The Blackboard Text Editor

Overview

The Blackboard Text Editor, or Visual Text Box Editor (VTBE) is typically the “Description” field where instructors will add information about a course element they have created. This is also used when instructors provide feedback to students when grading, and where messages to the class or individual students are composed. This field contains many options and features, which will be identified in this article. 

 

Audience

Public

 

Information

The Blackboard Text Editor tool is available to Instructors: 

  1. When creating or editing an Item, Announcement, Web Link, Discussion Forum, Assignment, Test question/description/instructions, Content Folder or Learning Module.

  2. When providing feedback to students in a Test/Assignment (Learner Notes) or creating private comments (Grading notes).

  3. When using the “Send Email” tool to communicate with students.

It is available to Students:

  1. When submitting an assignment or discussion thread/post, or answering an essay/short answer question on a Test (with limited features available).

  2. When using the “Email Classmates” tool.

Additional notes below.

 

Here is what the Text Editor Tool looks like (as of November 5, 2020).

On Blackboard, when you are using the Text Editor, If you hover over any icon, a brief description of what it is will appear. 

Below is an item-by-item breakdown. This includes a comparison of what the icon looks like prior to November 5, 2020, and what the icon looks like in the new interface (After November 5, 2020), as well as what changes (if any) were made to functionality.  

Before November 5, 2020 (OLD)

After November 5, 2020 (NEW)

Comments

Tool icons

Tool icons

Bold, Italics, Underline, and Strikethrough. Functionality unchanged, but Latin characters B,I,U, and S represent the formatting instead of T for all.

Tool menu to format text

In the format drop-down, relative sizes are now displayed. Heading sizes are noted rather than indicating as a subheading size. Formatted code is renamed preformatted.

Font size menu

Font size menu

In the size selector, absolute sizes are shown rather than relative size indicators with an absolute size in parenthesis.

Font choice menu

Font choice menu

Font choices are displayed as the indicated font rather than just a list of font names.

Bullet type menu

Bullet type menu

Bullet type options are now displayed visually rather than as a text list.

List type menu

List type menu

List type options are now displayed visually rather than as a text list.

Find and replace options

Find and replace options

Options reorganized into a single window for find and replace. When searching, there are new options to find by whole words only or just in the selection.

Color options menu

 

Color palette selector

Color options menu

 

Color palette selector

Text and background color selection menus have been reorganized. Color picker options have been simplified into a page instead of having multiple tabs. The “highlight color” tool has been renamed the “background color” tool.

Tool icon

Tool icon

The remove formatting icon has changed.

Tool icons

Tool icons

 

Paste options dialog box

 

Example of preview content from New York Times

example of preview content from YouTube

Cut and copy are generally unchanged. Paste has one change and several enhancements.

  • When pasting a link for the following websites, it will automatically be converted into embedded media content: YouTube, Daily Motion, Vimeo.

  • The New York Times, WordPress, SlideShare and Facebook will embed summary previews of the linked content.

  • Pasting from Microsoft Word and Excel has been improved and now supports retaining images as part of the paste.

  • When pasting, a new option is displayed regarding whether to remove or keep formatting. The keep option will retain all formatting from the source. The remove formatting option will retain basic HTML formatting such as heading sizes, bold, and italic, but will remove the extraneous style formatting from sources such as Microsoft Word. This means the remove formatting option is not the same as pasting text only.

  • If you click the paste button when using a browser that disallows access to the clipboard, the warning message appears now in the editor instead of in a browser alert.

Tool icon

 

Find and replace dialog box

Tool icon

 

Find and replace dialog box

In the search tool, find and replace options have been unified into a single view rather than split into tabs. Arrow buttons are used to search up or down. A new option has been added for searching only in selected content.

Tool icons

Tool icons

Undo and redo are unchanged.

Tool icons

Tool icons

Text justification options are unchanged.

Tool icons for indent and outdent

Tool icons for indent and outdent

Tool names on tooltips updated to “increase indent” and “decrease indent” rather than “indent” and “outdent.”

Tool icons for superscript and subscript

Tool icons for superscript and subscript

Icons for superscript and subscript were updated.

Tool icons for link and unlink

 

Link options menu screenshot

Tool icons for link and unlink

 

Link options menu screenshot

The link options are now only for configuring weblinks—adding files or linking to items in the Content Collection are now done in the add content menu. The unlink option can now only be clicked when the selected content has an associated link. The option to assign a class to the link that was confusing for most users has been removed.

Tool icons for text direction

Tool icons for text direction

Text direction controls are unchanged.

Tool icons rule line and non-breaking space

 

Horizonal rule options dialog box

Tool icons rule line and non-breaking space

The line and horizontal rule tools have been replaced with a simple horizontal line tool that no longer has or requires additional configuration. The icon for inserting a non-breaking space has been updated.

Spellcheck menu

Spellcheck menu

 

Spellchecker dialog box

The spellchecker has changed significantly.

  • The dictionaries have all been updated and expanded.

  • Spell-checking is now a user-initiated action. Instead of toggling it off and on in the editor window, when the user clicks the spellchecker tool, the user is presented with an interface for navigating and correcting spelling errors.

  • Custom dictionaries are no longer supported.

  • The availability of spell-check dictionaries is determined by the availability of languages in the language pack settings when there is a match to the dictionaries supported by the spell checker. The administration page for spell-check dictionaries has been removed; admins can still turn off the spell checker tool as a whole in the administration panel.

  • The default selection of language for the user in the editor is prioritized on 1) any enforced course language, 2) the user’s selected preferred language, 3) the system default if there isn’t a match with 1 or 2, then 4) US English if no other match could be made.

  • Supported languages: English (US), English (UK), Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Norwegian (NB), Portuguese (BR), Spanish, Swedish

Tool icons for adding content

 

Dialog box for selecting files

 

Dialog box to specify file handling

Tool icon for adding content

 

List of sources from which files can be uploaded including computer, content collection, and cloud storage services.

 

A context menu displayed for a selected image

Edit options for an image

Adding attachments and media have changed. Now, select the add button (+) for all sources and options for adding content. If you select a file, the Content Editor will now automatically recognize what kind of a file it is. You can still edit the display options and add alt text by right-clicking on the item.

 

When adding local files, multiple files can now be selected at once using standard desktop actions (shift or control/command). Because the change in workflow removed the pre-upload properties page when uploading a file to link, there is no longer a drag-and-drop hotspot. For images and video, the ability to add multiple at once is a new capability. Controls for applying advanced settings such as class, style, and mouse-over images have been removed for a simpler user experience. Because images and media are automatically recognized and embedded, you can’t create a text link to these types of files anymore.  

 

When linking to an HTML file in the Content Collection, users were given multiple permissions options that could be confusing for users and result in linked websites that weren’t visible to course users. Now there is a single behavior to grant students read access to all files and folders in the same folder as the linked HTML file. A warning is given that if this isn’t acceptable, files should be reorganized before linking.

Tool icon for insert formula

Tool icon for insert formula

Accessibility in the equation editor has been improved. The image of the authored formula automatically has alt text added that describes the formula. The alt text will be in the language of the formula author if using Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Norwegian (NB), Norwegian (NN), Portuguese (BR), and Spanish; otherwise, alt tags will be English. The icon for accessing the editor has also been updated.

Tool icon for mashups

Tool icon for insert content

 

A list of additional integration tools


 

Embedding content from third-party Building Blocks has changed. Now, select the add button (+) for all sources and options for adding content. Choose the Building Block source under the “Additional Tools” area.

Tool icon for insert youtube video

Tool icon for insert content

YouTube videos can be added either by going to the “Add Content” menu or pasting a link in the content area which will convert to an embedded video. YouTube has discontinued its webcam record feature, so this has been removed from the Content Editor tool options.

Tool icon for showing nondisplayed characters

Tool icon for showing nondisplayed characters

Tool renamed—now called “show invisible characters” instead of “show nonprinting characters.”

Tool icon for blockquote

Tool icon for blockquote

Blockquote tool unchanged although icon updated slightly.

Tool icon for special characterA special character selection dialog box

Tool icon for special character

A special character selection dialog box

The “symbol” tool has been renamed “special character.” The special character library has been expanded and items are now categorized. Users can search for a symbol.  The HTML code for a symbol is no longer displayed. At release, the search feature will be limited to English.

Tool icon for emojis

An emoji selection dialog box

Tool icon for emojis

An emoji selection dialog box

The emoticons library has been expanded, and items are now categorized. Users can also search for a particular emoji. At release, the search feature will be limited to English.

Tool icon for anchor

Tool icon for anchor

Icon for inserting an anchor has been updated to look like a bookmark.

Tools for table formatting

Options dialog for table formatting

Tools for table formatting

 

Menu for inserting a new table

 

Menu for table cell management--merge cells is selected

Table management functionality is mostly the same, but there are some changes to behavior and tool organization. Creating a table has been simplified with a grid selector instead of a pop-up. There are now distinct buttons for accessing table properties and deleting the table. There are no longer buttons for merging or splitting cells. This is now done to selected cells in the context menu. 

 

When adding tables, column widths default to use percentages rather than fixed widths for greater responsiveness across devices.

Tool icon for editing html

 

Source HTML displayed in a window

 

A dialog box with tools for configuring CSS

Tool icon for editing html

Source HTML displayed in a window

The HTML editor now shows line counts and formats text for greater readability. The CSS editor tool has been removed to simplify the experience. Advanced users can apply styles in the HTML editor.

 

The security model for determining the users allowed to add trusted content is unchanged.

Not available

Tool icon for accessibilty checker

The new accessibility checker helps authors make content more accessibility while they’re creating content. Alternative text can be added, and formatting issues corrected when reviewing the content with the tool. The checker uses WCAG 2.0 guidelines.

Not available

Tool icon for inserting computer code snippet

 

Computer code displayed in editor window, appropriately formatted.

New code sample tool allows code snippets to be displayed and properly formatted inline without being processed as actual code and removed for security reasons.

Tool icons for preview, help and full-screen mode

Tool icons for preview, help and full-screen mode

Preview, help, and full-screen mode tools are generally unchanged. Icons are updated, and content no longer launches in a new window.

Tool icon to display more or fewer tools

Tool icon to display more or fewer tools

The show more toggle has an updated icon more commonly used in modern applications. Because the editor is now fully responsive, as many tools as can be displayed on the first line will be. After that, the show more toggle will appear. Once a user has expanded the tool options, the application will retain this configuration.

A small feedback window with additional tools.

A larger feedback window with additional tools.

When providing feedback to learners, the simple editor has been updated slightly.

  • There are new icons.

  • The add content capability has been broadened and allows easy access to all attachment sources and embeddable content from third-party Building Blocks—previously, it allowed file attachments only without opening the full editor.

  • The spell checker icon now launches a tool for correcting spelling instead of toggling spelling indicators in the editor.

Tool icon to create recording

Tool icon to add content

Tool icon to insert from webcam

The tool for creating a recording in student feedback has been renamed “Insert from Webcam” and appears in the “Add Content” menu. (available only when providing student feedback in grading)

An editor window for defining the answer to a question with a spell checker option.

An editor window for defining the answer to a question with a spell checker option and an option to expand the toolset.

When creating a test, a simplified editor appears for question types multiple choice, multiple answer, and matching when there are many answer choices. Previously, this happened when there were 21 answer options on the page or more. For performance reasons, that threshold has been lowered to 11, but it’s now possible to load the full editor when needed for each answer choice. Character count has been replaced by word count for consistency with the full editor.

 

Additional Notes

  • To improve accessibility and mobile use, windows are now overlay modals instead of new windows. 

  • To help maintain academic integrity, the feature to convert links into playable embedded media is disabled during test-taking, so helpful resources can’t be viewed in a test if a locked-down browser is being used. Similarly, links can’t be opened when authoring.

  • The editor size will automatically scale on the page to fit the content. To edit a large amount of content and pin the toolbar to the top, use the full-screen mode.

  • If you plan to embed Live Google documents into your Blackboard course, the process has changed somewhat. Click here to access the steps for embedding Live Google Documents.