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The shifting sands of our rich text editing landscape

Published March 22nd, 2022

It’s often said, “Time waits for no one.”

That’s true not just for life, but also technology.

Elise Bentley

Sr. Director of Marketing at Tiny


From the early era of the 90’s with dial up internet and Web 1.0 to the current digital world or Web 3.0, attitudes, needs, desires and wants are evolving. We’ve shifted from the early days of editing online, to the modern standard that’s being led by rich text editors who are helping to redefine what it means to communicate (and edit) online.

It’s only inevitable in a connected, online world that there are increasingly more options available to Developers and Product Managers who’re looking to enhance their editing experience. This competitive landscape has given rise to new players – some of who are seeking to commercialize our basic desire and need for interaction and connection.

Editing options in a modern editing world

New offerings are popping up all the time. But many don’t stand the test of time... especially when strong open source core alternatives are already available.

Even within the open source arena of editors, it’s easy to believe that every rich text editor is the same. They’re not.

In simple terms there, are three different kinds of editors to look out for:

  • Headless frameworks
  • Editor framework plus
  • Ready-to-use editors

USEFUL LINKS FOR YOUR RICH TEXT EDITOR SEARCH

Using these side-by-side comparisons, you’ll find the best features for your needs, understand the pros and cons of setup, support and ongoing maintenance.

It’ll help you identify the WYSIWYG HTML editor that works best with your current developer resources, and easily scales as you grow.

Rich Text Editors Compared

TinyMCE vs Froala

TinyMCE vs CKEditor

TinyMCE vs Quill

TinyMCE vs Slate

TinyMCE vs Tiptap

Headless frameworks

These provide a foundation devoid of any UI, and usually also any features over and above the simple bold, italic, underline style features. The current players within this space are entirely open source with limited community-driven support available.

Editor framework plus

Similar to the headless frameworks, these usually sit within open source and provide the same basic functionality, but are paired with a simple UI out-of-the-box. These solutions again tend to offer limited community-driven support.

Ready-to-use editors

The fully customizable solution which, if open source, comes with core features plus advanced features such as tables, full image support, etc. These options all come with full UIs with some providing custom mobile editing experience – all of which you can easily adjust the appearance to fit into any UI environment. Most of these options come with professional grade support if you have a paid subscription, or community support if using open source versions.

All 5 of the most popular rich text editors fall within these three categories, with TinyMCE being the most popular within the enterprise grade, ready-to-use editor space.

However, it’s important to ensure that (based on your project) you’re selecting the right editor for you.

Not all editors are built to support all complex use cases, so it’s important to compare and understand which one serves your needs – both now and in the future.

Commercialization as a point of difference

The commercialization of products is happening everywhere, it’s not just technology. While a commercial solution may not be the right option for you, neither an open source editor may not be right either – it’s important to investigate and decide which model best suits your business and product.

Broadly speaking, when it comes to rich text editors there are four different paths you can go down:

  • Full open source
  • Open source + Premium offerings
  • Open source + Commercial
  • Full commercial offerings

Full open source

The full open source model is something a lot of developers look for, but they’re also often the more lightweight headless options such as Slate or Quill. These are solid basic solutions, but they’re no frills and there’s no support – this may be a problem for more advanced use cases.

Open source + Premium offerings

This is where TinyMCE sits, with an open source core that provides both basic and advanced features open source. It’s also maintained by a professional development team. But in order to fund and expedite those development efforts, there are additional paid premium features for advanced use cases (such as PowerPaste), plus professional support offerings.

Open source + Commercial

This is the realm of CKEditor – it provides a quality open source core, but carries a more restrictive license that has the potential to push those looking to create and sell products, into commercial-only offerings. The benefit of these editors is their support and a professional development team who're available to extend and maintain the editor.

Full commercial offerings

A fully commercialized solution like Froala, contains everything you need but there’s no open source option available – you’ll need to pay for access to everything, including the basic editor. Being a privately owned company, there’s also not as much transparency about who’s likely to be supporting the editor in the long term.

Depending on the project you’re working on, commercialization may not matter to you or be a long-term consideration.

However, for those who are looking for the right long-term solution (and its scalability to handle growth plans), it’s important to consider:

  • The license model used
  • The details surrounding

- Support

- SLA’s

- Maintenance

- Security

- Transparency

So that you can decide what’s the best option for your product.

Shift to user-oriented thinking

With a technical decision like selecting the right editor, there are a myriad of different (and nuanced) considerations that go into the final selection. Often there’s a list of base needs that require verification, but because a rich text editor is such an intrinsic part of how people interact with your product.. it’s important to extend your list and look deeper.

Broadly generalizing, often a technical decision comes down to a few things:

  • How fast can it be installed?
  • How easy is it to configure?
  • How easily can it be extended or made to fit into your needs?
  • Can you customize it and create what you want to do?
  • Does it fit the list of requirements in front of you?

However, in the rush to tick boxes crucial questions can often be missed, such as:

  • What happens if there’s a security breach or something goes wrong and you need on-demand support?
  • What happens when your product becomes successful and it needs to handle more extensive user-facing features? Do you build them yourself or purchase them in order to fast-track speed-to-market? Can you easily extend the product?
  • How do you get your users to be more engaged and interacting with your editor, so that it’s increasing revenue and/or decreasing churn?
  • How can you make sure your rich text editor stays up to date with legal, accessibility, and technical requirements – all at the same time?
  • Will it let you set-and-forget it, knowing that it’s going to keep working, so you can develop other core competency features and not have to worry about the rich text editor?
  • How much time will you need to spend maintaining the core editor?

The most important question you should be asking yourself when making a decision about the editor that's right for you is:
Does the editor you're selecting enhance, detract, or have no effect on your end users?

Your answer should dictate your final choice of rich text editor.

Where to go from here

When it comes to making a decision about which rich text editor is right for your project, it pays to do the research.

Whilst it is fairly obvious that we’re massive TinyMCE fans, it pays to do your own research. To start investigating if TinyMCE is the right option for you:

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  • World of WYSIWYG

    Text modification in popular rich text editors: Under pressure

    by David Herbert in World of WYSIWYG
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