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How To Let Users Add Formatting

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peter van dijck

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User since: 22 Oct 1999

Articles written: 23

Problem: admin users need to be able to add formatting to pages. Bold, Italic, indent, you name it.

Extra problem: they shouldn't be allowed to mess up the site. Many users will go crazy on colors and stuff.

Solution: give them controlled functionality to add formatting.

Solution 2: have the submitted articles (or whatever they are writing) go through an editor who can edit the content AND the look of the page to make sure it fits in the style of the site. This is how most traditional media work anyway, and how it will probably start working on the web as well.

So: what options exist for letting administrators adding formatting to their input?

All the following work in roughly the same way: you can embed them in your page, and make them copy their content to a regular formfield which then gets submitted for you to do with whatever your heart desires in PHP, Coldfusion, ASP or whatever you like.

A browser-based, easy-to-use, WYSIWYG Text Area Field. Very advanced, looks like Word. Includes upload images, spellcheck, extended formatting, importing Word, � Users need specific software already on system (not from ektron, but Word, IE4+, �), since the software borrows IE's and Word's functionality. Works with spectra, php, � Price: 299 US$ per domain (max 10 users)

Editlive is very similar to the previous one. There is a download before you can use it however. They have spellcheck, xml support, image upload, � Same comment on having specific software on the system. Price: 1 seat license: 140 AUS$ 10 seat license: 820 AUS$

Another browser-based, easy-to-use, WYSIWYG Text Area Field. A lot less features: bold, italics, H1, � You can build it yourself, it is based on the funtionality included in IE (only works with IE 4 and 5) This is probably all most admin areas need. They will have limited tags and limited possibility to mess up the look of the site. Price: free.

Random thoughts:

Content management on the web is exploding now. Everybody is tired of writing proprietary systems, vendors are here with new generations of content management tools, and it's basically all really exciting.

An interesting part of content management is workflows. A workflow is something like: Writer <=> Editor <=> Approver => live

Another interesting part of content management is the separation of content, structure and presentation. A Writer would be able to add content and structure in our workflow, where an editor would be responsible for presentation. XML comes to mind as well. And Blogs. And community sites. Community building. Cluetrain. Can you feel that buzzword density rising?

Basically, content management is one of the hottest things happening on the web, and I'm glad to be in it :)

PS: This article is also on poorbuthappy with pictures of the systems discussed here.

Peter Van Dijck is an Information Architect with an interest in localization, accessibility, content management systems and metadata.
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