Environment Survey/MediaWiki Extensions/Results

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Overview

There are hundreds of pieces of extension software available for MediaWiki, many of which may provide some improvement in the area of usability. The analysis below focuses on extensions which provide alternative editing interfaces for MediaWiki. Some of the extensions below are beta software while others are currently in deployment with significant use.

Comparison Chart

Metric wikEd FCKeditor Wikia Wysiwyg MeanEditor Wikiwyg
Compatibility
Web Browsers 5 (42%) 12 (100%) 4 (33%) 4 (33%) 5 (42%)
Open License YES YES YES YES YES
Performance
Download Size 107KB 399KB 132KB 120KB 87KB
UI Responsiveness LOW MEDIUM MEDIUM MEDIUM HIGH
Quality
Completeness MEDIUM HIGH MEDIUM MEDIUM LOW
User Features 0 (0%) 9 (90%) 10 (100%) 7 (70%) 6 (60%)
Extendable NO YES YES YES NO
Themable NO YES YES YES NO
i18n/L10n 3 (100%) 3 (100%) 3 (100%) 3 (100%) 3 (100%)

Extension Details

wikEd

wikiEd Extension running on English Wikipedia as a Gadget

Adds syntax highlighting and a large number of tools to the existing MediaWiki editor. The target audience of this extension seems to be advanced users, as it provides a user interface more similar to a programming IDE than a word-processor.

Notes

  • Dynamic diff and preview
  • Stable and under active development
  • Translated/localized for many languages
  • Supports pasting and conversion from web pages and MS Word
  • Support by upcoming versions of Opera and MS IE expected

Download Size

94 files @ 107KB total

Browser Compatibility

Browser Version Windows Linux MacOS iPhone
Firefox 1.5+ OK OK OK N/A
Safari 3.0+ OK N/A N/A N/A
Opera 9.50+ NOT NOT NOT NOT
Internet Explorer 5.5+ NOT NOT NOT NOT
Google Chrome OK N/A N/A N/A
Camino 1.0+ N/A N/A N/A N/A

License Compatibility

This software is under Public Domain.

UI Responsiveness

  • Users on slower internet connections may experience a very disturbing amount of load time as the icon images are synchronously fetched. Our average load time was a few seconds for all icons to appear. The primary issue here is that the images are loading one-after-another and are blocking all other page rendering and user interaction until they are finished. On some browsers this loading occurred once for each article, which depending on use often translated into every time the user navigated to an edit page.
  • Because of performance issues, the syntax highlighting only occurs when loading the edit box initially, or turning the syntax highlighting off and the on again. Depending on the user's computer and the length of the article, syntax highlighting may take anywhere from a fraction of a second to a few seconds.
  • Toggling between syntax-highlighted mode and plain wiki-text mode was nearly instant, unless you made a change while in plain wiki-text mode in which case you were subjected to the same syntax-highlighting wait time issue.

Completeness

Although the intended features of this software seem to be completely implemented and it's currently deployed on Wikipedia as a gadget that users can turn on through user preferences, it's lack of support for most browsers and number of known issues and incompatibilities hint that this software has a long way to go.

User Features

Although this software provides an extensive set of text manipulation features, none of the common wiki elements are abstracted by a user interface making it in most cases no better than a plain text editor.

Extendable

Although any JavaScript software naturally lends itself to extendability, there is no functionality for configuring individual components or documented API for developing such components.

Themable

Although it's possible to change images and CSS style sheets, there's no functionality for configuring individual themes and some style information is embedded within the JavaScript code itself.

Internationalization/Localization

Feature Support
UI L10n OK
Alternative Input OK
Double-Byte OK

FCKeditor (Official)

FCKEditor Extension running on a sandbox

Provides a fairly robust set of features in a fully WYSIWYG environment and is based on FCKeditor which is an actively maintained in-browser XHTML WYSIWYG editor project. The target audience of this extension seems to be inexperienced users with some form of desktop-publishing experience, as the user interface is extremely similar to Microsoft Word.

Notes

  • There are various themes for this editor ranging from Microsoft Office clones to custom icon sets.

Download Size

32 files @ 399KB total

Browser Compatibility

Browser Version Windows Linux MacOS iPhone
Firefox 1.5+ OK OK OK N/A
Safari 3.0+ OK N/A OK OK
Opera 9.50+ OK OK OK N/A
Internet Explorer 5.5+ OK N/A N/A N/A
Google Chrome OK N/A N/A N/A
Camino 1.0+ N/A N/A OK N/A

License Compatibility

This software is under a mix of GPL, LGPL and MPL licenses.

UI Responsiveness

  • Initial loading took a few seconds while additional loads were nearly immediate. A loading message was visible in the text area while the article was loaded and processed. The loading of the article seemed to be the majority of the wait once the editor had been loaded once.
  • Dialogs which assist the user in inserting tables, images and other elements into the article were fast, but not immediate as they required a new browser window which on many systems introduces a certain amount of overhead and thus wait time.
  • Switching to wiki-text mode was instant, but switching back to WYSIWYG mode took about a second each time.

Completeness

Given this software's excellent browser support and extensive list of functioning features, this software seems to have reached a fairly high level of maturity. The stability of the software benefits from a large community of active developers who are empowered by a well structured project management system where they can report bugs and submit patches quickly. This software saw some deployment on some Wikia sites for a brief period of time before they branched, and looks to be in use on many small wikis.

User Features

Extendable

A well documented API exists for adding extra functionality to the FCKeditor and over 100 such plug-ins already exist.

Themable

There are several skins for FCKeditor which generally aim at replicating the user experience of Microsoft Office products.

Internationalization/Localization

Feature Support
UI L10n OK
Alternative Input OK
Double-Byte OK

Wikia Wysiwyg

Wikia Wysiwyg Extension running on a sandbox

Provides a focused set of features which are relevant to Wiki articles in a fully WYSIWYG environment and is based on FCKeditor as it is a branch of the official FCKeditor MediaWiki extension. The target audience of this extension, similar to the official FCKeditor extension, is inexperienced users with desktop-publishing experience, however this extension greatly reduces the number of features available to the user in favor of simplifying the user interface and bringing focus to common wiki article elements.

Download Size

41 files @ 132KB total

Browser Compatibility

Browser Version Windows Linux MacOS iPhone
Firefox 1.5+ OK OK OK N/A
Safari 3.0+ NOT N/A NOT NOT
Opera 9.50+ NOT NOT NOT N/A
Internet Explorer 5.5+ OK N/A N/A N/A
Google Chrome NOT N/A N/A N/A
Camino 1.0+ N/A N/A NOT N/A

License Compatibility

This software is under the GPL license.

UI Responsiveness

  • Although an animated loading graphic was provided to indicate to the user that the page was not ready yet, the loading time was about 8-10 seconds the first time, and 4-5 seconds on additional page loads.
  • The dialogs which assist users with embedding templates and various kinds of media in the article also provided an immediate visual response to clicking on the button by displaying an animated loading graphic, but would still on average take a few seconds to load.
  • Dialogs for links were very fast, taking only a fraction of a second to finish loading.
  • Switching between wiki-text and WYSIWYG mode took anywhere from a few seconds to a fraction of a second depending on whether the content was changed significantly enough to require a trip to the server for parsing or not.

Completeness

Although based on FCKeditor, this branch has made many concessions in stability and compatibility in the name of quickly implementing various usability oriented design changes and has left the resulting code detached from the FCKeditor development community. That said, this software is being deployed regularly on new Wikia projects and is being actively improved by the Wikia staff.

User Features

Extendable

Although there is no specific documentation available for this branch of the FCKEditor, a few extensions do exist for it which seem to use the same API, indicating this software is similarly extendable.

Themable

Although the current visual style is a form of an FCKeditor skin, which speaks to the ability to theme this software, changes in the layout of the toolbar prevent this editor from being compatible with other existing FCKeditor skins, and there are currently not any skins in existence for this branch of FCKeditor.

Internationalization/Localization

Feature Support
UI L10n OK
Alternative Input OK
Double-Byte OK

MeanEditor

MeanEditor Extension running on a sandbox

Provides a hybrid (visual/logical) WYSIWYM approach to editing with basic wiki-oriented features and is based on the WYMEditor project. The target audience of this extension seems to be intermediate users as it's user interface reinforces a separation between model and view which is somewhat of a foreign concept to many inexperienced users, however it may help to illustrate this concept to inexperienced users through it's visual representation of article blocks and sections.

  • Work being done to integrate a newer version of WYMEditor which is compatible with all browsers
  • Compatible with MediaWiki 1.15alpha, but requires patch to EditPage.php

Download Size

10 files @ 120KB total

Browser Compatibility

Browser Version Windows Linux MacOS iPhone
Firefox 2.0+ OK OK OK N/A
Safari 3.1+ NOT N/A NOT NOT
Opera 9.50+ NOT NOT NOT N/A
Internet Explorer 6+ OK N/A N/A N/A
Google Chrome NOT N/A N/A N/A
Camino 1.0+ N/A N/A NOT N/A

License Compatibility

This software is under a mix of MIT and GPL licenses.

UI Responsiveness

  • Initial loading time took a few seconds, while additional loads took around a second. The page loading is blocked while the editor initializes which makes for a somewhat disruptive visual experience.
  • Dialog for embedding images into the article is instant, with an animated effect that shades the editing area while working with the dialog.
  • Switching between XHTML and WYSIWYM modes is instantaneous.

Completeness

Although there is active development going on to improve the WYMeditor, which has resulted in browser support similar to FCKeditor and much more stable implementation of existing features, this extension has yet to become compatible with the latest version of WYMeditor leaving it in a somewhat less mature state. This software is still a work-in progress and has never been widely deployed, however there are a few developers who have been continuing to actively improve it.

User Features

Extendable

A briefly documented API exists for adding extra functionality to the WYMeditor, but only 1 such plug-ins already exists.

Themable

There are a few themes for WYMeditor which all look to be generic styles with icons very typical of rich text editing.

Internationalization/Localization

Feature Support
UI L10n OK
Alternative Input OK
Double-Byte OK

Wikiwyg

Wikiwyg Extension running on a test page

Provides a simple WYSIWYG environment for a single section of content directly within the view mode of a page. Admittedly no longer actively supported or worked on, this extension takes a unique approach to the process of editing an article which has been validated in part by other per-section editing approaches like UniWiki's simplified editor. The target audience of this extension seems to be inexperienced users familiar with basic rich text editing like WordPad on Windows or TextEdit on MacOS as it only provides a limited set of formatting tools and enables editing in place.

Notes

  • Very limited browser support for WYSIWYG and incomplete browser support for markup
  • "Gracefully" degrades to a plain text editor when incompatible with a browser
  • Incompatible with current version of MediaWiki

Download Size

25 files @ 87KB total

Browser Compatibility

Browser Version Windows Linux MacOS iPhone
Firefox 1.5+ OK OK OK N/A
Safari 3.0+ NOT N/A NOT NOT
Opera 9.50+ NOT NOT NOT N/A
Internet Explorer 6+ OK N/A N/A N/A
Google Chrome NOT N/A N/A N/A
Camino 1.0+ N/A N/A OK N/A

License Compatibility

This software is under the LGPL license.

UI Responsiveness

  • Loading is performed asynchronously and invisibly, since the editor is not initially visible
  • Upon double-clicking within the area of a section of content, the editor appears for that section instantly.
  • Switching between preview, WYSIWYG and plain wiki-text is virtually instantaneous, however when switching to and from wiki-text the user is confronted with a warning about HTML conversion taking place, blocking the operation until the user decides to continue or not which felt very disruptive.

Completeness

This extension was abandoned before it reached maturity, leaving many intended features unimplemented and bugs unfixed.

User Features

Extendable

No API exists through which this software can be extended.

Themable

The visual aspects of this extension are very basic and are not very changeable aside from modifying the small number of images which are used as icons.

Internationalization/Localization

Feature Support
UI L10n OK
Alternative Input OK
Double-Byte OK