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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:

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:

Markup languages have been the traditional refuge for people who want to continue using their text editor but want beautifully typeset publications.

See also:

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Last edited November 25, 2013 4:40 pm (diff)