3 post editing alternatives to perfect your WordPress workflow

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

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.

General impressions:

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.

prettypress

 

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":""}}]}

General Impressions:

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.

sir-trevor

 

Goliath

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.

General Impressions:

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.

goliath
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  • http://design-feed.com Design-Feed

    Damn, prettypress looks awesome. I’m gonna go check that out now. Thanks!

    http://www.design-feed.com

  • http://www.webongo.de Marco Müller

    Thank you Ezequiel for this great post! I search for a better way to edit websites with a huge number of pages and posts. So your post helped me a lot.

  • Anna Will

    Great post
    Thanks for the post it’s awesome

  • http://www.cubelabmedia.com/ Tadd Mencer

    Sir Trevor WP looks promising. I do a lot of content management for several websites, this could actually be a nice piece to aid this.

    Another really nice plugin to go on this list (I know, it’s 3 alts) is called “Page Builder”. It allows you to create grid-like structures through your page or post, adding widgets where you want and so on. Mixed with a WYSIWYG text widget and you’ve got unlimited potential.

    http://wordpress.org/plugins/siteorigin-panels/

    Check it out. I also use this on many sites for custom layouts.

    • EzequielBruni

      This looks like a pretty powerful tool. I’ll be checking it out.

  • http://nodws.com/ Nodws

    No VisualComposer ?
    http://vimeo.com/92033601

  • Griffin Shreves

    I would agree that PrettyPress is the nicest of the three, but even it is missing a huge step in making the edit screen match up with the output. One of the best ways to get those screens closer is having an editor-style.css file in the theme. Either @import the theme’s style.css or copy over the important rules to get the typography sized right. Makes a huge difference in visualizing posts.

    http://codex.wordpress.org/Editor_Style

  • http://www.fantastic-machine.com/penina penina

    Really grateful you covered this topic, Ezequiel! I’m especially curious about PrettyPress and Goliath. I also advise some less tech-savvy clients who are just starting with a WP blog, and am curious to see if any of these tools can be passed along to them.

  • http://foamymedia.com/ Foamy Media

    thanks for these will definitely check them all out as default wordpress is not that great

    http://foamymedia.com

  • monalisa

    Nice article.thanks for sharing

  • Ushma Naik

    “That might seem rather specific, but I’m sure it’s actually a pretty big crowd.”

    Goliath seems like a perfect match for me for that very reason – working distraction-free but still being connected to the Web. I work not the go a lot too, so the tablet functionality is just icing on the cake.

  • http://www.pizzaalforno-craiova.ro/ Al Forno

    Well Everything is very open with a clear description of the issues. It was really informative. Your website is very helpful.