[Wikimedia-l] Alpha version of the VisualEditor now available on the English Wikipedia

James Forrester jforrester at wikimedia.org
Wed Dec 12 03:30:01 UTC 2012

TL;DR: Today we are launching an alpha, opt-in version of the
VisualEditor[0] to the English Wikipedia. This will let editors create
and modify real articles visually, using a new system where the
articles they edit will look the same as when you read them, and their
changes show up as they type enter them — like writing a document in a
word processor. Please let us know what you think[1].

Why launch now?

We want our community of existing editors to get an idea of what the
VisualEditor will look like in the “real world” and start to give us
feedback about how well it integrates with how they edit right now,
and their thoughts on what aspects are the priorities in the coming

The editor is at an early stage and is still missing significant
functions, which we will address in the coming months. Because of
this, we are mostly looking for feedback from experienced editors at
this point, because the editor is insufficient to really give them a
proper experience of editing. We don’t want to promise an easier
editing experience to new editors before it is ready.

As we develop improvements, they will be pushed every fortnight to the
wikis, allowing you to give us feedback[1] as we go and tell us what
next you want us to work on.

How can I try it out?

The VisualEditor is now available to all logged-in accounts on the
English Wikipedia as a new preference, switched off by default. If you
go to your “Preferences” screen and click into the “Editing” section,
it will have as an option labelled “Enable VisualEditor”).

Once enabled, for each article you can edit, you will get a second
editor tab labelled “VisualEditor” next to the “Edit” tab. If you
click this, after a little pause you will enter the VisualEditor. From
here, you can play around, edit and save real articles and get an idea
of what it will be like when complete.

At this early stage in our development, we recommend that after saving
any edits, you check whether they broke anything. All edits made with
the VisualEditor will show up in articles’ history tabs with a
“VisualEditor” tag next to them, so you can track what is happening.

Things to note

Slow to load - It will take some time for long complex pages to load
into the VisualEditor, and particularly-big ones may timeout after 60
seconds. This is because pages have to be loaded through Parsoid which
is also in its early stages, and is not yet optimised for deployment
and is currently uncached. In the future (a) Parsoid itself will be
much faster, (b) Parsoid will not depend on as many slow API calls,
and (c) it will be cached.

Odd-looking - we currently struggle with making the HTML we produce
look like you are used to seeing, so styling and so on may look a
little (or even very) odd. This hasn't been our priority to date, as
our focus has been on making sure we don't disrupt articles with the
VisualEditor by altering the wikitext (correct "round-tripping").

No editing references or templates - Blocks of content that we cannot
yet handle are uneditable; this is mostly references and templates
like infoboxes. Instead, when you mouse over them, they will be
hatched out and a tooltip will inform you that they have to be edited
via wikitext for now. You can select these items and delete them
entirely, however there is not yet a way to add ones in or edit them
currently (this will be a core piece of work post-December).

Incomplete editing - Some elements of "complex" formatting will
display and let you edit their contents, but not let users edit their
structure or add new entries - such as tables or definition lists.
This area of work will also be one of our priorities post-December.

No categories - Articles' "meta" items will not appear at all -
categories, langlinks, magic words etc.; these are preserved (so
editing won't disrupt them), but they not yet editable. Another area
for work post-December - our current plan is that they will be edited
through a "metadata flyout", with auto-suggestions and so on.

Poor browser support - Right now, we have only got VisualEditor to
work in the most modern versions of Firefox, Chrome and Safari. We
will find a way to support (at least) Internet Explorer post-December,
but it's going to be a significant piece of work and we have failed to
get it ready for now.

Articles and User pages only - The VisualEditor will only be enabled
for the article and user namespaces (so you can make changes in a
personal sandbox), and will not work with talk pages, templates,
categories, etc.. In time, we will build out the kinds of specialised
editing tools needed for non-articles, but our focus has been on

Final point

This is not the final form of the VisualEditor in lots of different
ways. We know of a number of bugs, and we expect you to find more. We
do not recommend people trying to use the VisualEditor for their
regular editing yet. We would love your feedback on what we have done
so far – whether it’s a problem you discovered, an aspect that you
find confusing, what area you think we should work on next, or
anything else, please do let us know.[1]

[0] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:VisualEditor
[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:VisualEditor/Feedback

James D. Forrester
Product Manager, VisualEditor
Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

jforrester at wikimedia.org | @jdforrester

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