Monday, March 29, 2010

CKEditor Image Browser - APEX Style

FCKEditor has been used with Oracle APEX for a long while, in APEX terms it is known as HTML Editor Standard and HTML Editor Minimal items. In APEX 4.0 it looks like the new CKEditor is included, called Rich Text Editor item. It actually looks like you are given a choice between the old FCKEditor and the new CKEditor, which is a nice touch for those that have customized FCKEditor in earlier versions.

If you already have FCKEditor configured with image browsing in you current install, I would not sweat through integrating CKEditor unless you have good reason. Editors are known to change, and this particular will be included in APEX 4.0.

The problem with CKEditor native image browser is the default parameters it includes when launching a pop-up window. Additional parameters does not combine very well with APEX, to say the least. In this post I will give an example on how to adapt the native CKEditor image editor to include your own APEX image browser. This is similar to the earlier article by Carsten Czarski found here in German, or a translated version here. I will not detail how to create your own image browser, but focus on how to change the CKEditor.

Beware: I am not a Javascript expert. I am not a CKEditor expert. This is basically just a documentation of my experience of adapting CKEditor.

To follow the example you should:
  • Download and extract to a folder named ckeditor
  • Download ckpackager.exe and place it under the ckeditor directory
  • Map the ckeditor directory in your webserver so it can be reached with a web browser. I will use "/js/ckeditor" in this example.

CKEditor comes complete with examples, source code and documentation (albeit a bit lacking). CKPackager is not as streamlined, but browsing around the subversion repository you get the general idea. In short CKPackager takes care of putting together ckeditor.js and ckeditor_basic.js after you have fiddled with the source code. I chose the exe-version of CKPackager as I do my development in Windows, but there is a jar-file available as well.

Create an APEX page to serve as an image browser/picker (it does not have to do anything yet, we'll get to that).
  • Give the page an alias: IMAGE_PICKER
  • Create an APEX page with a text area item
  • Put the following code in the HTML-header of the APEX page:
<script type="text/javascript" src="/js/ckeditor/ckeditor.js"></script>
   <link href="/js/ckeditor/bouvetckeditor.css" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" />
  • Put the following code in the Post Element Text of the text area item:
<script type="text/javascript">
      // Replace the <textarea id="editor"> with an CKEditor
      // instance, using default configurations.
      CKEDITOR.replace( 'P12_TEXT',
                        {filebrowserImageBrowseUrl : 'f?p=&APP_ID.:IMAGE_PICKER:&SESSION.::NO::',
                        width: '500'
  • Replace "/js/ckeditor" to match your own configuration
  • Replace "P12_TEXT" to match the item name of your text area item.

The Problematic URL
You should now be able to run the page described above, and have CKEditor magically appear where your text area item was supposed to be. When you click the image button in the CKEditor toolbar, the image dialog appears, but when you click the "Browse Server" button, the fun begins. The pop-up window spawns with an URL that has three extra parameters attached.
  • CKEditor which contains the item name
  • CKEditorFuncNum which contains som mystic numeric ID
  • langCode which contains the language code set for the CKEditor instance

APEX will blow up when this URL is tried (as f has no parameters matching the three). Actually APEX won't blow, because f will never be reached as mod_plsql won't recognize any procedure with the signature required. You get the idea.

Changing CKEditor Source Code
To adapt the URL to APEX style, you must get your hands dirty with Javascript. Actually I think the code of CKEditor looks quite clean, it's just so much of it :-) The source code is located in the "_source" directory, open the file "ckeditor/_source/plugins/filebrowser/plugin.js" in your favourite Javascript editor (or TextPad in my case).

In this example I will keep the original parameters (and parameter names), but if you want to change them, they are located in the browseServer function.

The addQueryString function accepts the URL and parameters, and builds the complete URL. Change the function to look something like this:
function addQueryString( url, params )
                var paramString = [];
                var queryString = [];

                if ( !params )
                        return url;
                        for ( var i in params ) {
                                paramString.push( i );
                                queryString.push( encodeURIComponent( params[ i ] ) );

                return url + paramString.join( "," ) + ":" + queryString.join( "," );
The function will now add the parameter names before the colon symbol, and the parameter values after. All in the same order, all separated by a comma. APEX style :-)

Re-Packing CKEditor
Changing the code is not enough, your changes have not reached ckeditor.js yet. This is what we need the CKPackager for. It collects the source, and builds a new ckeditor.js based on the current source.
  • Start a command line window and browse to the ckeditor directory
  • Execute CKPackager like this: "CKPackager.exe ckeditor.pack -v" (or: "java -jar CKPackager.jar ckeditor.pack -v")
  • A new version of ckeditor.js and ckeditor_basic.js will be generated for you

ckeditor.pack contains reference to the files to be included into the ckeditor.js and ckeditor_basic.js files. The switch -v will give a verbose execution.

Reload the APEX page containing the CKEditor item (a proper reload to ensure the new version of the ckeditor.js file is loaded), and this time the image picker APEX page should pop-up, so to speak.

Returning From APEX Pop-up Window
The only thing missing now is the value to return to the CKEditor image dialog. This requires som additional code in your Apex application:

First create three application level items (unrestricted) named:
These items will contain the parameters recieved from CKEditor.

Next, modify your image picker APEX page:
  • Create a new submit button on the page, and name it ADD_IMAGE, accept the rest as defaults.
  • Create a new After Submit Page Process, type PL/SQL, and call it close_popup
  • Paste the code below into the PL/SQL Process code area:
      l_file_url varchar2(4000);
      l_file_url := '/path/of/image/imagename.jpg';
      htp.p('<script type="text/javascript">');
      htp.p(' '||:ckeditorfuncnum||', '''||l_file_url||''');');
This bit of code will call the appropriate CKEditor return function, and close the pop-up window. Modify the code to suite your needs, but beware not to put any code below the last htp.p-call.

Testing the Code
To test the code so far:
  • Run the page containing the CKEditor item.
  • Click the image button in the CKEditor toolbar
  • Click the Browse Server button
  • A pop-up window with your image picker APEX page should now appear
  • Click the Add Images button on your APEX page, and the CKEditor image dialog URL should now reflect the URL set from your APEX image picker page

Modifying CKEditor Image Browser Parameters
So far you have a complete working example with CKEditor image browser and Oracle APEX, but what if you want to modify the parameters themselves? Earlier you modified the function assembling the complete URL based on the defatult parameters, to change the parameters you must modify the browseServer-function in the same file as before ("ckeditor/_source/plugins/filebrowser/plugin.js"). The only parameter the CKEditor really needs when returning image source, is the image source (duh) and CKEditorFuncNum.

Here is an example of the browseServer-function when parameters CKEditor and langCode is removed, and the current APEX-page id added as a parameter called "callingPage":
function browseServer( evt )
      var dialog = this.getDialog();
      var editor = dialog.getParentEditor();

      editor._.filebrowserSe = this;

      var width = editor.config[ 'filebrowser' + ucFirst( dialog.getName() ) + 'WindowWidth' ]
          || editor.config.filebrowserWindowWidth || '80%';
      var height = editor.config[ 'filebrowser' + ucFirst( dialog.getName() ) + 'WindowHeight' ]
          || editor.config.filebrowserWindowHeight || '70%';

      var params = this.filebrowser.params || {};
      params.CKEditorFuncNum = editor._.filebrowserFn;
      // New parameter to get APEX pageId
      params.callingPage = $v('pFlowStepId');

   var url = addQueryString( this.filebrowser.url, params );
      editor.popup( url, width, height );
To generate a new version of CKEditor, use the CKPackager as described earlier in the post. The parameters in the URL uses the same (APEX friendly) construct as before (pName,pName:pValue,pValue), but the number and names of the parameters have changed. The new pop-up URL should now look something like this: "http://<yourserver>/pls/apex/f?p=<app_id>:IMAGE_PICKER:<sessionid>::NO::CKEditorFuncNum,callingPage:<X>,<pageid>".

A Word of Caution
When hacking the source like this, and not making your own plugin, guess what happens when you need to upgrade to the next version of CKEditor? When you push the toothbrush too far back, you have to start all over again.

This hack is in the filebrowser-plugin, which in turn is used by the Flash- and Link-dialogs, so pay attention to changes there as well.

Not as sleek as I would like it to be, but if moving to CKEditor is on your list, this is a way to achieve just that.

As always, use it at your own risk!

Enjoy :-)


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Thanks a lot Håvard, you post was of great help to me.


  3. Excellent approach Håvard. Works perfectly!!!

  4. Thank you for this post. It helped me a lot