Fidus Writer 3.0.0 beta 1 released

It took a long time, but finally here it is: the beta1 of the 3.0 upcoming 3.0 release. This is the first Fidus Writer beta release since January 2014. The first and last full version release was version 1.0 in August 2013.

Download it from here.

What is new?

The main new features are the following

Stability. Almost the entire clientside code was transformed or rewritten, as well as a substantial part of the serverside code, with stability in mind. The clientside code is now written in ES6 JavaScript, which means it’s more readable and many types of bugs are easier to spot for developers.

Early Firefox/Safari/Edge support. While there hasn’t been extensive testing on browsers other than Chrome and Firefox yet, the editor should now be usable using any modern browser.

Thanks to Aleksandr Korovin of the OSCOSS project, Fidus Writer now has this graphic equation editor.

Thanks to Aleksandr Korovin of the OSCOSS project, Fidus Writer now has this graphic equation editor.

Visual equation editor. (Contributed by Aleksandr Korovin, University of Bonn) Not everyone using formulas is a LaTeX wizard. For those who are not, there is now a way to insert formulas in an editor that is more graphical in nature.

Fakhri Momeni (GESIS and Fidus Writer code contributor): "It is nice to know who writes what."

Fakhri Momeni (GESIS and Fidus Writer code contributor): “It is nice to know who writes what.”

Caret/selection sharing. (Contributed by Fakhri Momeni, GESIS Cologne). Momeni explains why she picked to work on this feature:
“When one writes a shared document, and one can see how the document changes, it is nice to know who writes what. With the feature ‘caret/selection sharing’ everybody knows who is the writer of which word at the time of editing.” – And how exactly has it been implemented? Momeni: “A color is assigned to each user and one can see that color as a line at the bottom of the user’s profile picture. While she/he is editing the text, other authors can see a caret of that color at the place where editing takes place.”

A lonely user typing and selecting in two windows can see his own caret shared

A lonely user typing and selecting in two windows can see his own carets shared with himself. He can also chat with himself.

Additionally, thousands of minor changes all over the codebase have made changes everywhere. While this latest release only marks a beta, it is recommended to upgrade as this beta seems to be more stable than any released version of Fidus Writer since version 1.0.

Why so long? What happened with version 2.0?

Version 1.1 introduced collaborative editing. While we were able to release a beta of this version, we were never able to reach the level of maturity needed for a full release. Version 2.0 introduced automatic testing and fixes in almost all parts of the codebase as well as Firefox support for all parts of the app except the part where users enter text. The collaborative editing parts were still not working quite right. The automatic testing was meant to help with that, but there was an endless list of bugs that would only show up under very special circumstances that made it quite impossible to fix everything.

We determined there were at least two fundamental problems with Fidus Writer:

  • As the basic component for editing text, Fidus Writer used the browsers’ built-in feature for editing text contenteditable. Unfortunately contenteditable is so broken and works so differently in each browser (and changes between browser versions) that it wasn’t easily fixable. To fix this, I became involved in the W3C’s Editing Taskforce, and eventually this will improve things, but it is a long-term process.
  • The codebase grew too large and complex. While we used libraries others had written in many places, we still ended up having to maintain too much code given the size of our development team.

It took some time for all pieces to fall into place, but at the end of 2015, finally things were coming together:

  • The ProseMirror project had been launched, which works as a framework for creating different text input applications. While it still uses contenteditable, it only does so at a very low level and it doesn’t rely on the browser for keeping the document’s structure intact. Replacing parts of our own code with ProseMirror also means that we no longer have to maintian all the text-input related code ourselves.
  • The OSCOSS research project run by the University of Bonn and GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences in Cologne is using Fidus Writer as a central part of their project and they have therefore added testers to find bugs and developers to work on the code. Some of their patches have already been moved back into Fidus Writer.


When will version 3.0.0 be released? 

With these things in place, Fidus Writer is finally coming to a place where it is viable to start using it for day-to-day writing of academic articles and chapters. A version 3.0.0 will be released once it has been verified that no more serious bugs can be found. Simultaneously, Fidus Writer will start to offer commercial support for Fidus Writer, including hosting and feature development.

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