Browser-based WSYWIG editing

by Uche Ogbuji

This is just a listing of tools that allow developers to add browser-based editing facilities to applications. They use various technologies and have different strengths and weaknesses. They're also offered with varying licensing and cost terms.

I only recently heard of contentEditable, which as Evan Lenz descreibes it is 'A proprietary attribute starting with MSIE5.5 that allows the user to do in-browser WYSIWYG editing. It is inherited by descendants and can be overridden with contentEditable="false" for read-only sections'. You can also see Evan's little contentEditable demo. Evan also says that folks are trying to implement this attribute for Mozilla.

For a Fourthought project we're about to start we've chosen Arbortext Epic Extend, which is basically a terminal applet that uses Winframe to proxy a session of the Epic editor running on the server. They claim multi-platform multi-browser support. It's fairly dear, and it's not very easy to get a demo copy. Since the code base is actually the full Epic editor, it does support most typical Word Processing features.

Xopus is "a browser based in-place wysiwyg XML editor. Xopus allows users to edit their XML data in an intuitive word processor alike way. Xopus allows common users to edit complex XML documents without knowing anything about XML without even realising they are editing XML." Xopus appears to use XSLT in a very clever way. They also recently implemented a contentEditable implementation for Mozilla 1.3. Xopus is open source. They're also working on a commercial version.

Xopus runs in a browser without the use of plugins. Browsers supported are:
-Internet Explorer 5.5 and more on Windows
-Mozilla 1.0 or more on all platforms"

"Ektron eWebEditPro+XML makes it easy (and transparent) for business users to work with XML-based content. The WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) interface means the editing environment looks identical to the finished output." Supports XHTML, it seems.

This one is an ActiveX control and Windows only, though they claim IE, Netscape and Mozilla support on Windows. It is commercial yet pretty inexpensive. A demo is available on-line.

edit-on is a Java applet serving as WYSIWYG HTML / XHTML editor. "It easily replaces HTML <TEXTAREA> fields and complements existing form-based Content Management Systems (CMS). In addition edit-on Pro provides comprehensive word processor-like features to websites and web applications. So, web authors and content providers can simply create and publish their content online."

It looks cross-platform tested. "In contrast to any available DHTML/ActiveX (also known as Microsoft IE DHTML editing control) based editor solution, edit-on Pro enables WYSIWYG rich text editing on almost every computer platform." It is commercial and very inexpensive. A trial license is available.

"EditLive! for Java is an online XHTML authoring tool that empowers business users with an intuitive, easy-to-use interface for creating and publishing web content."

"EditLive! for Java supports cross-platform authoring on Windows (Netscape and Internet Explorer), Mac OS X (Internet Explorer) and Sun Solaris (Netscape)." Features spell checking, table editing. It's commercial, but I can't figure out how much, and there seems to be no easily available demo.

Evan Lenz commented:

The java demos are definitely slower
than the ActiveX one, but I suppose that is to be expected.

The Ephox one does appear to be a bit snappier than the
RealObjects one.

But I haven't even begun to explore these from the developer's standpoint
like how to edit custom XML formats.

I know that eWebEditPro+XML can do this, using various XML- and JavaScript-based configuration files.

Interestingly enough, it looks like RealObjects edit-on
Pro will have an ActiveX add-on, presumably to get the best of both worlds (interoperability and better performance when on Windows...)

Bitflux Editor is a browser based Wysiwyg XML Editor " for any Operating System". "The Bitflux Editor is Open Source since September 10, 2002. Bitflux open-sourced the fully functional Editor (with tables, lists, picture upload etc.) under the Apache License." Looks like it's Mozilla only.

Here Microsoft discusses code for WYSIWYG editing in IE6.

The doczilla Web site,, appears to be down. Does anyone know what's happened to the project?

As I come across other such projects I shall try to keep this document updated.

2002-12-19: Composite. "ComposIte is a chrome overlay which enables a streamlined Mozilla Editor for html composition in textareas. To use the editor, hit ctrl-e in a textarea. Alternately, you can turn on an 'Edit with Composite' button in the Composite prefs (v0.0.5 and higher)."

2003-02-04: The Jackpot: TTW WYSIWYG Editors, a list maintained by University of Bristol. I'll only post further updates if they're not on this page.

Do you have any pointers to or comments on such tools?


2002-12-19 06:42:56
Listing of packages

I desperately want an embeddable, Wysiwyg, html editor that
- runs on any platform from IE4, Netscape 4.7 onwards
- produces simple clean html
- that directly replaces or can be easily made to replace a TEXTAREA.

It doesn't even have to be Wysiwyg as long as it's easy to use.

Still searching.

2002-12-19 08:20:49
wysiwyg html
If wysiwyg html editing is enough, you might also have a look at Composite, a Mozilla plugin that enables you to edit any textarea as wysiwyg html.
2003-01-07 22:00:01
In memoriam of AOLpress
A century ago (back in 1995), AOL had a free browser AOLpress that could edit any web page on the fly from any web site, in wysiwyg. You could even modify form tags before submitting the form! It was slow but what a product! I wonder what became of it.
2003-01-28 16:56:48
a comprehensive list of browser based editors
2003-02-12 07:43:06
> I'll only post further updates if they're not on this page.
Please continue posting. The TTW list is just that, a list. Your weblog contains more info, which is very needed since there are _many_ editors and almost no reviews or comparisons, just a lot of bogus claims on corporate websites.
2003-02-12 08:21:43
> I'll only post further updates if they're not on this page.
Very well. I'll continue to update this weblog with more information as time allows, regardless of whether the TTW tools I mention have been listed elsewhere.
2003-02-12 20:03:00
In memoriam of AOLpress
AOLPress got me my start in the industry. It was truly a revolution. I remember the funny FTP client it had baked right in, which allowed you edit a page live hot on the server. I was making table layouts before I even knew what they were!it. They dropped the product when FrontPage Express came out.
2003-09-21 15:12:45
Flyspeck is perfect
I finally found a script that does exactly what I need! Flyspeck It just allows non technical people to update a part of your page in a word like interface. Has image upload, templating, and security for sections. No database!