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What is a WYSIWYG editor?

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WYSIWYG seems like a long acronym, but it is an essential element of modern user interfaces. Here’s what it means and where you can see it on the internet.

What you see is what you get

WYSIWYG is a technological initiality that means “what you see is what you get.” Typically refers to a user interface that allows you to directly edit and manipulate the appearance and content of a document, page, or file. This means that any edits you are making to something will display the same when the final output occurs.

As the Internet has become more ubiquitous and accessible to people, WYSIWYG editors have gained popularity. Since people need to find ways to upload and send formatted content on the go, most use WYSIWYG environments.

The history of WYSIWYG

The actual term “what you see is what you get” long predates the Internet. It was a relatively common idiomatic expression used to describe things that are as they appear. For example, if you’ve been looking for a used car and you see one that for a low price appears to be in terrible condition, the salesperson might say, “Well, what you see is what you get.”

Eventually this term became prominent among software developers and computer builders. The first computers were not in the form of WYSIWYG. Instead, people created documents formatted through custom coding languages ​​and tags, intended to work within the confines of older programming languages.

Finally, the technology company Xerox PARC released Alto, the first personal computer with a WYSIWYG editor included. This coincided with the introduction of the graphical user interface , or GUI, which allowed users to visually interact with elements on a computer. Soon after, companies such as HP, Apple, and Microsoft also released software that included native support for visual editors.

WYSIWYG types

Squarespace Editor
Square space

Depending on the context, you can refer to various software tools and interfaces as “WYSIWYG” editors.

The most common are systems that allow you to edit documents and text. While non-visual editors typically have a markup language What Markdown or BB Code which is then parsed into formatted text, WYSIWYG editors like Microsoft Office allow you to edit the format and content on the fly. These documents can be shared or printed, and will appear the same as on your computers.

There is also web development. Front-end web development generally requires understanding languages ​​like HTML and CSS to build an attractive and responsive website. The rise of drag-and-drop interfaces among website builders has increased, allowing people to create their own websites without understanding the code. Tools like Adobe Dreamweaver they allow you to design a website and export it as code that a browser can parse.

WYSIWYG can also be widely applied to any number of software used by creative professionals. Live video editors, photo editors, illustration programs, and 3D animation studios all adopt a visual method to show you their output right away. For example, video editors like Adobe Premiere and Sony Vegas have a “preview” box that allows you to instantly play back your finished clips before going through a lengthy export process.

WYSIWYG editors

WordPress visual editor
WordPress

The main advantage of a WYSIWYG editor, of course, is that it is easier for an end user to use. Rather than learning how to use several different markup languages, these editors allow you to format, resize, and add media to your posts with the click of a button. This is why most forums, website builders, and publishers have largely moved to WYSIWYG systems.

Most commercially available text editors are WYSIWYG. This includes popular word processors like Microsoft Office , LibreOffice, Google Docs, and rich text editors like WordPad and Evernote. Most of the text editors on the site allow you to use markup language or WYSIWYG. For example, the WordPress publish box allows you to switch between the “Visual” editor, which gives you a direct preview of what you are writing, and the “Text” editor, which allows you to edit in HTML directly.

Many WYSIWYG web servers allow you to create a website without understanding much code. This includes popular services like Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly. These commonly provide “drag and drop” interfaces that allow you to add content blocks to a page following a particular template. Some also allow you to write in a hybrid format that combines WYSIWYG editing with traditional editing. A typical example of this is websites with sales , like Reddit. You will often have options for formatting your text boxes, which you can preview before publishing.

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