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CFDJ: eWebEditPro Review

by Michael Smith and Roy DeJarnette

TeraTech http://www.teratech.com/

 

eWebEditPro is a browser based WYSIWYG editor available from Ektron.  It lets your website users create HTML content without having to know any HTML. In this review we discuss why you would need eWebEditPro, and we point out some of its features and limitations.

Going in HTML edit circles?

How many times have you brought up a newly created Web page in a browser window and spotted some content that you would like to change? If you are a developer, you can go to your HTML editor or ColdFusion Studio and make the change, save it, go back to your browser and reload. Still not quite right? Another trip to the editor and back is required. For users, it’s even more complex.  They have to contact the person who maintains the page, communicate the change, and hope they get it right. Often users will put up with “good enough” to avoid the added time and bother of another edit cycle.

 

So to prevent your whole life from turning into an endless stream of content change requests, you write your content into a database using memo fields, and display it using ColdFusion. You even write a simple admin interface with an edit window using <TEXTAREA> tags so that content managers in your company can edit the HTML themselves. Problem solved? Well not quite. Not only do your users still have to do the edit-save-view cycle to test their HTML, they must also know HTML, and be perfect at matching opening and closing tags. Not too likely in the rushed content world of today!

<TEXTAREA> on steroids

There is a better solution - eWebEditPro - a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor for the Web. Using eWebEditPro your page content can appear in an editor window with controls similar to Microsoft WordPad. Plus your users can perform spell checks, insert bookmarks, hyperlinks, and pictures, and insert and format tables. This tool also allows your content contributors to cut and paste text directly from Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel. Now users can edit Web pages directly!

 

 

eWebEditPro in action. Having fun with the Insert Table function of the Editor.

 

On its most basic level, eWebEditPro is a friendly replacement for the <TEXTAREA> tag.  In reality, it is actually much more than that.  For example, eWebEditPro provides a familiar, Microsoft Office-like interface for editing and adding text and graphics. It will even import and clean up Microsoft Word and Excel files, leaving out those annoying extra HTML tags that are so common in Word's HTML export.

 

Although we only tested it with ColdFusion, the documentation states that eWebEditPro can also be used with ASP or even some of the popular content management packages such as Vignette.  Unfortunately, the process of using the software with other platforms appears to be more difficult – although Ektron indicates it is working toward enhancing this in the future. We found the software to be stable and the features worked as stated.  We pasted in an entire Word 2000 document.  Except for a few minor problems, the formatting was true to the original—even the images came in!   If you don't like using the WYSIWYG interface, a simple right-click allows you to reveal and edit the actual HTML code.

 

Here is all you need to do to use the editor in your application in place of TEXTAREA fields:

 

<CF_WebEditorPro FormName="frmDocMaint" ReturnField="TextHTML1" License="www.mycompany.com?123456" HTML=”#my_query.press_release_body#”>

Customization

You can control in ColdFusion code elements such as which fonts, sizes and colors will be allowed on your Web site.  It even lets you turn off features that you don't want your users to have access to, such as HTML "reveal codes". You can either customize permanently via an XML document or you can just specify options on the fly.  For instance, adding the Buttonshyperlink=”False” directive, in the example above turns off the hyperlink button on eWebEditPro’s interface.  You have similar control over every button.  Images can be stored in a library, where the administrator can limit users to display only pictures that are already in the library.  Or, you can allow users to upload their own images.

Installation

Installation of version 1.8 was a snap. This is a big improvement over earlier versions, which had to be installed manually. Both ColdFusion and ASP server-side installation are available for Windows.  Installshield prompts you for the install location, which should be a path on your Web site. It will also ask you for the location of your ColdFusion custom tag folder. If the install program detects a previous version, it will prompt you to uninstall it and end. The install program must then be rerun to complete the install.  Note that we tested eWebEditPro with both IIS and Apache but only the former is mentioned in the documentation.

 

The big change for version 1.8 is that Netscape 4.7 on Windows is now supported (Internet Explorer 4.01 or later must be installed.) There are also new methods for use with JavaScript. These changes have been made in the ColdFusion custom tag.

 

A client-side install is included in the download package and copied to the install location. In the Netscape version, this installs the Esker ActiveX Plug-in into Netscape on the client computer. This is necessary because eWebEditPro is an ActiveX component that must be downloaded and installed on the end-user's machine, but this is no problem since the download is an automatic process and the file is only 150k. On our test computer this download took less than a minute and only had to be downloaded one time.  In order to use the software, the user MUST have Windows with Internet Explorer 4.0. If a user attempts to edit your site with an unsupported browser, it simply degrades itself to a regular textbox.  There are no server side requirements.

The Ektron code indicates that eWebEditPro limits text fields to 65,000 characters, though in practice browser and ODBC limits may be smaller.

Tech Support

We contacted Tech Support for a problem encountered when cutting-and-pasting of a Word 2000 document into an empty page.  It produced what appeared to be a double-spaced page. Then, when performing a cut-and-paste of a Word 2000 document into an existing Web page, and choosing the Clean HTML Code option, the font size of the headings was considerably reduced. The first paragraph of the pasted document was completely missing. 

 

The response received from Ektron’s support staff was exceptional. A knowledgeable support person answered the phone on the first ring. He explained that the word processing CR/LF commands are converted into <P> tags instead of <BR> tags, so some cleanup of cut-and-pasted text may be necessary. The font size changed because all font information is retained in a style sheet, which can't be copied from Word. If no font information is available, the content defaults to the browser default font type and size. FrontPage also has this “feature”.

 

Although no solution could be immediately given for the lost paragraph, Tech Support requested a copy of the Word document be forwarded to him. We obtained a response a few hours later with a request to reproduce the situation. Fortunately it could not be reproduced.

 

Tech support is available by email at support@ektron.com.

 

Licensing

In order for eWebEditPro to work on your ColdFusion Web site, you need a license key issued by Ektron. Currently these are issued manually but I hear that an automated process is in the works. The license key is in the form of www.mywebsite.com?1234567890. The license parameter of the <CF_WebEditorPro> tag must contain this value each time it is used. This key is good for any subdomain of your Web site, such as support.mywebsite.com. It will not work if an IP address is used in place of your domain name, unless you have a license key for the IP address.  Luckily a quick call to Ektron revealed that you do not have to purchase the extra license for an IP as long as that IP address is associated with the domain name. Also generously the purchase price for the production server includes free licenses are for development, testing, and staging servers too!  $299 gets you a copy of eWebEditPro for use within one domain for 10 discrete NAMED users.  For each additional ten users, you pay another $299.   These are admin users - you can have as many viewers of your site as you like.

 

We highly recommend you download the free demo from their site.  The demo is fully functional and is provided with a 30-day evaluation license key.  That way you can try out eWebEditPro on your own site - once you have tried it I predict you will never go back to an old-fashioned <TEXTAREA> tag ever again!

 

Summary

eWebEditPro saves content as HTML that can then be displayed in ColdFusion web pages without the editor being present. The WYSIWYG web editor is a great tool for any content management team or individual users who require easy editing of formatted text, but have little or no knowledge of HTML. 

 

Resources

Ektron’s website:

http://www.ektron.com

 

Competitors:

http://www.activeedit.com/

 

http://javaboutique.internet.com/ (Freeware)

 

Bio

Michael Smith and Roy DeJarnette work for TeraTech http://www.teratech.com/ , a 11-year-old Rockville, Maryland based consulting company that specializes in ColdFusion, Database and Visual Basic development.  Michael runs the MDCFUG and recently organized the two-day, Washington, DC-based CFUN-2k conference which attracted more than 750 participants. You can reach Michael at michael@teratech.com or 301-424-3903.


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