No, Apple hasn't made Pages freeware, or revived the late, lamented AppleWorks. I'm talking about Text Edit, the amazingly powerful and capable little word processor that comes bundled with every copy of Mac OS X. With the Leopard release of Text Edit, many users may find that it meets all of their practical word processing needs without the necessity of buying Pages, Microsoft Word, or another third-party word processor solution. Leopard's version of Text Edit can now even open MS Word files with basic formatting preserved, and save documents in Word's .doc file format. Sweet." />

Apple’s “Free” Word Processor May Be All You Need

58405 No, Apple hasn't brought back AppleWorks or made Pages freeware, or revived the late, lamented AppleWorks. I'm talking about Text Edit, the amazingly powerful and capable little word processor that comes bundled with every copy of Mac OS X. With the Leopard release of Text Edit, many users may find that it meets all of their practical word processing needs without the necessity of buying Pages, Microsoft Word, or another third-party word processor solution. Leopard's version of Text Edit can now even open MS Word files with basic formatting preserved, and save documents in Word's .doc file format. Sweet.


Whether or not you use Microsoft Word, odds are that you will encounter Microsoft Word-formatted (.doc) documents fairly frequently, in email attachments, files produced by word-user colleagues, or informational data downloaded from the Internet.

This is not as much of a problem as it used to be for us non Word users. Many, (in fact most) word processors can open and save Word files these days with formatting reasonably intact. However, if you're using Leopard, you don't need any other Word-savvy software other than Text Edit, which can both open .doc files with basic formatting such as fonts, text formatting (bold, italic, etc.) colors, line- spacing, alignment and justification, etc., sustained reasonably accurately. It's not a perfect solution if you need to retain full document integrity. More advanced formatting such as borders, style sheets, graphics, footnotes, bulleted lists, and such don't survive the conversion intact or at all, but tables seem to translate, although not necessarily appearing exactly the same as they would in Word.

When you save a Text Edit document as a Word file, some of that sort of advanced formatting stuff actually will make the transition in the other direction, notably buttons, numbering, and tables, but not style sheets.

As for the issue of whether Text Edit really does qualify as a word processor, while it's true that the program's antecedents, including the earlier versions of Text Edit that came with previous editions of OS X, as well as SimpleText, and if you go far back enough TeachText - applications that filled the same role in the Classic Mac OS, which were more properly described as basic text editors, Leopard's Text Edit is now a pretty powerful word-crunching program in its own right.

For example, Text Edit supports style sheets, colored text, non-contiguous selections, automatic numbering and bulleted lists, tables, variable line spacing, and paragraph alignment, even kerning and ligatures when the font specified supports them, spell checking, grammar checking, as well as having a plain text editor mode in the TeachText, SimpleText tradition, with an option to switch between plain text and formatted text (ie: Rich Text Format or RTF) in the format menu. There is also a preferences setting to specify one or the other mode as default.

New features that come with Leopard Text Edit include:

• Page numbering - via the "Print header and footer" command in the print dialog.

• Smart Copy/Paste, which eliminates those pesky two-space gaps when you delete a word or phrase, and also readjusts gaps when you paste something in. This feature is available for individual documents from the Edit Menu (Substitutions - Copy/Paste), or globally by setting Smart Copy/Paste in the Preferences New Document tab.

• Autosave - configurable at intervals from 15 seconds to five minutes in the Preferences Open And Save tab.

• Auto Hyperlinks - this handy feature converts Web addresses automatically to clickable hyperlinks, and again can be selected from the Edit Menu (Substitutions - Smart Links),

• Grammar Checking - choose "Check Grammar While Typing" from the Edit Menu's Spelling and Grammar submenu) more on this feature below.

• Kerning - Found in the Format > Font submenu, the Kerning command feature adjusts letter-spacing so that your finished text will look professionally typeset rather than typewritten, or to squeeze or expand a word or phrase to fit in a heading or title more gracefully. It's simple to use in Text Edit - just experiment with the "Tighten" and "Loosen" commands until you get the desired effect.

• Ligatures are closely elated to kerning, and essentially connect particular pairs of adjacent letters, such as fl or ff, into a special character combinations. Note that you need to use a font that supports ligatures in order for it to work.

• Text Edit also can adjust baselines, which are the imaginary lines upon which letter characters "rest" in a document. The Superscript and Subscript commands adjust the "floor" for selected characters above or below the standard baseline.

• Text Edit Copy Style/Paste Style from the Edit > Paste and match Style submenu commands allow you to copy and paste the font formatting characteristics of particular selection to other block of text.

• Smart Quotes in Leopard Text Edit converts standard straight (or "stupid") quotation marks and apostrophes into the more a aesthetically pleasing "curly" type. You can still revert to straight quotes by holding down the Control key as you type the character, something that will be much appreciated by folks like me who convert a lot of text to HTML for Web posting.

One of the functions that distinguishes a word processor from a text editor is support for style sheets. A "style" in this context is a set of font and formatting attributes that can be applied to a selected block of text, a great convenience and time saver. Text Edit supports styles, although in a rudimentary way compared with, say, Microsoft Word. Unlike the latter, Text Edit has no provision for globally applying changes made to styles, nor does it support search and replace by style.

To create and archive a style, first configure a block of text with the font, color, text formatting and so forth that you desire, or select an already-formatted block of text, Then choose "Other" from the Styles popup menu in the Ruler, click "Add To Favorites," and name your style as well as clicking both option check boxes, and finish up by clicking "Add." The style will be saved.


Now, when you want to apply the style you saved, just select the text to be styled and choose the name the name for the desired style, and the style attributes you configured will be applied to your destination text.

If you decide that you don't need a particular style anymore, there is a "Remove From Favorites" command under "Other" in the Styles popup menu.

A quicker way to copy and paste a style in Text Edit is to use Option > Command > C and Option > Command > V to transfer formatting from one point in your document to another.

The Text Edit Ruler incorporates handy menus for Styles (including text styles), Spacing, List attributes (bulleted. numbered, etc.), and buttons for setting Justification.


Yet another word processor feature in Text Edit his support for tables. You can create a table in Text Edit by choosing the Text > Table submenu for the from the Format Menu, which will make the floating Table palette appear, in which you can configure your table characteristics with the desired number of rows and columns, with the placeholder table in your document automatically adjusting to accommodate as necessary. In the Table palette you can also set alignment specifications, thickness and color for the table cell borders, and a background color if desired.


You can adjust the size of rows and columns by dragging cell borders, and even merge two cells by using the Merge Cells command in the Table palette or use Split Cell to unmerge them. A cell may also be nested inside another by using the Nest Table command.

Leopard Text Edit can even save documents as HTML files, which allows the program to serve as no-frills Web authoring application. Tables are imported in the HTML conversion, and can function as a "poor man's" Web page design and configuration tool. JPEG or GIF image files can be added by simply dragging them into the document (TIFFs and PICTs are also supported in Text Edit, but they don't work on Web pages).

You can add hyperlinks by highlighting the word or phrase you want to make clickable, choosing Text + Link from the Format Menu, and enter the Web address you want to link to in the field provided.

There are also HTML options in Text Edit Preferences. Choose the Open and Save tab and specify what sort of HTML document characteristics you want configure when you choose Web Archive as a document save format using the File Menu Save As dialog box's File Format pull-down menu.

In Text Edit's Preferences you can also enter Author, Company, and Copyright information that will be embedded in rich text files.


Text Edit can embed entire other documents or programs in a Text Edit RTF document simply by dragging them in as you would an image file. When your primary document is saved, copies of the attached documents or applications will be included in the saved file that can be launched from within the document. Obviously, this can result in some very large Text Edit document files!

Another advanced word processing feature in Text Edit is the "Allow Hyphenization" command in the File Menu, which intelligently splits words and inserts hyphens as required to enhance right - side alignment of your blocks of text.

Leopard Text Edit supports inline, interactive spell-checking and grammar checking, the latter feature a new addition with OS X 10.5. Personally, I'm not a fan of grammar checkers, which tend to be insufferably pedantic and slow things down as well, but happily, you can activate the spell checker and grammar checker independently from the Edit Menu's Spelling and Grammar submenu, choosing either Check Spelling While Typing or Check Grammar While Typing. You can also of course check either in an already-composed document, and summon a spot spell check at any time by selecting and control clicking on a word.

A variant of the spot spellcheck function is Auto Complete, which works by pressing either F5 or Option > Escape after you have begun typing a word, causing a contextual list of possible word suggestions that appear; choose the appropriate suggestion from the list, press Tab, Return, or Spacebar to accept and then continue typing your document.

In summary, Text Edit in Leopard really is capable of serving as a real word processor for the rest of us, and goes a long way toward filling the gap left when Apple stopped bundling AppleWirks with consumer Macs.

Charles W. Moore

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Thanks for the tips on some of Leopard’s TextEdit improvements; I haven’t had a chance to check out what’s new since I just upgraded to Leopard. But I’ve long thought that TextEdit, since Panther or so, is all the word processing most casual users need, and I wish Apple would advertise it as part of OSX. I bet some new users don’t even know it’s there and therefore think they have to buy Word, Office or iWork/Pages. I’ve been a professional writer for 20 years and have often been able to get by with TextEdit—in part because of its very simplicity, which doesn’t get in the way of writing. Can’t say that about Word! I never print anymore—just send work to editors—so the layout functions of Word and Pages are useless to me.

As for preserving formatting, you can sometimes overcome that problem by using Preview’s new annotation and comment features, and use Apple’s built in pdf functions to exchange docs in pdf form. Preview is another hidden gem that Apple should advertise more.

Of course TextEdit does lack basic page layout features, footnotes, comments, change-tracking etc., but I bet most users can often get by without them. I do wish it would just adopt all the features of the old AppleWorks word processor, and maybe basic outlining. (Didn’t AppleWorks have basic outlining? Can’t remember anymore.)

The biggest missing element for me is live word count, and to get that and a few other missing features, I’ve started using the free word processor Bean, which adds just a few important tweaks to Apple’s text system. Everyone who thinks TextEdit isn’t enough should try Bean, and then NeoOffice, before buying a word processor.

TextEdit, and apple’s entire text system, does get complaints on the Scrivener forum for various deficiencies that I hope Apple will fix in the next update.

You must be using a different version of TextEdit from the one that came with my copy of Leopard, Charles. Mine [v1.4(220)] lacks many of the features you’re waxing about.
I’ve also been using Bean (which I believe is based on TextEdit) for its added features like margin controls, invisibles and word count. It’s even replaced AppleWorks for most of my needs.
To stop TextEdit leaping into action when I wanted something opened in Bean, I had zipped it and dumped the original. That may have stopped it being updated.


I’ve been a full time professional writer since 1986 (and a dabbler for some 15 years before that). I think it was sometime in the late ‘80s when I submitted my last hard copy article or column ms. to an editor.

I can’t recall whether AppleWorks had an outliner either. I was never a big ClarisWorks/AppleWorks user. I started with MS Word 4 on my first Mac, and soon upgraded to Word 5.1, which was a geeat word processor. I bought and used MacWrite Pro fora while, but wasn’t smitten, and AppleWorks’ WP module was a lot like MacWrite Pro. I eventually switched to Nisus Writer for a time, but when it finally dawned on me that I really didn’t need much in the way of document formatting, since I was submitting virtually everything as plain text or html via email, I started using Tex Edit Plus as my do-all, general purpose text crunching app., and quickly became addicted to its superb integration with AppleScript. It’s still my main axe, but I also use TextEdit and when I need a pure plain text editor, TextWrangler.



The version I’m using is 1.5 (244), but to the best of my knowledge there have been no features added since OS 10.5 was released.

Which ones seem to be missing in your copy?

Bean is a nice little application. I haven’t used it for a while, but by happenstance I had downloaded the latest version just before I checked this message.

You can specify your preferred application to open particular document types by default using the Open With menu in the Get Info dialog (Command > I).


The inclusion of a good word processor brings back memories of the original Macs. MacWrite was included free of charge with all Macs from 1984-1986 and was a pretty decent word processor for its day. Sure, it had a limit of eight pages and no built-in spell checker, but for 1984 the WYSIWYG concept was revolutionary. Plus, who could forget the classic Apple fonts?

Once MacWrite became a retail product, we had to put up with TeachText, probably the most limited word processor in Mac history, and then SimpleText, which was about as powerful as the original MacWrite (minus the page limit). TextEdit has always impressed me, even its original version (the one that came with OS X 10.0 back in 2001).

I use the Leopard version of TextEdit whenever I need to take notes on my MacBook simply because it’s faster and less resource-consuming than Pages, although if it comes to making documents look nice, I prefer Pages mostly for its ease of use and interface (which has always reminded me somewhat of MacWrite Pro).

I haven’t seen what Vista has to offer in terms of basic word processor, but the XP version of WordPad is far inferior to TextEdit. It doesn’t have a spell checker, for example (which I consider to be a key feature of a word processor). However, Microsoft does have a one-up on Apple right now in that Paint is bundled with Windows. We used to have MacPaint a long time ago. Where is our free paint program???

(BTW: The open-source Paintbrush program works pretty well if you need basic painting tools on the Mac).

Hi Scott;

Thanks for the nostalgic reverie. Brings back some memories. I missed out on the original version of MacWrite. My first Mac, a used Plus, came with Word 4 installed, so I cut my Mac word processing teeth on it and soon upgraded to Word 5.1, which is a great program and ironically, given my disdain for most Microsoft software, was in my estimation probably the best Mac word processor I’ve ever used.

What I used TeachText for mainly on the Plus was peace and quiet. The Plus, as you MacBook Pro recall, had no internal cooling fan, and I could shut down the external hard drive, boot from a floppy (800k max) with a barebones operating system installed and still just enough room for the TeachText app, and some document storage, which rendered blissfully silent computing save for the keyboard, which was noisy, and ocasional grunts from the floppy drive.

I like small, quick and nimble applications too, so I’m definitely with you on the TextEdit vs. Pages comparo. I find that my 1.33 GHz G4 PowerBook struggles a bit with Pages, but TextEdit (and Tex Edit Plus) fly, and yes, Pages reminds me a lot of MacWrite Pro a lot too.

Yup; Apple really does need a bundled basic bitmap graphics program. ClarisWorks/AppleWorks filled that role quite well (on consumer Macs) before it was killed off. I like Text Edit better than the AppleWorks word processor, but the Paint module was quite good. PaintBrish does a decent job for freeware, although the best free bitmap graphic editors I’ve tried are Seashore and ImagJ. Both are quite powerful, and Seashore especially reminds me a lot of MacPaint and thw AppleWorks Paint module.


I am running Mac OS X but Text Edit is not listed in my application folder.  I have tried the application software that came with my apple when I purchased it last December, but it’s not listed there either.  According to the specs it should have been included with the Apple.  How do I download a copy of this application?
Any help would be greatly appreciated.
I am running I works now but I’m not really happy with it.
Any other suggestions would be appreciated also.

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