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HTML Editors: The WYSIWYG vs. Text Editor Controversy

In the world of web development, you have two types of HTML editing programs. One is simply a text based HTML editor, where you manually type in the code. The second is a WYSIWYG (wizzy-wig or What You See Is What You Get) HTML editor, with which the web page is developed using a visual platform. Some visual editors offer the ability to view and edit the code as well.

The HTML Editor Controversy

Text-based editors came about first, and few programmers like change. Disliking WYSIWYG editors is  fashionable  and down right expected. As well, many professional coders can manually type the code in as fast (or faster) than some can build a site using the visual version.

So where s the controversy? Simply put, the visual HTML editors are out there and seem to make website creation faster and/or easier. However, most programmers are old school, thumb their noses at the visual versions and proclaim the WYSIWYGs as no good.

Yet, a small amount of expert developers use both, and consider a program that provides this capability as the best of both worlds. As well, a large amount of beginners find the WYSIWIGs as the best place to start   whether they want to learn code or just build a website.

Who Wins the Toss Up?

So which type of HTML editor wins   the text-based or visual-based version? Let s look at the break down:


Anyone who has ever used MS Word will quickly be able to find his or her way around most visual editors. At the most, you might spend a week learning how to use the extra goodies provided by many. The biggest plus for WYSIWYG HTML editors is that you don t have to know code: nope   not a bit of it.

Beginners absolutely love the fact that they can create a full-fledged website. They love that it doesn t have to take a long time. They also enjoy that they don t have to take the time to learn HTML before they start creating.

Those professionals who do use visual editors prefer to use the drag and drop features, placing all the components together, and then switch to view/edit/tweak the HTML code. In this way, they ve found the ability to create fast, professional websites in a short amount of time.

Text-based Editors

WYSIWYG HTML editors sound wonderful, so it s easy to assume most professionals snub their noses simply because it s fashionable or because of an antagonistic view of change. However, you have to ask yourself this question. Of those who use visual editors, why are they bothering to view the HTML code? What, exactly, is it that they change/edit/tweak?

A large part of it has to do with search engines and visitors. You need the search engines to be able to read your site so visitors can find you when they search for a term. The visitors need to be able to understand your website, even if they have disabilities.

For example, images have an ALT (or, alternative text) attribute in the code. A proper line of code for an image should read like this:

<img src= filename.jpg  height= 200  width= 200  alt= image  />

Where the word  image  is, should be the description of the picture. Blind users have programs that read the site aloud. These programs will read the description, since the users can t see the image. With WYSIWYG editors, the ALT attribute is empty.

Another example is that HTML was created as a way to make a structured document. With current technology, you can keep the HTML document (or webpage) relatively clean and structured, while adding the design (the visual part) with a separate file.

Many WYSIWYGs use tables to create a site, as well as leaving all the design elements in the main HTML document. This is an older technique and may soon be outdated completely. As well, rather than have a structured document, the page ends up containing most, if not all, of the code, creating a  dirty  document.

Professionals often switch to the text-based HTML editor to correct these errors and make sure the code is  clean . This ensures that modern browsers will be able to read, and correctly display, all the elements of a page.

So who wins?

It s really up to you. If you are a beginning website creator, have no knowledge of HTML and no time to learn, a WYSIWYG HTML editor is an excellent choice. However, for learning HTML, creating clean code and really digging into web development, having the ability to look at the page with a text-based HTML editor is essential!

If you don t have an HTML editor but want to start creating your own website, we invite you to read our HTML editor reviews. Find the one that works best for you and get to creating!

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