"WYSIWYG" Editors? No, thanks!

The original Ardent Tool website used a simple page design - static HTML, no PHP, no Javascript crud, not even CSS! Under the hood, however, the HTML documents weren't as clean as one would expect... quite the opposite! Even a short peek inside one of the more often edited documents would be enough to fuel your nightmares for the next few days or weeks (if you are a web designer or programmer, that is).

We really can't blame the author (Louis Ohland) for any of that mess. He just used what worked for him the best. So who or what is responsible? As the title suggests, the blame is on the actual tools that were used to create the pages - the so-called "WYSIWYG" HTML editors. Many tools from this category (e.g. good ol' MS Word) produce extremely ugly and beyond-bloated HTML document structure. And sadly, that's what we are dealing with here. Many of the documents are filled with hundreds of lines that consist of nothing but useless metadata. This extra data is there only to allow for a more accurate reverse-conversion of the document. But even if we ignore all the conversion information, the documents are stuffed with redundant or nonsensical HTML code - constructions no sane human being would ever create. To make things even worse, the document structure deteriorates over time with every modification. That often leads to formatting problems and all kinds of strange inconsistencies. Most modern browsers typically won't have too much trouble parsing and displaying this mess. You may, however, run into problems if you access the website from some older machine. One that doesn't have many CPU cycles to spare (like any of our beloved PS/2s) or from a browser that isn't smart enough to cope with the poor document structure.

The documents behave like the organism from John Carpenter's The Thing - always transforming and extremely unstable. Even a tiny page edit can lead to violent code changes. That's because the entire document gets re-generated with every change. Clearly, the generator isn't very stable or perhaps multiple different tools or settings are being used. Either way, this leads to more problems when you try comparing different versions of the same document. So, something as simple as a merge of changes from two sources (me and Louis) becomes a real pain. Every merge must be reviewed or done manually, which is, of course, slower and much more tedious.

Over the years, I've managed to clean up many existing pages and remove all the metadata nonsense, but there is still more to go. New and revised pages stay clean because no WYSIWYG editors or similar tools are used at any point in the publishing process. Only plain-text editors (Notepad++ and Sublime Text), and that's it. Any 3rd party contributions are checked first and polished if necessary. The pages that received this treatment are easier to edit, have far fewer formatting problems, and generally have a more consistent look.

Content created and/or collected by:
Louis F. Ohland, Peter H. Wendt, David L. Beem, William R. Walsh, Tatsuo Sunagawa, Tomáš Slavotínek, Jim Shorney, Tim N. Clarke, Kevin Bowling, and many others.

Ardent Tool of Capitalism is maintained by Tomáš Slavotínek.
Last update: 08 May 2024 - Changelog | About | Legal & Contact