Pros and Cons of Text Editors

There are many benefits to text or HTML code editors. But there are also some drawbacks. Before you join the debate, learn all the facts. I define an editor as a text editor if it's primary editing mode is text or HTML code, even if it includes a WYSIWYG editing option.

Latest Developments

Most advanced Web development tools these days offer the ability to edit your Web pages in both HTML/code view and in WYSIWYG.

So the distinction is not as strict.

What's all the Fuss About?

This argument really stems from the way tht Web page development started. When it first began in the early- to mid- 1990s, building a Web page required that you be able to write HTML code, but as editors got more and more sophisticated they allowed people who didn't know HTML to build Web pages. The problem was (and often, still is) that WYSIWYG editors can generate HTML that is hard to read, not standards compliant and only really editable in that editor. HTML code purists believe that this is a corruption of the intent of Web pages. While designers feel that whatever makes it easy for them to build their pages is acceptable and even valuable.

Pros

  • Faster to Edit
    For simple edits, it is often faster to make changes to a page using a text editor.
  • Helps You Learn HTML
    Text editors teach you to read HTML. They often have wizards and functions to do the more common tasks (like the basic page tags), but you'll learn HTML if you use a text editor
  • More Marketable
    A Web Developer who can write HTML using a text editor will be more marketable than one who can only use a WYSIWYG editor. The former is more flexible and can get up to speed on any HTML editing tool, while the latter has to start all over with each new editing tool.
  • No "Funky" HTML
    The only HTML that will be in the document will be tags that you placed there deliberately. This will help your pages download faster, as well as look leaner.
  • Human Readable HTML
    This is especially important if you work on a team of Web developers. The HTML can be spaced as your team likes it, and include comments and other notes to allow more efficient editing by other team members.

Cons

  • Must Know HTML
    While most HTML text editors can help with tags and suggest attributes and so on, this is no substitute for knowing HTML. Most modern text editors have drag and drop styles such as bold and italic, but if you can't remember the code for "non-breaking space" your editor might not be able to help.
  • Steeper Learning Curve
    Because you have to learn both HTML and the editor functions itself, a beginner will find a text editor more difficult to use.
  • Harder to "Design" With
    Some people find text editors more difficult to design pages in because they can't visualize how the page will look from just the HTML.

    Resolution

    • For Professional Web Developers and Advanced HTML Writers
      If you want to make Web Development your profession, and you don't plan on opening your own Web Design studio, then I would recommend learning HTML and using a text editor. Text editors will get you farther in the long term, as they will reinforce your knowledge of HTML.
    • For Beginners and Non-Professional Web Developers
      If you want to do Web Development as a hobby, there is no reason not to use a WYSIWYG editor. But remember, to get a job as a Web Developer, you really do need to know HTML, and a WYSIWYG editor will not help you there.