A Beginner’s Guide to TextEdit

New Mac users may not know about TextEdit, a simple but deep text editing and word processing tool that comes with your Mac. You can use TextEdit to create documents in cases when a full word processor like Pages or Microsoft Word isn't necessary. TextEdit has two modes: plain text and rich text. You can use the first for writing, notes and coding. You can use the second for word processing. TextEdit also allows you to open Microsoft Word documents which is useful if you are sent one but haven't bought Word.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: A Beginner’s Guide to TextEdit.

If you're new to Mac you may not even know about one of the most useful apps that comes with your computer. It's an app called TextEdit. It's a basic text editor that actually has a lot of functionality. For about 80% to 90% of all the things that people use word processors for you can just use TextEdit. You don't need Pages or Microsoft Word.

Now you're not going to find TextEdit in the Dock by default. You have to go to either Launchpad or the Applications folder. I'm going to use Spotlight to search for TextEdit and launch it. You're faced here with a file open dialogue. You can select a file to open. I'm going to click New Document and it will open up a basic TextEdit window and I can start typing right away.

Now there are two modes in TextEdit. This is the plain text mode. Notice there are no options here for changing fonts, styles, anything. You're just typing text and that's all you can do here. Now for a lot of things this is very useful. Typing quick notes or for just doing some basic writing that say you're going to copy and paste into an online post or another document. It's great. If you're a coder you can use this actually for creating HTML, scripts, and other things.

The other mode, if you go to Format you can see Make Rich Text. I can convert this to Rich Text. Now I see all those options up here. I can select text. I can change its font. I can center. I can change its size, make something bold. I can add other lines. Maybe just make this one something else here. So you can basically do what you do with word processors most of the time. It's all available here in Rich Text Format.

In Format you can go to Make Plain Text and you'll see you'll be warned because it's going to get rid of all the styling. So you can switch between the two of them.

Under Preferences you can decide whether you want your default document to be Rich Text or Plain Text, plus a whole bunch of other options including the font used by the plain text editor here. Other Options here as well especially if you're a coder. What type of document you need the Plain Text documents to be.

So there's a lot you can do here. You can even create bullet lists. You can insert tables. So you can see here this little interface for the type of table you want. I'm just going to Undo back to there. You can, of course, Save, Export as a PDF, Share in different ways. You can Print. You can do all the basic stuff you can do with other documents and things you would expect. You can even use Tabs here and go full screen mode for kind of a good writing environment.

There's a lot of different things you can do with TextEdit. It's pretty full featured. It's a lot easier to get around it. You can pretty much play around for five or ten minutes and see all of the features and understand how to use them which makes it better than some word processors. You can play around for days in Microsoft Word and still not hit every feature.

Another cool things that TextEdit does is it allows you to open up Microsoft Word documents. Because while Mac users all have Pages, it's just free, and we can all open up most Mac documents sometimes people sent you Word documents. You don't need to edit them in Word. You don't need to see everything in perfect formatting. You just need to see what the contents are. I get emails like that all the time and if I didn't have Microsoft Word how would I open them up. Well, you can open them up here in TextEdit.

So I've got a word.doc here. You can, you know, use the File, Open function to open that. I'm going to drag and drop it into the Dock here onto TextEdit. It will open up this word document. The formatting is not perfect. There's revision notes turned on in this document but I don't see them here because TextEdit doesn't have revision notes. But I can read all the text. It comes out perfectly fine. So that's really handy if you get Word documents you can use TextEdit to go and open them up without having to buy Word or ask the person sending it to please send you a PDF or some other format.

Comments: 5 Responses to “A Beginner’s Guide to TextEdit”

    2 years ago

    TextEdit is my go to ‘word processor’. Main complaint is the behavior of its Tables; very poor. And sometimes you get artifacts that will be fixed with a quick Cmd Shift W two times.

    Jan F
    2 years ago

    I would love to use TE all the time, but as an instructor who writes class notes, I badly need to be able to do page numbers and page counts–I have found no way to do that in TE until I print, which then allows headers & footers…is there a way?

    2 years ago

    Jan: No, it sounds like Pages is going to be what you want to use.

    Alexandra Earle
    1 year ago

    I can’t make TextEdit routinely save to my desktop, which is where I want it.

    1 year ago

    Alexandra: Can you be more specific? What happens when you try to save to the Desktop? Do you get an error message? Something else?

Comments Closed.