Five Drupal 6 WYSIWYG Editors Reviewed
I reviewed 5 WYSIWYG editor modules for drupal 6: FCKEditor, TinyMCE, WYMeditor, jwysiwyg, HTMLBox. The latter three aren't yet mature, so I saved the in depth reviews for the big guys, tinyMCE and FCKeditor. Truth be told, I decided to have low expectations, and rated these modules against the following:
- The plugin is free and doesn't require you to subject yourself to all sorts of nonsense marketing emails to download (sorry xstandard lite, and EditOnPro)
- It works
- It works without JS or PHP errors
- It takes me more than 30 seconds of dummy testing before i screw up its html tags (this is a ritual where I hit the return, and delete keys a lot, select, copy and paste, change cursor location, and basically stress test it against how people actually write.
- The module authors themselves don't warn against using the editor on a production site
- Minimized the number of steps required to get the module working.
I tested these modules with drupal 6.4.
Before plunging into the abyss, a shout out is in order for a certain project: WYSIWYG API. This project is taking on the extremely unsexy, and unfun problems that any WYSIWYG js script is going to run into when included into a drupal page. Their roadmap is ambitious, maybe more ambitious than it needs to be.
If you're frustrated with WYSIWYG editors in drupal, I urge you to show solidarity with Daniel Kudwien (sun) and Nathan Haug (quicksketch) efforts. Regardless of whether you agree with particular decisions (i'm on the fence about the fact that it doesn't come with a single working WYSIWYG editor), I think we can all agree its in drupal's best interest to organize community efforts to make the the platform more friendly to WYSIWYG editors as a whole. I hope maintainers of a WYSIWYG modules will let these guys do work for them, instead of fighting them. A sign of to the difficulty of this problem is seen in how many previous maintainers this project has.
Tested: tinymce 6.x-1.1-dev
JS: version 188.8.131.52
VERDICT: Once configured, its a solid editor. Recommended for consultants who want to pad their hours with long, byzantine configuration steps. Is likely to make new users hate drupal.
I click on the recommended release for drupal 6, and immediately read:
First functioning version of TinyMCE for Drupal 6. Still has issues. Not recommended for a production site.
At least they've covered their ass...
I pretended to be one of the odd sorts who read instructions, and downloaded the tinyMCE files into the module. Since nothing happens to my node forms afterwords, I go to the module settings page where it immediately orders me to create "a profile". Sir! yes sir!
Though I followed its orders, it then gets angry at me (messages turn red when angry). Now it says, "You must assign at least one role with the 'access tinymce' permission before creating a profile." (I think it was calling me stupid.) This is one bossy module. Why does setting up a WYSIWYG editor require me to make so many decisions, and fill out so many forms anyhow? Whatever. I'll play along.
So I check off permissions for "authenticated user", and mosey my way back to the tinyMCE settings page. The message box is back to being colored green. Good. Its still bossy as ever, but at least it isn't angry with me. I click "create new profile".
Now, I'm at a multi sectioned form. I'm asked what ISO-639-2 language code I'm using, "EN" sounds safe... I guess... Do I want to "annoy and prod safari users". "Is there a group of people who like bothering safari users?". I wonder..
The "buttons and plugins" section of tinyMCE represents everything I hate about this module, and even drupal as a whole.
Apart from the terrifying number of options, total randomness of their order, and the fact that there's only 6 or so I need to check in this puddle of vomit, the names of these checkboxes are question begging. What's the difference between "fontselect – font", and "fontselect"? What's a bullist? Are the numlists the sworn enemies of the bullists? Or are they sects that peacefully coexist? What on earth could "movebackward " do? Or is that same as "undo"? The list goes on...
I just wanna test the thing. Considering the ordeal of configuration, I'm presently surprised by what I find. Performs rock solid.
Module version: 6.x-1.3-rc1
VERDICT: Best in class. Not perfect, but it at least passed every one of my review's 6 points. It works as soon as you download the JS library, the module's personality is polite, and the selection of options are decent.
Note: See FredCK's [FredCK as in FCKeditor] post on drupal groups about the overhauls he planned last March. That must be why it feels like a totally different editor.
Back in 2004, I first tired using this plugin. Its strange behavior actually ended up making a client scream (true story).
So I install it, and then see if it lets me know on the settings page if I have to download it. Unlike tinyMCE, its not bossy, using words like "please", instead of phrases like "you MUST".
So I download the plugin, and it alerts me that no permissions are set for it. Whatever, does it work without me having to fill out a series of long forms? To my surprise: YES!
Not only does it work, but it works pretty damn well. Sure the default interface is cluttered, and center aligning content doesn't work (who wants to change text alignment anyway?).
What turned me on to it the most was small interesting decisions in its behavior that I caught, for example if I have an unordered list, hit return twice, it assumes I meant to end the list. That's evidence that the authors have put thought into how people write.
As for the module maintainers, I get a feeling they've been putting some love into this module.
Perhaps its unfair to compare tinyMCE with FCKeditor, since FCKeditor is now in RC1 for drupal six, where as tinyMCE is still stuck in dev (released March 08). Regardless, tinyMCE used to be the king of drupal wysiwyg editors; FCKeditor has picked up the crown off the floor.
Verdict: its broken.
Doesn't work. Has a settings page -- doesn't change anything. Options page returns a curious access denied message. Configuring user permissions has no effect. No errors, just doesn't work.
Verdict: promising, but needs more time and effort.
Philosophically, this is my favorite editor. Its main issues are a custom input format that gets applied automatically at install (worries me), and the bizzare decision of the js file's author to put a right hand sidebar in the editor. Also causes PHP errors, and exhibits unpredictable behavior in various circumstances.
Painless setup, but the WYSIWYG area's behavior needs a lot of work that is outside the module maintainers control. Its way too easy to mess up simple paragraph tags, if you stress test it.
Note leave a comment or contact me if I made a mistake or feel that I was unfair, etc. I reviewed these editors while rather grumpy.