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How Drupal saved its users millions of hours thanks to CKEditor


CKEditor 4


  • Time saving
  • User satisfaction
  • Efficiency improvement

Everyone knows Drupal. It’s the leading CMS made by one of the largest open source communities. It’s designed to build outstanding digital experiences that reach your audience across multiple channels. CKEditor empowers content creators on hundreds of thousands of Drupal 8 sites. That translates to millions of users per day typing text, linking content, uploading images and organizing the world’s information.

Challenge: move Drupal to the next level

Drupal has been around since 2001. And yet even Drupal 7, shipped in 2011, did not include a rich text editor. It was one of Drupal’s top pain points. In surveys, it came up time and time again that a built-in rich text editor was crucial for Drupal’s future. Drupal needed a well-integrated editor that supports per-site custom needs. But the process of choosing one involved a lot of work from the community. First they needed to build a consensus on which editor to choose. And then they had to do all the integration work in Drupal core.

To make this happen, Drupal’s founder started the Spark initiative, whose goal was to bring the authoring experience of Drupal 8 to the next level. It included integrating a rich text editor capable of working on the front-end, for so called in-place editing. Another crucial feature to have was excellent image upload support with alignment and captioning.

Drupal illustration

Solution: mature editor with in-place editing support

At the time, very few rich text editors were capable of in-place editing. The Drupal community initially ended up selecting a rich text editor that was not very mature but had one feature — "Aloha Blocks" — which could play an important role in the Drupal ecosystem. Over time, it became clear that that rich text editor’s lack of maturity and poor accessibility was going to be a huge stumbling block.

“And that’s when we found out that CKEditor 4 had been in development and was also going to have support for in-place editing!”, recalls Wim Leers, one of a few dozen Drupal core maintainers and responsible for CKEditor integration. “It had far superior maturity and accessibility, as well as a much bigger development team behind it. We got strong guarantees for clean HTML, including Advanced Content Filter. And CKEditor Widgets could easily replace Aloha Blocks. So we made the difficult decision to switch to CKEditor.”

The number of times CKEditor broke something in the past five years can probably be counted on two hands.

Leers stresses the maturity and stability of the editor. “The number of times CKEditor broke something in the past five years can probably be counted on two hands. Which is very impressive, considering how many different ways it’s used on hundreds of thousands of Drupal 8 sites out there!”

Result: countless hours of development saved

Before the integration just about every Drupal-based project had to go through a painful process of evaluating the different available rich text editors. Then after making a selection they had to figure out how to get it integrated. “Almost every project building a Drupal site was spending at least a few and often dozens of hours on this”, says Leers. “Multiplied by more than a million Drupal sites out there, it adds up to millions of hours!”

This is no longer the case thanks to CKEditor being enabled out-of-the-box in Drupal 8 core and its deep integration. Countless hours of development time and frustration are saved, not to mention the reduction in risk. Rich text editing is simply a solved problem since Drupal 8. Both developers and users can focus on what really matters to them: creating amazing content and building ambitious digital experiences.

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