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Developer Insights

Working with rich text editors in 2023: Industry overview and challenges

Published November 2nd, 2023

 12 min read 

In our annual Rich Text Editor Developer Survey held every year between March and June, developers, engineers and software professionals from 190+ countries share the sometimes harsh realities of working with rich text editors (RTE). This year, whilst some news was positive, some remained unchanged and provides glimpses towards exciting new developments driven by the release of Generative AI.

Di Mace

Director, Content and Communications at Tiny


One of the clearest signals given by the respondents was that rich text editor makers need to do a better job of the basics. Specifically, they need to more clearly explain out-of-the-box customizations, to counter the widely held belief of developers’ that they need to create their own custom plugins and functions – when they’re pre-existing in the market-leading editors.

The most popular use case remains within CMSs, but usage is widening, with DMS, LMS, CRM, WorkFlow automations and Email all featuring – where users are recognising the benefits of upgrading their editors’ capabilities by utilizing a WYSIWYG editor as key componentry within their tech stack.

Most surprising though, is that in a world where AI is the ‘word of the year’, when participants were asked what’s missing from their current rich text editor, their response outlined a formula for success that’s devoid of buzzwords:

  • Do the basics really well
  • Fundamentals matter more than fancy features
  • Provide an easy, intuitive and secure user experience
  • Clearly show and explain the opportunities for customization

It's that simple.

Read on for the rich text editing industry changes and challenges that emerged in the 2023 State of Rich Text Editor Developer Survey.

What best describes the industry in which you work?

The survey participants are spread across various industries, with a notable presence in Web Development and Developer Tooling.

 As compared to 2022 results, Web Development significantly increased in its industry representation.

  Previously, Web Development ranked in the middle and was far from being one of the top three industries.

This shift in results could be indicative of broader changes in the job market, especially in the post-pandemic era. The increased emphasis on digital products, services, and accessibility has become deeply ingrained in consumer expectations. As a result, the demand for professionals skilled in Web Development has risen considerably, reflecting the growing need for businesses to meet the evolving demands of the digital landscape.

READ THE FULL SURVEY REPORT

View Report

Industries Using Rich Text Editors

What kind of development work does your team do?

  More than half of survey participants are involved in website development, or the creation of commercial software/SaaS products.

  A smaller number are engaged in open-source projects, internal/employee-only software, and OEM software.

  The hierarchy of these results is consistent compared to the 2022 results.

However, there are notable shifts in the 2023 survey results.

  There’s an increase in the number of respondents working on internal software, indicating a growing focus on developing systems for internal use.

 On the other hand, there’s also been a decrease in those involved in commercial software/SaaS products.

This shift could be attributed to the remote work movement or the increased attention organizations are placing on enhancing their internal systems through digital transformation projects – to better accommodate distributed teams and remote workflows.

Types of Development Work

What best describes the application, industry and/or use case that you work on?

Continuing last year’s trend and their historically close relationship, CMS was by far the most popular use case for a rich text editor, although the results reveal a remarkably diverse range of applications for this component.

  Content Management Systems (CMS) remain the primary use case for rich text editors.

  ‘Database’ has gained prominence compared to the 2022 results, signifying the increasing significance of data management, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), personalization and use of big data.

  The presence of AI-related use cases, both in this section and later in the results, was likely bolstered by the introduction of ChatGPT in November 2022.

This suggests a growing interest in leveraging AI technologies and highlights the expanding possibilities and technology integration opportunities offered by rich text editors, across various industries and domains.

READ THE FULL SURVEY REPORT

View Report

Industry Use Cases

Have you recently customized a rich text editor?

Despite both the major rich text editors being fully-featured (either out-of-the-box or via plugin feature upgrades), a significant proportion of developers are actively customizing rich text editors.

  75% of participants customize rich text editors to accommodate the unique needs of each application.

  Nearly half the participants focused on customizing the user interface (UI), while many others incorporated third-party or custom plugins.

However, compared to previous years a slightly lower number of participants mentioned customizing the UI, indicating a possible shift towards investing more efforts in customizing features at the core level.

As well as making customization easy and powerful, if providers more clearly surfaced the many customizations and features already available, it could further enhance user satisfaction and deliver a more tailored experience.

Rich Text Editor Customization

What aspects of your rich text editor would you like resolved, removed, or changed?

This was a freeform question where participants shared their most top-of-mind pain points with their rich text editor.

  A significant portion didn’t report any significant frustrations with their rich text editor.

  The key pain points revolve around difficulties in manipulating specific types of content within a rich text editor.

  Additionally, users express a desire for the RTE to seamlessly integrate with other software products, mentioning issues with plugin availability, integration with other tools, and difficulties when copy/pasting content from external sources.

Other notable mentions include the lack of comprehensive documentation, absence of autosave functionality, and concerns regarding the speed, security, and stability of the editor. In summary, difficulties included:

  • Manipulating specific content (multimedia files, tables, fonts)
  • Integration with other software products (plugins, other tools)
  • Copy/pasting content from other sources
  • Lack of comprehensive documentation
  • Absence of autosave functionality
  • Concerns about speed, security, and stability
  • No major frustrations reported by one-third of respondents

READ THE FULL SURVEY REPORT

View Report

Media file management

Hopefully, there will be better improvements in media file editing and uploading.

Improve image embedding/Drupal integration.

Media management.

Slow loading, especially for documents with a lot of content or multimedia, may take a long time to load.

Solve the problem of inserting images.

Working with tables/table cell editing

Difficulty in formatting and aligning tables.

Improve image embedding/Drupal integration.

Difficulty in managing and formatting tables of contents and indices.

Pasting table contents to already created tables in text editor.

Related tables cannot be inserted.

Table cell customisations.

Autosave

AUTOSAVE

Performance and input lag and autosave of content.

The most frustrating thing is when network delays or outages cause editorial content to be lost or not saved.

Tools for tracking changes, retrieving the snapshots of a document that is automatically saved (like from a repository) etc.

Copy/paste and formatting issues

Being able to copy and paste PDFs as a Word document.

Copy/paste blocks of text with formatting.

Copy/paste from other word processing software.

Sometimes when I copy and paste content, due to inconsistent formatting or invisible characters, etc., it may lead to incorrect layout and display effects in the editor. I would like to correct this.

Too much junk info coming over from copy / paste from MS Word.

Font customization

Add Font Options.

Basics – Can't set font family, font size easily. No pagination so I can't format it for various paper sizes.

Limited customization options for fonts and styles.

Limited support for advanced font kerning and tracking.

When manipulating text on different platforms and devices, formatting can often be confusing, such as font size, color, alignment, etc. This can lead to inconsistent text appearance and affect the reading experience.

Plugin availability

Customizable plugins.

Lack of necessary functions and plugins to meet the specific needs of users.

Make mentions a default plugin (no extra cost).

Solve the problem that users cannot customize menus and plug-ins.

Some premium plugins like PowerPaste could be added to the mainstream.

Speed, security, and stability

HTML sanitizing, better handling of security aspects.

Instabilities when programmatically inserting content.

Package hosting and bundling ease with internal systems due to security reasons.

Security and privacy protection can be enhanced.

Speed of loading on page.

Documentation

Documentation and GitHub examples can always be improved.

Improved documentation of internal APIs for times when customization is needed.

Maybe make some of the documents a little more newbie friendly. I don't need my hand held but some of the help material assumes you already know how to go from step 1 to step 7.

Needs full API access with clear documentation.

Integrations with other tools

Better React integration for custom plugins.

Cannot integrate it with other tools.

Easier integration in custom CMS.

Integrating it to be able to use it with Laravel Livewire as I really want to continue using it.

Integrating with a React project.

Integration is a lot of work.

Integration with other frameworks.

What are the most important features needed in a rich text editor?

The three most vital aspects of a rich text editor are its:

  • Performance
  • Security
  • Privacy protections.

These fundamental features are the key to user satisfaction.

Additionally, customizability, control, and ease of use are crucial for designing an editing experience that aligns with the needs of professionals and their users in an intuitive and user-friendly way.

Compared to previous reports, the 2023 findings indicate that customizability has grown in importance over time. And while digital asset management, AI-driven functionality, and collaboration features are overall not as significant, they are still considered very or extremely important by half of our participants.

Most Important Rich Text Editor Features 2023

What’s the most important thing missing? What new functionality would you like included in your rich text editor?

This open text question gathered information on the features and functionality that are most important, as well as what needs to be added.

  AI is the ‘word of the year’ when asked what’s missing from their current rich text editor.

This interest in AI could have been skewed or influenced by the extensive media coverage since November 2022 around ChatGPT, and the growing presence of AI in our culture over the ensuing six months.

 Besides AI, users also expressed a desire for various other features in their editor, including:

  • More drag and drop features
  • Improved media management capabilities
  • Better support for MS Word pasting
  • Enhanced documentation
  • Increased integrations with other digital tools/software
  • Collaboration features like track changes, comments and mentions

Based on the responses, it appears that users are seeking a more robust and versatile editor that not only harnesses the power of AI but also addresses their specific needs in terms of usability and collaboration.

READ THE FULL SURVEY REPORT

View Report

AI integration/chat GPT

Enhance button to make it better using AI.

AI assisted authoring would be cool.

AI-powered text analysis and summarization tools.

Generative AI features that can be configured.

It may be nice to have a path to ChatGPT, given every app which edits content has it.

Drag and drop features

Drag and drop.

Drag and drop prefabricated elements, so users can create beautiful content faster, not just text.

Drag and drop upload.

Floating drag-n-drop position control for placing graphics, background images, etc.

Image processing and storage, text drag and drop, insert links.

Built-in/better image/media management

Better feature for prerendering data, and easier to make images etc responsive.

Built in image processing and storage, file drag and drop.

Media management, ie. upload and insert, that is easy to adapt to my online content.

Support image online processing.

The editor lacks the ability to beautify images.

Better support for MS word pasting/tables

Improve table formatting, improve Word/PDF import/export, improve copy/paste from Word.

Better support for text pasted in from MS Word, the ability for the editor to paste MS Word text but stripped of all but basic formatting (bold, underline, italics).

Import from Word and parsing functionality.

Improved table editing capabilities.

Better documentation

Better APIs and documentations.

Documentation, cross-platform – Win/Mac/Linux.

Don't care about new features, I know they will come. What I need is a rich and clear documentation.

Extensive guidance and complete documentation utilizing over 1000 APIs.

The editor itself is fine. The help documentation could be improved though.

Built-in track changes

Ability to undo changes, see past versions, have more similarity to MS Word and ability to export to Word with customization, enforcing a font family and size when copy pasting text.

Built in track changes rather than having to use a dodgy plugin.

Customizable features and history changes.

Improved comment functionality that could be processed and stored as well as tracked changes that could be understood and used externally.

Integrations with other tools (like GoogleDoc, Jira, Monday, Symfony)

Better integration with Angular.

GPT integrated.

Improved integration with Machine Learning and AI tools.

Integration with Adobe.

Integration with frameworks and widgets.

ntegration with Google Docs.

IIntegration with Jira, Monday and repository.

More collaboration tools

Better collaboration tools – including version control and real-time editing.

Collaboration and integration with other tools.

I think the missing features are more advanced table formatting options, better collaboration and comment tools, and I'd like to add an intuitive interface, easier customization options, and better performance.

Multi-user collaboration.

Not enough plugins and extension points are provided, including real-time collaboration, intelliscope, and autosave and restore capabilities.

Better spell checker and grammar checker

Easier to implement spell checking for users.

Integrated spell check and grammar check tools with multilingual support.

More robust image/embed control, editing assist (spellcheck, grammar).

Possibility to add/integrate a custom spell checker.

Would like a more native spell checker.

(Mentions in) Comments

Improved comment functionality that could be processed and stored as well as tracked changes that could be understood and used externally.

Mention functionality to work in the comments plugin.

Mentions in comments.

Revisions, comments.

Frequently asked questions

How can I read the full report?

Did only TinyMCE users take the survey?

No, it was open to all software professionals across various industries, roles, and geographic locations

How can I ask questions or give feedback

Please direct questions or comments about the survey to team@tiny.cloud

I’d like to participate in the next survey. Can I sign up for alerts?

The best way to receive news about the Rich Text Editor Survey is to sign up for our monthly newsletter

author

Di Mace

Director, Content and Communications

Messaging strategist and copywriter whose passion lies in working with brands like Tiny, that have deep-seated values and embrace the power of their story. She gets a kick out of solving problems, loves learning new things and making stuff, every day. When she’s not thinking through clever copy lines or clarifying value propositions, she’s knitting amazing socks for everyone she knows.

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