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Build your own WYSIWYG markdown editor for Vue πŸ“πŸ‘€

thormeier profile image Pascal Thormeier ・Updated on ・6 min read

HTML5 and modern JavaScript make a lot of things a lot easier than they used to be back in the days. Complex things don't require a lot of hacks anymore, many things come out of the box.

There's a lot of off-the-shelf WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get, a.k.a. "rich text") editors, like CKEditor. They offer a ton of features and several guides, features and plugins for all kinds of frameworks, but their code bases are usually huuuge. I mean, the CKEditor 5 repository has around 2000 JS files totalling in around 300k lines of code - mind-boggling, isn't it?

And probably unnecessary: Most use cases don't require a PDF or even a Word export, real-time collaboration, maths and chemistry integration, revisions, automatic creation of bibliographies, or a full-blown Excel clone. When you only want some basic text editing - why not build your own WYSIWYG editor once?

In this post, I will explain how to create your own WYSIWYG markdown editor for Vue!

Getting started

This editor will use markdown: It's a simple syntax, can be styled however I want and is a lot safer to persist and output again than plain HTML.

First, I need a few packages. Namely @ts-stack/markdown and turndown. @ts-stack/markdown to display markdown as HTML and turndown to transfer HTML back into markdown.

Next, I create a basic Vue component that supports v-model and call it WysiwygEditor.vue. I can already use a <div> here with the attribute contenteditable. I also add some Tailwind styling to make it look nice.

<!-- WysiwygEditor.vue -->
<template>
  <div>
    <div
      @input="onInput"
      v-html="innerValue"
      contenteditable="true"
      class="wysiwyg-output outline-none border-2 p-4 rounded-lg border-gray-300 focus:border-green-300"
    />
  </div>
</template>

<script>
export default {
  name: 'WysiwygEditor',

  props: ['value'],

  data() {
    return {
      innerValue: this.value
    }
  },

  methods: {
    onInput(event) {
      this.$emit('input', event.target.innerHTML)
    }
  }
}
</script>
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This component can now be used like this:

<!-- Some other component -->
<template>
  <!-- ... -->
  <wysiwyg-editor v-model="someText" />
  <!-- ... -->
</template>
<!-- ... -->
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This would look like this:

WYSIWYG editor, styled with Tailwind

The div now basically behaves like a textarea with a tiny difference: It produces HTML.

Putting the "rich" into "rich text"

You probably know the buttons to make text bold, italic or underlined and to add lists, headings, etc. from programs like Google Docs or Word. Let's add those next. For this I installed fontawesome icons and add the buttons right above the textarea-div. But first: Some styling:

.button {
  @apply border-2;
  @apply border-gray-300;
  @apply rounded-lg;
  @apply px-3 py-1;
  @apply mb-3 mr-3;
}
.button:hover {
  @apply border-green-300;
}
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I will already add the click listeners and implement the methods used a bit later on.

<!-- WysiwygEditor.vue -->
<template>
  <!-- ... -->
    <div class="flex flex-wrap">
      <button @click="applyBold" class="button">
        <font-awesome-icon :icon="['fas', 'bold']" />
      </button>
      <button @click="applyItalic" class="button">
        <font-awesome-icon :icon="['fas', 'italic']" />
      </button>
      <button @click="applyHeading" class="button">
        <font-awesome-icon :icon="['fas', 'heading']" />
      </button>
      <button @click="applyUl" class="button">
        <font-awesome-icon :icon="['fas', 'list-ul']" />
      </button>
      <button @click="applyOl" class="button">
        <font-awesome-icon :icon="['fas', 'list-ol']" />
      </button>
      <button @click="undo" class="button">
        <font-awesome-icon :icon="['fas', 'undo']" />
      </button>
      <button @click="redo" class="button">
        <font-awesome-icon :icon="['fas', 'redo']" />
      </button>
    </div>
  <!-- ... -->
</template>
<!-- ... -->
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The editor now looks like this:

WYSIWYG editor, now with buttons.

Amazing. Now I need to add actual functionality to this thing. For this I will use document.execCommand, which is more or less made for creating WYSIWYG editors. Even though MDN states that this feature is deprecated, most browser still offer some support for it, so for the most basic functions, it should still work out.

Let's implement the applyBold method:

methods: {
  // ...

  applyBold() {
    document.execCommand('bold')
  },

  // ...
}
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Ok, that's pretty straight forward. Now the rest:

  // ...

  applyItalic() {
    document.execCommand('italic')
  },
  applyHeading() {
    document.execCommand('formatBlock', false, '<h1>')
  },
  applyUl() {
    document.execCommand('insertUnorderedList')
  },
  applyOl() {
    document.execCommand('insertOrderedList')
  },
  undo() {
    document.execCommand('undo')
  },
  redo() {
    document.execCommand('redo')
  }

  // ...
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The only method popping out here is applyHeading, because I explicitly need to specify here which element I want. With these commands in place, I can continue to style the output a bit:

.wysiwyg-output h1 {
  @apply text-2xl;
  @apply font-bold;
  @apply pb-4;
}
.wysiwyg-output p {
  @apply pb-4;
}
.wysiwyg-output p {
  @apply pb-4;
}
.wysiwyg-output ul {
  @apply ml-6;
  @apply list-disc;
}
.wysiwyg-output ol {
  @apply ml-6;
  @apply list-decimal;
}
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The finished editor (with some example content looks like this:

Editor with example content

To make things behave a little nicer, I also need to set an empty paragraph as default for empty content and make the default "line break" be a paragraph, too:

  // ...
  data() {
    return {
      innerValue: this.value || '<p><br></p>'
    }
  },

  mounted() {
    document.execCommand('defaultParagraphSeparator', false, 'p')
  },
  // ...
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Adding in the markdown

So, I want to put markdown into the editor and get markdown out of it. I start by defining some markdown string to see what happens:

# Hello, world!

**Lorem ipsum dolor** _sit amet_

* Some
* Unordered
* List


1. Some
1. Ordered
1. List
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WYSIWYG editor with unformatted markdown

Yup, nothing happens. Remember the @ts-stack/markdown lib I installed earlier? Let's use it:

import { Marked } from '@ts-stack/markdown'

export default {
  name: 'WysiwygEditor',

  props: ['value'],

  data() {
    return {
      innerValue: Marked.parse(this.value) || '<p><br></p>'
    }
  },

// ...
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And now the input will be rendered as HTML:

Formatted markdown in the WYSIWYG editor

Awesome! Now in order to get markdown out of the component, I use turndown:

import TurndownService from 'turndown'

export default {

// ...

  methods: {
    onInput(event) {
      const turndown = new TurndownService({
        emDelimiter: '_',
        linkStyle: 'inlined',
        headingStyle: 'atx'
      })

      this.$emit('input', turndown.turndown(event.target.innerHTML))
    },
// ...
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Let's see if it works by outputting the markdown we receive in a preformatted div:

<!-- Some other component -->
<template>
  <!-- ... -->
  <wysiwyg-editor v-model="someText" />

  <pre class="p-4 bg-gray-300 mt-12">{{ someText }}</pre>
  <!-- ... -->
</template>
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Awesome! Done! Let's put this thing to the test:

More content added and generated markdown outputted.

Animated version of the markdown editor.

Seems to be working!

For reference, here's the entire component:

<template>
  <div>
    <div class="flex flex-wrap">
      <button @click="applyBold" class="button">
        <font-awesome-icon :icon="['fas', 'bold']" />
      </button>
      <button @click="applyItalic" class="button">
        <font-awesome-icon :icon="['fas', 'italic']" />
      </button>
      <button @click="applyHeading" class="button">
        <font-awesome-icon :icon="['fas', 'heading']" />
      </button>
      <button @click="applyUl" class="button">
        <font-awesome-icon :icon="['fas', 'list-ul']" />
      </button>
      <button @click="applyOl" class="button">
        <font-awesome-icon :icon="['fas', 'list-ol']" />
      </button>
      <button @click="undo" class="button">
        <font-awesome-icon :icon="['fas', 'undo']" />
      </button>
      <button @click="redo" class="button">
        <font-awesome-icon :icon="['fas', 'redo']" />
      </button>
    </div>

    <div
      @input="onInput"
      v-html="innerValue"
      contenteditable="true"
      class="wysiwyg-output outline-none border-2 p-4 rounded-lg border-gray-300 focus:border-green-300"
    />
  </div>
</template>

<script>
import { Marked } from '@ts-stack/markdown'
import TurndownService from 'turndown'

export default {
  name: 'WysiwygEditor',

  props: ['value'],

  data() {
    return {
      innerValue: Marked.parse(this.value) || '<p><br></p>'
    }
  },

  mounted() {
    document.execCommand('defaultParagraphSeparator', false, 'p')
  },

  methods: {
    onInput(event) {
      const turndown = new TurndownService({
        emDelimiter: '_',
        linkStyle: 'inlined',
        headingStyle: 'atx'
      })
      this.$emit('input', turndown.turndown(event.target.innerHTML))
    },
    applyBold() {
      document.execCommand('bold')
    },
    applyItalic() {
      document.execCommand('italic')
    },
    applyHeading() {
      document.execCommand('formatBlock', false, '<h1>')
    },
    applyUl() {
      document.execCommand('insertUnorderedList')
    },
    applyOl() {
      document.execCommand('insertOrderedList')
    },
    undo() {
      document.execCommand('undo')
    },
    redo() {
      document.execCommand('redo')
    }
  }
}
</script>
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Takeaway thoughts

That was fun. A WYSIWYG editor in 87 lines of Vue is quite small. The component behaves like an input using v-model which is more added convenience. In my opinion, for a hobby project, this editor is sufficient for small cases where there's not much content.

In client projects though, I'd rather use an off-the-shelf solution, because of better maintainability, features and support. But building this thing was great learning opportunity, nevertheless!


I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it! If so, leave a ❀️ or a πŸ¦„! I write tech articles in my free time and like to drink coffee every once in a while.

If you want to support my efforts, buy me a coffee β˜• or follow me on Twitter 🐦!

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Discussion (24)

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bogdaniel profile image
Bogdan Olteanu

What would be the alternative to document.execCommand since it's deprecated ? :D I've been looking for ideas for quite some time.

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thormeier profile image
Pascal Thormeier Author

A very good question. There's a few options, actually, but none are quite as elegant as this. According to caniuse, all major browsers still offer support for execCommand.

Turning on/off different modes, like bold or italic text can be achieved by creating a tree-like structure where you edit nodes in the back. The experimental selection API could help with features that work on selected text, as in "select text and mark as bold" for example. I would probably still use contenteditable, but try to emulate the features that execCommand uses. There's also the possibility of using a polyfill at some point in the future, but none is available right now from what I can tell.

What have you stumbled upon during your research?

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bogdaniel profile image
Bogdan Olteanu

Selection API is something really nice but as it states is experimental, second option would be range combined with a tree-like structure as you said and contenteditable since it's closest to what we want. prob's textarea would work fine too. The Range API I don't really like it for the moment .. :-) specially if you would want to combine it with a tree structure or maybe I'm missing a few things here and there. :D

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thormeier profile image
Pascal Thormeier Author

To be honest, I would have to read a lot deeper into the range API to really understand it, but it does look promising! I hope that the Selection API will get some more attention and leave the "experimental" state soon, since it has a lot of potential. What's the reason for you not liking the Range API at the moment?

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hasnaindev profile image
Muhammad Hasnain

Despite being experimental, the selection API has the same support as the range API. Perhaps an abstraction layer would do the trick but will take a lot of time and careful engineering.

About a year ago I really wanted to create my own WYSIWYG editor. Things I read about document exec were not good. For instance, what happens when someone tries to paste text from outside, how are we going to handle the tags in the pasted text.

Moreover, it is deprecated which is literally a mood killer. Someday I'll create a really simple WYSIWYG editor using range and or selection API. I have general knowledge of trees but working with nodes, correctly inserting and removing nodes is NOT an easy thing.

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bogdaniel profile image
Bogdan Olteanu • Edited

Yeap, same here would really love to build my own WYSIWYG even for testing / learning purposes I know a great range of editors but still want to dive in this part and build one from scratch..
document exec is great and easy to use most of the editors these days are based on them except the very new ones. but as you said it's deprecated and you can't count on it + building with exec it's a 20 - 30 minutes jobs to do simple things. Diving into selection and range that's the real stuff to play with.

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hasnaindev profile image
Muhammad Hasnain

Indeed. When I was looking into this initially an agency shared a kind of a case study saying that making a WYSIWYG was one of the most difficult things that they had ever done. They even went on to say that it is one of the most complicated thing on the front-end.

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thormeier profile image
Pascal Thormeier Author

Oh yes, it absolutely is. I find it an absolute pity that execCommand got deprecated. This thing shows how simple it could be, but ultimately isn't when you want to have support on all browsers and not rewrite that thing in a year or two.

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ewenr26 profile image
ewenr26

So helpful! Love it!

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thormeier profile image
Pascal Thormeier Author

Glad you liked it!

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samcodestack profile image
Godwin Samson

That's nice

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thormeier profile image
Pascal Thormeier Author

Thank you, so glad you liked it! :)

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simonholdorf profile image
Simon Holdorf

Awesome, thanks!

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thormeier profile image
Pascal Thormeier Author

You're very welcome! I had so much fun writing and building this!

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atellmer profile image
AlexPlex

Great article

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thormeier profile image
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gok9ok profile image
Gokce Tosun

In case you'd like to take on a similar challenge, this article may be helpful ckeditor.com/blog/ContentEditable-...

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thormeier profile image
Pascal Thormeier Author

Thank you for this article! Very well stated why this shouldn't go beyond hobby projects and experimenting. Off-the-shelf WYSIWYG editors are amazing, and I most probably wouldn't use a self-made one in a larger client project, too, but trying to build one made me understand the challenges editors like Quill and CKEditor are facing, so this was an amazing learning opportunity!

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karthikeyan676 profile image
Karthikeyan

document.execCommand - it's deprecated

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thormeier profile image
Pascal Thormeier Author

Yup, that's what I wrote in the article as well.πŸ™‚ I still think for such an experiment it's sufficient, as most browsers still support a basic version of the commands.

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juandjara profile image
Juan D.

Woah, this is so cool and simple. Does it work ok in mobile devices?

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thormeier profile image
Pascal Thormeier Author

Good question! As long as the browser supports document.execCommand, then, in theory, yes, but a lot of it is deprecated now. This was mostly an experiment and is not really meant for large production use cases, but rather for hobby projects and as a learning opportunity.

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aneesh777 profile image
aneesh777

Great

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thormeier profile image