WYSIWYG, is that really what you get?

General Development

Most programmers and even many designers are not using WYSIWYG editors. If you still are then you need to read this article.


Date : 2006-08-10
There are many so called "WYSIWYG" editors out there and many have a following but there are compelling reasons to not use these kinds of editors.

Especially with the introduction of DHTML, XHTML, CSS, and the push to be standards compliant we need to know what is in our code. With 99% of WYSIWYG editors if you were to run the content through any kind of validator it would spit it out with a list of issues a mile long.

Picking through auto-generated HTML to fix these problems can easily take longer than writing the HTML correctly the first time.

Programmers who get HTML and then have to split it into sections for templating purposes also know just how irritating auto-generated HTML can be.

Most people will find that their HTML will be much "lighter" when written by hand. You will get away with less CSS styles and smaller HTML files. All of this means simply better, faster, more compliant output.

Even if there were a WYSIWYG editor that could write perfect HTML/CSS which someday there may just be. To call yourself a web designer and not really know HTML and CSS would be like a painter who didn't have a brush, or a cyclist without steroids, oops, I mean a bike. Knowing our craft is an important and invaluable part of who we are.

This is not to say that we all should be using Windows Notepad to write code or HTML. There are some good benefits to a full featured code editor. Syntax highlighting can help us find pesky string closure issues. Auto Indentation can save hours and the life of your tab or space bar. Other advanced features such as Macros, multiple file search and replace, and Regular Expression searches can save many, many hours of work for those who spend the time to learn there function.

I have used some good code editors over time but would highly recommend that you checkout the ones we have listed in our Tools section.

Some of the standard features that you would want to look for in a new code editor are:

    Syntax Coloring
    Auto Indentation
    Line Numbers
    Regular Expression Search & Replace


Some more extended features that you may want:

    HTML/CSS validation
    FTP upload/download
    Code Beautification (code formatting)


You may think it would be expensive to find all of these features in one editor but not necessarily. There are, of course, the big industry standard editors that cost a lot. There are also many code editors that most people have never heard of that are very powerful and have many or all of the features mentioned without the huge price tag. Maybe it would be difficult to get these features in an editor that was free but if you're willing to pay from $20 - $50 you can easily find many editors that have all the power you will need.

People get attached to the editor they are using and will defend it to the grave even if it really desn't compare to other editors in features. There is some weight to an editor that you are used to, but take a look around sometime and see what features you can get.

If you are currently using a WYSIWYG editor take the time to learn to write the code yourself. Find a good code editor and actually learn to do the job you're being paid for.

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