New Discussions Editor (HTML)

May 10, 2008 at 6:23 AM


Could we have a choice between normal wiki markup and the new HTML editor when posting in the discussions area?  Personally, I like the way it was much better - having only a text box.  Here's a few reasons why:

  1. The response time is extremely slow in the new editor.  It's sluggish while typing and selecting text, so much so that it's actually annoying.  (IE7)
  2. Due to the volatile nature of editing text in a browser, I often copy and paste what I'm writing into notepad on occasion.  Now, I have to switch to HTML view in order to preserve the formatting when I copy my work periodically, and then switch back to continue editing.  Actually, a toolbar button that would copy the raw markup (wiki or HTML) into the clipboard would be a great feature to have in either editor.
  3. Wiki markup is much easier to write than HTML.  It's quicker and cleaner.  And I actually prefer it over the WYSIWYG editor (I guess I'm just a minimalist :)
  4. It's not clear how to add wiki links anymore;  e.g., I used to be able to simply type [discussion:1234], which was quick and easy.  Is that still possible somehow?  If not, that's a major feature I'm going to miss.
  5. The link manager is painfully slow and I feel that it's overkill (although I guess I don't have to use it ;)
  6. Having the ability to use several different fonts and font sizes is just going to make the forums more confusing without adding much value.  That's the way it is in forums that I've used.  For example, the MSDN forums is always a mess when it comes to font styles and sizes.  i.e., one font style and size is enough in discussions :)
  7. There doesn't appear to be any way to add code snippets.

The ability to drag a handle to expand the editor is a nice feature though.  I'd like to have that on the wiki editor.

- Dave

May 10, 2008 at 8:00 AM
Edited May 10, 2008 at 8:27 AM
I second all of the above. Personally, I dread people using the font chooser the most.

Even the use of the "design" word is a little absurd. Discussions are not PowerPoint shows. There should not be any presentational markup for discussions — only semantic.

CodePlex has had such a good start — a striking contrast to SourceForge in terms of sensibility and good taste. I sencerely hope the developers won't ruin it now.
May 10, 2008 at 1:17 PM
Edited May 10, 2008 at 1:20 PM
I am pleased to see that I am not the only one thinking that way. I especially share points 2, 3 and 7. Since this forum is mostly used by developers having a non-WYSIWYG editing experience should be OK for everybody. However, I think WYSIWYG is fine as long as it it enables me to edit the markup directly. Personally, I don't care whether this is real HTML, pseudo HTML or Wiki style markup.

However, I share davedev's opinion about arbitrary formatting in forums. The less formatting possible the better the result looks like. MSDN Forums are a good example of what you end up with when allowing different font sizes and styles.

Also, as DonReba pointed out "formatting" is kind of misleading. We want to express semantic aspects like "this is a quote", "this is a code snippet", "this is a wiki link to discussion 4711". This much more valuable than being able to expresse all the nitty gritty details of HTML formatting.

All in all I would like the new feature to be removed entirely. Making HTML editing does not add much value at all. The preview functionality of the Wiki version was a bit slot but it provided us with a kind-of-WYSIWYG experience.
May 10, 2008 at 11:24 PM
It seemed pretty logical that a WYSIWYG editor would make sense for the discussion forums, but maybe there's more to think about on this.  We'd definitely like to hear more from people (even if it's "me too's").  Are there people who like the new editor?

Code snippets you should just be able to cut and paste into the editor.  With the wiki editor you needed a special code tag to prevent your code snippet from getting interpreted as wiki markup and getting formatted in strange ways, but that problem doesn't apply with a wysiwyg editor.
May 11, 2008 at 1:28 AM
Edited May 11, 2008 at 5:20 AM

Good to see you here. :)

Copying code has not been a problem at any programming forum I visit regularily. RSDN forums have a number of tags for code, such as [c#][/c#] and [haskell][/haskell]. Everyone uses them, even new users. It is very convenient. Has copying code been so much more problematic at the MSDN forums or CodePlex that presentational markup was chosen?

May 12, 2008 at 4:34 AM
Edited May 12, 2008 at 4:36 AM
Hi jwanagel,

Thanks for the reply.

I figured that one of the reasons for the WYSIWYG editor was to help prevent accidental formatting mistakes from non-wiki-aware posters, but I don't think that's a good reason at all.  That would include accidental wiki processing in code snippets.  A much better solution, IMO, would have been to add a check box that allows posters to explicitly enable wiki formatting.  If it's off by default, but saves my preference for later use, that should reduce the amount of issues to 0 (excluding posts by those people curious enough to enable formatting without fully understanding it).

I'd also like to add that I think the editor is a regression in terms of speed.  I use the discussions area a lot, and I feel very limited now in terms of what I can express semantically, as the other posters in this thread mentioned, so I find myself doing more work to express myself (e.g., code snippets, links to project pages) and ultimately spending more time on each post.  Wiki links and macros are much simpler - I don't even need to take my two hands off of the keyboard to use them in many cases.  If you add in to the mix the extreme sluggishness of the editor and the fact that I'm a fast typist, I'm finding this new editor experience to be typical of online forums where as previously I felt that CodePlex's wiki forums was exceptional.

BTW, the spell check thing is pretty cool though, but since I have a browser Add-In already, losing the AJAX spell checker is certainly a sacrifice that I'd be willing to make to go back to the wiki editor.

Full disclosure:  I absolutely despise online editors.  Countless times I've lost a lot of work due to focus issues and accidentally pressing the Backspace key in IE7, not to mention postback and website errors.  What I'd really like to see is for a website to come up with a durable solution to online posting.  Perhaps a job for Silverlight?  :)

- Dave

P.S. Please don't add emoticons.

P.P.S. After using the AJAX spell checker, as I was preparing to submit this post, I lost the ability to use any of the tools (they were all disabled) and I couldn't click the HTML view.  The browser showed that there was a JavaScript error in the status bar.  This prevented me from quickly backing up my post in case of a submission failure (since I wanted to preserve formatting and simply paste it into notepad.)

Rant: This is exactly the kind of thing that I'm talking about.  Websites are just not meant for data entry - I'm still waiting for the day that people will start accepting this fact.  In the mean time, I hope that CodePlex will jump off of the cool dynamic online WYSIWYG HTML editor band wagon and opt back in for a better solution.
May 13, 2008 at 5:26 PM
I think the lack of more replies to this discussion should be considered an argument against the new editor. ^_^
Jun 10, 2008 at 10:25 PM

Was this change why I no longer have a "Make a work item out of this" link on my discussions forum?  If so, I vote three times to go back to the previous code :-)

DonReba wrote:
I think the lack of more replies to this discussion should be considered an argument against the new editor. ^_^

Jul 18, 2008 at 1:51 AM
Edited Jul 18, 2008 at 3:30 AM
I agree with everything in the first post and would like to see mark-up at least an option (and I would never use HTML)

I have to say, I really don't like the HTML editor because when I write a post, I mainly need to highlight code in certain ways (with a box etc) , and now the code markup is gone {{}}, it's actually harder to achieve this. I feel that we've lost functionality and it now takes longer to respond in discussions.

Please correct me if I've missed something, but to highlight code with the HTML editor the way that I want (with a box around it etc), I now have to:

- find a previous post (when markup was still available) copy the resulting HTML, switch to HTML editor and paste in - eg <div border="dotted" font="Tahoma;Consola;width="454;bla=bla;fjdk=fjkdf"</div> etc ...

PS just to make it worse, the HTML didn't even work while I posted this - I added some HTML to make the word "code" a bigger font-size, it looked right in the editor, but then when I post, it's gone.
Jul 18, 2008 at 7:59 AM
The description of the editor says that many users have requested it, yet there is not an issue in the tracker nor a discussion thread asking for it.
Jul 29, 2008 at 6:45 AM
You're right, the rich text editor did not have many users asking for it.  I have updated the referenced description accordingly.

I understand your complaints, but the rich text editor does a few things for us that we can't get another way, so we're still trying to determine how best to resolve things.  Here are some things we gain from the new editor:
  • The biggest one is our mailing list integration.  E-mail editors obviously only support HTML or plain text, so without HTML support the e-mail users would have to be forced to use plain text only which would work poorly if they wanted to include things like links or code samples in their message.
  • New users find a WYSIWYG editor easier to learn.  People were regularly cutting and pasting code into their messages without being aware of the wiki markup and so their code would get rendered as markup making their message display incorrectly.  Similar problem with people trying to put links into their messages.  With the rich text control that's not a problem.
  • People can cut & paste links, rich text, or code from various sources (Visual Studio, Internet Explorer, Word, etc) and retain colors and formatting.

I've been trying to think of some possibilities here, because I don't see reverting back as a viable option.  What about us supporting both editors and letting users decide which one they want to use?  We could potentially do that by letting you use the Wiki editor and when you save your message it will store it as HTML.  We could also store the original Wiki markup version in case you want to edit and re-save your message.  The only thing I'm not sure how to solve is when you click the "reply" link which quotes a message, since we can't convert the quoted message to Wiki from HTML.  Do people actually need the "reply" feature?  I occasionally see it used (like with Jay's post above) but even when I see it used I'm not sure the quoted part is particularly useful.  If it's not a useful feature then cutting it would be an easy way to solve that part of the problem.

Jul 29, 2008 at 7:02 AM
A few other things I forgot to mention.

In response to Jay's question about the "Convert to work item" link, we did remove it, but it was unrelated to the new editor.  We did a query and found that only something like ten people (including Jay) had ever used that feature in the history of CodePlex so we decided to cut it.  We're trying to avoid feature bloat with the site by keeping an eye out for rarely used features and removing them.  Is the "Convert to work item" feature important to have?

I can see that code formatting is a problem with the new editor.  We expected people mostly would simply want to cut & paste, but if looking to specially format the code beyond cut & paste then we don't have easy support for that but is something we can probably integrate into the new editor.

Also, I don't know if you noticed but we did remove the font and font size UI from the rich text editor.
Jul 29, 2008 at 9:17 AM

You make very good points. With font face and size settings removed, I find nothing to complain about. To be honest, I am awed by how reasonable this site's development is.

Converting Wiki markup to HTML, while storing it for editing seems like the perfect compromise. Except, there is the problem of whether such posts should benefit from updates to Wiki markup, such as source highlighting, or should remain static, like HTML posts. Either way some people are bound to be surprised.

Sep 4, 2008 at 2:22 PM
Edited Sep 4, 2008 at 2:26 PM
EDIT: HOLY CRAP. I just posted my reply after composing it in Outlook (to simulate pasting from an email) to test the Word HTML cleanup, and the editor doesn't do any cleanup. All the HTML showed up in the post. Please disregard the last question, because it seems the issue hasn't been resolved.

I like the ability to easily customize posts using a Wiki-like editor (had used it rarely under a different username). I like that I can atleast work with HTML; I'd probably just switch to the code view and create a font highlight. In general the editor _does_ seem slower than before.

Somewhat offtopic, jwanagel, I'm interested in implementing a similar editor for an app I'm working on. Is this one available for purchase (or even better, as a free/open-source download)? It doesn't seem to clean up the horrible Word HTML cruft - making the code view pretty much useless. Cleaned up HTML is an absolute necessity for me. I’m using TinyMCE which does this, but the quality is spotty, and in general it is a difficult app to work with. Did you get around this issue? Is this why the editor seems slower than others?

Seconding ‘no emoticons’.

Sep 4, 2008 at 2:34 PM
The editor is named in the release information for the version of CodePlex in which it was introduced. Here is the link: