9 of the best rich text editors reviewed

March 9, 2008
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Rich editorEverytime I start a new web application, I keep wondering what rich text editor Im going to use, and hunting around the web wondering which one meets my needs only wastes time, so here preserved for eternity is a list of the best of the best, if not for anything else, for my own sanity. Feel free to add comments on any good open source alternative, so I can add it to the list.

NiceEdit

http://nicedit.com/

NicEdit was created over the past month as an alternative for the complexity, many files and large download size (> 200KB) of other WYSIWYG editors such as TinyMCE and FCKEditor. It implements many of the standard rich text features like these editors but is easier to integrate without impact on download size. Unfortunately it has yet to provide XHTML cleanup, so there is still scope for your users to generate poor non compliant HTML out of it, potentially making your W3C validator choke, and potentially vomit up your code.

Features

* Small file size <35KB Total, <10KB Compressed!
* Only 2 files (js + icons) required for operation.
* Flexible Configuration replace textareas or divs
* Multiple editors can optionally use single controls
* Save content via AJAX or HTTP Post
*IE 5.5+ / FF 2+ / Opera 9+ / Safari 3+

Kupu

http://kupu.oscom.org/download/

Kupu uses CSS in favor of HTML for layout and presentation. It supports asynchronous saving to the server. It sets event handlers from code instead of from the HTML (excepting the toolbar), which makes the code a lot cleaner. It uses DOM functionality to build up HTML. On those and other fronts it tries to use the most modern standardized techniques available on all supported browsers to ensure a good user-experience and clean code.

Kupu can be customized and extended in several ways. For simple modifications much of the configuration can be set as attributes on the editor iframe, while buttons, tools and layout can be changed via the CSS. For larger customizations there’s a simple JavaScript plugin API, and also the core has a clean and solid architecture to allow full extensibility.

Features

* Image upload for the image browser
* Improved ‘out-of-the-box’ support for the browsers
* Added support for CSS’ float on images
* Zoom mode to make Kupu fill the full browser window
* BeforeUnload handler added which controls all form fields

TinyMCE

http://tinymce.moxiecode.com/

TinyMCE follows the payment model that alot of other Rich Text Editors do, give the editor for free and bolt on image and file manager elements at a cost. If you need good image upload support for free you would be better looking at Kupa, there are however plugins out there for just that. Other than that the features are extremely rich, and it can be configured to work in XHTML mode. The documentation is also pretty comprehensive for both features. This is the WordPress weapon of choice, but god I wish they’d change it as do a couple of other people who have had problems, in certain hosting environments with TinyMCE.

Features

* Easy to integrate, takes only two lines of code.
* Customizable through themes and plugins.
* Customizable XHTML 1.0 output. Block invalid elements and force attributes.
* International language support (Language packs)
* Multiple browser support, Mozilla, MSIE, FireFox, Opera and Safari (experimental).
* PHP/.NET/JSP/Coldfusion GZip compressor, Makes TinyMCE 75% smaller and a lot faster to load.
* You can easily use AJAX to save and load content!

Kevin Roth RTE

http://www.kevinroth.com/rte/

Whilst Rich Text Editor has been around for ages, the development has gone a bit stale and it still feels a bit basic, both in terms of skinning and features. The code is also quite heavy, although generates XHTML code, there is no scope for adding style sheets to the editor, which means there will be quite alot of inline css styling, which can throw your font sizes etc off.

Features

* Table support
* xhtml-compliant code
* IE5.5+
* Mozilla 1.3+
* Firefox 0.6.1+
* Netscape 7.1+
* Mac Safari 1.3+
* Opera 9+

FCKEditor

http://www.fckeditor.net/

FCKEditor is awesome. Image upload out of the box, content layout templates, styles support, XHTML valid features. I simply cant fault this one. Adobe AIR support!

Features

* Complete integration pack for server side code
* Adobe Air Sandbox Support
* IE 5.5+ Windows
* Firefox 1.5+ Windows / Linux / Mac
* Safari 3+ Windows / Mac
* Opera 9.5+
* Netscape 7.1+ Windows / Mac / Linux
* Camino 1+ Mac

Yahoo UI Editor

http://developer.yahoo.com/yui/editor/

The Yahoo UI library is a brilliant resource for developers, and their UI editor component is no exception. Although it is still in beta, the result so far looks extremely impressive, and I for one would be comfortable using it in a commercial application. It uses fully object orientated javascript libraries with classes than can be extended if you know what you are doing. It comes with partial image support (via URLS not uploads) , but an interesting sample on the site shows how to integrate a flickr image search, and an integrated calendar which would be useful in the blogging world. Please look into this WordPress developers..it rocks socks. One downfall would be that it doesn’t allow view source output, although Im told it generates XHTML valid code.

Features

* Uses OOP library, easy to extend
* XHTML output
* Flickr plugin
* Calendar plugin
* Good documentation

WebWiz RichTextEditor

http://www.webwizguide.com/webwizrichtexteditor/

Webwizguide have been churning out useful bits and bobs for a long time, as a developer I noticed some useful things when working with ASP. Their Rich Text editor isn’t free, and why anyone would purchase it when the host of options I have just talked about are available for free. Anyway its reviewed here for completeness anyway.

Features

  • A cross-browser, cross-platform WYSIWYG online HTML editor
  • Turn any HTML textarea into a WYSIWYG Editor with just 4 lines of code!!
  • Easy to change the look and feel using custom skins
  • Written in ASP, JavaScript, and DHTML
  • Copy and paste clean HTML from Word using WordTidy™ Technology
  • Image and file uploading, with built in file browser
  • Open and save files created in Web Wiz Rich Text Editor
  • Edit source code with just one simple click
  • Insert images, files, tables, etc. Allows uploading of images
  • Edit and create text using various styles and fonts

CodePlex Rich Text Editor

http://www.codeplex.com/rte

If you are a .NET developer, such as myself, you’ll know all about the beauty of user controls. The aim of the codeplex editor is to encapsulate everything you need into a single control, drop a dll in the bin folder and away you go (more or less). Unfortunately the control isn’t feature rich enough to warrant every .net project going down this route, and due to the source code spitting out old HTML (font tags etc) it isn’t really an option for standards compliant design companies (such as ourselves)

Features

* Internet Explorer and FireFox
* Supported Styles / Formats: Bold, Italic, Underline, Justify, indentations, Plain Lists, Numbered Lists
* Supported Commands: Copy, Paste, Cut, Add Hyperlink, Set Foreground Color, Set Highlight Color, Set Fonts, Set Font Sizes, Insert Smiles
* Supported Views: Text View, Html View
* Localization: Supported Languages include en-us, cs-cz, es-es, de-de, fr-fr, it-it, ja-jp, ko-kr, pt-br, ru-ru, zh-cn, zh-hk, zh-tw

XStandard

http://xstandard.com/

The editor generates clean XHTML Strict or 1.1, and uses CSS for formatting, to ensure the clean separation of content from presentation. The editor is keyboard accessible, and markup generated by XStandard meets the most demanding accessibility requirements. The editor’s cool features include drag & drop file upload, spell checking and an image library that integrates tightly with your CMS. If you are working on government websites and accessibility and XHTML generation are needed, XStandard is the puppy for you.

Features

* Supports most CSS 2.1 selectors
* Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Opera.
* A genuine XHTML editor, not an HTML 4 editor with code clean-up routines.
* XHTML generated by XStandard can be parsed by XML parsers.
* Uses Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) for formatting.
* Uses Web Services not FTP for file uploading
* Cleans Microsoft Word
* Available in 21 languages

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About the Author ()

Paul is a regular 30 year old web bloke / programmer with a penchant for online marketing. This blog is a personal outlet, with an eclectic mix of articles.

Comments (51)

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  1. remrow says:

    i can insert this article on my blog can’t i??

  2. admin says:

    Err…no, I dont generally allow copying of my blog posts. Duplicate content issues and all that. Thanks.

  3. Dav Glass says:

    Nice breakdown :) Since you mentioned it, I just wanted to drop a note about my YUI RTE plugin for WordPress:
    http://blog.davglass.com/files/yui/wp-yui-rte/

  4. matt says:

    Wow, I can’t believe remrow actually copied the material even after you said no…

  5. john says:

    Dude.. seriously?

    All you need is one

    http://www.gnu.org/software/emacs/

  6. Ben says:

    John, pretty sure you missed it. He’s talking about WYSIWYG editors that can live in a web page in order to format text before (usually) saving it in a DB. Now, I’m no emacs expert, but I’m pretty sure it can’t do that.

    Personal vote for FCKeditor. Saved my ass a’plenty.

  7. admin says:

    And this my friends is why blogging kicks ass…I’d never have seen some of those links. Keep em comin.

  8. Rick says:

    @Jim & @admin

    I read all types of blogs everyday and have never commented on any. You guys have created the funniest natural blog comments I have ever come across on the net and have earned my 1st blog comment.

    Hat’s off to the both of you!!!

  9. BrianD says:

    Good review. I haven’t heard about some of these editors before.

    I am using FCKEditor but looking to switch. I am concerned about the long-term viability of this project. It’s a one-man show and over the past year there have been pretty desperate fundraising attempts like the fundraiser to purchase a Mac laptop. How he’s looking for corporate sponsors after the attempt to sell ads on the site failed. I am concerned that this project will go the way of HTMLArea.

  10. Simon says:

    I implemented the nicEditor after months of dismay and annoyance with the dojo toolset and FCKeditor.

    I’m very pleased with it so far, I only wish It was unobtrusive javascript and proper semantic XHTML!

    Certainly the best choice in my opinion.

  11. Great round-up. It would be nice if you could take it one step further and summarize the browser support for each – that would get you a super-gold star in my book ;)

  12. max says:

    hey – just fyi – pretty easy to add code view to the yui editor – they have an example demonstrating it.

  13. Cédrik says:

    A successor to Kevin Roth RTE is RTEF: http://www.rtef.info/

  14. Dan says:

    Like some of the others said, I had no idea that there are so many other great choices for a text editor other than tinymce or fckeditor. Thanks for the great write up.

  15. Rick says:

    Admin,

    I cant believe that you took down the comment from Jim and your response. I was going to send some traffic that way.

  16. admin says:

    @Rick, I just thought it was a bit off topic, and not really in keeping with the tone of things around here..My reply would have got emailed out to him, so it served its purpose.

    I also thought maybe it would have ended up being a thread dedicated to a troll..So I resisted the temptation to keep it up.

    Hopefully, you’ll stick around, and I’ll be able to provide you summit else to link to.

    Paul.

  17. Rick says:

    Paul,

    That again was too funny coming up with “Troll”…

    I would have to say that it was indeed the topic of Rich Text editors that brought me to your blog – and the additional links even made it better.

    I hope that they keep posting links to more editors!

  18. Tom Dixon says:

    top post some of these will come in very useful with some of the work I am doing… cheers..

  19. Remrow says:

    I have removed the content from my blog http://likeweb.blogspot.com. Sorry for the inconvinience by my activity.

    This content is a great resource. Thanks

  20. ReTox says:

    There is also http://www.freetextbox.com/
    but it works only in FFox & IE

  21. XStandard is still by far the best for correct XHTML output. I’m trying desperately to figure out how to hack TinyMCE or FCKEditor to produce valid code, but despite growing demand for it, they’re a real pain to get right.

    If you need actually correct XHTML, there is no equivalent to XStandard.

    jf

  22. Yujin says:

    I use TinyMCE now, but like to see YUI editor out of beta. I used Dav Glass’s wp plugin using YUI editor, i have many problems with it and have to uninstall it. WordPress latest version have much better wysiwyg editor.

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