WYSIWYG Meaning & Definition

Pronounced WIZ-zee-wig. Short for what you see is what you get. A WYSIWYG application is one that enables you to see on the display screen exactly what will appear when the document is printed. This differs, for example, from word processors that are incapable of displaying different fonts and graphics on the display screen even though the formatting codes have been inserted into the file. WYSIWYG is especially popular for desktop publishing.

Note that the WYSIWYGness of an application is relative. Originally, WYSIWYG referred to any word processor that could accurately show line breaks on the display screen. Later WYSIWYGs had to be able to show different font sizes, even if the screen display was limited to one typeface. Now, a word processor must be able to display graphics and many different typefaces to be considered WYSIWYG.

Still, some WYSIWYG applications are more WYSIWYG than others. For example, many desktop publishing systems print text using outline fonts (PostScript fonts, for example). Many of these systems, however, use corresponding bit-mapped fonts to display documents on a monitor. What you see on the display screen, therefore, is not exactly what you see when you print out the document. In addition, standard laser printers have a resolution of at least 300 dpi, whereas even the best graphics monitorshave resolutions of only 100 dpi. Graphics and text, therefore, always look sharper when printed than they do on the display screen. And colors often appear differently on a monitor than they do when printed out.

Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal is a freelance business and technology writer covering Internet technologies and online business since the late '90s.

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