There is an Open Source code editor called ACE.

It is used in Github gist right now.

One feature they have that I love is box shaped text selection.

enter image description here

(Alt+Click drag to use)

This is hyper-useful for things like indenting or dedenting bodies of code other than just +/- 4 spaces (Ctrl+K).

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Should Stack Exchange switch to the ACE editor?

  • Are there any cool features (or lacks we should know about), or is box-selection the real feature request? – blahdiblah Apr 25 '13 at 19:29
  • In general ACE is a better editor than is on SO. – bobobobo Apr 25 '13 at 19:40
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    @bobobobo the only reason that it is 'better' is because SO is using what your browser gives you, not trying to implement it itself. Complain to Chrome, Firefox or Safari devs, not to us. – Richard J. Ross III Apr 25 '13 at 19:54
  • @bobobobo No, you shouldn't. What I'm saying is that the SO editor isn't anything special, it's just what the browser gives you, combined with a bit of javascript behind the toolbar. Nothing more. "Open Source" is far too overrated, IMO. – Richard J. Ross III Apr 25 '13 at 20:04
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    @bobobobo I (and probably others) don't know ACE, so it might be worthwhile to mention more of its other good features if you want the feature request to be compelling. – blahdiblah Apr 25 '13 at 20:24
  • I suggest you evaluate it yourself. – bobobobo Apr 25 '13 at 20:26
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    Why is this a problem with stack exchange? Why not use a browser plugin to convert every textarea into an ACE text editor? – Eric Apr 25 '13 at 21:24
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    @bobobobo No doubt, but I have no reason to evaluate it. I'm fine with the current editor and haven't felt limited by not having block selection. Your feature request would be more compelling if you made a stronger case for the change. I don't see any problem, so I'm not going to exert much effort to investigate your proposed solution. I suspect that I'm not alone in that regard. (Also, @-replying is a good idea if you want responses to comments.) – blahdiblah Apr 25 '13 at 22:07
  • @blahdiblah Ok man, I'll tell you what. You start using box text selection, you know, casually, whenever it occurs to you. When it next occurs that you are editing an SO post and you wish you had box-shaped text box selection, come back here and post a comment. – bobobobo Apr 25 '13 at 23:11
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    @bobobobo Sorry if I hit the wrong tone. I'm trying to offer suggestions that I think would help your feature request succeed, not antagonize you. I'll stop. – blahdiblah Apr 26 '13 at 0:06
  • @blahdiblah You're not antagonizing me, but when the response is already as poor as this, every character typed falls on deaf ears. So I prefer to discontinue discussion on the topic. – bobobobo Apr 26 '13 at 0:50
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    Again, Stack Overflow should not be a code editor. Don't edit in place in order to get us looking at your typos. Paste your code in from a working environment so we can be looking at the same code you are running. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Apr 26 '13 at 3:34
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    @DavidHAust Don't waste my time with nonsensical suggestions such as "Spend 100 hours implementing something yourself" – bobobobo Apr 26 '13 at 4:49
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    You: "Stack Exchange should use this, it's better!" Us: "Maybe. Tell us, how is it better?" You: "I'm not going to tell you: find out for yourself." Us: "Er, no. This is your feature request. You can put the effort into it." – TRiG Apr 16 '14 at 17:19
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    Wow, classic Stackoverflow stick-in-the-mud spoilsportery. Thank you for proposing the feature, @bobobo, and for what it's worth, I think it's a good idea, but only because I have used ACE and enjoy it. Took me 20 seconds to try it. – Chris McCall Oct 3 '14 at 19:53

I'm not generally a fan of box text selection, but I can see how it might occasionally be useful in the context of Stack Overflow.

Still, I think it would probably be more trouble than it's worth. I anticipate people getting confused over the fact that there are two ways to select text, especially if/when they try to use one and end up using the other. We've seen what happens with such features before: some people ragequit; others don't complain on the site but do tell their friends and Internet acquaintances how Stack Exchange sucks; and a never-ending trickle of support posts shows up on Meta.

On top of that, there would be a non-trivial upfront cost to implement the feature.

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    Well, it's kind of an undiscussed feature included in most editors. Did you know MS Word supports box shaped text selection, as well as XCode and Visual Studio, and even Notepad++? – bobobobo Apr 25 '13 at 19:23
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    @bobobobo Wow, I didn't know. – It'sNotALie. Apr 25 '13 at 19:24
  • @bobobobo No, I didn't! Though I don't really use any of those programs with any regularity. I was thinking of the text selection in Windows command prompt windows. – Pops Apr 25 '13 at 19:29
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    I like the current box because it's just a <textarea>. If I'm not mistaken, ACE would add a lot of additional dependencies on client side as well. Shouldn't the "box selection" feature request be fulfilled by browser vendors, as opposed to individual sites? – Pekka Apr 25 '13 at 19:46
  • @Pekka웃 Yes, it is lacking in browsers, you're right. – bobobobo Apr 25 '13 at 20:05
  • Some could make a plugin, right? – 0xcaff Dec 20 '13 at 16:16
  • FWIW there is a Chromium bug on allowing multirange selection (I think "box shaped selection" actually uses a multirange) – bobobobo Nov 12 '19 at 13:40

I've personally been using Ace for a lot of my projects. While it is a fantastic tool for code highlighting and syntax editing, I found that it has some drawbacks.

Specifically, its presentation on mobile browsers is inoperable, and it cannot be used "out of the box" on a textarea, but instead you have to have a hidden textarea AND a div with an ID set for the specific editor if you want to have the ability to save your contents.

While Github does a fine job of implementing it, it should not be the sole editor used for input, where you have both text and code. (IMHO)

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