Saturday, 7 February 2015


In the last month, I've been catching up with where HTML5/CSS/JavaScript have gotten to, and wow, how did I miss the introduction of contenteditable="true" !!

I was reluctantly re-looking at the web as the provider of the graphical front-end after realising that it really did best fit my three main criteria for the UI: 1) independently threaded client side rendering; 2) wide adoption across many client devices; and 3) general expressiveness of possible UIs.

However, I was doing this reluctantly as there are many aspects of the original 'post-back' model of web interactions that I have grown to detest and have generally felt that the JavaScript 'solutions' to fix this were like a sticky tape and string hack on-top of an out of date model for UI construction.

But most of all I dreaded the imagined process of building a credible WYSIWYG editing experience. 

Somehow I assumed that all of the tools that achieve this on the web today (Google Docs etc) were doing some kind of complex, proprietary rendering and overlays approach using JavaScript to create the impression of dynamically editing a document. I had imagined all sorts of horrors like JavaScript timers drawing the caret and removing it to give the impression of it blinking, etc.

Not for a moment did it occur to me that 'they' might have built WYSIWYG editing into the web! I started looking at all sorts of WYSIWYG plugins and libraries and unpicked the code in each trying to learn the complex magic that underpinned all this imagined wizardry until I realised that all the (recent!) such editors are relatively simple and rest on contenteditable="true"

And, most importantly, this feature has been widely adopted and supported and so it really is a credible route to go for building an online content editor. So, now, despite the web's other imperfections, my attitude has switched 180 degrees and I am really enjoying building a prototype web based Semprola editor!

Indeed, I now cannot imagine the horror of building the UI any other way!