Pros and Cons of HTML Text Editors

Makes developers more marketable, but there's a steep learning curve

A website editor is defined as a text editor if its primary editing mode is text or HTML code, even if it includes a WYSIWYG editing option. Most advanced web development tools offer the ability to edit your web pages in both HTML code view and in WYSIWYG view.

Designing With a WYSIWYG Editor

If you use a WYSIWYG editor, no HTML coding is required. As the name says, "what you see is what you get." In this kind of editor, you can add words, images, and videos to your site without incorporating any HTML coding. Type the words and upload the images exactly where and how you want them displayed.

Wix WYSIWYG website design

Pros of Using a Text Editor

While it may be more straightforward to use a WYSIWYG editor, a text editor has its benefits:

  • Faster to edit: For simple edits, it's often faster to make changes to a page using a text editor.
  • Helps you learn HTML: Text editors teach you to read HTML. They often have wizards and functions to do common tasks (like the basic page tags), but you'll learn HTML and basic coding if you use a text editor.
  • More marketable: A web developer who can write HTML using a text editor will be more marketable than one who can only use a WYSIWYG editor. The former is more flexible and can get up to speed on any HTML editing tool, while the latter has to start all over with each new editing tool.
  • No "funky" HTML: The only HTML that will be in the document will be the tags you placed there. This will help your pages download faster, as well as look leaner.
  • Human readable HTML: This is especially important if you work with a team of web developers. The HTML can be spaced as your team prefers, and include comments or other notes to allow more efficient editing by other team members.

Cons of Using a Text Editor

There are many pros of using an HTML text editor, but there are also some drawbacks:

  • Must know HTML: While most HTML text editors can help with tags and suggest attributes and so on, these helpers are no substitute for knowing HTML. Most modern text editors offer drag-and-drop styles such as bold and italic, but if you can't remember the code for "non-breaking space," your editor might not be able to help you enter a non-breaking space.
  • Steeper learning curve: Because you have to learn both HTML and the editor functions, a beginner will find a text editor more difficult to use.
  • Harder to "design" with: Some people find text editors more difficult to design with because they can't visualize how the page will look from just the HTML.
Program code - HTML and JavaScript - on an LCD screen

Dominik Pabis / Getty Images

Make Your Choice

If you want to make web development your profession, learn HTML and use a text editor. Text editors will get you further in the long run because they reinforce your knowledge of HTML. There are several free HTML editors for Windows to help you get started.

Use a WYSIWYG editor if you prefer using web development as a hobby. But remember: to get a job as a web developer, you should know HTML, and a WYSIWYG editor won't help you there.

What's All the Fuss About?

The argument between using a text editor or a WYSIWYG editor stems from the way web page development started. When it first began in the early-to-mid-1990s, building a web page required that you write HTML code. As editors got more sophisticated, they allowed people who didn't know HTML to build web pages through a visual designer that translated the final product into the underlying HTML. The problem is that WYSIWYG editors can generate HTML that is hard to read, not standards-compliant, and only editable in that editor.

Some HTML code purists believe that this is a corruption of the intent of web pages, while most designers feel that whatever makes it easier for them to build their pages is acceptable and even valuable.

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