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13 December 2012, 10:47

VisualEditor launched in Wikipedia

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Visual Editor logo Six months after the first trials, the new VisualEditor has been made available in the English-language version of Wikipedia; however, the editor will initially only be available to experienced users. After a first attempt failed, the Wikimedia Foundation joined forces with the Wikia service to complete development of the project.

The new Wikipedia editing interface is one of the main projects that aim at making the online encyclopaedia more attractive to new contributors. The editor is built around the WYSIWYG principle; instead of having to write articles in a formalised syntax, Wikipedia authors can work directly in the article's finished layout. However, the editor is currently only available as an early alpha version; to access it, Wikipedia authors must be logged in and enable it in their user preferences. The editing field is still rather sluggish at times – significant waiting times may occur when loading or saving. Templates, references and info boxes are currently not editable.

Zoom The Visual Editor in use
In a blog post, project manager James Forrester describes the implementation difficulties the project has encountered. He says that the wikitext markup language, which is the basis for Wikipedia articles, has been causing problems for the developers because it has been extended further and further over the past 12 years, with rich and complex features and without attention to how often the created notation would be used. This has meant that the final appearance of a Wikipedia article depends on numerous factors that can't easily be reproduced.

For this reason, the developers have created Parsoid, a program that converts old wikitext files into a format that is suitable for the VisualEditor and will subsequently reconvert the edited file into wikitext. In trials, the program worked fine in 80 per cent of cases. Slight discrepancies were observed in 18 per cent of cases, and problems that required remedial action by the Wikipedia author occurred in two per cent of cases. The developers say that they plan to significantly improve these percentages, and the speed of Parsoid, over the coming months. According to the current schedule, the new editor is planned to be the default for almost all Wikimedia projects from July 2013.


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