Online HTML editors

The editors we are going to look at are all JavaScript based, but there are some that are built as Java applets.

HTMLArea is probably the most popular online HTML editor. Sadly the third version is stuck in beta status for close to two years. On March 8th 2005 the developer announced that there are plans to bring the editor to stable release. Regardless of numerous bugs and beta status the editor is quite usable.

The idea behind HTMLArea is to turn a textarea element into HTML editor. The upside of this approach is a nice fall back solution, meaning that if JavaScript is disabled or not supported the user will see a plain textarea.

The code generated by HTMLArea is XHTML compliant as far as I could see it is kind of weird. Instead of using <b> or <strong> for bold text HTMLArea creates a element with style property set to "font-weight: bold;". This feature makes it impossible to style specific tags throughout the site with CSS. Another feature of generated code is that it does not have a new line breaks and is basically a very long line of HTML. Generally this should not bother most users, but to some it will cause major pain.

HTMLArea claims to be able to clean up the HTML for text pasted from MS Word. This feature works about half the time.

HTMLArea deserves some credit, but since there are better alternatives I would not recommend it due to it's frozen state and numerous bugs.

Xinha is a fork of HTMLArea. At some point Xinha's developer decided to develop a separate application based on the HTMLArea code instead of writing bug fixes for it.

Xinha inherited all of HTMLArea's strengths and went on improving them. While Xinha is also still in a beta stage (and been there for a while) the development is by no means stopped. Despite the beta status the editor is generally stable and bug free. The download packages are released nightly, so one day it might be stable and the next it's broken.

Core Xinha has a lot of features by itself and even more are added by using plugins.

The code generated by it is XHTML compliant, but has some quirks. Examples might include empty tags, or weird handling of nested tags. On the outside everething looks fine but applying CSS to specific tags might be problematic.

MS Word clean up works much better than in HTMLArea.

As of now there are some quirks when formatting is removed, but aside from some unpleasant looking HTML nothing wrong is visible.

Xinha is the best choice for textarea replacement, but needs to mature a bit.

Unlike HTMLArea and Xinha FCKeditor does not replace textarea form element, rather it creates this element with JavaScript. As we said earlier this means nothing is displayed unless JavaScript is enabled.

FCKeditor has three different paste modes: regular paste, paste as plain text and paste from MS Word.

To showHTML code the editor opens a pop up window, this slows down things a little bit.

The generated code is really nice and clean. Everything works as expected and looks good both inside and out.

FCKeditor's code is compressed, which means that it loads really fast.

FCKeditor is a very mature and feature rich application, but embedding it into your CMS might not be very intuitive.

SPAW Editor is another editor that generates all it's code and does not provide a fall back solution. It is not as feature rich as previously reviewed solution, but looks pretty solid.

The code it generates is very similar to HTMLArea. Instead of using tags for formatting it uses CSS properties.

While not outstanding in any way it is a solid solution.


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