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Sentence creation terminal
A WYSIWYG editor

WYSIWYG [ ˈwɪziwɪg ] is the acronym for the basic idea " W hat Y ou S ee I s W hat Y ou G et" (English for " What you see is [that] what you get. ") - also known as real-time display (or, based on the screen display, real image display ). With real WYSIWYG, a document is displayed on the screen while it is being edited, just as it is when it is output via another device, e.g. B. a printer, looks. The term was first used in the early 1980s in connection with computer printing systems ( desktop publishing ) and word processing programs.

History and more details

The first device that could be used in practice and was available on the market was the sentence design terminal (SGT), a development by the Austrian company Grafotron under its chief developer Hannes Schöllauf. The SGT was able to convert a page that was graphically correctly created directly on a screen into typesetting commands of a Linotype CRTronic or Linotronic photo typesetting machine. This made it possible to expose pages produced without setting commands. The SGT thus anticipated the later desktop publishing.

In the 1990s the term WYSIWYG was softened by numerous programs in which the output document only looks similar to what it was when it was being processed. Strictly speaking, the designation is incorrect, especially for HTML editors , since the output of an HTML page depends on the browser used and its default settings, as well as possibly the installed system fonts and can therefore vary greatly from viewer to viewer. There are also two variants, editing directly in the displayed representation, and a combination of an edit field (for the source code ) and a parallel field for real-time display of the same.

“Real” WYSIWYG requires the configuration of a PostScript -compatible driver and the use of PostScript or at least TrueType fonts on modern computers . In the home computer era , similar layout fidelity was achieved by sending the screen image to the printer in its original resolution, as illustrated by the Sinclair printer example .

In addition to the editors used by programmers, WYSIWYG is also used in editing systems and content management systems to enable editors to edit websites without knowledge of HTML.

Often, however, there are implementation difficulties between the written text and the presentation, which is why a simplified markup language is used as an alternative .


The term originated at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center during the late 1970s when the first WYSIWYG editor, Bravo , was developed on the Alto by Charles Simonyi . The Alto's screen was able to display a full page of text and print it out on the first laser printers of the time . 72 PPI character sets were used to display text on the screen . However, the printing was done at 300 DPI . This led to discrepancies between the display on the screen and the printout - a problem that persists to this day. The researchers at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center used with WYSIWYG is an abbreviation for a then popular buzzword of Geraldine , a character from The Flip Wilson Show was launched: "What you see is what you get!" .

The Apple Macintosh system was designed in such a way that the resolution corresponded to the screens and matrix printers from Apple. Screens had a resolution of 72 PPI. The printers worked with a resolution of 144 DPI. So the output of programs like MacWrite and MacPaint could be well adapted to the resolution of the printer by doubling it. WYSIWYG was thus easily possible. With the introduction of laser printers, the real WYSIWYG also disappeared because the resolution no longer corresponded to twice the value of the screen resolution.

WYSIWYG is also the name of a program that is used for lighting design. All well-known productions, but also smaller event technology companies, use WYSIWYG to demonstrate to their customers what their stage will look like later. Many lighting consoles (mixing consoles that are used for lighting control) work on a secondary level with WYSIWYG, i. H. the lighting technician sees on the monitor what his lamps will do the next time a button is pressed.

Well-known WYSIWYG editors for websites are e.g. B. Dreamweaver , GoLive , Microsoft Expression Web , NetObjects Fusion , Quanta Plus , HTMLArea , KompoZer (formerly Nvu), TinyMCE and CKEditor . See also HTML editor .

Special programs for displaying PostScript and PDF on the screen are Display PostScript and Quartz .

Similar acronyms

W hat Y ou S ee I s W hat Y ou M ean - (“What you see is what you mean”) refers to word processors in which the user primarily only specifies the purpose of formatting (e.g. heading ) and fonts etc. not used in detail. As with WYSIWYAF formatting, the final formatting is only done when the document is converted into a final format (e.g. PDF or DVI ). During input, the user can only roughly see on the screen what the purpose of the formatting is. An example of such a word processor is LyX .
W has Y ou C ache I s W has Y ou G et - (“What you cache is what you get”) - W has Y ou C reate I s W has Y ou G et or W has Y ou C lick I s W hat Y ou G et ( "What you create / click is what you get" )
W has Y ou S ee I s W has Y ou A sked F or - ( "What you see is what you asked") refers to programs in which the definition of typographical set by hand using a macro language is done . This is the case with LaTeX or Troff , for example . The system shows what the user specifies - essentially also a statement for: "If you enter garbage , you get garbage back" (garbage in, garbage out).
W hat Y ou S ee I s W hat Y ou S ign - (“What you see is what you sign”) is used in connection with electronic signatures and means that the user signs exactly the data given to him by the signature system are displayed. Secoder -capable card readers offer a WYSIWYS function for HBCI bank transfers (provided that the respective bank and home banking software support the Secoder extension for HBCI).
W hat Y ou S ee I s A ll Y ou G et - (“What you see is all you get”) underlines the limitations of WYSIWYG. It mainly affects advanced users who have reached the limits of such systems. Previously used in the area of ​​non-Postscript-compatible layout systems when using bitmap fonts (see desktop publishing ).
W hat Y ou S ee I s W hat Y ou N eed - (“What you see is what you need”) refers to programs that are not defined by the composition of modules, but by a profound user / rights management make only those parts of the software visible that the user needs.
W hat Y ou S ee I s W hat Y ou P rint - (“What you see is what you print”) is the name of a process used in today's prepress to avoid any errors or deviations when rendering PDF print templates .


  • Rainer Malaka, Andreas Butz, Heinrich Hußmann: Medieninformatik: An introduction. 1st edition. Pearson Studies, 2009, ISBN 978-3-8273-7353-3 .

Web links

Wiktionary: WYSIWYG  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. New Wikipedia editor for everyone. In: Heise online. July 27, 2013 (Retrieved July 27, 2013).