like this in the editor:

Post template with ads

Our client is a publisher who needs at least two ads in each post. There’s a few approaches we’ve used in the past:

  • Automatic insertion after X paragraphs. It’s simple to maintain but the ads often don’t follow the natural breaks in article.
  • Manual insertion using a shortcode. The content editor can ensure the ads work well with the content, but it’s more difficult to manage and easy to forget.

With Gutenberg, we simply pre-populate the content area with two ad blocks (built with Advanced Custom Fields) and three paragraph blocks. Content editors can then dive right into content creation around the ad units.

Here’s how you set the block template for posts:

/**
 * Block template for posts
 * @link https://www.billerickson.net/gutenberg-block-templates/
 *
*/
function be_post_block_template() {

  $post_type_object = get_post_type_object( 'post' );
  $post_type_object->template = array(
    array( 'core/paragraph' ),
    array( 'acf/ad' ),
    array( 'core/paragraph' ),
    array( 'acf/ad' ),
    array( 'core/paragraph' ),
  );
}
add_action( 'init', 'be_post_block_template' );

Testimonial block template

We feature testimonials throughout the website, and we have a Testimonial post type for managing them. In the past we would have disabled the editor and added a custom metabox on this post type to collect just the quote and byline.

With Gutenberg, we can limit the editor to just the “Quote” block. This allows the client to use the same UI for managing their blockquotes site-wide.

When registering your post type, use the template parameter to specify an array of which blocks should appear.

Including 'template_lock' => 'all' will prevent any changes to the layout. If you set 'template_lock' => 'insert' it will prevent new blocks from being inserted but still allow the writer re-arrange the existing blocks.

We’ll be featuring these quotes using the “Large” quote style in the theme, so I’ve added is-style-large to the block attributes.

<?php
/**
 * Testimonials
 *
 * @package      CoreFunctionality
 * @author       Bill Erickson
 * @since        1.0.0
 * @license      GPL-2.0+
**/

class EA_Testimonials {

	/**
	 * Initialize all the things
	 *
	 * @since 1.2.0
	 */
	function __construct() {

		// Actions
		add_action( 'init', array( $this, 'register_cpt' ) );
		add_filter( 'wp_insert_post_data', array( $this, 'set_testimonial_title' ), 99, 2 );
	}

	/**
	 * Register the custom post type
	 *
	 * @since 1.2.0
	 */
	function register_cpt() {

		$labels = array(
			'name'               => 'Testimonials',
			'singular_name'      => 'Testimonial',
			'add_new'            => 'Add New',
			'add_new_item'       => 'Add New Testimonial',
			'edit_item'          => 'Edit Testimonial',
			'new_item'           => 'New Testimonial',
			'view_item'          => 'View Testimonial',
			'search_items'       => 'Search Testimonials',
			'not_found'          => 'No Testimonials found',
			'not_found_in_trash' => 'No Testimonials found in Trash',
			'parent_item_colon'  => 'Parent Testimonial:',
			'menu_name'          => 'Testimonials',
		);

		$args = array(
			'labels'              => $labels,
			'hierarchical'        => true,
			'supports'            => array( 'editor' ),
			'public'              => true,
			'show_ui'             => true,
			'show_in_rest'        => true,
			'publicly_queryable'  => false,
			'exclude_from_search' => true,
			'has_archive'         => false,
			'query_var'           => true,
			'can_export'          => true,
			'rewrite'             => array( 'slug' => 'testimonial', 'with_front' => false ),
			'menu_icon'           => 'dashicons-format-quote',
			'template'            => array( array( 'core/quote', array( 'className' => 'is-style-large' ) ) ),
			'template_lock'      => 'all',
		);

		register_post_type( 'testimonial', $args );

	}


	/**
	 * Set testimonial title
	 *
	 */
	function set_testimonial_title( $data, $postarr ) {
		if( 'testimonial' == $data['post_type'] ) {
			$title = $this->get_citation( $data['post_content'] );
			if( empty( $title ) )
				$title = 'Testimonial ' . $postarr['ID'];
			$data['post_title'] = $title;
		}

		return $data;
	}

	/**
	 * Get Citation
	 *
	 */
	function get_citation( $content ) {
		$matches = array();
		$regex = '#<cite>(.*?)</cite>#';
		preg_match_all( $regex, $content, $matches );
		if( !empty( $matches ) && !empty( $matches[0] ) && !empty( $matches[0][0] ) )
			return strip_tags( $matches[0][0] );
	}
}
new EA_Testimonials();

There’s no need for writers to include a post title for these quotes, but WordPress’  auto-generated titles weren’t very descriptive.  I’m using the wp_insert_post_data filter to modify the post title to match the value in <cite>. If there is no byline, it sets the title to “Testimonial {ID}”

I don’t like parsing HTML for this data, but it works given the simple content structure. For more advanced layouts I recommend using something like Gutenberg Object Plugin to save the Gutenberg data as an array in the database so you can access it easier.

Nested Templates

You can create nested block templates using container blocks. For instance, here’s an example from the Templates section of the Gutenberg Handbook.

$template = array(
    array( 'core/paragraph', array(
        'placeholder' => 'Add a root-level paragraph',
    ) ),
    array( 'core/columns', array(), array(
        array( 'core/column', array(), array(
            array( 'core/image', array() ),
        ) ),
        array( 'core/column', array(), array(
            array( 'core/paragraph', array(
                'placeholder' => 'Add a inner paragraph'
            ) ),
        ) ),
    ) )
);

Bill Erickson

Bill Erickson is a freelance WordPress developer and a contributing developer to the Genesis framework. For the past 14 years he has worked with attorneys, publishers, corporations, and non-profits, building custom websites tailored to their needs and goals.

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Comments

  1. Merrill says

    Hi Bill. I am wondering if you have tried putting a reusable block into a template for a custom post?
    I have tried this and while it appears to work fine and I can publish the post, when I edit, I receive the message “Block has been deleted or is unavailable.” This means I must remove and re-add the block. Just as an aside, if I edit and save the reusable block, it will work correctly.

    Do you have any ideas about this? I am including a code snippet in case I am missing something obvious:

    ‘template’ => array(
    array( ‘core/block’, array(
    ‘ref’ => ‘547’,

    ) ),
    array( ‘core/paragraph’, array(
    ‘placeholder’ => ‘Add Bio…’,
    ) ),
    array( ‘core/block’, array(
    ‘ref’ => ‘353’,

    ) ),
    ),

    Thanks

    • Bill Erickson says

      No, I have not tried using reusable blocks in a template. It seems potentially unstable since the reusable blocks are created/managed in the database and could be removed at any time.

    • Bill Erickson says

      Here’s an article I wrote on Core Functionality plugins, which is what you (and the article you linked to) are describing.

      It’s a custom plugin that holds your site-specific code that is not theme-dependent, so doesn’t belong in the theme. Anything customizations you would expect to keep after changing themes belongs in a core functionality plugin.

  2. Brian DiChiara says

    Bill… You’re the best. Also @Merrill, thank you for the reusable block code. Y’all are awesome!

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