The Performancing Firefox Plugin for Drupal, and the Approaching Wars of Desktop Publishing

John Wilson out at GHASP brought an awesome firefox plugin to my attention: Performancing.


The tool has a great "blog this!" feature;you select text on any page, and after right clicking and selecting "performancing" it automatically pastes the text you selected within blockquotes, and provides a link. In addition it has built in support and integration with, technorati and a myriad of other services.

The WYSIWYG editor is hella smooth. It also supports the taxonomy system, saves revisions of pages, and supports a few publishing options such as "save draft".

However, glowing review aside, the plugin has a lot of limitations which prevent it from being a true replacement of tinyMCE. There is no support for file uploads, content types other than blogs, 4.7 menu on the fly, or freetagging.

The WYSIWYG editor also has a lot of drawbacks that will make serious webpublishers cringe. For one, it raises font-sizes using <big></big> tags. I didn't even know such tags existed! And while it uses "big" tags, it doesn't have any support for the standard h1,h2,h3 tags and so forth... It also seems to have no support for adding custom CSS styles. Not to mention, while it gives you an ability to add an image, it fails to provide alignment options which are necessary provided you perfer your page not to look like crap.

Building Bridges Between Drupal and the Desktop 

Weaknesses aside, this plugin brought up an important question for me -- and perhaps the drupal community as a whole. Has the time come for a desktop publishing extension for drupal? AJAX is all nice and dandy, but let's be real: its a pain in the ass to implement, and usually opens up a can of bugs. Some functions, such as composing, organizing, and managing files always work better through a desktop interface. The reasons for this are clear: less variables to consider in terms of browser support (i'd recommend we focus on one browser for the plugin -- firefox),  If we focused a desktop plugin, I think we could truly create a seamless publishing experience -- and rather easily in comparison to attempting to create a server-side seamless publishing experience.

Proprietary CMS's truly excel in the realm of integrating desktops with the web. This has always been the case, and I think its one of the reasons platforms like Bloatus 5.7 get liscensed for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Moreover, drupal and every other opensource project needs to understand that there are very large corporations (MICROSOFT) that would love nothing more than to crush them like ants in the marketplace. And frankly, with upcoming products like Office Live which aim to connect microsoft word with web publishing enviroments (inevitably, ASP.NET web publishing enviroments), the realities are that competition is going to start getting fiercer than we can possibly imagine. Its my prediction that desktop integration is going to be the key battle ground for webpublishing tools in upcoming years. 

In some ways, I don't think drupal has no choice in terms of whether it should begin focusing on desktop integration. Its going to happen, and its the crappiness of web-based technology (that's a constant, my friends) that will be the chief driver of this trend.  As far as I know, no open source CMS has yet figured out how to do this well. So for one, desktop integration would provide drupal with a killer feature that would set it apart from competition. However, and this is a more important consideration, the web 2.0 movement has awakened sleeping giants with hundreds of billions of dollars at their disposal, and an army of highly skilled developers. Its my feeling that we should all be getting ready for this war -- right now. Some may argue Microsoft can't get anything right, and there is nothing to worry about. These people are fools. Anyone with a big stake in Drupal should be very worried. But, that's just my humble opinion.