Troubleshoot Blank WordPress Editor

Brief Introduction

I have been working directly with the WordPress content editor for just over three years, now. My two primary plugins; WP Edit and WP Edit Pro interact directly with the WordPress content editor, adding new and exciting editing possibilities.

In my experience I have also learned how to “break” the editor. Perhaps I entered an improper piece of code, or perhaps something inside WordPress core changed; resulting in a “broken” editor. Additionally; I am a WordPress Forum moderator and see these issues arise frequently in the forums.

Signs of a Broken or Blank WordPress Editor

There are quite a few signs which may appear with a broken or blank WordPress editor:

  1. The editor is blank (no text). Actually, the text is white and the background is white; making it “appear” blank. If you select the editor content with the mouse; you’ll see it is still there.
  2. The editor button rows are not loading.
  3. It is impossible to toggle between “visual” and “text” modes.
  4. When clicking editor buttons; they do nothing.
  5. No javascript is working on the page; for example, you can’t click the “Screen Options” tab, or you can’t reorder metaboxes on the post/page editor page.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, then something is not communicating properly in your WordPress environment.

Most people will recognize a broken WordPress editor after a major update; either to core or to a plugin or theme. WordPress is extremely dynamic; with ever-changing code. It is the plugin/theme developers responsibility to “keep up” with WordPress and follow their suggested best coding practices. So the first thing we want to check is making sure everything is up to date.

Updating Everything

Before we continue; it is very important to ensure all code is up to date. This includes:

  • Updating to the latest version of WordPress.
  • Updating the theme to the latest release.
  • Updating all plugins to their latest releases.

Now, manually clear your browser cache. This will “force” the browser to re-download all website content; which will include updated javascript and style sheets. The WordPress content editor is notorious for holding onto cached javascript files; sometimes resulting in a broken editor.

Check Editor Again

Now that everything has been updated; and the browser cache has been cleared; let’s check the editor again. If the editor works; Congratulations! It was a simple matter of updating the files and clearing the browser cache. You are now up to date with the code; stable; and secure. Go celebrate!!

If the editor is still not working; don’t get discouraged. You’re definitely not alone.

Recognizing/Troubleshooting a Conflict

The next step is to troubleshoot for a plugin or theme conflict (happens all the time). It is very important to follow all steps exactly as outlined below.

  1. Deactivate all plugins. Yes, ALL plugins.
  2. Switch to the newest default WordPress theme (currently 2015).
  3. Manually clear the browser cache.

Now, go back and see if the editor is working properly. 99 out of 100 times; the editor “should” be working properly now. If it is not; then something is happening which is beyond the scope of this article. Please go back and confirm the first three steps were followed precisely.

If the editor is now working properly, let’s continue.

Test the Theme

With the editor working properly; it’s time to reactivate the theme. Switch back to the theme being used before the testing above; and manually clear the browser cache. Again, go back and test the editor.

If the editor is not working properly; the issue is with the theme. Please file a support ticket with the theme author/vendor.

If the editor is still working properly; the theme is good, and we can continue.

Testing Plugins

Here is where the issue typically happens. In most of my experience; a broken content editor can be attributed to a plugin. It may be using outdated code; hasn’t adjusted to a change in WordPress core; or is simply broken.

So, let’s begin testing plugins. Different methods can be used depending on how many plugins are installed; but here is my suggestion:

  1. Reactivate a few plugins (2 – 3).
  2. Manually clear the browser cache.
  3. Go back and check the editor.

If the editor loads properly; those plugins are good. Repeat the steps above until the editor breaks again.

If the editor breaks; one of those plugins is faulty.

The idea is to keep reactivating/deactivating plugins until we narrow down exactly which plugin is causing the editor to break. Once found; we can notify the plugin author.

What Next?

Once you have identified the faulty plugin or theme; it would be great to notify the developer. See if you can find the plugin/theme support channel, and create a support ticket. Remember; the developer may not be aware of the issue, so be nice.

It is extremely rare the editor would not work properly with all plugins deactivated and using the default WordPress theme.

However, if when deactivating all plugins and switching to the default WordPress theme; the content editor is still not loading properly; then please create a support ticket in the WordPress Forums. Link to this article so the moderators/volunteers can see we have tested everything properly.

Josh Lobe has written 54 articles

Josh Lobe is the sole developer of WP Edit and WP Edit Pro. A father of two; a husband to a beautiful wife; and a small home in the suburbs... he primarily enjoys coding in WordPress and designing websites.

6 thoughts on “Troubleshoot Blank WordPress Editor

  1. I found a common issue with Securi Security where it hardens the wp-content folder.  If it’s hardened, WP-Edit pro would come up with a blank screen. Turn off the hardening and it works fine.  It has to do with how the .htaccess file is configured by Securi.

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