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Word processor is a little bit like a text editor, but it can do more than just edit plain text: It can make all kind of modification to appearance of text, like cursiving, bolding, footnotes, indexing, embedded graphics, tables, line heighth, marginals, font size, font type etc. Therefore it saves all that information in some other format than just plain text.
This is the key difference between a text editor and a word processor. The end product of a text editor will be a plain text file. The end product of a word processor is assumed to be a printed page. Therefor, word processors add features for controlling the format of the output on a page, as well as the functions required to create and edit the text. A plain text file may be printed, but it is just as likely to contain program code to be fed to a compiler, or batch files, shell scripts, or system configuration files where anything other than plain ASCII text will not be understood and will likely cause errors.
Most word processors can read, export, import and write plain text, but all appearance information is lost when a word processor document is saved as plain text. Editing plain text with a word processor is not recommended, For at least these reasons:
- You may accidentally save your document in native format of that word processor instead of plain text
- You need to load many features not usable for plain text editing to memory of your computer. Those features also makes startup of program much slower.
- All those features not needed for plain text editing are on your way and they may pop up automatically and disturb you.
- Most word processors don't have features focused on usual plain text editing applications like programming, web page editing or outlining.
Most word processors use some binary file format, but nowadays textual markup in XML-language is becoming important fileformat. RTF (Rich Text Format) is text based file format, too.
At least these text editors are actually word processors:
- [AbiWord] - a cross platform word processor for *nix and Windows
- MicrosoftWord - Now part of MS Office
- Open Office Write - word processor of [OpenOffice.org]
- NisusWriter - Mac "alternative" word processor that is also available as a plain text editor called QUED/M
- PcWrite - A nice word processor/editor
- PolyEdit - An alternative to Microsoft Word
- TedL - A rich text editor for Linux
- WordStar - Influential word processor ofiginating under CP/M,and later for DOS and Windows
- XyWrite - a DOS implementation of the ATEX typesetting system, with a powerful macro language
- WordPerfect - the default standard under DOS for years, now owned by Corel
Markup languages have been the traditional refuge for people who want to continue using their text editor but want beautifully typeset publications.