Contextual inline formatting toolbar

I’m looking into streamlining tools for the editor by moving more buttons to a contextual toolbar.

One flow that more and more people are getting used to, and seems like a pretty solid concept, is having a contextual inline formatting toolbar. This means that the bold, italic, link etc. buttons are (only) available when you select text.

Contextual inline formatting toolbar

What is your experience with this, positive and negative? Do you have any feedback on this from your users or clients using other software?

In my own experience, some of the positive sides are that:

  • These tools are hidden by default, which makes the interface lighter. They are not used as long as you don’t select any text, so there’s also no reason to show them.
  • The tools appear close to your focus area, which makes it easier to find them and which saves you time moving the cursor, or hand, to them. For screen readers it could be announced (I think).

Some of the negative sides are that:

  • The toolbar may easily become overcrowded when plugins extend it. (This may happen now as well…) For this reason, please think of it as just for inline formatting, no block formatting and no insertion. In other words, the action needs to affect the selection the user made, nothing more, nothing less. Headings, for example, do not belong here. More on that soon.
  • Some people do use these tools when no text is selected, meaning to format the word containing the caret. Similarly keyboard shortcuts also work in this case.

I’m looking forward to read your comments.