Apple Wiki
Apple Wiki

WYSIWYG (pronounced "wizzy-wig" or "wuzzy-wig") is an acronym for What You See Is What You Get, and is used in computing to refer to the technology that makes sure the image seen on the screen corresponds to what is printed out on paper. Today this is expected for word processors but in other situations, like web (HTML) authoring, this is not always the case.


  • A description of a user interface that allows the user to view the end result while the document or graphic character is being created.
  • Allows the user to concentrate entirely on how the content should appear, although having the trade-off of not having the results being easily fine-tuned.
  • Also used to describe specifically a web page creation program in which the user creates the webpage visually, while the program generates the HTML for it.

Most programs, even Microsoft Office, are not truly WYSIWYG since printing and page formatting are still hidden from view.

Historical notes[]

  • The phrase was originated by John Seybold and popularized at Xerox PARC during the late 1970s when the first WYSIWYG editor, Bravo was created on the Alto. 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 the standard of 72 "points" per inch used in the commercial printing industry.)
  • Seybold and the researchers at PARC were simply reappropriating a popular catchphrase of the time originated by "Geraldine", a character on The Flip Wilson Show, (1970-1974). In addition to "What you see is what you get!", this character also popularized "The Devil made me do it!"
  • The Apple Macintosh system was originally designed so that the screen resolution and the resolution of the dot-matrix printers sold by Apple were easily scaled: 72 PPI for the screen and 144 DPI for the printers. Thus, the on-screen output of programs such as MacWrite and MacPaint were easily translated to the printer output and allowed WYSIWYG. With the introduction of laser printers, with resolutions not even multiples of the screen resolution, true WYSIWYG vanished.
  • Charles Simonyi, the PARC researcher responsible for Bravo, joined Microsoft in 1981 to start development of application programs at Microsoft. Hence, Bravo can be seen as the direct ancestor of Microsoft Word.


Because of the capability to see and adjust a layout on screen, and to immediately see the results, Macs become popular with graphic designers, layout artists and others for whom page layout or visual design was a significant component of their jobs. Early Macs had several capabilities not available in other PCs or even mainframes at the time. Consistent colour mapping across applications, for printing, and for export to commercial mass print devices was also a critical component for designers. At that time, the same "colour number" would be mapped to different colours on other computer systems. (See Comparisons to Windows PCs.)

Related acronyms[]

(in order of increasing obscurity)

  • WYSIWIS - What You See Is What I See (used in context of distant multi-users applications, e.g. CSCW)
  • WYSIWYAF - What You See Is What You Asked For (in reference to programs such as those used for manual typesetting such as TeX or troff, that what is retrieved from the system is what the user specified - in essence, a statement of GIGO)
  • WYSIAYG - What You See Is All You Get (used by computer programmers who point out that a style of "heading" that refers to a specification of "Helvetica 15 bold" provides more useful information than a style of "Helvetica 15 bold" every time a heading is used)
  • WYSIAWYG - What You See Is Almost What You Get (most text editing programs)
  • WYSIWYM - What You See Is What You Mean (You see what best conveys the message)n
  • WYSIMOLWYG - What You See Is More Or Less What You Get (another way of stating WYSIAWYG)
  • WYTYSIWYTYG - What You Think You See Is What You Think You Get ("whit-iss-ee-whit-ig") (when a program claims to be WYSIWYG but isn't)
  • WYCIWYG - What You Cache is What You Get ("wyciwyg://" turns up occasionally in the address bar of Gecko-based web browsers like Mozilla Firefox when the browser is retrieving cached information) -or - What You Create Is What You Get -or- What You Click Is What You Get
  • WYGIWYG - What You Get Is What You Get (an alternative approach to document formatting using markup languages, e.g. HTML, to define content and trusting the layout software to make it pretty enough)
  • WYGIWYGAINUC - What You Get Is What You're Given And It's No Use Complaining


External links[]

Wikipedia This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).