The Future of CodeMirror
CodeMirror, as an open source
project, has been going for over ten years. Since 2011, for versions 2
to 5, its architecture and programming interface have been more or
less stable. In 2011 IE6 had a significant market share, Chrome was
just getting started, and jQuery was considered the gold standard of
interface design. It was a different time.
While CodeMirror's architecture has held up pretty well, its age is
starting to show. Issues related to touchscreen support,
accessibility, and bidirectional text have been piling up in the bug
tracker because, with the current architecture, they are extremely
hard to address.
and taste in interfaces has matured a lot in this time. With another
how well a modular system and linear data flow architecture can work
for an editor. From a current perspective, CodeMirror's current
programming interface feels outdated and clunky.
So we've been working on a new version of the library, with new
architecture intending to address the current system's shortcomings
from the ground up.
This work is currently at the prototype stage, it's
going to take a while more before it can be used in production. But
it's already showing great promise.
It's accessible. Because browsers have come a long way, we
can leave more to the browser, and don't have to "fake"
editor much more transparent to screen readers and other
It works on your phone. Again, not having to fake things pays
off. Instead of showing a bunch of DOM elements that look like a
selection, you are now working with the native selection, so you can
manipulate it in a touchscreen interface.
It gets out of the way and leaves handling of complicated
Unicode features such a bidirectional text to the browser, which
tends to be better at this than we are.
It allows more ambitious extensions. The existing system, in
which you registered callbacks to respond to editor events, quickly
got messy when you needed to keep non-trivial state in sync with the
document or selection. By moving to a more disciplined system based
on transactions, we're making it easier to build extensions like
collaborative editing or incremental code analysis.
It's modular. Improvements to the core editor's programming
interface allow us to move many things that used to be in the core,
such as syntax highlighting, into separate modules.
There will be an easy-to-use base module that gives you a
complete editor, but if you want to, you can take that apart and
build something very different from the pieces.
It is still fast, and can load large documents without
significantly slowing down, by only drawing the visible content and
painstakingly avoiding doing work that doesn't need to be
It is written
in TypeScript, and
exposes a well-considered, cleanly typed programming
If you're curious about the details, we've written more about the
new architecture in the design document. The
That's the good news. It does come with some bad news. The
programming interface for the editor is going to change radically, so
when the time comes to upgrade, that might be quite a bit of work. We
do have plans to write a compatibility wrapper which will
allow simple setups to just drop that in, but it probably
won't cover the whole old interface, and might turn out to be too slow
if you're using the interface intensively. Additionally, the browser
DOM structure of the editor will necessarily change, so you'll have to
adjust your styles.
The editor below shows off the current state of our work. It is the
plugins enabled, such as the undo history and a line number
Note that this is a first version, not a fully finished piece of
software. If you find something that's broken, we're grateful
for bug reports. For other feedback, please use this forum thread