Turning off the full height editor option in WordPress 4.0

Though I keep a little eye on WordPress development, it is no way near as rigorous as when I submitted a patch that got me a mention on the contributor list of a main WordPress release. That may explain how the full editor setting, which is turned on by default passed by on me without my taking much in the way of notice of it.

WordPress has become so mature now that I almost do not expect major revisions like the overhauls received by the administration back-end in 2008. The second interface was got so right that it still is with us and there were concerns in my mind at the time as to how usable it would be. Sometimes, those initial suspicions can come to nothing.

However, WordPress 4.0 brought a major change to the editor and I unfortunately am not sure that it is successful. A full height editor sounds a good idea in principle but I found some rough edges to its present implementation that leave me wondering if any UX person got to reviewing it. The first reason is that scrolling becomes odd with the editor’s toolbar becoming fixed when you scroll down far enough on an editor screen. The sidebar scrolling then is out of sync with the editor box, which creates a very odd sensation. Having keyboard shortcuts like CTRL+HOME and CTRL+END not working as they should only convinced me that the new arrangement was not for me and I wanted to turn it off.

A search with Google turned up nothing of note so I took to the WordPress.org forum to see if I could get any joy. That revealed that I should have thought of looking in the screen options dropdown box for an option called “Expand the editor to match the window height” so I could clear that tickbox. Because of the appearance of a Visual Editor control on there, I looked on the user profile screen and found nothing so the logic of how things are set up is sub-optimal.  Maybe, the latter option needs to be a screen option now too. Thankfully, the window height editor option only needs setting once for both posts and pages so you are covered for all eventualities at once.

With a distraction-free editing option, I am not sure why someone went for the full height editor too. If WordPress wanted to stick with this, it does need more refinement so it behaves more conventionally. Personally, I would not build a website with that kind of ill-synchronised scrolling effect so it is something needs work as does the location of the Visual Editor setting. It could be that both settings need to be at the user level and not with one being above that level while another is at it. Until I got the actual solution, I was faced with using distraction-free mode all the time and also installed the WP Editor plugin too. That remains due to its code highlighting even if dropping into code view always triggers the need to create a new revision. Despite that, all is better in the end.

Changing to CKEditor from FCKEditor for WordPress Content Editing

The post editor that I have been using on my WordPress-powered outdoors blog has not been TinyMCE but FCKEditor. My use of that editor has meant that WordPress’ autosave and word counting features have not been available to me but that was my choice, as strange as it will sound to some. However, there have been times when I have missed the autosaving functionality and lost work. Since FCKEditor has been replaced by CKEditor, there are plugins available for adding that editor to WordPress’ administration interface. Recently, I got to replacing the old FCKEditor plugin with a newer CKEditor one and that has gained me post or page autosaving. The more cosmetic word counting feature is not active until a draft is manually saved but I can live with that. Other than that, the interface remains familiar with all (X)HTML tags on show in the source code view without any being hidden away from view like in WordPress’ implementation of TinyMCE. That isn’t to see that WordPress is doing something wrong but just that there are alternative way of doing things that are equally valid. After all, why would there be choices if there only ever was one right way to do anything?

Like any WordPress plugins, those replacing the default content editor in WordPress can be vulnerable to changes in the publishing platform and there is one of those in the pipeline for 3.2: a minimalist post/page editor that is billed as being non-distracting. That planned new feature is drawing inspiration from the likes of QuietWrite, where you can write content and transfer it over to WordPress or leave it where it was written. Even with bigger changes like this, my experience never has been that design decisions made for new WordPress releases have restricted to any great extent how I use the thing. That’s not to say that my usage hasn’t changed over time but I have felt that any decisions were mine to make and not all made for me. In that light, I can foresee CKEditor continuing to work on WordPress 3.2 but I’ll be doing some testing ahead of time to be sure that is the case.

A spot of extension bother with Firefox

One keystroke that I use a lot when typing on a computer is Control+Shift+[an arrow key] but I found myself in the awkward position of it not working in Firefox anymore. The nuisance level was enough to set me investigating in the name of resolving the problem. Using the following command to start Firefox saw the keystroke being returned to me so I need to find which plug-in, extension or add-on was the cause of the matter.

firefox -safe-mode

Then, it was a matter of disabling one extension at a time and restarting Firefox each time to see when the keystroke functionality was returned to me. The culprit turned out to be Firebug 1.6 and there’s a discussion on their bug forum about the issue. Even the good folk in the Firebug project noted how many folk were experiencing the inconvenience based on a quick Google search. However, that didn’t turn up the answer for me so I had to do some digging of my own and I hope that it has saved you some time. Of course, Firebug comes without cost so we cannot grumble too much but I’ll be keeping it disabled as much as possible until a new version makes its appearance.


Update 2011-01-15: This now seems to be fixed in Firebug 1.6.1

Turning off the admin bar in WordPress 3.1

Work on WordPress 3.1 is in full swing at the moment though I initially though that they were taking a little break after 3.0. From what I can see, many refinements are being made to the multi-blog functionality and behind-the-scenes work is ongoing on the administration screens too.

Another under-the-bonnet change has been to make WordPress less tied to MySQL since the possibility of dropping in support for an alternative such as PostgreSQL is now a reality even if it isn’t part of the default package. For now, it looks as if this is going to be plugin territory rather than default multi-database support though that may become a sensible development in the light of Oracle’s acquisition of MySQL and its sabre rattling with regard to Java patents. So far, the change to WordPress has affected my use of its database engine to power an offline version of my online photo gallery but a quick spot of code editing sorted that issue.

One more obvious alteration is going to be the addition of a WordPress.com style administration bar to the top of all content and administration screens for a user who is logged into the system. It is going to be turned on by default but there will be the option of turning it off for those among who prefer things that way. All that will be needed for this is to add the following line near the top of wp-config.php:

define( “WP_SHOW_ADMIN_BAR”, false);

The chance to see new additions like those above and be ready for is my main reason for following WordPress development. It’s best to be ready than surprised though it has to be said that the blogging or CMS platform is a very polished one these days.

An Eee PC

Having had an Asus Eee PC 1001 HA for a few weeks now, I thought that it might be opportune to share a few words about the thing on here. The first thing that struck me when I got it was the size of the box in which it came. Being accustomed to things coming in large boxes meant the relatively diminutive size of the package was hard not to notice. Within that small box was the netbook itself along with the requisite power cable and not much else apart from warranty and quickstart guides; so that’s how they kept things small.

Though I was well aware of the size of a netbook from previous bouts of window shopping, the small size of something with a 10″ screen hadn’t embedded itself into my consciousness. In spite of that, it came with more items that reflect desktop computing than might be expected. First, there’s a 160 GB hard disk and 1 GB of memory, neither of which is disgraceful and the memory module sits behind a panel opened by loosening a screw so I am left wondering about adding more. Sockets for network and VGA cables are included along with three USB ports and sockets for a set of headphones and  for a microphone. Portability starts to come to the fore with the inclusion of an Intel Atom CPU and a socket for an SD card. Unusual inclusions come in the form of an onboard webcam and microphone, both of which I plan on leaving off for sake of privacy. Wi-Fi is another networking option so you’re not short of features. The keyboard is not too compromised either and the mouse trackpad is the sort of thing that you’d find on full size laptops. With the latter, you can use gestures too so I need to learn what ones are available.

The operating system that comes with the machine is Windows XP and there are some extras bundled too. These include a trial of Trend Micro as an initial security software option as well as Microsoft Works and a trial of Microsoft Office 2007. Then, there are some Asus utilities too though they are not so useful to me. All in all, none of these burden the processing power too much and IE8 comes installed too. Being a tinkerer, I have put some of the sorts of things that I’d have on a full size PC on there. Examples include Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Adobe Reader and Adobe Digital Editions. Pushing the boat out further, I used Wubi to get Ubuntu 10.04 on there in the same way as I have done with my 15″ Toshiba laptop. So far, nothing seems to overwhelm the available processing power though I am left wondering about battery life.

The mention of battery life brings me to mulling over how well the machine operates. So far, I am finding that the battery lasts around three hours, much longer than on my Toshiba but nothing startling either. Nevertheless, it does preserve things by going into sleep mode when you leave it unattended for long enough. Still, I’d be inclined to find a socket if I was undertaking a long train journey.

According to the specifications, it is suppose to weight around 1.4 kg and that seems not to be a weight that has been a burden to carry so far and the smaller size makes it easy  to pop into any bag. It also seems sufficiently robust to allow its carrying by bicycle though I wouldn’t be inclined to carry it over too many rough roads. In fact, the manufacturer advises against carrying it anywhere (by bike or otherwise) with switching it off first but that’s a common sense precaution.

Start-up times are respectable though you feel the time going by when you’re on a bus for a forty minute journey and shutdown needs some time set aside near the end. Screen resolution can be increased to 1024×600 and the shallowness can be noticed, reminding you that you are using a portable machine. Because of that, there have been times when I hit the F11 key to get a full screen web browser session. Coupled with the Vodafone mobile broadband dongle that I have, it has done some useful things for me while on the move so long as there is sufficient signal strength (seeing the type of connection change between 3G, EDGE and GPRS is instructive). All in all, it’s not a chore to use so  long as Internet connections aren’t temperamental.