Are you comfortable without an editor?

I came across this in the local paper (the dead tree version) today in a job listing for a web designer.  It is with total irony that the opening is with the local paper that advertisement appeared in:


Qualified candidates must demonstrate a proficiency in Photoshop, Illustrator, and Flash as well as HTML, XHTML, and CSS. You should feel comfortable without using WYSIWYG editors.

I was really take aback by the wording of the job posting.  I will give them some benefit of the doubt that what they meant to say was that they want someone who understands HTML / XHTML / CSS and not someone who realizes solely upon a tool to work magic.  Of course it could be that they are saying that they are so cheap that they will not be providing you any tools other than notepad and paint to do your job (but I doubt that).

Do we really want people to work without WYSIWYG Editors?

I can remember a time when it was a badge of honor to say that you coded HTML in notepad and did not rely upon commercial tools like FrontPage or free tools like hotdog (man am I dating myself by mentioning that tool!).  There is something to be said for picking a tool based upon the quality of the markup that it produces.  Example:  FrontPage created web sites that required special extensions to be installed on the server for some features to work, thus limiting the portability of the code.  Another Example: DreamWeaver has a bad reputation for creating heavy HTML code that is hard to pull into development tools like Visual Studio or Eclipse (I even saw a contract once that forbid the design agency from turning over HTML that was created in that tool).  Many tools will tend to put formatting code code in the markup itself instead of the more modern style of external CSS files.  All these are reasons to pick a better tool, but not reasons to get comfortable with not using a tool.

I for one can no longer do much coding without a tool.  I am still “old school” in that I do much of my coding in the HTML view as opposed to the design surface.  My productivity is still greatly enhanced with auto balancing tags, autocorrection when I fat finger something (or at least a warning) and intellesense.

As for that job listing….I think I would rather hire someone who can work magic in a WYSIWYG editor and is highly productive than someone who is comfortable in plain text and their work product looks like it was created in plain text.

2 thoughts on “Are you comfortable without an editor?”

  1. I do whatever I can to use the visual capabilities of Visual Studio but as recent as VS 2003 it produced some pretty horrible markup and even rearranged the markup that I carefully put together to make it work across multiple browsers and versions. Being comfortable with the code is really helpful, especially if you can also get into the Javascript to add necessary behavior. In one case I worked with a developer who was using VS 2003 and only knew how to use the visual tools and could not resolve a problem. So he started to research components which were for sale online. I looked at it and created a one line fix for it because I knew how it all worked down to the markup. It saved a lot of time and money. But I think HTML is a unique animal. It was designed to be human readable/editable and was not really very tool friendly until it became XHTML. Tools like Orcas will dramatically change that balance especially with the new rich CSS support.

  2. Excellent point Brennan. A tool that creates bad markup can hinder productivity. If anyone wants to start using the Orcas design surface today in a non-Beta form they should check out Expression Web. It is the same design surface that is in Orcas (My favorite feature is the "split" view).

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