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WYSIWYG (// WIZ-ee-wig) is an acronym for "What You See Is What You Get". In computing, a WYSIWYG editor is a system in which content (text and graphics) displayed onscreen during editing appears in a form closely corresponding to its appearance when printed or displayed as a finished product, which might be a printed document, web page, or slide presentation.
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WYSIWYG implies a user interface that allows the user to view something very similar to the end result while the document is being created. In general WYSIWYG implies the ability to directly manipulate the layout of a document without having to type or remember names of layout commands. The actual meaning depends on the user's perspective, e.g.
Modern software does a good job of optimizing the screen display for a particular type of output. For example, a word processor is optimized for output to a typical printer. The software often emulates the resolution of the printer in order to get as close as possible to WYSIWYG. However, that is not the main attraction of WYSIWYG, which is the ability of the user to be able to visualize what he or she is producing.
In many situations, the subtle differences between what the user sees and what the user gets are unimportant. In fact, applications may offer multiple WYSIWYG modes with different levels of "realism", including
Before the adoption of WYSIWYG techniques, text appeared in editors using the system standard typeface and style with little indication of layout (margins, spacing etc.). Users were required to enter special non-printing control codes (now referred to as markup code tags) to indicate that some text should be in boldface, italics, or a different typeface or size.
These applications typically used an arbitrary markup language to define the codes/tags. Each program had its own special way to format a document, and it was a difficult and time consuming process to change from one word processor to another.
The use of markup tags and codes remains popular today in some applications due to their ability to store complex formatting information. When the tags are made visible in the editor, however, they occupy space in the unformatted text and so disrupt the desired layout and flow.
Bravo, a document preparation program for the Alto produced at Xerox PARC by Butler Lampson, Charles Simonyi and colleagues in 1974, is generally considered the first program to incorporate WYSIWYG technology, displaying text with formatting (e.g. with justification, fonts, and proportional spacing of characters). The Alto monitor (72 pixels per inch) was designed so that one full page of text could be seen and then printed on the first laser printers. When the text was laid out on the screen 72 PPI font metric files were used, but when printed 300 PPI files were used—thus one would occasionally find characters and words slightly off, a problem that continues to this day. (72 PPI came from a new measure of 72 "PostScript points" per inch. Prior to this, the standard measure of 72.27 points per inch was used in typeface design, graphic design, typesetting and printing.)
In parallel with but independent of the work at Xerox PARC, Hewlett Packard developed and released in late 1978 the first commercial WYSIWYG software application for producing overhead slides or what today are called presentation graphics. The first release, named BRUNO (after an HP sales training puppet), ran on the HP 1000 minicomputer taking advantage of HP's first bitmapped computer terminal the HP 2640. BRUNO was then ported to the HP-3000 and re-released as "HP Draw".
By 1981 MicroPro advertised that its WordStar word processor had WYSIWYG. In the 1970s and early 1980s, however, most popular home computers lacked the sophisticated graphics capabilities necessary to display WYSIWYG documents, meaning that such applications were usually confined to limited-purpose, high-end workstations (such as the IBM Displaywriter System) that were too expensive for the general public to afford. Towards the mid 1980s, however, things began to change. Improving technology allowed the production of cheaper bitmapped displays, and WYSIWYG software started to appear for more popular computers, including LisaWrite for the Apple Lisa, released in 1983, and MacWrite for the Apple Macintosh, released in 1984.
The Apple Macintosh system was originally designed so that the screen resolution and the resolution of the ImageWriter dot-matrix printers sold by Apple were easily scaled: 72 PPI for the screen and 144 DPI for the printers. Thus, the scale and dimensions of the on-screen display in programs such as MacWrite and MacPaint were easily translated to the printed output—if the paper were held up to the screen, the printed image would be the same size as the on screen image, but at a higher resolution. As the ImageWriter was the only model of printer physically compatible with the Macintosh printer port, this created an effective, closed system. Later, when Macs using external displays became available, the resolution was fixed to the size of the screen to achieve 72dpi. These resolutions often differed from the VGA-standard resolutions common in the PC world at the time. Thus, while a Macintosh 14" monitor had the same 640x480 resolution as a PC, a 16" screen would be fixed at 832x624 rather than the 800x600 resolution used by PCs. With the introduction of third-party dot-matrix printers as well as laser printers and multisync monitors, resolutions deviated from even multiples of the screen resolution, making true WYSIWYG harder to achieve.
The phrase was popularised by a newsletter published by Arlene and Jose Ramos, called WYSIWYG. It was created for the emerging Pre-Press industry going electronic in the late 1970s. After three years of publishing, the newsletter was sold to employees at the Stanford Research Institute in California.
The phrase "What you see is what you get", from which the acronym derives, was a catchphrase popularized by Flip Wilson's drag persona "Geraldine" (from Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In in the late 1960s and then on The Flip Wilson Show until 1974). Geraldine would often say it to excuse her quirky behavior. Additionally, the song "Calypso Blues" from the movie "Rhythm & Blues Revue" from 1955 contains the lyric "What you see is what she's got." Jon Seybold and researchers at PARC were simply reappropriating the popular cultural reference.
The phrase "what you see is what you get" was coined in 1982 by Larry Sinclair, an engineer at Triple I (Information International, Inc.), to express the idea that what the user sees on the screen is what the user gets on the printer while using the "page layout system", a pre-press typesetting system first shown at ANPS in Las Vegas.[when?]
The Cornell science arXiv recommends that authors use TeX or LaTeX rather than a WYSIWYG word processor. The American Mathematical Society recommends that authors who intend to publish an article or book with the AMS use LaTeX rather than a WYSIWYG editor. Conceptual markup languages -- such as LaTeX -- encourage an author to write in a way that describes the material conceptually, rather than visually.
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Because designers of WYSIWYG applications typically have to account for a variety of different output devices, each of which has different capabilities, there are a number of problems that must be solved in each implementation. These can be seen as tradeoffs between multiple design goals, and hence applications that use different solutions may be suitable for different purposes.
Typically, the design goals of a WYSIWYG application may include the following:
It is not usually possible to achieve all of these goals at once.
The major problem to be overcome is that of varying output resolution. As of 2007, monitors typically have a resolution of between 92 and 125 pixels per inch. Printers generally have resolutions between 240 and 1440 pixels per inch; in some printers the horizontal resolution is different from the vertical. This becomes a problem when trying to lay out text; because older output technologies require the spacing between characters to be a whole number of pixels, rounding errors will cause the same text to require different amounts of space in different resolutions.
Solutions to this include the following:
Other problems that have been faced in the past include differences in the fonts used by the printer and the on-screen display (largely solved by the use of downloadable font technologies like TrueType) and differences in color profiles between devices (mostly solved by printer drivers with good color model conversion software).
Many variations are used only to illustrate a point or make a joke, and have very limited real use. Some that have been proposed include the following:
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