Tales of an IT Nobody

devbox:~$ iptables -A OUTPUT -j DROP

Obligatory ‘Hello world’ post. June 11, 2008

Consider this the obligatory ‘hello’ world post. Believe it or not I am also analyzing the rich text editor (‘RTE’) blogspot uses to see how they maintain consistency for bloggers.

One of the challenges of my job is to create ‘user-friendly’ interfaces for our faculty/staff. What’s on my mind right now is a rich text editor (‘RTE’) that has a Microsoft Word-like interface that people can become familiar with quickly so they may modify content on our website.

While it is quite common these days for web developers to implement this feature into their content management systems. Some do not take the time to evaluate how such a system could affect the consistency and overall professionalism of their site.

For example: An ‘out-of-the-box’ install of Xinha allows users to choose a typeface from a dropdown menu, which then inserts a respective HTML markup to enforce the typeface. All the RTE’s have this out of the box.

The problem: Everything else on the page is set in your CSS defined typeface. However the User input will stand out like an eyesore. Breaking the professionality and consistency of your websites aesthetic styling.

Further evaluating the problem and fixes: There are several approaches that a web developer can take to work with this.

The first one that comes to mind would be throw the input through strip_tags(); The problem is by doing so, you’ve effectively queltched the very purpose of an RTE, who’s job is to create the markup for submission into your page data.

Another idea is to limit the choices by modifying the configuration of such a canned RTE. If you know your way around, you can remove the typeface dropdown from the editor interface, as well as any other options that you do not want to empower users with. This idea is quite effective; unless a user copy-pastes content from Microsoft Word. When you do that, the markup to mimic a word document is injected into the RTE interface. Microsoft’s HTML exporting from Word is … quite hairy and the markup takes up more space than the actual subject matter that is being pasted in.

The next approach – and the approach I am inspiring to implement in a unique fashion here at MSCTC, is to use a custom WIKI markup.

Further posts on this blog will follow the strategy and progress of the implementation, along with everything else! So bookmark this blog and visit again soon!

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