Simon Willison’s Weblog

Open source web editing

While reading the thread discussing Macromedia’s Contribute over on 37signals I realised something: the web could really do with an open source Contribute style application. Editing full documents is best done in an application—there’s only so much you can do with browser based editing tools (even if you take advantage of IE’s contendEditable or use Flash to build an editor applet). When people are using Word they hit Ctrl+S to instantly save what they working on—show me a browser based editor with the same functionality.

Then it hit me. The open source community already has the beginnings of a desktop WYSIWYG content editing application in Mozilla’s Composer. Composer is often overlooked, but the few times I have tried it it has proved to be a remarkably powerful piece of software. Imagine an open source project inspired by Contribute, based on Composer but with support for XML-RPC and SOAP in addition to FTP (the Mozilla code base has libraries for all 3). CMS vendors could use it to build powerful, cross-platform editing applications for their existing systems, bloggers could use it to update their blogs (through support for something like the MetaWeblog API, schools and colleges could use the FTP version to encourage non technical users to update sites simply (as Contribute does now).

Now if only I knew XUL...

Update: Whaddya know, there’s even a document on embedding the editor right there on the Composer site.

This is Open source web editing by Simon Willison, posted on 13th November 2002.

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