How to Easily Format Comments on Blogs, Forums & Wikis With the Text Format Toolbar

Saikat Basu 25-03-2011

Cyber culture is about sharing your views and opinions with the community that’s out there. Generally, leaving a view by way of a comment is no big deal. After all, you just type it in or copy paste some bits of text and leave it at that. Neatness is a secondary consideration. Say for example, you need to place a URL that points to another source of information.


The easy way: Simply copy-paste the lengthy URL.
The time consuming but neater way: Wrap the keyword with the <a> tag and the HREF attribute i.e. <a href=”URL”>.

As a commentator, I am sure you would go by the former. But as a reader, I am also sure that you would prefer the latter any day. So, let this short how-to tip you off on a simple Firefox add-on that can strikeout the “time consuming” bit and leave your blog comments, forum postings, and wiki entries looking spiffy and well formatted.

Easily Format Your Posts With The Text Formatting Toolbar

We receive lots of comments on our site. Usually a common comment with some HTML elements looks like this –

text format toolbar

Ideally, we would want it to look like this –


text format toolbar download

The manual way is to code in the HTML tags. But manual is also slower. So, let’s take the help of a Firefox add-on called the Text Formatting Toolbar that sets our text just the way it should be with a simple click. The Text Formatting Toolbar supports three formats: BBcode (bulletin board) that’s used on most forums, HTML for blog/website comments, and the markup format used by Wikipedia. Do remember that this works with Firefox only.

Bypass The Mozilla Add-ons Gallery

The Mozilla Add-ons Gallery [No Longer Available] strangely doesn’t have the updated version. But you can get the version which works (v. with the latest Firefox from the developer’s site.  After the quick download and install, the toolbar is accessible from the menu (View – Toolbars – Text Formatting Toolbar).

text format toolbar download


Using The Text Formatting Toolbar

The default format is BBcode. If you are on a blog, choose HTML from the little dropdown on the extreme right.

text formatting toolbar

You can optionally change the default to the format you use usually. There are loads of options you can customize in the Options box (Tools – Add-ons – Text Formatting Toolbar – Options)

text formatting toolbar


Using the Text Formatting Toolbar is as easy as using the format bar of your email program. The toolbar is auto-enabled when it recognizes that there’s a text area on the page. Select the keyword(s) and press the appropriate button to add the code. Here’s the lineup of the basic button on the toolbar.

text formatting toolbar

Discussion boards and Wikis follow a slightly different markup. So, with the Text Formatting Toolbar, you don’t have to take the pains of remembering all the tags. Just a toggle on the menu will switch it over to one of the three markups supported.

Create Your Own Tags With Custom Buttons

You can extend the formatting functions of the toolbar by adding your own buttons which are nothing but formatting tags which you plan to use often. The extra functions which you define become one-click buttons for adding the markup codes. The developer site has a detailed walkthrough of the process.


For instance, my screenshot below illustrates a custom button which when clicked puts in the <small> tag.

text format toolbar

This is just a simple example. If you are a HTML and CSS virtuoso, you can extend this to other time-saving uses.

The Text Formatting Toolbar add-on has another inadequately explained feature called the Format Toolbar Composer. It should let you use the toolbar as an offline editor, but quite frankly I couldn’t fathom it, nor is there any adequate explanation around on how to use it. So, I have refrained from mentioning it in more detail.

The Text Format Toolbar has its uses, like inserting markup code on the fly. You can use it in any text box (like a social network) that supports the three kinds of markup. But most of all, this small format app should be viewed as a productivity tool that not only helps you to be neater with your comments but also apply the proper formatting in double quick time.

The Text Formatting Toolbar is one of those Firefox add-ons which don’t shout out much, but once you put it to use, it can grab your attention. Do you think this Firefox tip is useful for properly formatting your blog and forum comments along with wiki entries?

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Related topics: Mozilla Firefox, Online Commenting.

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  1. Om
    March 29, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    The author of the toolbar wrote on the forum that users should not expect the update. Do you know any other plugins that make the formatting easy?

    • Saikat Basu
      March 30, 2011 at 5:16 am

      I am searching for one. Haven't found it yet. If I manage to get it, will definitely cover it again here.

  2. Tim Kepple
    March 28, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    The latest version is not yet compatible with Firefox 4; hopefully it will be soon.

    • Saikat Basu
      March 28, 2011 at 7:26 pm

      Let's hope so. I used it extensively and now feel handicapped without it.