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Xinha4WP — Wordpress With the Power of Xinha

This won’t be one of my usual blog posts, because I just want to announce the 0.96 beta release of Xinha4WP.  It’s a wordpress plugin that installs Xinha as a drop-in replacement forTinyMCE.  (For those not in the know, Xinha is a community-driven open source web WYSIWYG editor.)

At my employer (The Open Planning Project), we switched to wordpress from Blogger back in 2006 for Streetsblog.  After a short trial, our writers and editors became increasingly frustrated with the state of WYSIWYG editing (powered by TinyMCE).  At the time, TinyMCE  was almost unusable (at least as it was embedded into wordpress).  Our writers and editors were about to give up and switch back when we came across Mike Baptiste‘s wonderful plugin.

Here at TOPP, we believe in open source software not only for idealistic reasons but also for pragmatic ones.  Being in control of our stack gives us much more flexibility in terms of site design and functionality.  By using Mike’s plugin, we were able keep our writers happy while still maintaing control of our entire platform.

Well, fast forward to the beginning of 2009 and the crew over at Wordpress and Moxiecode have put an amazing amount of work and polish into TinyMCE. It is now the first class option it should be and no longer behind other platforms.  At the same time, Mike no longer has time to update the Xinha4WP plugin, and Xinha’s last stable release was over 8 months ago.

That’s where I come in.  I’m now one of the core Xinha developers and we’ve just published a new beta release (0.96 Phoenix beta).  In addition, we’ve received Mike’s blessing to take over the Xinha4WP plugin and bring it up to date.

Because of the time lapse, we’re now playing catch up to TinyMCE in terms of integration into wordpress, but we’ve added some long needed features for our first new release.

  • Autosave was added to wordpress 2.2, two years and five versions ago.  Now we sync textareas to allow this feature to work.

  • Up until recently, Xinha4WP always enabled Xinha, and required the user to disable TinyMCE.  Now we auto-disable TinyMCE and respect the users visual editing preference.

There are some outstanding issues in this release as well.  While Xinha normally supports autoresizing, our embedded version doesn’t correctly resize with the page (requiring a page refresh).  What’s worse, since TinyMCE supports user-draggable resizing, the default size of the visual editor is a bit cramped for normal use.  These two together means that this is a bit of a pain point for writers.  While we’re working on the fix, you can use Xinha’s full screen mode to provide a comfortable editing space for your blog post.

In brief, it’s been awhile, and the people over at wordpress have put a lot of effort into TinyMCE integration, and this has become a viable option.  If, however, you crave more from your users, take a look at Xinha.  We’ve got some catching up to do, but we’ve got a great alternative and we can only go up from here.

If you’re interested in finding out more, download the release and come join our mailing list!