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Forum OpenACS Q&A: word prcessing in forms

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Posted by Rafael Calvo on
Hi,
I have seen this feature in Vignette and other CMS, were a non technical user can write and format text as in a word processor, using bolds, italics... without having to write any html. It show as a form but with the traditional B, I... on top, so people writes the text, highlight what they want to format and do it... then they submit the content...
I know Vignette uses ActiveX controls (for IE?) and something else for Netscape.
Has anyone looked at this?
How could we have something like this in ACS?
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Posted by Don Baccus on
No, we've not looked at it.  In a platform-idependent implementation I  assume that today one would write a Java applet to act as a WYSIWYG interface.  In the future one might use [MSWillOwnThe].NET

I wonder, though, if a smart file-upload facility combined with existing WYSIWYG tools wouldn't be more useful?  All my non-technical web content friends like to use DreamWeaver, for instance.

If we had a real marketing department with a technical support arm I'd  ask for some competitive analysis.  How many Vignette sites use their  WYSIWYG tool versus a well-known standalone tool like DreamWeaver?  How many buy the product based on the availability of the tool regardless of whether they end up using it? (unfortunately, this is important, especially if you sell product rather than give it away).

Questions like that.

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Posted by Rafael Calvo on
I used to work in e-consultancy company that sells these products. I am sure they are MUCH easy to sell if they have a nice interface. In fact they often buy them BECAUSE of these functionalities. And in this case I think it makes sense.
"Intelligent upload" would imply a couple of more steps. Using upload you have to:
  1. Open MS Word,
  2. write text,
  3. Save,
  4. upload (assuming it is "intelligent enough to clean up header footers...)

(look at all the HTML code I had to know/type to make the ordered list)
You could make plug-ins for applications (as -I guess- the one for Dreamweaver) but they would be application dependent... you would need one for MS Word, and one for chi-writer (:-))
In the form I am talking about is just simply typing and formating the text. You are adding the simple simple WYSIWYG functionalities to the browser
I am no sure if Java is the way to go. Why did Vignette and the other use those components?
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Posted by David Kuczek on
Hello Rafael,

I think that this is a very good idea. I suppose that you are thinking of functionality that mail.yahoo.com is using. It only works on IE and not on my Linux Netscape. You can type your email to somebody and in the header of the textarea you have couple symbols that format your text whatever way you want it. (Like bold, list etc.)

For the future it would also be valueable to integrate simple mathematical functions (i.e. the main algebraic etc.) over MahtML for example.

You might want to check out the following thread too.
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Posted by Michael Feldstein on
To answer Don's question, I strongly suspect there is a need for *both* built-in WYSIWIG *and* integration with products like Dreamweaver. The value depends on the end user. If you have somebody who is a non-programmer but relatively comfortable with HTML, Dreamweaver is the way to go. But sometimes you have content producers for whom exposing even as much functionality as exists in Dreamweaver is a bad idea. They just want basic text formatting plus the ability to insert a picture or a video.

I would suggest a two-pronged approach. First, for the built-in WYSIWIG, I believe Mozilla allows an editor to be embedded in a web page. If I understand correctly that the client does not have to have Mozilla installed, then this would be perfect. It's worth looking into it. Failing that, a Java applet would be the way to go. Second, we should look at creating integration with a couple of choice applications. Dreamweaver would be my #1 choice, followed by Word as a distant second. I don't see a need to do any more than those two.

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Posted by Dave Bauer on
You can also use Javascript/DHTML to get this kind of feature.

Check out manila.userland.com and radio.userland.com.

It has an "Edit this Page" button that shows up when an editor is logged in. It also has a Edit with Radio button if you have it setup to use the desktop editor. It uses XML-RPC to communicate with your desktop machine.

I plan on building the external XML-RPC interface into the CMS, or as an optional module when the CMS is finished. The browser-based editor should be built right in. It should be possible to extend other products such as Word and Dreamweaver to talk XML-RPC also.

The browser-based editor is also used for discussion group posting editing for Manila web sites. It's pretty interesting.

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Posted by Michael Feldstein on
Hi Dave,

From what I can see at manila.userland.com, the browser-based editing feature they show seems to still require knowledge of HTML for even basic text formatting like bold and italics. Am I missing something?

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Posted by Dave Bauer on
Hmmm.. I'll have to look it up later. On the test site I setup thedesign.manilasites.com I can select text and hit a B, I or U button to change it, and it inserts the tags for me. And takes them out if I change my mind. I can also change fonts, colorm alignment and insert Ps, lists etc.. So I guess, but turning the text into HTML in the editor, it would help if the writer knew HTML.

So I guess it help by having handy buttons and menus to insert the tags instead of doing it by hand.

For me, when I add a topic to the discussion I get the same edit box as if I login as editor to edit a page. Maybe it only works in IE( I don't know what you are using). I know its kinda broken in Opera on Windows. Check out my test manila site for an example of the new version of the editor[1](it makes you sign up). The stuff on manila.userland.com is old.

[1]http://http://thedesign.manilasites.com/discuss/edit/newTopic

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Posted by Michael Feldstein on
Dave,

I tried your site but apparently I don't have permission to do editing.

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Posted by Dave Bauer on
Try this, go to the home page: thedesign.manilasites.com
and under Discussion click on "Create a Topic" on the left navbar. It will ask you to sign up. After that you get the text entry interface.

Try the test user I setup
Email: test@test.test
Password: test

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Posted by Stephen . on
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Posted by Michael Feldstein on
Stephen, what's the minimum browser requirement for that
solution? Will it work with Netscape 4.x?
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Posted by Sam Snow on
It requires Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.5. The example is really messed up with Netscape 4.77, but better (though unfuctional) with NS 6.01 (all on windows).

Sam

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Posted by Michael Feldstein on
Thanks, Sam. I don't think it's an acceptible solution, then.
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Posted by Rafael Calvo on
I think a platform independent solution would not be easy.. unless going for java.

But maybe doing 2 platform dependent ad-ons (1 for NS and 1 IE) is a simple thing, with great value added. We have browser detection so for the user it would be transparent.

I never did any thing with activex controls, that I belive mail.yahoo.com is using them (thanks David). Does anyone have any experience in them?
Is there code available that we can plug to OpenACS?

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Posted by Rafael Calvo on
Hi,
There is a "clean" version of the editor (no ads... maybe code) at yahoo.com
Also I just found this site with some js script code apparently doing what we are talking about.
uhm.. maybe putting together this 2 things...
I did not have time to play with it, but someone else might want to play with it
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Posted by Jonathan Ellis on
Well, I tried your webware link and it doesn't work in IE 5.0.  I'd like to try it in Netscape 4 b/c if it works there it accomplishes the more difficult of the two tasks, but 4.77 won't install on Win2k.  At least not on my machine. :(
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Posted by Jonathan Ellis on
To correct myself -- the problem I was having with IE was that the original site had the hrefs pointing to the css and js goofed up.  I downloaded them to my server and changed them and IE works okay.  Not quite as smooth as the ActiveX controls I've seen but a lot better than I thought you could do with javascript.
<br><br>
It's not going to work with NN 4.7 in its current form, 'cause it uses iframes.  (And probably other stuff netscape doesn't understand, judging from its botched attempt to render the toolbar.)
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Posted by C. R. Oldham on
What about something using Flash?  I know it's non-free, but at least the file format is available now.  See http://www.openswf.org/.
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Posted by Jerry Asher on
Three or four weeks ago, FLASH was corrupted.  It changed from cute entertainment with a possible future as UI to vehicle to save Salon and ZDNET.  The noise the noise the noise.

Until I removed FLASH from my browser a few days ago, 99% of my FLASH interactions were always looping, blinking, oversized advertisements.

Death to FLASH.

(When can I get a scriptable browser that will let ME determine which URL's to chase and when?)

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Posted by Rodger Donaldson on
Vignette offer it by having eWebeditpro, a third party ActiveX control, bundled with their software; it works on any Windows client.

Other solutions would involved messing with DHTML and ECMAScript and are likely to be so complex as to only work with one browser.

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Posted by Michael Feldstein on
Silverstream (ugh) uses a Java applet. I did a little searching
around but, unfortunately, the only Java HTML editors I have been
able to find so far have been closed source (although I do recall
seeing a freeware editor, FWIW).
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Posted by Sam Snow on
Here is an example of on screen editing in action (using ColdFusion) to run the AnandTech.com site.

As with other solutions mentioned before, "The Administration area is built solely for Internet Explorer, due to some of the scripting used and advanced controls."

See: http://www.anandtech.com/IT/showdoc.html?i=1456&p=8 for screen shots of how they do it...

Sam

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Posted by Sam Snow on
Another small update on this subject, there was a recent posting in slashdot's developer section mentioning several open source solutions in the area of WYSIWYG direct page editing (like you might want with CMS).
Their post is http://developers.slashdot.org/developers/02/09/17/1550223.shtml?tid=154 and two of the solutions mentioned were

1. http://xopus.org/ (works in IE5.5+ and Mozilla 1.0+)

2. http://www.bitflux.ch/editor/ (Mozilla/NS7).

Both have online demos...

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Posted by Jun Yamog on
I think bitflux editor is better.  It does not need to install anything.  Its not mozilla only but it has not been tested in IE 5.5 but it should work too.  If IE sticks to standards.

Currently we use IE's built in activeX control.

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Posted by Kevin Crosbie on
I saw a site that uses iframes to allow a use to write the text in word format, and the form then posts this in html format to the server.

The example is on www.mixmail.com, it's a free Spanish email site which to see the example you will need to sign up for.  Go to compose an email and you will see the iframe box.  I downloaded to whole lot and hacked out all of the mixmail stuff so I could use it on a test site.

Problem is that it only works on IE(not sure what version) but at least 5.5+

For another way to display word processing forms, I wrote a templated letters module which uses merge fields to allow you to customise a word document and automatically generate an RTF file for download/display.

The module relies on you providing a query which will pull out the necessary merge fields and associating the letter with something like a ticket or a ticket category.

You can then save the letter as a general comment for later download.

I haven't gotten this module up to scratch yet, as it's customised for my application, but I could generalise it more if anyone wants it.

Kevin