Monday, October 23rd, 2006

Where to use WYSIWYG: Abe Fettig

Category: Presentation, RichTextWidget, The Ajax Experience

<>p>Abe Fettig works on JotSpot, which has evolved its rich text editor as new releases have come out. People have a love hate relationship with WYSIWYG, especially developers, and Abe started out there:

“I didn’t always like WYSIWYG”

He starts off redefining what most people think of WYSIWYG. It doesn’t mean Microsoft Word. vi can be WYSIWYG. If you are editing a text file you see what you are getting.

In fact this is a definition of WYSIWYG:

“EMACS was one of the very first WYSIWYG editors, replacing (actually, at first overlaying) the extremely obscure, command-based TECO.”

WYSIWYG is WYSIWYG if you do not have to imagine what the output will be.

WordPress Editor Example

Abe created a WP theme that changes the default WP behaviour for editing:

  • user comments: lightweight wysiwyg: the div it grows, url recognised. simple.
  • admin post: edit inline instead of going to the edit page in /wp-admin

Abe next went into some nuts and bolts, getting into details on document.designMode=”on”, contentEditable, and document.execCommand.

The bad news is that browsers differ a lot here, which means that if you are writing to this low level you are in for a lot of browser checking work.

Abe shows how we can build editors, but quickly warns us from doing so.

I have seen enough to know that I sure as hell do not want to write my own rich editor.

The Dojo editor was the obvious example to see how much easier it is to use an editor that is out there, versus writing your own, and we should plug it into our template at ajaxian.com.

Watch out for the following in rich components

  • Custom undo/redo stacks that work
  • Spell check: FF2 has it, gmail has it. Goal: cross browser inline spell check that works
  • Zimbra ALE: embedding rich objects in WYSIWYG using iframes
  • Advanced plain text editing: grok code and syntax

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WYSIWYG is WYSIWYG if you do not have to imagine what the output will be.

This is an interestring definition. In my experience, if a user is concered about “content”, they should not be concerned about what the output will look like. This only distracts them, and sets up a disapointment when the design team comes in and changes the styles to fit a new look-and-feel or layout. I’ve also witnessed content producers not wanting to be involved with design changes because it means the need to be invovled to rework old content (because they spent a lot of time on the non-semantic portion of it), or try to kill a redesign project so their old content doesn’t look different or needs to be updated. There needs to be more WYSISM (What You See Is Semantic Markup). In-line editing (with the target styles and layout visible during editing) would help with this, and simple wiki-like syntaxes can help record some semantics without overburdening the content producer, but proper training and separation of duties can go along way.

Comment by Andy — October 24, 2006

It seems to me that 90% of the time online WYSIWYG editing is implemented, it’s unnecessary and even causes problems. In my work, I frequently have to deal with a popular editing component made for .Net components. Any time I have to clean up a customer’s butchered page formatting or input content myself, I switch it to HTML mode. At least the outcome is more predictable that way.

Andy says: “In my experience, if a user is concered about “content”, they should not be concerned about what the output will look like.”

I agree with this. If someone wants to play with pretty custom colours and weird formatting, give him some paper and crayons.

“Goal: cross browser inline spell check that works”

I think this last item will become irrelevant. Almost all the good browsers already have spell-checking, and this is dependent on the user’s language anyway.

Comment by Paul D — October 24, 2006

qablyqliuw

vafahed xxrzsfjhu tziijmkojgw pnjduoes

Trackback by mofyfv — October 26, 2006

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