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technology:fckw

Adding FCKW to Dokuwiki

FCKW is a web-based editor written in JavaScript.  It reads and writes HTML, allowing the user to work in a WYSIWYG Word Processor-like environment.  Dokuwiki doesn't store its documents in HTML though, so Hannes Gassert wrote a translation tool to go between FCKW and Dokuwiki.  This web page shows that people are having a hard time getting the plugin to work, so I thought I'd document my experience for the community's benefit.

First of all, my environment:  I have an Ubuntu Linux machine at home, and I use a developer-friendly hosting service for my website.  My provider supports PHP, Perl, Ruby on Rails, SVN, and plenty more.  I have SSH and FTP access to my account, and I can ask the support team to install things (like PERL modules) and they will.  If you have a hosting service that won't do this kind of stuff for you, you should switch.  :-)  But hey, its your life….do what you want.

Installing FCKW on Linux

The website instructions are pretty straightforward, but a few steps weren't explained very well IMO.

1.  Execute these commands or have your hosting provider run them for you.  Using sudo tells the operating system to run the perl as the root user.  This is necessary on Unix/Linux to get PERL to install the modules to a shared location, which you don't have write access to as yourself. (And thats good security…preventing just anybody from writing into the operating system directories).  Each of these commands could ask a lot of questions, depending on how many perl modules you/your provider already have installed.  Say 'yes' to all the questions about installing additional modules.

sudo perl -MCPAN -e 'install HTML::WikiConverter'

sudo perl -MCPAN -e 'install HTML::WikiConverter::DokuWiki'

2.  Confirm that everything works before continuing.  Run this command and make sure you see output similar to mine.  This confirms that the html2wiki tool is installed, and its Dokuwiki translator is present.  DO NOT CONTINUE until you get this right!!  Most future problems can be traced back to this.

chris@homemachine:~$ html2wiki --list
Installed dialects:
DokuWiki

3.  I had to install the author's snippets plugin.  This wasn't documented in the instructions, but it was easy to install:

svn co https://svn.liip.ch/repos/public/misc/dokuwiki/plugins/snippets

4.  Install the FCKW plugin itself.  Instructions are on the author's wiki.  Like the above step, I retrieved it directly from SVN.  But you could just download, unzip, and use FTP to put the files in the right place.

5.  Finally, I had to make sure that my user Apache or PHP account had access to html2wiki so it could run properly and convert between HTML and Dokuwiki syntax.  I didn't have any issues, but I've heard that others do.  This will depend on the settings imposed by your hosting service.  There is nothing the author of the plugin can do to change that…you might have to work with your provider.

Observations

I've been using the plugin for a while now and I have several observations:

  • My current template has problems with the FCKW plugin.  After several seconds, part of the template's CSS file becomes visible on the top-right side of the screen and pushes the editor down to the bottom of the page.  This is annoying. Not sure if its a defect or an artifact of my configuration.
  • When I edit existing pages, I don't see the same check boxes that I see when creating new pages.
  • My thinking process changes.  Normally I write content first and deal with appearance later.  This behavior comes from years of writing software and documentation.  But with FCKW, I think about the appearance first.  I find that slightly distracting. 
  • Lots of features that I'm used to don't work:
    • spell checking
    • RSS feeds (FCKW turns them into static html links)
    • ability to add chunks of HTML or PHP
    • menu bar extensions (like the one I wrote)
    • the <code> tag is broken. Its hard/impossible to give source code examples without it
    • syntax plugins - their syntax is either turned into text or eliminated
  • This install took far more knowledge to install than a typical plugin.

I have to admit that some of the limits here aren't due to FCKW, but rather to the PERL html2wiki translator being used behind the scenes to convert FCKW's HTML into DokuWiki syntax. But the end result is the same…a less-than-100%-function wiki. I think a more well-integrated html2wiki translator would solve the problem. It would be able to sense what plugins are installed and write out the appropriate wiki syntax.

Summary

I think FCKW is great for basic users.  I classify those as people who:

  • are intimidated by unfamiliar syntax
  • prefer a visual editor to a text editor
  • are satisfied with dokuwiki's out-of-the-box feature set

But currently1), FCKW is not a good fit for more advanced users. People who want to use more complex syntax are likely to be frustrated, and those who wish to use additional plugins are just plain out-of-luck.

Conclusion

Its sad that FCKW is so difficult to get working.  Its a good visual editor for basic needs.  If the installation process is made easier, it will be a nice option to have for Dokuwiki.  I can see it being an included plugin that users can enable/disable as desired. However several install and operations kinks need to be worked out first.

I look forward to advances in the visual editing area for Dokuwiki.  But as of today, I am uninstalling FCKW and returning to the default editor. The advantages of visual editing are not offset by the loss of functionality I'm experiencing.

1) 1Q2009
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/home/cfreyer/public_html/data/pages/technology/fckw.txt · Last modified: 2009/05/01 10:10 by Chris Freyer