What Does WYSIWYG Mean?

This long acronym explains what output you can expect

An image graphic of a laptop computer with
A laptop computer with "WYSIWYG" text on the screen.

Did you just see "WYSIWYG" labeled somewhere online? It sure is one long acronym, so don't worry if you were left wondering what it could possibly stand for.

WYSIWYG stands for:

What You See Is What You Get

WYSIWYG is the type of acronym that you don't typically see typed out in text messages, online chats or social media posts. Despite the catchphrase itself being somewhat of a popular saying in everyday life, the acronym WYSIWYG serves a much different purpose in the digital world.

The Role of WYSIWYG in Tech

WYSIWYG is an acronym that's used to refer to computer editing systems that make it as easy as possible for users to create and edit documents, presentations and other types of digital works. A WYSIWYG editor accomplishes this by providing users with an interface that allows them to visually see what their final result would look like as they create it or make changes to it.

Why It's Called a WYSIWYG

A long time ago, when you wanted to bold or italicize some text, you needed to have codes around the text itself. It made the text difficult to read and not a fair presentation of what the output would looke like. Once computers integrated high-end graphics (the original Macintosh from 1984 was one such system), computers could then show what your document was going to look like when you printed it.

What you see in the editor is essentially what you'll also see on the finished product, hence the phrase "What You See Is What You Get." Instead of saying each word in the phrase or each individual letter of the acronym, this type of editor is referred to as a "wiz-ee-wig" and is pronounced exactly like that.

Why WYSIWYG Editors Are Important

Before WYSIWYG editors became mainstream, users would have to work with computer code (such as HTML) to create or edit their digital piece of work. The biggest benefit of the WYSIWYG editor is that it offers people without any real technical knowledge or experience the opportunity to create their own digital works from scratch with intuitive technology.

Think of how much time and energy you'd have to spend learning computer programming before you could publish a blog post, create a new web page or edit a slide for a slideshow presentation. With a WYSIWYG editor, even some of the most technologically challenged people can figure out how to create and edit something without any real help at all.

General Features of a WYSIWYG Editor

Most WYSIWYG editors look similar but vary in style and feature offering. For a simple example of a WYSIWYG editor, you can go ahead and check out Summernote.

Summernote and many other WYSIWYG editors offer the following features:

  • A style feature showing a dropdown menu of text styles (Normal, Quote, Header 1, etc.)
  • A bold text feature
  • An underline text feature
  • An option to remove the font style
  • A background and foreground color grid
  • A paragraph feature with different alignment options
  • A feature that lets you create tables with a certain number of rows and columns
  • A hyperlink feature
  • A feature that lets you insert images
  • A fullscreen view feature
  • A text mode feature

You can go ahead and type your own text and insert your own media into the Summernote WYSIWYG editor directly on the website to see how it works. Whatever you type, insert and customize will look exactly how it would look if it were published on the web.