Baffling text formatting issue - Prosemirror in Substack

Have been asked to evaluate Substack for an organisation’s semi-tech writers. Brilliant email subscription concept but I am stumped by the antics of the Prosemirror editor provided:

  1. I import several paragraphs of plain text each with a subhead on its own line.Paragraph text is on next line - i.e. no blank lines between. Nor are they desirable…

  2. Next, I select the subhead text only and render it as H4 style. Hullo, it renders as H4 all right - but so does the whole paragraph text below.

  3. I select ONLY the paragraph text and attempt to return it to ‘normal’ style. Hullo, it does render as ‘normal’ style - but so does the subhead 1 line above.

Text in paragraph ABOVE a reformatted subhead can also jerk into H4 style instead of ‘normal’.

It is possible to tinker around inserting line breaks, formatting fragments then deleting blank lines but this is unpredictable and I wouldn’t dream of asking the prospective users to stuff around like this. Most are long time Wordpress users, accustomed to the now well-behaved TinyMCE editor.

I have tried Edge, IE11, Firefox and Chrome browsers, also on Android and iPhone/Safari - same problem on all. A test on the Prosemirror front page test scratchpad delivers the same effects.

The Substack helpdesk cannot throw any light on this but I can’t imagine their many accomplished writers would persevere with such a time-consuming basic tool. Am I missing something?

Any suggestions please? TIA

Hey EditorJason, I do not think this forum provides support for Substack’s implementation.

Regarding the Prosemirror antics, I do not fully understand your concerns, but I will attempt at point 2 and 3 w.r.t to the Prosemirror’s website editor.

  • If you create two separate paragraphs (2 <p> s if you inspect the HTML), they are independent of each other and allow you to convert either of them to H4 without affecting the other.
  • I guess you are using shift-enter to create a <br> element between the texts which i believe you are labelling as subhead and paragraph. This is not truly a subhead because if you look at the HTML in your browser’s devtool, it will look like <p> line one <br> line two </p>, in which case PM is rightly converting it to a <h4> line one <br> line two </h4>.

If you do not like this behaviour, the library is pretty malleable and you can write a command which does what you want.

Thank you Kepta, Very generous of you to give some guidance.

Not my area of expertise, but looking at the HTML indicates that the code often does not embrace the text selected in the visual editor. Curiously, these same formatting quirks do also show up in the demo scratchpad on the Prosemirror home page, not just in the Substack implementation.

Have been trying to get this sorted for months with no result - a quick 10 minute post becomes a 45 minute pain if the writer has to go back and back just to get it looking reasonable. The documented ‘vanishing cursor’ bug is also disconcerting.

So I will probably steer the prospective users to Ghost, Medium or some other platform where the editor tool ‘just works’, pretty much like a bog standard word processor and they can get their thoughts, insights and curation onto the page without distraction.

Thanks again, appreciated. EditorJason

Hi @EditorJason,

as long as you use Shift+Enter and not Enter this will happen in Wordpress, Medium and Microsoft Word (Desktop) as well (just checked all three). I suggest you use enter to separate paragraphs from headings.

If you want to provide some feedback to Substack, @kepta was spot on with his analysis. I’m just not sure how much they can do.



p.s.: Pasting from my text editor into any of these actually creates a new paragraph for each line. So just out of curiosity: From what program were you copying?