[development] rich text editor

Sean Robertson seanr at ngpsoftware.com
Mon Feb 4 18:40:57 UTC 2008

I use WYSIWYG editors on my sites, but as a designer, I absolutely hate 
having to.  The reason why is that one, they don;t work well, often 
producing crap code, and two, they allow the end user control over 
appearance in ways that I don't think them well enough trained to 
deserve. ;-)

The first problem most often manifests itself when users past directly 
from Word into the editor rather than using the Paste From Word feature 
in TinyMCE or any similar feature in the others.  Word produces crap 
code, but the users don't know that, and no matter how much we try to 
train them, they still don't use the correct paste function.  CTRL+V in 
the editor window should be caught and automatically mapped to that 
Paste From Word function.  Furthermore, the editor needs to do a better 
job of cleaning up code before sending it to the server regardless - it 
should simply not allow me to enter malformed code.

The second is one of aesthetics.  We've all seen idiots put bold 
underlined text in word docs that isn't linked or meant to be.  Then 
there are all the people who insist on using at least three fonts in a 
page.  Anyone using any of my sites will note I've disabled the 
underline and color buttons as well as all the font and size drop downs, 
allowing only the basic bold, left and right align, link, unlink, image 
and paste from word buttons, and the format select element (they can 
make something an H3 if they want to use my style for that, but they 
can't change the font manually unless they know HTML).

Any solution in code would need to address both of those concerns for 
me.  I'm very picky about producing standards compliant code and I don't 
want my editor making it easier for clients to screw that up than it 
needs to be.  It's telling that when CNET.com did a standards compliance 
survey of 1000 US political sites two years ago, one of my sites was in 
the only 31 that passed, and it was the only one of my sites that the 
clients hadn't updated content on yet. :-/

Walt Daniels wrote:
> I don't understand the mindset of developers who object to rich text.
> Developers should be developing what the end users want. They overwhelming
> want to not learn html, but use something as simple to use as Word or
> OpenOffice. I would much rather have an RTE generating html than someone who
> doesn't know html. The RTE has a much greater probability of generating
> reasonable html than most users. Yes, I let lots of users who are not
> professional web developers enter information. If they do something really
> gross, I go in and fix it. I do not have the time to hold their hands or do
> what they can do because they know the content.
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Sean Robertson
Web Developer
NGP Software, Inc.
seanr at ngpsoftware.com
(202) 686-9330

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