AJAX-based document editors


A few weeks back, AjaxWrite was released with much hoopla. Its creator announced that this web-based document editor was going to give Microsoft Word a serious run for its money (not the Office suite, mind, just Word). I’m sure the MS Office team was quivering at this news. But as it turned out, AjaxWrite was either never quite what its creator hoped for, or was simply announced too early in its product lifecycle.

The problem with AjaxWrite is that its feature set is rather impoverished. Its home page states: "The look, feel, and functionality of Microsoft Word, in a completely web-based AJAX platform." It’s got some nice features: e.g. the ability to create and stretch tables using gridlines and grab-handles; limited text formatting, and so on. But to compare it with MS Word in its current state of the art is just begging for the two products to be compared. Then you immediately realize that, in terms of power, MS Word is the juggernaut and AjaxWrite is the little fly that just hit the windscreen.

MS Word comparisons aside, there’s a growing number of AJAX-based editors out there now. For example, try out the LGPL’d (and unfortunately named) FCKeditor. The list of people, projects and sites using FCKeditor is impressive, even if you may not have heard of any of them (I hadn’t, except for Nominet, the .uk domain name registry).

Also check out TinyMCE - a much more honestly named and marketed product than AjaxWrite; and Xinha (its current slogan is the pithy "Xinha needs a logo!").

And finally, there’s the one that starry-eyed Google fanboys/gals are waiting for, Writely (current slogan: "The web word processor that’s now part of Google"). Unfortunately it’s also in closed beta; so we’ll have to take their word for it whether it’s any good or not. This makes their list of "Can I’s..." at the foot of their home page rather ironic: "Can I… upload from Word?" Not right now! "Can I... save to my desktop?" Not right now! And so on...

About the Author

Matt Stephens is a senior architect, programmer and project leader based in Central London. He co-wrote Agile Development with ICONIX Process, Extreme Programming Refactored, and Use Case Driven Object Modeling with UML - Theory and Practice.