Distraction Free Writing on WordPress.com

As you may know, I support some sites on WordPress.com, e.g. the AAUW Tar Heel Branch. (And I just threw out a Facebook comment that maybe it’s time to start an AAUW Facebook group of volunteers devoted to supporting the branch/state sites that are using WordPress, whether WordPress.org or WordPress.com.)

I don’t usually comment on WordPress upgrades here, but the latest upgrade on WordPress.com is of particular interest — and I just got back from WordCamp Raleigh, so such issues are, perhaps, more top of mind than usual. (The upgrade is a preview of what’s coming in WordPress 3.2 for WordPress.org users.)

The WordPress team has done a fabulous job, as usual, but there’s one feature I’d like to write about – partly to help me understand it better.

This version of the software has changed the “full screen edit” mode to one that supports “distraction free writing” (again, see either the WordPress.com or WordPress.org discussion of the upgrade).

Well, I can see the point for blogs, and I’m sure I’ll get used to it eventually. But since I’m always distracted when writing — and posts are often short enough that often I don’t bother to open the full-screen editor, the new environment seems a bit too stripped down for me. In particular – what happened to the toolbar?? Who decided to delete most of the buttons and go to keyboard shortcut based formatting? Yes, if you click the “Help” icon you get an actually helpful table of keyboard shortcuts, e.g.

Alt+Shift+Letter Action
n Check Spelling
j Justify Text
d Strikethrough
u o List
o 1. List
q Quote
g Full Screen
p Insert Page Break tag
e Switch to HTML mode

How many people expect real help to be behind such an icon? How does this change my elevator speech, “If you can send an email message with an attachment you can write a blog post since the edit screen looks so familiar.”? Of course, some people will never find the full-screen edit button and others may welcome the keyboard shortcuts. Is this a subtle push to keep the style sheet in control of the formatting? That may very well be a good thing (as you see, I’m writing to come to an understanding), but it’s still an odd cultural shift.

And, yes, the full screen editing for HTML mode is fabulous! (For me, anyway — for my users, not such a big deal.)

Side note:

There was a question in the final session today about WordPress as a CMS vs. a Blogging Platform. The answer was, as I recall, the equivalent of “yes.” Of course WordPress is very flexible and it’s both, but the “blogging” roots and mindset are pretty deeply embedded. It’s still the best for my applications, and I’m willing to fight through some oddities and annoyances even if I’ve got more complicated information architecture and access control issues than a typical “blog”. Just hoping I can bring along my friends.


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