The most important parts of WordPress are the post and page editing screens. I mean, that’s where the magic happens, right? A lot of people do their writing there. It’s where the formatting happens. It’s where the content is produced, tweaked, edited, and occasionally screwed up beyond belief.
For all that it’s the most important part of the admin interface, the post editing screen looks a lot like it did a long time ago, and works pretty much the same. This does not make me happy.
Oh, I’m not going to dis the guys that made TinyMCE. It’s good at what it does, and it feels familiar, like Microsoft Word. The problem is that classic word processors were designed for print documents, not the Web. We can, and should do better.
An additional problem is that the post editing interface doesn’t give you much sense of what you’re actually doing, visually speaking. This is especially true if you’re including more than just text in your posts. To get a visual sense of the results, you have to open up your post preview in a new tab and constantly refresh it.
Some talented designers and developers have done their best to improve the situation, and have come up with interesting solutions. None of them are perfect, and nearly all of them are still in development (so don’t say I didn’t warn you). Disclaimers aside, I’m excited about these projects, and the future of writing on the web in general, so let’s get to it!
PrettyPress is, in my opinion, the most mature and stable of the new options for editing posts. So far, it’s also my favorite.
Once installed, the post editing interface will look pretty much the same, except for a button that says “Launch PrettyPress”. You’ll want to hit that button.
Once it’s up and running, you’ll see two panes: one for editing your post, and the other is a live preview. It ain’t no general formatting preview, either. This will show your post as it looks on the front end. That’s right, you get a live, front end preview. (This is one more instance where responsive design really comes in handy.)
The editing part of the interface has three modes: TinyMCE (I know, I know), raw HTML, and my absolute favorite: Markdown.
Sadly, the “Add Media” functionality only works in the TinyMCE and HTML modes, but still. I like Markdown. I like it a lot. I’m glad they included it at all.
PrettyPress is a solid offering which has yet to let me down in any serious ways. There is a visual bug with the Save and Publish buttons in the dropdown menu (at least, it’s there in Chrome). I would also love to be able to add images in Markdown mode.
Still, I’m happy with it overall. If I had to recommend one of these alternate editing interfaces for a production environment, this is the one I’d go with.
Sir Trevor WP
This plugin has gotten itself a bit of attention lately, as it implements an almost modular approach to creating posts. Instead of just having one big text field where you kind of shove non-text elements in between paragraphs, you add content to the post body one “block” at a time.
It is in fact, somewhat reminiscent of the way Medium does it, but with more obvious separation between elements.
This brings a couple of advantages to the table. For one, it treats blocks of content like the digital elements they are, instead of sticking with the printed page metaphor. Which brings a sense of structure to the process.
Secondly, although there is no live preview, you get a pretty solid idea of what your content is going to look like on the front end.
The types of content blocks currently available include: Heading, Text, Image, List, Code, and Video.
There is one major drawback however: this plugin cannot edit posts made with the default editor. It disables TinyMCE entirely as well. So, if you have existing posts on your site, you’ll have to edit them as raw HTML. Also, if you deactivate Sir Trevor, TinyMCE gets lost, because the raw data looks like this:
"data":["type":"heading","data":"text":"Whatup?","type":"text","data":"text":"And here we have some text. I like text.n","type":"image","data":"file":"url":"http://test2.fictionaltestsite.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Djerv_1_2011_Color_Photo_by_Jorn_Veberg-1024x682.jpg","full":"http://test2.fictionaltestsite.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Djerv_1_2011_Color_Photo_by_Jorn_Veberg.jpg","text":""]
It’s still under development, but it shows promise. In general, I do like the idea. That said, if you want to use it, you’ll probably want to use it only for sites without a lot of existing content.
I’d recommend it for bloggers who like to mix in a lot of images, videos, and other elements with their text.
Now this is a weird one. Firstly, it’s not a plugin. It’s an alternative dashboard for distraction-free writing in WordPress. You have to upload it to its own separate folder in your WordPress install, and you cannot manage it as if it were a plugin.
It’s extremely minimal, borrowing a lot of ideas from the Svbtle platform. There’s no fancy media insertion, no formatting buttons of any kind. There is Markdown support, though, and basic support for selecting your taxonomies.
Goliath is for those who love writing in a distraction-free environment, and who need that environment to be web-based/integrated with WordPress. That might seem rather specific, but I’m sure it’s actually a pretty big crowd.
Incidentally, it works perfectly on my tablet. If you do a lot of writing on mobile devices, this might be perfect for you.
3 post editing alternatives to perfect your WordPress workflow