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word processing softwareThough Microsoft Word and Apple’s Page ’09 are both feature-rich word processing software, they may be more than what most Mac users need, especially when Apple”˜s TextEdit program comes installed for free in every version of Mac OS X. TextEdit opens twice as fast as Word and Pages, and it provides basic tools for most writing projects.

Here are some suggestions for getting the most out of TextEdit, which of course can be found in the Applications folder of your Mac.

Preferences: New Document

Let’s start with TextEdit”˜s Preferences. Among other things, you can set the default font and font size settings in Preferences. I believe the default setting is Helvetica 12.

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As you can see, there are also other Preference settings you can make, including options for checking grammar and spelling and applying smart quotes and dashes as you type. You can also have your author and copyright information automatically appended to each document by adding that information in Preferences.


Where it says Rich text and Plain text, it”˜s best to leave the Rich text option checked so that you can use basic formatting styles, such as bold, italics and underlining.

Preferences: Open & Save Settings

In the Open and Save Settings, you have options for Autosaving and various HTML settings.

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HTML Editor

You can paste HTML code into a TextEdit document, edit it, and save it as a webpage document (File>Save As>Web Page). When you use TextEdit as a HTML editor, you will want to format text in Plain text.

Formatting Styles

TextEdit includes many of the basic and advance text formatting styles found in Word and Pages. One feature that you might overlook in TextEdit is that you can save individual formatting styles to be used in future documents.

So for instance, say you want to quickly apply a particular color to selected text; you can do so by first selecting some text, opening up color picker (Format>Font>Show Colors) and selecting the color you want to use.

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While you still have your formatted text selected, go to Format>Font>Styles”¦ and in the drop-down menu, select Add To Favorites. Give a title for your saved style.

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Now when you want to apply that style again, you click on the Styles button in the toolbar of your TextEdit document. If the toolbar is not present in the document, go to Format>Make Rich Text.

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Also, don’t forget that you can manually copy and paste styles from one piece of selected text to another. After your style is copied, go to Edit>Paste and Match Style, or use the keyboard shortcuts, Option+Command+C (copy style) and Option+Command+V (paste style).

TextEdit Toolbar

Notice also in the toolbar of a TextEdit document that you have some formatting options. They include the standard word processing features for aligning texts and paragraphs, and spacing between lines.

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Pages and Word have a robust table creation feature, but if you don’t feel like hauling out one of those hefty applications, you can create a basic table in TextEdit. Granted, there are limitations but the feature includes the tabbing and basic formatting options found in the larger word processing programs.

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To create a table, go to Format>Table… and set the numbers for rows and columns in the Table palette. You can also apply text alignments, and the thickness and color of cell borders and backgrounds.


Other Goodies

TextEdit includes a few other powerful features that you want to keep in mind. For instance, under Edit>Transformation, you can select text and change its case or capitalize the first letter of each word of that selected text.

If you’re struggling to figure out the spelling of a word, you can put your insertion point at the end of a partially entered word and press Option+Esc, which will deliver up a set of words that might contain the one you’re looking for.

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TextEdit doesn’t have the revision tracking, comments, and footnote features of Word and Pages, nor does it have their robust desktop layout design tools (although images can be added to TextEdit documents), but it is still a handy word processing software app that you will find on any Mac computer.

Let us know if and how you use TextEdit. Are there features you use that I did not touch on this article? Let us know about them.

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