A New Editor for Wikispaces

Over the last few days we’ve been incrementally rolling out a brand new editor to everyone who uses Wikispaces. While you may not have noticed a big visual difference, a lot has changed under the hood.

This is the story of the third generation Wikispaces editor. Here at Wikispaces HQ we call this project EditorC, pronounced “edit orc.” Pay no attention to the toolbar-wielding orc to the right. He’s really quite friendly.

Earlier this year we took a hard look at our current editor. It’s a system that we largely wrote in-house over the last four years and it’s done yeoman’s duty: millions of people have used it to save tens of millions of wiki pages. However, a lot has changed in the world of web browsers since 2006 and in many regards our previous editor wasn’t keeping up with the times. We made the difficult choice to swap out the core of the editor for one based on the popular open source TinyMCE project — the same used by WordPress and thousands of other applications. Dom, Jeff, and Ryan have been hard at work on this task since then, with copious amounts of support from the rest of the Wikispaces team.

So what’s changed?

  • First, the editor looks a bit different. Here are the old and new toolbars:

  • You’ll notice two new buttons: undo and redo. More on those in a future blog post!
  • The new editor works better in more browsers. We’ve added Chrome support and greatly improved Safari support. You can find our full list of supported browsers on our help wiki.
  • A wide variety of formatting quirks and bugs have been fixed across the board.
  • We streamlined the look of the toolbar and buttons and made a dedicated area for notifications on top of the bar.
  • Warnings when someone else is editing the same page will appear below the editor toolbar rather than in a separate window at the bottom of the page.

Most importantly, the new editor provides the foundation for some jaw-dropping features to come. We hope the new editor works well for you. As always, we’d love to hear both the good and bad. Email us at help@wikispaces.com.

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  1. Steven
    Posted August 5, 2010 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    What is the timetable for all wikis to have the new editor?

  2. Posted August 5, 2010 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Hi Steven — all wikis have the new editor now.

  3. Karim
    Posted August 5, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    I think the new additions are very useful. I wish to see some new features for tables (e.g. ability to apply background color to table cells).

  4. Posted August 5, 2010 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    Hi James,
    Nice to see advancement in wiki editors — this is a longstanding sore point in general, not just on wikspaces. I realize that most folks fielding editors are using the browsers’ edit capability as a basis, and there’s only so far you can take that.

    Like Karim, I’m especially impacted by the quality of editor features relating to tables, as they are essential for creating documentation in an orderly way.

    Also like Karim, I need a way to apply background fill color to cells. I need that in virtually every table I produce.

    Additionally, as it stands, your editor doesn’t seem to be able to select multiple cells at the same time in order to apply a style (like bold) across all of them. Most other editors of this type can do that… it seems like there’s an unfortunate interaction going on between the cell selection mechanism, and the repositioning of the table icon that provides the context menu of sorts. (FWIW — this is in FF 3.6.8)

    By the way… it would be a very welcome breakthrough if your editor could simply provide a right-click context menu for relevant functions, instead of workarounds like the table icon, whose function I understand (avoids having to choose functions from the menu bar), but is nonetheless a considerable distraction while trying to edit a table in detail.

    Finally, there are various things one wants to do that I think wikitext is just too limited for. For example, nesting of tables is pretty hopeless when the markup for begin AND end of cells, rows and tables is all the same symbol. So, high on the list of things I appreciate in other environments is either that the wiki works natively in html (like google sites) or can accept inline html (not in a widget), like Confluence.

    Of course, there are reasons to like other aspects of wikispaces… why can’t someone just offer a service with the best parts of all the services combined! :-)

    — Graham

  5. Posted August 5, 2010 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    Suggestion related to inclusion of html: As long as we are obliged to insert html in a widget, is there a possibility that the widget’s appearance in the editor could be enhanced to show what it is, instead of the generic “Other widget”?

    Ideally it would render its contents in some benign way, even if just approximately.

    However, short of that, it would be useful to be able to give the widget a caption so one could see a reminder of which widget is which without having to open each one to find out.

    — Graham

  6. Posted August 7, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    If this editor is based on the same open source system as wordpress, does this mean that you are finally going to accept html tags as they do? While I understand the value of a simplified markup language, I have never quite understood why you refuse normal html (along with your own language) as the wiki language has to be translated into html for browsers anyway.

  7. Lynne
    Posted August 8, 2010 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    I’m have trouble getting the editor to open – wondering if anyone else has been having this same problem ~ When I click the edit page button on a page it “greys out” and no editor window … I’ve been emailing back and forth with someone at the help desk – nothing has changed on my computer – and it worked perfectly in June. Any ideas / suggestions??

  8. bal00071
    Posted August 10, 2010 at 3:08 am | Permalink

    i think you should b able to insert pictures and animations and thhen place them where you want to on the page.

  9. Bryce Evans
    Posted August 10, 2010 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    I’ve never had issues inserting code for Internet Explorer, but Chrome recognizes the [[code]] lines as a link.

  10. Tomas
    Posted August 10, 2010 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    The new editor might look great, but after the change, almost all my wiki edits have refused to change. I’ve tried all reasonable browsers I currently have installed, mainly Google Chrome dev, but also Safari, the latest stable Firefox and the latest Firefox beta.

    I’m pretty sure that this is all about my uploading speed, which can go from 0.01mBits/s to 0.40mBits/s during the same day. Though this saving problem didn’t occur this often before the editor change.

    I hope you guys figure out what might be causing the problem, because I am part of the management of a pretty big thing already and these problems are really a “set back”. My only guess is that the wiki edits I do actually uploads a whole lot more then just my edit, as most of my edits are reasonably small.

  11. Posted August 10, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    I Luverrr the new editor. Undo and redo- a dream come true. Thanks for always responding to this teacher’s request. You guys Rock!

  12. Posted August 10, 2010 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    You guys rock! I love wikispaces!!! More importantly, so do my students.

    I’m looking forward to using the editing improvements.

    One thought: I use Firefox and often have a hard time with “what you see is what you get” when I move from the editor to view.


    Thanks again for making the web so friendly!


  13. Marc
    Posted August 11, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to see the ability to switch to the text editor without having to use the drop-down menu.

  14. David
    Posted August 12, 2010 at 1:11 am | Permalink

    A way of controlling table width effectively would be a big improvement, and embedding a spell checker

  15. Posted August 12, 2010 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    Improvement in the buiding and design of tables would be great: column width, formatting, cell background colors…

  16. Posted August 12, 2010 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    Karim, David, Vicky, Graham – we feel your pain around table formatting. It’s a frequently-requested feature and something we plan to address. We’ll be working to split and clarify table functionality around a few discrete uses: page layout, data storage, and plain old HTML tables with better color/size controls. Page layouts are likely to come first, but we will certainly not stop there.

    Graham – I’ve logged an internal ticket about the selection issue you’ve pointed out. Thanks!

    David – Spell-check is on our list too! We’re of the belief that web browsers should do this (as do Firefox, Chrome, and Safari) but thankfully TinyMCE has some great plugins that will provide this for IE users as well.

    Jason – Please send examples to help@wikispaces.com — we’d love to fix any bugs in our WYS-ness.

  17. Posted August 14, 2010 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Olá colegas do curso Tecnologia em Educação pela PUC/RIO o que estão achando do curso e das atividades no processo de inclusão digital e desenvolvimento de habilidades com as tenologias empregadas na prática pedagógica e como ferramenta interativa e colaborativa?

  18. Posted August 14, 2010 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Caros colegas do curso de Tecnologi em Educação refletindo a respeito dos ambientes colaborativos como: Blog, Wikispaces e outros como podemos avaliar as contribuições destes ambientes no processo de construção do conhecimento de nossos alunos e com a efetividade de nossa prática pedagógica?

  19. Posted August 21, 2010 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    I have the same problem as Tomas (number 10 in the list above).
    This problem is new, it didn’t occur never with the previous edit bar.
    Can you help me? I use the wiki at school and need to edit the pages frecuently.
    I use the latest version of Mozilla.
    Thanks in advance and sorry about my english (I speak spanish)


  20. Posted August 23, 2010 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    Cecilia – Drop us an email at help@wikispaces.com with a description of what you tried and what went wrong. We’ll do our best to help!

  21. K
    Posted August 30, 2010 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    Can I echo the urgent need to improve the table editing!

    We do quite a bit of collaborative work and want to use Wikispaces pages for this … at the moment many of my users are refusing to use WikiSpaces because it is too difficult to edit!

    The new editor is a great step in the right direction … please keep up the momentum – it is vital that WikiSpaces is easy to author!

    Many thanks for considering this.


  22. Chris Bell
    Posted August 30, 2010 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    Awesome James! Thanks so much for continuing to support education in oh so many ways!

  23. Abbandon
    Posted August 30, 2010 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

    Here is another vote for improving Tables!!!! Specifically filling the entire cell of a row or column with color. Also the ability to create tables that have for example 7 columns, and then if a row has less than 7 or say only 1 column that row stretches to fit the table. So that the tables apear square/rectangular with no jagged stair-stepped edges.

    I use my wiki’s for making guides for video games and the tables allow me to display info in a very standard and clear way, and the two things above would be a huge improvement.

    Thanx for all your hard work!

  24. Posted August 30, 2010 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

    This undo / redo feature is PERFECT. Just what I, and my students need.

    Wikispaces has come a long way!

    Thanks so much.


  25. Posted August 31, 2010 at 2:17 am | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing your cute orc! I like orcs and play one in Warcraft.

    And thank you for working on the editor. While I am here:

    – If a bold text becomes a hyperlink, it becomes un-bolded with two asterisks ** from the markup visible on the page.

    – Please make tables better, in ways people already explained. When I do something with people who can read html, I can make decent tables through “other html” widget option, but it’s cumbersome.

  26. Posted August 31, 2010 at 4:40 am | Permalink

    Nice work with the custom implementation of TinyMCE. Some interesting features there.

  27. Posted August 31, 2010 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    I want the editor to be movable or to have the SAVE button on the left. I edit all day many days on a 24 inch screen with two wiki pages from the same wiki open side-by-side. I must now scroll the windows to hit SAVE. When you’ve done that 99 times in the same session you will appreciate the frustration level. Return the ability to move the edit bar or add a SAVE button on the left.

  28. Posted August 31, 2010 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    Thanks Spocke! We couldn’t have done it without your tremendous commitment to TinyMCE over the years. We are standing on the shoulders of giants.

  29. Posted August 31, 2010 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    *Printed* tables often don’t look the same on the paper page the way they look on the browser page.

  30. Alison
    Posted September 1, 2010 at 2:53 am | Permalink

    I use the tables a lot and the ability to change the background colour is useful. One suggestion, could you add some functions to the picture editing. Particularly to enable the picture to “float” like in some other software, including “Pages” by mac and “Smart Notebook” software used by teachers for their interactive whiteboards.Thanks

  31. Posted September 1, 2010 at 4:04 am | Permalink

    Would like to be able to more easily edit the logo area. Can’t add picture and text easily.

  32. Henry
    Posted September 1, 2010 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    I’ve had the same problem (#12) with what I edit and what actually displays after saving looking the same for quite some time now. While other times the editor just does not accept the edits that are “applied’. I use IE 7.

    Keep up the good work. I always look forward to improvements!

  33. Posted September 1, 2010 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    Thank goodness for the undo/redo buttons– a welcome and much-needed addition. I am still having some trouble with editing a page, i.e. when I have something formatted and want to move my cursor to the next line, it ocntinues to take the previous formatting with it. How can I avoid this? Does it occur due to the web browser I am using? Is one better for working in wikispaces than another?

  34. Bob T
    Posted September 1, 2010 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    I was hoping to see that you had implemented my suggestion to move the save button to the left of the toolbar. Unfortunately it is still on the right.

    The [Save] button should be on the left, not on the right where it easily gets hidden off the page.

    The [Save] button is THE most important button, and your placement of this button on the far right makes things difficult for the visually impaired who need to increase page font and window size.

    Your response to my suggestion a couple of months ago was in the nature of “Get over it” and was not appreciated.

    Positionin of the [Save] button on the left would not inconvenience anybody.

    If you truly want to be useful to everyone ( as is in your mission statement), you should make the commonly used and most important buttons appear on the left. Life is hard enough for people with limitations without having them ignored as irrelevant by product developers.

  35. John L.
    Posted September 2, 2010 at 1:18 am | Permalink

    I feel the same way as Karim, Marc, David, and Mike. (comment numbers 3, 13, 14, & 22) :-)

    Also, when I stop typing for a few seconds, (in the Visual Editor, or the Wikitext Editor,) it automatically scrolls to the top. This is VERY annoying. Could you turn off the auto-scroll, or at least, give us the option to turn it off?

  36. Posted September 2, 2010 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    I’ve been spending a ton of time over the last couple of weeks uploading more content to my site. I started having trouble with Firefox and was tremendously pleased when I noticed I was able to work better in my normal browser, Safari. I know that was a comment I made previously and I am happy you listened.

    Others’ comments and suggestions sound great, and would only serve to enhance this tool.

    Great job, everybody!


  37. nadra.ragab
    Posted September 2, 2010 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    It is a very nice to add undo and redo buttons thanks for this but it will be more nice and help full to add some new features to the tables like background colors pictures thank you very much

  38. Posted September 3, 2010 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    @Getsoian – it’s very high on our list!

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