Word and WYSIWYGs

WYSIWYG screenshotIn the world of the Web, tools known as WYSIWYGs are used to edit large or complex areas of content. A WYSIWYG – a What You See Is What You Get editor – is useful when you need to insert text formatting (like boldface or italics), links, pictures, or other types of special text into whatever you’re writing.

Every so often, though, you may find that a WYSIWYG editor doesn’t live up to its name, and some content from the editor may look different when you look at it on the site that you’re editing. We find that this happens most often when content is pasted into the editor from desktop editing programs like Microsoft Word.

Behind the scenes of your text: lost in translation

Underneath any document you make with a rich text editor (including Microsoft Word and online WYSIWYGs) is a markup language. The main duty of a markup language is to let the computer know how to display the text you write; it makes the computer able to understand the difference between 36-point text and words that are bold or blue.

Translation booksBut not all markup languages are the same. When a computer copies text from a program like Word into an online WYSIWYG, it does its best to play the role of translator between languages. Once in a while (especially when working with content with a lot of different formatting within it) it isn’t able to correctly figure out how to translate the text from one markup language to the other. Because online WYSIWYGs aren’t as complex as a program like Word, the online text may start to act funny as it finds formatting it doesn’t understand.

What can I do?

When copying text from a program like Word into an online WYSIWYG, we usually suggest two things: wiping and plain texting.

Style wiping (also known as “scrubbing” or “cleaning”) is the easiest way to clean your content of special formatting from external programs. Word icon (1)Word icon (2)Word icon (3)Word icon (4)Wipers usually have their own toolbar button (like one of the icons to the right) and will run through your text and remove any formatting the editor doesn’t understand. (Because of this, there is a chance you could lose some formatting in your text after wiping.) Wipers are usually only found in advanced WYSIWYGs that have a lot of formatting options.

The other option for pasting is to convert your text into plain text before pasting it into the online editor. To do this, paste the text into a program like Notepad. After you’ve pasted the text, select all of it and then copy it again. This middle step removes any special formatting and allows text to flow easily into the online editor.

Do you have any other tricks you’ve learned when pasting your content into online editors? Let us know!