The Eternal Quest for the Perfect Editor

The Thinker, image by WikiMediaFirst of all, many thanks to Mike for inviting me to blog here! 

One popular discussion topic among OneStop authors is about which editor to use. Newbies often ask for a recommended editor, then veterans start discussing why this editor is better than that etc.

Old-school authors prefer vi or emacs (I'm a vi fan too). Alan recently blogged about his favourite $400(!) programmer's editor. But most users tend to ask for a true WYSIWYG editor.

But WYSIWYG in an HTML world is an illusion because you'll never know what web browser your reader is going to use and what its interpretation of HTML is going to look like. Or maybe your "reader" is actually a web crawler or a person using an alternative form of rendering HTML. Check out this great video for a 5 minute evolutionary tour from the written word to the magic of the  semantic web and you'll see how important the distinction between presentation and content is.

So, I ended up developing my own XSLT system that takes XML source (content), mingles it with XSLT style sheets (presentation) and spits out a complete OneStop page. This does not solve the WYSIWYG problem which wasn't my goal, but enabled me to concentrate on content while automating all the rest. And yes, I prefer using vi to edit the XML source and just about anything else.

Now the time is right to try something new. We have a Wiki system at Sun, based on the MediaWiki engine. I'll try authoring my next OneStop page using that Wiki, while trying to preserve as much of the OneStop look&feel as possible. Wikis aren't perfect, in fact they are a very pragmatic thing, but they are one step further from HTML towards what may become the future of OneStop. Let's see what happens.

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