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CKEditor 4 end of life - alternative editor consideration


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Where Markdown starts to flail is for the somewhat edge-case where you're doing something in a reply that really is more detailed than simple markup. This is where it gets complicated.

Most replies in forums will have bold, italics, links, things that are fairly easy to parse - but it's when you have something that doesn't map *exactly* to the markup (or Markdown) that you have to reverse engineer it in some fashion.

Now, of course, IPS already does this when you're playing around with quoting, embedding metadata into the markup to indicate author/source of post/whatever, all the things you'd want to have in order to take that quote and springboard events off it like alerts.

There are a few things you can do about this. You can either 1) simplify the markup to simply be a mention to the author, a simple link to the post and rely on the mention to handle the notification, or 2) reinvent the kind of markup you're embedding to keep the metadata intact.

The former is what NodeBB does if memory serves, the latter is what Discourse did at least initially; at least one early adopter of Discourse referred to their markup as DiscoMarkBBcodeDown or some similar mashup because it tried to handle Markdown as its primary lingua franca, HTML for the things that Markdown couldn't do, and bbcode for meta markup that didn't align to HTML.

It also amuses me that WordPress eventually reinvented bbcode for such cases (this is, after all, what shortcode is) precisely for the cases where their editor couldn't handle it.

But then you get into the question of: how much do you *really* want to support in replies? I would make the argument that complex and rich editing for topic starters (plus cases like Pages) is very desirable, and that yes, Markdown or something like it is probably all you *actually* need for replies. But that's a value proposition that has to be weighed up against the communities that *don't* do that.

I could over in my little weird niche, find you any number of forums that have the most ridiculous and intricate snippets of raw HTML embedded into each post to make decorative frames around the content, sufficiently complex that they require to be posted as templates for users to copy/paste because you'd never use them normally, far beyond what even the usual types of bbcode support. Some of these templates are so ornate they even include user-driven animation (e.g. a decorative picture, hover over to see the content). Whether this is user friendly or not is, largely, irrelevant to outside observers; those are their customers, that is what they do, and most other forum software increasingly is just not going to support it.

But that's where we get to the value proposition: those users aren't going to be moving to IPS any time soon, and those that are... they'll accept the reduction in functionality even to align to IPS 4.5/4.6 (because there will be some for them without major dev work, I think), and probably even to Markdown - meaning that you wouldn't really lose any users this way because they weren't going to be your users anyhow. For the IPS core market on the other hand, I think it's very reasonable to suggest that, actually, Markdown represents a sufficiently robust set of core formatting that users would want.

I still wouldn't ask _us_ however because we're not the userbase at large. We are the customers, the people who pay for some flavour of the software - but we're not the vast hordes of people who _use_ it, a critical distinction a lot of forum admin places (hi TAZ) seem to forget.

Additionally, anecdotally the thoughts I've had from people who want a mobile app tend to align along 'I want notifications and a simplified editing experience' because they're likely not editing the full rich content on mobile, but replying where the Markdown-esque editing experience is sufficient.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Posted (edited)
On 5/18/2021 at 2:31 PM, Matt said:

I'd go back to plain text with Markdown.

Old School Deal With It GIF

 

One thing we do want to do is do something extra for Pages. The functions you need for most topics/replies is vastly different to what you will need for pages construction.

A markdown editor would be an acceptable alternative https://stackedit.io/ 

demo: https://stackedit.io/app

 

Edited by Linux-Is-Best
added demo link
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On 5/18/2021 at 1:54 PM, Arantor said:

the question is whether you care most about the creators and giving them all the options, or the commenters on content.

Yes (both). 😉

Generally, I envision something modern, updated regularly for both browser compatibility and fixes (including mobile use), and something that can be developed around reasonably effortlessly (both for Invision devs and 3rd party). CKEditor does not fit that bill.  There are many alternatives, and I hope when Invision Community 5.0 is on the table, a new editor will be considered.

On 5/18/2021 at 1:54 PM, Arantor said:

Tell you what I'd do at this point: I'd make it pluggable and let users decide what they want to use, since they all interchange raw HTML at this point, why not just let the site admins pick which one(s) they want to use - allow for CKEditor 5 for admins, and I dunno, QuillJS for regular users? (Quill has the advantage that it's deliberately set up to have a limited surface area and focus on what it offers rather than trying to be rich and detailed)

As cool as I think that would be, I question how easy that would be to support. The consumer (you and I) would love it. But I cannot imagine Invison support would feel too good every time someone changed editors and discovered an issue. I imagine they would spend countless time trying to determine whether the problem was with their code or one of several editors and how and where the issue lay.  But I do like the idea, even though I imagine it could be a nightmare for support. 🙃

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On 5/30/2021 at 2:35 PM, Linux-Is-Best said:

As cool as I think that would be, I question how easy that would be to support. The consumer (you and I) would love it.

Honestly, that's not what happens in practice. The majority will simply use and grow to work with whatever the default is set to, even if the default is a functionally inferior version, as long as the minimum feature set for creators is maintained.

My source for this is Moodle - which made a transition from TinyMCE to its own home-grown editor Atto a few years ago. While inferior functionally (objectively) compared to the legacy version of TinyMCE they were using, the reality is that Atto did enough to support most things that people needed, and the community plugged the remaining holes as they saw it.

My source for the other end of the scale is one of the Moodle derivatives, which followed the TinyMCE -> Atto route and in the last couple of versions introduced their own editor to replace Atto, called Weka. All three editors remain available, but Weka provides zero table support which is a deal-breaker for some content creators. (Their justification is that they intend content to be consumed by mobile and their mobile app does not support tables.)

Basically as long as whatever editor is not so broken that it's deemed unusable by the majority, whatever the vendor does will just be accepted because people will generally move with change.

A new editor, in whatever capacity, is a hefty undertaking to consider not only users' needs (all sets of users) but also to consider security of whatever formatting is being done, as well as side functionality such as uploaded/embedded media.

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5 hours ago, Arantor said:

Honestly, that's not what happens in practice. The majority will simply use and grow to work with whatever the default is set to, even if the default is a functionally inferior version, as long as the minimum feature set for creators is maintained.

My source for this is Moodle - which made a transition from TinyMCE to its own home-grown editor Atto a few years ago. While inferior functionally (objectively) compared to the legacy version of TinyMCE they were using, the reality is that Atto did enough to support most things that people needed, and the community plugged the remaining holes as they saw it.

My source for the other end of the scale is one of the Moodle derivatives, which followed the TinyMCE -> Atto route and in the last couple of versions introduced their own editor to replace Atto, called Weka. All three editors remain available, but Weka provides zero table support which is a deal-breaker for some content creators. (Their justification is that they intend content to be consumed by mobile and their mobile app does not support tables.)

Basically as long as whatever editor is not so broken that it's deemed unusable by the majority, whatever the vendor does will just be accepted because people will generally move with change.

A new editor, in whatever capacity, is a hefty undertaking to consider not only users' needs (all sets of users) but also to consider security of whatever formatting is being done, as well as side functionality such as uploaded/embedded media.

I will be perfectly content with nearly any editor outside of CKEditor.  It feels worth repeating, but both v4 and v5 I find inadequate for both the front end and back end, so nearly anything would be an improvement.  As you pointed out, and as others have noted, changing to v5 or any other editor will be a significant change regardless (either way).  While CKEditor would argue that v5 was a near rewrite or complete rewrite (I forget which), it's still more or less the same editor by the same development, making many of the same mistakes (and issues). That is too bad because I did buy into all the hype three (3) years ago (2018) when they release v5.

But I digress.  I do like your alternative viewpoint. The idea of making it so the system was "plug and play." If you could swap out the editor as nearly as easily as you could an add-on, that would indeed be impressive. While I did initially say, I have no particular personal preference beyond just replacing CKEditor. If I could have my pick, I would likely jump onto Redactor Editor.

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