Editing footnotes

This example demonstrates one way to implement something like footnotes in ProseMirror.

Remix on Glitch

Footnotes seem like they should be inline nodes with content—they appear in between other inline content, but their content isn't really part of the textblock around them. Let's define them like this:

import {schema} from "prosemirror-schema-basic"
import {Schema} from "prosemirror-model"

const footnoteSpec = {
  group: "inline",
  content: "inline*",
  inline: true,
  draggable: true,
  // This makes the view treat the node as a leaf, even though it
  // technically has content
  atom: true,
  toDOM: () => ["footnote", 0],
  parseDOM: [{tag: "footnote"}]

const footnoteSchema = new Schema({
  nodes: schema.spec.nodes.addBefore("image", "footnote", footnoteSpec),
  marks: schema.spec.marks

Inline nodes with content are not handled well by the library, at least not by default. You are required to write a node view for them, which somehow manages the way they appear in the editor.

So that's what we'll do. Footnotes in this example are drawn as numbers. In fact, they are just <footnote> nodes, and we'll rely on CSS to add the numbers.

import {StepMap} from "prosemirror-transform"
import {keymap} from "prosemirror-keymap"
import {undo, redo} from "prosemirror-history"

class FootnoteView {
  constructor(node, view, getPos) {
    // We'll need these later
    this.node = node
    this.outerView = view
    this.getPos = getPos

    // The node's representation in the editor (empty, for now)
    this.dom = document.createElement("footnote")
    // These are used when the footnote is selected
    this.innerView = null

Only when the node view is selected does the user get to see and interact with its content (it'll be selected when the user ‘arrows’ onto it, because we set the atom property on the node spec). These two methods handle node selection and deselection the node view.

  selectNode() {
    if (!this.innerView) this.open()

  deselectNode() {
    if (this.innerView) this.close()

What we'll do is pop up a little sub-editor, which is itself a ProseMirror view, with the node's content. Transactions in this sub-editor are handled specially, in the dispatchInner method.

Mod-z and y are bound to run undo and redo on the outer editor. We'll see in a moment why that works.

  open() {
    // Append a tooltip to the outer node
    let tooltip = this.dom.appendChild(document.createElement("div"))
    tooltip.className = "footnote-tooltip"
    // And put a sub-ProseMirror into that
    this.innerView = new EditorView(tooltip, {
      // You can use any node as an editor document
      state: EditorState.create({
        doc: this.node,
        plugins: [keymap({
          "Mod-z": () => undo(this.outerView.state, this.outerView.dispatch),
          "Mod-y": () => redo(this.outerView.state, this.outerView.dispatch)
      // This is the magic part
      dispatchTransaction: this.dispatchInner.bind(this),
      handleDOMEvents: {
        mousedown: () => {
          // Kludge to prevent issues due to the fact that the whole
          // footnote is node-selected (and thus DOM-selected) when
          // the parent editor is focused.
          if (this.outerView.hasFocus()) this.innerView.focus()

  close() {
    this.innerView = null
    this.dom.textContent = ""

What should happen when the content of the sub-editor changes? We could just take its content and reset the content of the footnote in the outer document to it, but that wouldn't play well with the undo history or collaborative editing.

A nicer approach is to simply apply the steps from the inner editor, with an appropriate offset, to the outer document.

We have to be careful to handle appended transactions, and to be able to handle updates from the outside editor without creating an infinite loop, the code also understands the transaction flag "fromOutside" and disables propagation when it's present.

  dispatchInner(tr) {
    let {state, transactions} = this.innerView.state.applyTransaction(tr)

    if (!tr.getMeta("fromOutside")) {
      let outerTr = this.outerView.state.tr, offsetMap = StepMap.offset(this.getPos() + 1)
      for (let i = 0; i < transactions.length; i++) {
        let steps = transactions[i].steps
        for (let j = 0; j < steps.length; j++)
      if (outerTr.docChanged) this.outerView.dispatch(outerTr)

To be able to cleanly handle updates from outside (for example through collaborative editing, or when the user undoes something, which is handled by the outer editor), the node view's update method carefully finds the difference between its current content and the content of the new node. It only replaces the changed part, in order to leave the cursor in place whenever possible.

  update(node) {
    if (!node.sameMarkup(this.node)) return false
    this.node = node
    if (this.innerView) {
      let state = this.innerView.state
      let start = node.content.findDiffStart(state.doc.content)
      if (start != null) {
        let {a: endA, b: endB} = node.content.findDiffEnd(state.doc.content)
        let overlap = start - Math.min(endA, endB)
        if (overlap > 0) { endA += overlap; endB += overlap }
            .replace(start, endB, node.slice(start, endA))
            .setMeta("fromOutside", true))
    return true

Finally, the nodeview has to handle destruction and queries about which events and mutations should be handled by the outer editor.

  destroy() {
    if (this.innerView) this.close()

  stopEvent(event) {
    return this.innerView && this.innerView.dom.contains(event.target)

  ignoreMutation() { return true }

We can enable our schema and node view like this, to create an actual editor.

import {EditorState} from "prosemirror-state"
import {DOMParser} from "prosemirror-model"
import {EditorView} from "prosemirror-view"
import {exampleSetup} from "prosemirror-example-setup"

window.view = new EditorView(document.querySelector("#editor"), {
  state: EditorState.create({
    doc: DOMParser.fromSchema(footnoteSchema).parse(document.querySelector("#content")),
    plugins: exampleSetup({schema: footnoteSchema, menuContent: menu.fullMenu})
  nodeViews: {
    footnote(node, view, getPos) { return new FootnoteView(node, view, getPos) }