Extending the Draftail Editor

Wagtail’s rich text editor is built with Draftail, and its functionality can be extended through plugins.

Plugins come in three types:

  • Inline styles – To format a portion of a line, eg. bold, italic, monospace.
  • Blocks – To indicate the structure of the content, eg. blockquote, ol.
  • Entities – To enter additional data/metadata, eg. link (with a URL), image (with a file).

All of these plugins are created with a similar baseline, which we can demonstrate with one of the simplest examples – a custom feature for an inline style of mark. Place the following in a wagtail_hooks.py file in any installed app:

import wagtail.admin.rich_text.editors.draftail.features as draftail_features
from wagtail.admin.rich_text.converters.html_to_contentstate import InlineStyleElementHandler
from wagtail.core import hooks

# 1. Use the register_rich_text_features hook.
def register_mark_feature(features):
    Registering the `mark` feature, which uses the `MARK` Draft.js inline style type,
    and is stored as HTML with a `<mark>` tag.
    feature_name = 'mark'
    type_ = 'MARK'
    tag = 'mark'

    # 2. Configure how Draftail handles the feature in its toolbar.
    control = {
        'type': type_,
        'label': '☆',
        'description': 'Mark',
        # This isn’t even required – Draftail has predefined styles for MARK.
        # 'style': {'textDecoration': 'line-through'},

    # 3. Call register_editor_plugin to register the configuration for Draftail.
        'draftail', feature_name, draftail_features.InlineStyleFeature(control)

    # 4.configure the content transform from the DB to the editor and back.
    db_conversion = {
        'from_database_format': {tag: InlineStyleElementHandler(type_)},
        'to_database_format': {'style_map': {type_: tag}},

    # 5. Call register_converter_rule to register the content transformation conversion.
    features.register_converter_rule('contentstate', feature_name, db_conversion)

    # 6. (optional) Add the feature to the default features list to make it available
    # on rich text fields that do not specify an explicit 'features' list

These steps will always be the same for all Draftail plugins. The important parts are to:

  • Consistently use the feature’s Draft.js type or Wagtail feature names where appropriate.
  • Give enough information to Draftail so it knows how to make a button for the feature, and how to render it (more on this later).
  • Configure the conversion to use the right HTML element (as they are stored in the DB).

For detailed configuration options, head over to the Draftail documentation to see all of the details. Here are some parts worth highlighting about controls:

  • The type is the only mandatory piece of information.
  • To display the control in the toolbar, combine icon, label and description.
  • The controls’ icon can be a string to use an icon font with CSS classes, say 'icon': 'fas fa-user',. It can also be an array of strings, to use SVG paths, or SVG symbol references eg. 'icon': ['M100 100 H 900 V 900 H 100 Z'],. The paths need to be set for a 1024x1024 viewbox.

Creating new inline styles

In addition to the initial example, inline styles take a style property to define what CSS rules will be applied to text in the editor. Be sure to read the Draftail documentation on inline styles.

Finally, the DB to/from conversion uses an InlineStyleElementHandler to map from a given tag (<mark> in the example above) to a Draftail type, and the inverse mapping is done with Draft.js exporter configuration of the style_map.

Creating new blocks

Blocks are nearly as simple as inline styles:

from wagtail.admin.rich_text.converters.html_to_contentstate import BlockElementHandler

def register_help_text_feature(features):
    Registering the `help-text` feature, which uses the `help-text` Draft.js block type,
    and is stored as HTML with a `<div class="help-text">` tag.
    feature_name = 'help-text'
    type_ = 'help-text'

    control = {
        'type': type_,
        'label': '?',
        'description': 'Help text',
        # Optionally, we can tell Draftail what element to use when displaying those blocks in the editor.
        'element': 'div',

        'draftail', feature_name, draftail_features.BlockFeature(control, css={'all': ['help-text.css']})

    features.register_converter_rule('contentstate', feature_name, {
        'from_database_format': {'div[class=help-text]': BlockElementHandler(type_)},
        'to_database_format': {'block_map': {type_: {'element': 'div', 'props': {'class': 'help-text'}}}},

Here are the main differences:

  • We can configure an element to tell Draftail how to render those blocks in the editor.
  • We register the plugin with BlockFeature.
  • We set up the conversion with BlockElementHandler and block_map.

Optionally, we can also define styles for the blocks with the Draftail-block--help-text (Draftail-block--<block type>) CSS class.

That’s it! The extra complexity is that you may need to write CSS to style the blocks in the editor.

Creating new entities


This is an advanced feature. Please carefully consider whether you really need this.

Entities aren’t simply formatting buttons in the toolbar. They usually need to be much more versatile, communicating to APIs or requesting further user input. As such,

  • You will most likely need to write a hefty dose of JavaScript, some of it with React.
  • The API is very low-level. You will most likely need some Draft.js knowledge.
  • Custom UIs in rich text can be brittle. Be ready to spend time testing in multiple browsers.

The good news is that having such a low-level API will enable third-party Wagtail plugins to innovate on rich text features, proposing new kinds of experiences. But in the meantime, consider implementing your UI through StreamField instead, which has a battle-tested API meant for Django developers.

Here are the main requirements to create a new entity feature:

  • Like for inline styles and blocks, register an editor plugin.
  • The editor plugin must define a source: a React component responsible for creating new entity instances in the editor, using the Draft.js API.
  • The editor plugin also needs a decorator (for inline entities) or block (for block entities): a React component responsible for displaying entity instances within the editor.
  • Like for inline styles and blocks, set up the to/from DB conversion.
  • The conversion usually is more involved, since entities contain data that needs to be serialised to HTML.

To write the React components, Wagtail exposes its own React, Draft.js and Draftail dependencies as global variables. Read more about this in Extending client-side components. To go further, please look at the Draftail documentation as well as the Draft.js exporter documentation.

Here is a detailed example to showcase how those tools are used in the context of Wagtail. For the sake of our example, we can imagine a news team working at a financial newspaper. They want to write articles about the stock market, refer to specific stocks anywhere inside of their content (eg. “$TSLA” tokens in a sentence), and then have their article automatically enriched with the stock’s information (a link, a number, a sparkline).

The editor toolbar could contain a “stock chooser” that displays a list of available stocks, then inserts the user’s selection as a textual token. For our example, we will just pick a stock at random:


Those tokens are then saved in the rich text on publish. When the news article is displayed on the site, we then insert live market data coming from an API next to each token:


In order to achieve this, we start with registering the rich text feature like for inline styles and blocks:

def register_stock_feature(features):
    Registering the `stock` feature, which uses the `STOCK` Draft.js entity type,
    and is stored as HTML with a `<span data-stock>` tag.
    feature_name = 'stock'
    type_ = 'STOCK'

    control = {
        'type': type_,
        'label': '$',
        'description': 'Stock',

        'draftail', feature_name, draftail_features.EntityFeature(
            css={'all': ['stock.css']}

    features.register_converter_rule('contentstate', feature_name, {
        # Note here that the conversion is more complicated than for blocks and inline styles.
        'from_database_format': {'span[data-stock]': StockEntityElementHandler(type_)},
        'to_database_format': {'entity_decorators': {type_: stock_entity_decorator}},

The js and css keyword arguments on EntityFeature can be used to specify additional JS and CSS files to load when this feature is active. Both are optional. Their values are added to a Media object, more documentation on these objects is available in the Django Form Assets documentation.

Since entities hold data, the conversion to/from database format is more complicated. We have to create the two handlers:

from draftjs_exporter.dom import DOM
from wagtail.admin.rich_text.converters.html_to_contentstate import InlineEntityElementHandler

def stock_entity_decorator(props):
    Draft.js ContentState to database HTML.
    Converts the STOCK entities into a span tag.
    return DOM.create_element('span', {
        'data-stock': props['stock'],
    }, props['children'])

class StockEntityElementHandler(InlineEntityElementHandler):
    Database HTML to Draft.js ContentState.
    Converts the span tag into a STOCK entity, with the right data.
    mutability = 'IMMUTABLE'

    def get_attribute_data(self, attrs):
        Take the ``stock`` value from the ``data-stock`` HTML attribute.
        return {
            'stock': attrs['data-stock'],

Note how they both do similar conversions, but use different APIs. to_database_format is built with the Draft.js exporter components API, whereas from_database_format uses a Wagtail API.

The next step is to add JavaScript to define how the entities are created (the source), and how they are displayed (the decorator). Within stock.js, we define the source component:

const React = window.React;
const Modifier = window.DraftJS.Modifier;
const EditorState = window.DraftJS.EditorState;

const DEMO_STOCKS = ['AMD', 'AAPL', 'TWTR', 'TSLA', 'BTC'];

// Not a real React component – just creates the entities as soon as it is rendered.
class StockSource extends React.Component {
    componentDidMount() {
        const { editorState, entityType, onComplete } = this.props;

        const content = editorState.getCurrentContent();
        const selection = editorState.getSelection();

        const randomStock = DEMO_STOCKS[Math.floor(Math.random() * DEMO_STOCKS.length)];

        // Uses the Draft.js API to create a new entity with the right data.
        const contentWithEntity = content.createEntity(entityType.type, 'IMMUTABLE', {
            stock: randomStock,
        const entityKey = contentWithEntity.getLastCreatedEntityKey();

        // We also add some text for the entity to be activated on.
        const text = `$${randomStock}`;

        const newContent = Modifier.replaceText(content, selection, text, null, entityKey);
        const nextState = EditorState.push(editorState, newContent, 'insert-characters');


    render() {
        return null;

This source component uses data and callbacks provided by Draftail. It also uses dependencies from global variables – see Extending client-side components.

We then create the decorator component:

const Stock = (props) => {
    const { entityKey, contentState } = props;
    const data = contentState.getEntity(entityKey).getData();

    return React.createElement('a', {
        role: 'button',
        onMouseUp: () => {
    }, props.children);

This is a straightforward React component. It does not use JSX since we do not want to have to use a build step for our JavaScript.

Finally, we register the JS components of our plugin:

    type: 'STOCK',
    source: StockSource,
    decorator: Stock,

And that’s it! All of this setup will finally produce the following HTML on the site’s front-end:

    Anyone following Elon Musk’s <span data-stock="TSLA">$TSLA</span> should also look into <span data-stock="BTC">$BTC</span>.

To fully complete the demo, we can add a bit of JavaScript to the front-end in order to decorate those tokens with links and a little sparkline.

[].slice.call(document.querySelectorAll('[data-stock]')).forEach((elt) => {
    const link = document.createElement('a');
    link.href = `https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/${elt.dataset.stock}`;
    link.innerHTML = `${elt.innerHTML}<svg width="50" height="20" stroke-width="2" stroke="blue" fill="rgba(0, 0, 255, .2)"><path d="M4 14.19 L 4 14.19 L 13.2 14.21 L 22.4 13.77 L 31.59 13.99 L 40.8 13.46 L 50 11.68 L 59.19 11.35 L 68.39 10.68 L 77.6 7.11 L 86.8 7.85 L 96 4" fill="none"></path><path d="M4 14.19 L 4 14.19 L 13.2 14.21 L 22.4 13.77 L 31.59 13.99 L 40.8 13.46 L 50 11.68 L 59.19 11.35 L 68.39 10.68 L 77.6 7.11 L 86.8 7.85 L 96 4 V 20 L 4 20 Z" stroke="none"></path></svg>`;

    elt.innerHTML = '';

Custom block entities can also be created (have a look at the separate Draftail documentation), but these are not detailed here since StreamField is the go-to way to create block-level rich text in Wagtail.

Integration of the Draftail widgets

To further customise how the Draftail widgets are integrated into the UI, there are additional extension points for CSS and JS:

  • In JavaScript, use the [data-draftail-input] attribute selector to target the input which contains the data, and [data-draftail-editor-wrapper] for the element which wraps the editor.
  • The editor instance is bound on the input field for imperative access. Use document.querySelector('[data-draftail-input]').draftailEditor.
  • In CSS, use the classes prefixed with Draftail-.