1341: Types of Editors

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Types of Editors
m-x machineofdeath-mode
Title text: m-x machineofdeath-mode


WYSIWYG, pronounced, "wizzy-wig" IPA /ˈwɪziˌwɪg/, is an acronym that stands for "What you see is what you get". In regards to computers, it refers to text editors in which the user can see exactly what will be published as they are typing it. The comic compares various types of editors, each one a play-on-words on WYSIWYG.

  • A WYSIWYG editor displays the edited document in its final form. This could be a printed paper, a web page, a PDF document, and more. This is a real term used for text editors.
  • A WYSINWYG editor is the opposite; there is a distinct difference between what the editor displays, and what will be printed. Hence, what you see is not what you get. They are also known as source editors, such as a wiki markup editor or TeX. In the comic an HTML source editor is shown, where you enter raw HTML code and then presented with the rendered appearance of the final page. The <em>-tag marks text that has stress emphasis.
  • The WYSITUTWYG ("... is totally unrelated to ...") editor apparently takes your input and proceeds to ignore it entirely, instead displaying unrelated words. Possibly a commentary on the Autocorrect function. Randall seems to have made this term up. The phrase "The HORSE is a noble animal" may be a reference to the stereotypes commonly associated with horses, or possibly to Houyhnhnm in Gulliver's Travels, an extreme version of those stereotypes. "The horse is a noble animal" is also the name of a giant rocking-horse sculpture in Yorkshire.
  • WYSIHYD ("... is how you die") shows an "editor" which is not really an editor at all, but rather a pun on the multiple meanings of the word "get": If you see "eaten by wolves", you will get... eaten by wolves. As in physically attacked and devoured by wolves. This is an example of the use-mention distinction, or simply get meaning "to receive" or "to become" (compare German's different evolution: werden ("to become") but bekommen ("to receive")).

The title text is a fictitious command, meta-x machineofdeath-mode, to the highly extensible Emacs text editor. Emacs operates in various "modes", which are customizations for specific purposes. Placing Emacs into "Machine of Death" mode would turn it into a WYSIHYD editor. (For another fictitious emacs command see 378: Real Programmers). See below for why this was used.

Machine of Death book

The title text is a reference to "Machine of Death". This book from 2010 is a collection of short stories edited by amongst other Ryan North (of Dinosaur Comics) mentioned here since the idea was based on one of his comics. Since Randall Munroe wrote one of the stories the reference is very likely, and would be Randall's first book promotion in xkcd, but not the last. All the stories are based around a device, the "Machine of Death", that can predict, with 100% accuracy though generally with extreme ambiguity, how people die from a drop of their blood. In many of the stories very unusual deaths are predicted, often in a very literal way, but not so you know when or where you will die. From the official home page the entire book can be downloaded for free as a PDF file. Randall's story begins on page 421 - or page 218 of the two-sided PDF file. It is simply called "?". In 1525: Emojic 8 Ball the default question is How will I die? and can then be answered by an Emojic 8 Ball, which would make it a type of Machine of Death.


[There are four panels, each with different headings and explanations of the headings above the panels.]
[The first three panels show two titled text boxes, one above the other, with text inside. This text is formatted with both small and capital letters as opposed to all capital letters in the rest of the comic.]
[Heading panel 1:]
What you see is
what you get
[Panel 1.]
What you see:
What you get:
[Heading panel 2:]
What you see is
not what you get
[Panel 2.]
What you see:
What you get:
[Heading panel 3:]
What you see is totally
unrelated to what you get
[Panel 3.]
What you see:
What you get:
The HORSE is a noble animal.
[The fourth panel shows two titled text areas, the top is a black rectangle with white text in a very large font, and the bottom text area is not outlined with a border.]
[Heading panel 4:]
What you see is
how you die
[Panel 4.]
What you see:
What you get:
Eaten by wolves

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The horse is a noble animal; refers to this? http://www.marciafarquhar.com/artwork/the-horse-is-a-noble-animal/ --NSDCars5 (talk) 13:40, 14 March 2014 (UTC)NSDCars5

Title text and last frame are a reference to the book "Machine of Death", a collection of short stories in which a machine can tell a person a word, that is in some way related to how they will die. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Incidentally, Munroe himself wrote a story in that anthology. Apparently, it was titled "?" Has anyone read it? 08:14, 12 March 2014 (UTC)

SPOILER ALERT In the machine of death story from Randal the protagonist struggles with the fact the machine can predict death, it does not fit his world picture. He decides the only way to win is not to play so he never reads his slip of paper and goes to work starting fires to form an huge question mark. In the end he decides to stay in one place to ether die there from hunger and thirst or any other way. He hopes the slip of paper says "murder" instead of anything else as in the machine murdered him. /SPOILER ALERT (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

There are also WYSIWYM editors: "what you see is what you mean", where editor marks the content according to its meaning (e.g. section title), but not necessarily exactly as it would appear in presentation. The main advantage of this system is the total separation of presentation and content. Examples include LyX, FrameMaker, WYMeditor, CodeMirror. --JakubNarebski (talk) 08:44, 12 March 2014 (UTC)

And let's not forget WYGIWYG (wiggywig), "What you get is what you get" A joking reference to the imperfection of certain well-known word processors. At this moment, someone out there is writing a machineofdeath-mode for Emacs. Jim E (talk) 16:07, 12 March 2014 (UTC)

Anyone know that "horse" reference? It sounds familiar but I can't place it. 16:34, 12 March 2014 (UTC)

I don't know if it's relevant, but there's a sculpture titled "The Horse is a Noble Animal". [1][2] Wwoods (talk) 19:18, 12 March 2014 (UTC)

What about Death Note? Sounds a bit like WYSIHYD is a nerfed version of the Death Note. -- 17:12, 12 March 2014 (UTC)

It's just a correlation. 17:16, 12 March 2014 (UTC)
Are you Randall? If not, you do not know that. 01:53, 13 March 2014 (UTC)
I vote to add a reference in a Trivia section, as I've seen Trivias here deviating that much. 04:34, 1 March 2015 (UTC)

I think this needs an incomplete flag. It doesn't make a clear distinction between the comic and the real-world context, and the latter isn't sufficiently explained. --Mynotoar (talk) 18:15, 12 March 2014 (UTC)

Was my indentation of the transcript too much? I thought it added to the understanding of the layout and flow. Jarod997 (talk) 12:38, 13 March 2014 (UTC)

I can't believe that no one has made a WYSITUTWYG editor on the internet yet, given that there are already hell tetris machines. Hppavilion1 (talk) 04:22, 14 August 2014 (UTC)

WYSIHYD reminds me of the "goto" programmer getting attacked by a velociraptor http://www.explainxkcd.com/wiki/index.php/292 18:20, 16 May 2015 (UTC)

HORSE reference

Preeeeeeeeetty certain this refers to the briefly famous, rather bizarre "Horse eBooks" twitter account which was presumably set up as some kind of Markov-chain based quotation engine intended to promote the service by spewing out famous phrases from the books in their collection, but instead ended up generating all kinds of amusing nonsense, much of it on the subject of equines. It may or may not still be operating ... I don't twitter much, so finding out will take a moment or two... (gets curious, actually checks)

...well, it's still there, but it hasn't updated in a while: [[3]] ... 09:08, 20 May 2015 (UTC)

Given the nature of Horse_ebooks and the fact that xkcd has referenced it before (under "Twitter"), I think this is certainly possible. (The above-stated reference to the statue could simultaneously be true.) L-Space Traveler (talk) 01:50, 18 February 2023 (UTC)

I just put together this comic in real life. LINK: http://1314.fluffycraft.net/ Check it out!!!! 03:21, 20 April 2016 (UTC) Gus

How I pronouce them: wizz-ee-wig wizz-en-wig wizz-etut-wig wizz-ee-hid Awoo is legal | (you can't) change my mind (talk) 22:09, 2 October 2018 (UTC)

Why is it just like: (italic tags on either side of Hi) The HORSE is a noble animal. (talk) 17:32, 24 April 2024 (UTC)

Because it's "What You See Is Totally Unrelated To What You Get", obviously... 18:37, 24 April 2024 (UTC)