Salsa Scoop> DIA Salsa Spotlight of the Day: In-Line WYSIWYG Editors

DIA Salsa Spotlight of the Day: In-Line WYSIWYG Editors

Though it seems like a minor tweak, swapping the What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) editor from the old system in favor of a better one was a long and perilous adventure.

It's all in the editor

The WYSIWYG editor of the current system is a decent little program called TinyMCE. We did not write it; instead, we grabbed it from the great farm of available open source software. Sadly, we picked something rotten. It looked shiny and it smelled pleasant, but it was not edible. Unless you were starving. At the time we chose it we were famished. The great limitations of it are known to all of our users: from the Bush Administration-type quality control that would re-write your content to the minuscule editing window on pages that used templates, TinyMCE clearly had its upbringing at the teat of Mussolini.

. Like Mussolini, we were lying when we said it made the trains run on time. We even had to go so far as to create "features" to work around the problems caused by TinyMCE. That "disable WYSIWYG editor" was so that our users would not have to suffer through it. TinyMCE brought a lot of heartache, and that was just the daily impact we would see on our support staff. TinyMCE had to go. Under the new Salsa regime it was first against the wall. But first we needed a replacement. The new editor needed to:

  • Generate really clean HTML.
  • Be lightweight. (TinyMCE was a hog dipped in butter.)
  • Clean out the crud that Microsoft Word generates.
  • Be cross-browser compliant.

A clarion call was put out for a new editor. By this I mean I turned around in our cramped office and said, "TinyMCE blows. Any suggestions?" The response was clear: "All inline editors blow." This was not encouraging, but I was not one to give up. Every, and I mean about a dozen, open source or free editors were looked at. About a half-dozen editors with a price were tested. Rumors even started that one rogue programmer in our midst had written his own editor. The story gets even weirder: said programmer has also written his own spreadsheet application, and wears a colander on his head because he is convinced that Google is stealing all of his ideas. These were scary times. Then I discovered KTML. KTML from our friends in Romania was a godsend. Sure it cost, but it was slick and it met all of our requirements. And as a bonus they had a JSP version. Being a JSP shop this sounded good. In June 2006 we made the plunge to KTML. Happiness, briefly, reigned. Around December, our intrepid developer Erin pinged the KTML support team. In the past they generally would respond in a day or so. This time, silence. She pinged them again. The silence extended into January. Was Romania invaded? Was KTML a front for an eastern European drug syndicate? Nope. Adobe bought them. Then, Adobe summarily executed KTML for JSP. I felt dirty, alone and I panicked. AHHHHHHHHHHH. Salsa was already in an early form of its public beta at this time. Some of you even used it with KTML. Do we stick with the devil we know in TinyMCE or do we start our hunt anew? Testosterone flowed and the hunt began again. From our past crusades we knew where to look and quickly narrowed the field down to one: FCKEditor. Its name is odd, but its form is elegant. (Or as elegant as an inline editor can get.) It generates XHTML-compliant code, it's lightweight, Microsoft's mucus-laden babel is easily tackled and it works across a variety of browsers. From first glance it seemed great. Then, as we began to install it, it made us smile. When we opened its image library function we fell in love. And this is how we came to love the editor with the seemingly offensive name. Deus ex machina.

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Browser compatibility?

FCKeditor is completely incompatible with Safari or Opera. I favor TinyMCE because it's marginally compatible with Opera and Safari. While I find the number of Opera and Safari users is relatively small (maybe 8-10% combined), they are a rather vocal minority.

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