TinyMCE for Plone: A quick review

I’m very excited about Products.TinyMCE, the new add-on product for Plone by Rob Gietema of Four Digits that integrates TinyMCE, the popular open-source graphical HTML, into Plone.

Background: Since Plone 2.1, released in 2006, Plone has shipped with an excellent graphical HTML editor called Kupu.  Kupu was a mature, capable product long before TinyMCE was a glimmer in its developers’ eyes, and Plone’s “batteries included” approach to bundling a high quality, cross-platform graphical editor is still a solid differentiating factor.

Of course, this being open-source, some people prefer alternative graphical editors.   There’s long been a decent integration of the unfortunately-named FCKEditor.  And the crew at OpenPlans have wrangled Xinha into Plone as well.  But, in my opinion, there’s never been a competitor to Kupu that equalled its features and improved on its usability.  Until now.

Here’s what I particularly like about Products.TinyMCE:

  • It gets the “Link” drawer right.  Kupu has two separate drawers, one for internal (inside your site) links, and one for external links.  That’s confusing and awkward for users.  TinyMCE combines these into a single drawer, and raises Kupu by adding point-and-click support for mailto: and https: links and control over whether links open a new window.  The overall design of the drawer is a lot cleaner and it feels a lot more responsive.
  • Similarly, Product.TinyMCE’s “Image” drawer is also a nice improvement.  Its features are basically equivalent to Kupu’s, although its support for image captioning is a bit cleaner.
  • Product.TinyMCE’s support for creating and editing HTML tables is pretty solid.  This was always a weak area for Kupu, and a very difficult task for any graphical HTML editor.
  • Products.TinyMCE handles Flash embedding in a clean and user-friendly way.  Flash embedding is possible in current versions of Kupu, but often feels a bit awkward and unreliable.
  • TinyMCE is a lot easier to extend with custom code than Kupu.  At least that what David Glick tells me.  ;-)

Nothing is perfect, though.  Here are a few areas where Products.TinyMCE is not quite up to Kupu’s high standard.  Some I know are already on Rob’s list, so I’m hoping to see them in the next release soon. :-)

UPDATE: TinyMCE 1.1RC is out, and addresses most of my suggestions below, except for Plone 2.x support. Try it, it rocks.

  • Search support in the Image and Link drawers.  Kupu lets you search your site content in the insert Image and Link drawers.  That’s an incredibly powerful and useful feature, and it’s not there in Products.TinyMCE.  I know it’s high on Rob’s to-do list, so I’m sure this oversight will be remedied soon.
  • Kupu has a nice feature where you can link directly to an anchor tag in a page your Plone site.  Products.TinyMCE can link to an anchor within the current page, but not to an anchor on another page.  This is not a feature I use often, but it can be handy.
  • Kupu has a nice feature for automatically assigning anchor tags to heading styles, and managing them.  Products.TinyMCE doesn’t seem to have equivalent functionality.   Again, this is not a very frequently used feature, IMHO.
  • Kupu works with both Plone 2.x and Plone 3; Products.TinyMCE only works with Plone 3.  That’s probably not a deal-breaker, but worth noting if you’re thinking about a switch.
  • There’s a “save” button to save your draft without leaving edit mode; it works, but there’s no visual feedback to the user.

We’re about to start testing Products.TinyMCE with some of our users, to see if, like us, they think it’s more pleasant and powerful than Kupu.  If that pans out, we’ll likely start rolling it out across our Plone 3 projects.

And, one more thing…

One thing that would really help deployment of Products.TinyMCE on exisitng sites would be a script that could be triggered by a site administrator that would walk through all users and change their preferred editor to TinyMCE (or change it back to Kupu).  This could allow site admins to roll out a new editor without having to ask every user to manually change their preferences.   That would be a really great convenience that could really boost adoption.

My favorite Obama quote

“With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet.”

- President Barack Obama, Inaugural Address

Wow, he just drew a parallel between climate change and nuclear war.  And you know what, he’s right.  Both are fundamental, existential threats.

I’m so happy to have an administration that understands this and will act accordingly.

links for 2009-01-21

  • Michael Delli Carpini, a scholar of civic life and the dean of the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication, has noted, "Civic engagement has become defined as the one-on-one experience of working in a soup kitchen, clearing trash from a local river or tutoring a child once a week. What is missing is an awareness of the connection between the individual, isolated problems these actions are intended to address and the larger world of public policy." To enshrine what is in effect institutionalized volunteerism in a federal program could very well end up merely reinforcing the idea that acts of kindness, random or not, rather than governmental action, are the solution to society's ills.

ImageEditor 1.0 for Plone is out

Nathan Van Gheem has put out a 1.0 release candidate of ImageEditor, his fantastic image editing add-on product for Plone.  ImageEditor implements a slick, easy-to-use image editor inside of Plone.  ImageEditor lets Plone users quickly and easily resize, crop, sharpen and compress images they’ve uploaded without Photoshop.

A short screencast is worth a thousand words of description, so here you go: ImageEditor in 2 minutes.

Thanks, Nathan, for all the work you’ve put into making ImageEditor rock!  I can’t wait to start using it with all of our sites.