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SDL Tridion Sites Feature Comparison: Special Characters in the Experience Space and the Classic UI

Prompted by a recent customer question about "curly double quotes," I wanted to compare how the new SDL Tridion Sites 9.5 UI, Experience Space, and the classic user interface or Content Manager Explorer (CME) handle the editorial need to add "special characters" such as left and right double quotation marks.

Spoiler alert:

  • In the Classic UI, you can configure these characters (and more) to appear in the special characters menu for the rich text format area
  • In Experience Space, nearly all of the special characters you may need are already enabled by default for editors. Experience Space also adds clean paste (from Word) and paste as plain text.

Read on for some historical posts in the community about character encodings, a reminder about "XML in the XHTML namespace," and how editors might use special characters in the two interfaces.

Some history

I'm reaching back into my memory to when I first started working with Web content, first as a development intern and then eventually as a Web business analyst.

The prompt for me was if the content management system (CMS) handle "special characters?" I believe my marketing team wanted to make sure one of the trademark symbols would work (e.g. ® or perhaps Tm) in the CMS we were considering. The simple answer was, "yes, of course." And then has a Good PracticeTmuse UTF-8 through your end-to-end content technologies from creation through publishing, rendering, storage, delivery, and web applications.

For more on character encodings, see a few "historical" posts from the SDL Tridion Sites community. For example, see:

There are also plenty of general primers on character sets and character encodings. Keep in mind that it's probably a good idea to separate your desired presentation format from how content, especially rich or formatted text, is stored.

"XML in the XHTML Namespace"

This leads us to the friendly reminder that though published content has and continues to evolve from various markup formats and standards (HTML4, XHTML, HTML5, in Tridion Sites, content is stored in XML. Specifically, that's "XML in the XHTML namespace," to quote Tridion community member Dominic Cronin. I believe he'd also point out that the specific format isn't as important as giving editors a relatively format-agnostic way to handle rich text where an editor marks something as bold to give something a strong emphasis, without worrying about how it's stored in the CMS.

If, however, specific formats for how content is stored or delivered interest you, consider submitting an idea on SDL Ideas. For example, there's a suggestion for a markdown field by . The format isn't currently being now, but "headless" content management formats and editor expectations continue to evolve.

When implementing the new rich text editors in Experience Space, I had a friendly reminder (re-education) from Tridionaut  on the difference between an HTML entity such as & ("&"), its numeric entity equivalent (i.e. "&"), and how it's stored (e.g. as numeric code 38). This is good to keep in mind when dealing with characters and what you might see in a rich text format area, the source in the browser, and what's stored in the Content Manager API. For example, when working with non-breaking spaces (HTML entity  ), editors would choose the special character in the rich text format area editor or paste it in from some (Word or HTML) source. In the Component source, however, it appears as the XML-friendly numeric entity. It probably doesn't help that XML and HTML share a few entities such as ampersand.

In the end, what matters is that the editor can enter the content, including symbols, that they need while the various published websites and channels present these symbols or "special characters," correctly.

This leads us to how your editors can insert special characters in the classic or new UIs.

Configurable special characters in the classic UI 

The classic UI offers a set of out-of-the-box special characters. To configure more options, such as left and right double quotation marks, see the documentation for Sites 9.0 (and past versions):

You can allow individual characters or entire words for editors to insert. Though if you're looking to add a bit more "embedded" content, I'd recommend having editors insert a Component or consider if you need a more structured approach to managing content (i.e. Tridion Docs Wink).

Out-of-the-box special characters Experience Space

For Tridion Sites 9.5, many more special characters are enabled out-of-the-box in the new Experience Space user interface, which can run alongside the “classic” Content Manager Explorer. These have enough characters that they’re not configurable in the same way as the classic UI.

 Here’s a screenshot showing a few of the special characters in the new rich text editor, including the left and right or “curly” double quotes in the Experience Space UI:


Though technically possible through CMS automation or rendering logic, I'd be wary of trying to automatically add or convert quotes especially for logic to determine when an editor explicitly wants the curly quotes or not (as well as handling mistakes).

Clean paste and paste as plain text are back

Personally, I feel Experience Space simplifies content entry while giving editors more context on how content is used (and editable) in pages that I think more content requestors could actually do more editing. However, in case you can't quite convince more business users to work in the CMS, keep in mind that Experience Space will automatically remove styles when pasting from sources like Word. It also offers a “paste as plain text” mode, which was something we lost in the classic UI when browsers started to actively prevent programmatic access to the user's clipboard.

In summary, Experience Space gives editors a large set of special characters out of the box while the Classic UI offers a way to offer more characters to editors, but first through some configuration. Oh and paste as plain text is available again in Experience Space. 

Do you have a rich text or special character example, tip, or story? Feel free to share in the comments.

And please continue to share ideas on SDL Tridion Sites Ideas, join our customer research program, and submit Support tickets as needed. Many of the rich text format area changes introduced in Experience Space came from a combination of reports of cross-browser consistency issues, of your submitted ideas, the Kano Model survey conducted a few years back, and feedback from customer workgroups and expert sessions. Speaking of subject matter experts, thanks to , and Shawn on a much-needed techno-functional discussion on RTF, and special thanks to the design, development, and QA team for improving the rich text editing experience (I won't fully identify Nick, Sandhya, Mihai, Luke, Anton, Derya, and many other contributors, but I and our editors appreciate the changes Wink ). 

*Or maybe it was  or .