A Review of Ektron's eWebEditPro

 
Apr 24, 2000
by John Cesta

Forget about all those other easy to use, requires-no-previous-knowledge-of-HTML, WYSIWYG editors you've heard and read so much about. Forget about learning HTML. Forget about loading your FTP software whenever you need to copy images up to your site. And you tech-support people, forget about getting hassled ... or ... called, every time your users need to copy updated content to the Web server. Forget about ALL that, and just remember this -- eWebEditPro from Ektron!

eWebEditPro is a Web content authoring tool with:

and lots more, and -- the best and most important feature of all -- it runs in the browser!

I love this editor. As a programmer I love it because it's easy to install, it's fast and, from a programming standpoint, it's intelligent. As a content provider I love it because:

  1. It's easy to use.
  2. It's a true, "true WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor."
  3. It runs right in the browser; when I hit the save button, I am finished. There is no need to load the pages up to the server; they are already there. It's so much more efficient this way and less time consuming.
  4. It checks spelling as I type, and it uses the MS Word spell checker on my local PC. No need to worry about inferior spell checkers missing words, which is so often the case with HTML editor's integrated spelling checkers.
  5. I can do all of the traditional things like bulleted lists, ordered and unordered, right and left indent, centering etc.

My biggest problem with eWebEditPro was what to use it for first ... there are so many things.

OK, first, what is it?

eWebEditPro is a piece of code which takes the place of a text box in a Web form. What happens is, the eWebEditPro editor appears in place of a rinky-dink little text box. This editor can do just about everything a real word processor can do, within reason. You don't need 100% of the power a real word processor affords, not on the Web anyway. Basically, the editor works this way:
  1. As you enter text into eWebEditPro, it creates an underlying layer of HTML.
  2. This HTML code gets stored in a database when you save your eWebEditPro document.
  3. This HTML code is now available to appear anywhere, on any of your site's pages.

What does eWebEditPro do?

It lets you create Web content with ease. If you can use a word processor, you can create Web documents with eWebEditPro Pro. You can change font characteristics, including size, color, face, bold, italics and underline. You can search for text in the document, it supports multiple undo operations, and it will cut and paste.

Complete MS Word documents may be copied and pasted right into the eWebEditPro editor and they will retain all formatting. I tried this with quite a complex document and it worked perfectly. Also, spreadsheets may be copied and pasted into the editor. The editor will create the tables necessary to retain the spreadsheet format. This is a fantastic feature!

For those of you who have extended your knowledge of HTML, and maybe found a neat little HTML table on the Web or a cool JavaScript window manager, by right clicking within the editor you have the option to not only view the underlying HTML, but to insert HTML code right into the text editor. Immediately upon inserting the HTML into the WYSIWYG editor, it is transformed into its text equivalent. For example: I inserted this HTML code into the "insert HTML text box," clicked OK and, like magic, this green table appeared right before my eyes:

Did you know...
Upon inserting html text into the editor, it is immediately transformed into its text equivalent.

It was instant! When I showed my wife she said, "If it's all so easy, how come it takes you so long to do everything?" I don't think she really got the point! Hey, what does she know, anyway?

What can eWebEditPro be used for?

I found it to be very useful for many tasks. First and foremost, eWebEditPro was designed for companies whose staff needs to update Web content on a monthly, weekly, or even a daily basis. eWebEditPro makes it simple. The staff member is completely insulated from any HTML and other complexities of Web development. Anyone who can use a word processor (and who can't?) can develop Web content using eWebEditPro. There really is nothing to learn. Here are a few ideas for eWebEditPro:
  1. Keep your Web content fresh without the hassles of knowing HTML code.
  2. Create a News program. Simply edit the document and add the date and time to each entry.
  3. Authors may use the editor to convert their stories, white papers, recipes or even reviews into HTML. Write your document using your favorite word processor, when you're finished, simply copy it to the clipboard and paste it into eWebEditPro. That's it.
  4. I personally use the editor to keep up my children's Web site. I became the "black sheep relative" of the family by not updating the site with new pictures and stories, because it was too time consuming. Now, it's easy.

Who needs eWebEditPro?

Anyone that needs and wants to keep their Web content updated.

How about the technical side of the editor?

eWebEditPro requires either ColdFusion, ASP, PHP or some other language technology to be present on the hosting server. Most hosting companies today support at least one of these mentioned. Here's a little about how eWebEditPro works. Let's use this comparison as an example. There is a product on the market called The FlyPage Updater. The FlyPage Updater is a set of tags you use in a standard HTML Web page. Each tag is specific to an HTML tag or area. There is an image tag, a link tag, an email tag and a text box tag. There are even tags available for meta data keywords and descriptions. FlyPage Updater tags work simply: First, create the entire Web page. Next, decide what areas the client wishes to update himself. Armed with this information, you place the FlyPage Updater tags around the user updateable areas. (Here's an example). Finally, the client (or user) goes to a pre-defined area on the site, enters in a username and password, and is presented with a screen of the updateable areas. There, he is allowed to add/delete/change content on the site. This is exactly how eWebEditPro works - except on a much higher level. The FlyPage Updater tags are PERL-based and, although somewhat user friendly, they do not totally insulate the user from HTML (FlyPage tags require the user to enter HTML code, unless you want a straight text document.) Also, there is no provision for spell check, changing font characteristics, tables, etc. eWebEditPro, on the other hand, does totally insulate the user from any HTML.

For those of you who know a little HTML and ColdFusion you may benefit by looking at this. eWebEditPro is a tag, called CF_Webeditorpro, which runs in the text area of an HTML form tag. CF_Webeditorpro opens up, via the form, and becomes the editor. The text-to-edit is retrieved from the database (any database will do, even a flat file) and passed to a JavaScript function within CF_Webeditorpro. The JavaScript performs its magic and passes the text-to-edit directly to the editor. When the form's save button is clicked, CF_Webeditorpro saves the edited text back to the database. You end up with a database full of records which contain HTML content. These records may be accessed and displayed wherever you'd like to present the content. The editor has been tested -- and the code is available -- in a ColdFusion, ASP, PHP (and a few others) environment. You will need two basic routines to get started. One to create a new record in the database and one to retrieve the record, or records, from the database. A nice table of records can be retrieved and presented to a user (like a news program), or a record of information can be dynamically generated and displayed on the page. Once the information is in the database, how you use it is up to you. A database may be loaded with records at the corporate office, and copied up to the site. Then it's just a matter of updating it periodically.

eWebEditPro is only a piece to the puzzle ...

It is a "straight forward browser-based, easy-to-use, WYSIWYG content authoring tool for the Web," but only after your programming staff has set each "piece to be authored" in place. And, ongoing future pieces must be configured as well. For Web hosting companies, eWebEditPro is not a product you can give to your hosting clients and say, "Here, with this you can build a Web site." Rather, it requires some up front attention paid to it in order to function. However, I've been informed by Ektron that a future release will include intelligent wizards which will simplify the startup process. This will definitely make an already wonderful product outstanding!

After all was said and done ...

I found eWebEditPro to be a pretty fantastic product and I kept forgetting I was working in a browser connected to the Internet. It was very responsive, it provides almost all the functionality of a word processor, and just about everything you need to build Web content. A new beta version of the editor is currently available. The new version will be more compatible between browsers by creating a more optimized HTML. It will also be XHTML compatible. Take a look at eWebEditPro. In it, I think you'll find a tool you can use.

PS: I had, and have, a lot of fun with eWebEditPro! And, since it helped me find time to update my kid's Web site, it got my relatives off my back too!

For more information about Ektron's eWebEditPro, visit their Web site.
John Cesta, is lead developer at cybersmarts.net, a ColdFusion ASP and ActivePERL hosting company. You can reach John at: john@cybersmarts.net


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