Text editors
    • 19 Oct 2022
    • 7 minutes to read

    Text editors

    Article Summary

    The text editor in Totara an important feature, and appears frequently in different parts of the site. It is the primary tool for entering and formatting text. You'll see it when entering descriptions, adding a label on a course page in Totara Learn, or creating a resource in Totara Engage (as well as a host of other places).

    The default text editor is the Atto HTML editor, although this can be changed at the system level by the Site Administrator, or by an individual in their user preferences. By default there are three different editors to choose from:

    • Atto HTML editor: This is the default text editor. It has most of the basic formatting controls you would find in a word processor. It supports dragging and dropping images, and it will auto-save changes. 
    • Weka editor: This text editor was built with native mobile support in mind. This provides a better experience on mobile devices, including in the Totara Mobile app.
    • Plain text: There is no tool bar for formatting as there is in the other options. Instead there is a dropdown menu under the text box where you can choose the formatting you want, meaning you can include your own formatting tags without these being changed by Totara. 

    Manage editors

    As a Site Administrator you can decide which text editors will be available to other users and configure the options for different editors. Go to Quick-access menu > Plugins > Text editors > Manage editors

    Managing the available text editors on a site.

    Weka editor

    The Weka text editor is a JSON editor designed to be compatible with mobile devices, and can be used to optimise content for the Totara Mobile app. While in previous versions of Totara the Weka editor was a significantly simpler alternative to the Atto editor, Totara 17 introduced a number of improvements, which you can read more about in the sections below. One useful addition is the sticky toolbar, which means the toolbar will always be visible as you scroll down in longer content areas.

    The Weka editor is the only text editor available for Totara Engage. For example, when creating a resource or workspace discussion, users will need to use the Weka editor.

    The Weka text editor shown when creating a Totara Engage resource.

    Layout blocks

    You can add layout blocks in the Weka editor by clicking the Layout icon (layout_icon). Layout blocks give content creators the ability to create more engaging and visually appealing content in a way that is accessible to screen readers and assistive technologies, unlike HTML tables. For example, you can use layout blocks to align images with text, or break the page into sections to better structure content.

    You can add one of the following layout blocks to the content:

    • One column
    • Two column
    • Narrow left column
    • Narrow right column
    • Three column

    Once you have added a block, you can add content in each of the columns. To change the number of columns in a block, click inside one of the layout content areas, then use the dropdown menu to select a layout option for that block. To delete a block, click inside it, click the icon of three dots (), then click Remove.

    You can add multiple layout blocks to a single content area, but layout blocks cannot be nested. If you attempt to add another layout block while you are editing inside a layout block, the new block will be added after the existing block.

    Each of the different layout blocks in the Weka editor.

    Adding links

    You can add links in the Weka editor by clicking the Insert link icon (). For links to other web pages, simply enter the URL and the Display text (the clickable text that will be visible to the user), then click Done.

    Additionally, you can choose to display the link as a card, meaning the link will be displayed with a title, icon and short description taken from the linked web page. Click on the link in the text editor, then select Display as card from the dropdown menu. In the image below you can see the same link displayed as both text and a card.

    Text- and card-based links in the Weka editor.

    For security reasons, the card will only be able to pull this information from a URL beginning with https:// and sites which are not part of a private network. By default, hosts with internal IP addresses are blocked. If you want to explicitly allow internal links to be parsed to add additional information to cards then you can add them to the $CFG-> link_parser_allowed_hosts configuration setting as comma-separated list of hosts, i.e. 'myinternalwebsite.intranet.example.com, anotherexample.wiki.example.com'. Please note that this does not automatically reject other hosts, it will just allow previously blocked hosts. If you want to explicitly block hosts from being parsed, you can add those to the $CFG-> link_parser_blocked_hosts configuration setting in the same manner. This will result in links to those hosts not being parsed. The restriction to https-only links still applies.

    Embedding media

    You can add media in the Weka editor using the toolbar, or using a link. After adding an image to your content, you can proportionally resize the image by clicking the image and using the sizing dropdown. You can select from the following options:

      • Original: Display the image at its original size, limited to 100% of the area width
      • Large: Display the image at 100% of the area width
      • Medium: Display the image at 66% of the area width
      • Small: Display the image at 33% of the area width

    You can also add captions to images by clicking the image and selecting Caption from the floating toolbar. You can then enter the caption in the space below the image. You may want to use captions to include sources or copyright information for images. You can also add alt text to make the content more accessible.

    Formatting text content

    You can apply Bold, Italics or Underline formatting to any text. You can also determine how headers, paragraph text, and lists are aligned using the Alignment dropdown - you can choose from left-, right- or centre-aligned.

    When formatting headers and content, you should use the formatting tools for Heading, Subheading and Paragraph to create hierarchical content, as opposed to using the Bold, Italics or Underline formatting. The header formatting creates hierarchical content to support the user experience for users with assistive technology such as screen readers. It is recommended that the use of Bold, Italics and Underline is limited to adding emphasis to specific words or phrases within paragraph text. To format text content, select the relevant icon before typing, or highlight text content prior to selecting the formatting tool. 


    If you need to include lists in your content, it is recommended that you use the bullet list or numbered list within the editor. When you enter content within the editor using keyboard alternatives (such as '- [space]', '* [space]' or '1.') the bullet or numbered list will be automatically selected.


    The Weka editor includes tools to enable users to create accessible content. This section provides information on the accessibility tools that are included in the Weka editor, as well as best practice for creating accessible content with the Weka editor. For more information on our WCAG/ATAG 2.1 assessment for the Weka editor, please refer to the accessibility conformance report.

    Non-text content: Images

    You can add alternative text to images to allow screen readers to identify image content. 

    Alternative text should be a brief and specific description of what is shown in the image. It is not necessary to preface the description with 'image of' or 'picture of'. Images of text should be kept to a minimum; however, if images are used as button functionality, the alt text attribute should describe the function of the image, for example 'Sign up' or 'Submit'.

    Non-text content: Audio and video

    For non-text content such as audio clips or videos, it is recommended that the media either includes captions within the video and/or a transcript is uploaded alongside the audio or video.

    Atto HTML editor

    The Atto HTML editor is easy to use, and will seem familiar to those who have previously used the TinyMCE editor, or any standard word processor. It is important to note that although a limited range of tools are initially displayed, clicking the first icon will expand another row of editing tools. The editing space can be expanded by clicking and dragging the bottom-right corner. 

    If you want to know what any of the icons do, hovering your mouse cursor over them will bring up the name of the button, which normally also explains what the button does (e.g. is Bold which will make text appear emboldened). 

    The Atto text editor.

    Atto auto-save 

    As you type in the Atto text editor, there will be a message in the bottom left that lets you know your text has been automatically saved as a draft. This is very useful in avoiding data loss, which could happen if, for example, your connection is lost or you accidentally move to another page.

    The auto-save period is set by the Site Administrator via Quick-access menu > Plugins > Text editors > Atto HTML editor > Atto toolbar settings. 

    Image drag and drop

    If your browser allows drag and drop, you can add images into the Atto editor simply by dragging them from a folder and dropping them into the Atto text editor area. 

    © Copyright 2024 Totara Learning Solutions. All rights reserved. Some content originally obtained via GPLv3 license and continues to be available under GPLv3. All other content is the sole copyright of Totara Learning Solutions. 

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