[thelist] WYSIGs lacking, why?

Jonathan_A_McPherson at rl.gov Jonathan_A_McPherson at rl.gov
Thu Jul 25 13:35:01 CDT 2002

> A friend has asked me why no one has created a program that creates
> html/xhtml code cleanly and standards compliant. He thinks it should be
> relatively easy. I began to wonder about this myself. Does anyone have any
> input as to why?

I do.

Creating XHTML or HTML 4.01 code that "validates" is no big deal for any
competent WYSIWYG editor, and some recent ones actually can make such code
(as mentioned by other list members).

The problem with WYSIWYG tools and the Web is the "S" -- see. When people
use a WYSIWYG tool, most of them automatically begin thinking in terms of
the visual representation they are working with. They use them like word
processors, in other words -- they want to create a document that looks
identical in their editor and browser. And since this is what customers
want, it's what they get.

If a user bolds a selection, did he mean "well, just make it bold for
looks," or did he mean "strongly emphasize it?" If the user creates two
boxes and drags one next to the other, how is the editor supposed to be able
to regenerate that placement without absolute positioning? Maybe you meant
"put this box alongside the other," but the editor is likely to have trouble
distinguishing that from "put this box exactly 1.5em from the top of the

Ultimately, I feel that existing word-processor-like tools are inadequate
for designing a page that needs to degrade gracefully, and be semantically
structured. None of them are yet able to correctly interpret the user's
actions and turn them into the user's intent.

What I would like to see is something like LyX[1] for XHTML. As many of you
know, LaTeX is a text/document processing language that separates structure
and content from display rules. LyX is a front end to LaTeX that does not
try to be WYSIWYG -- it instead offers you a visual representation of your
semantic content that, while it does not look like your printed document,
offers you a nice, code-free picture of your content.

[1] http://www.lyx.org/

Jonathan McPherson, LMIT/SD&I
Software Engineer & Web Systems Analyst
email / jonathan_a_mcpherson at rl dot gov
phone / 509.373.0150

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