TextEdit - More Than Meets the Eye By Josh Blagden | JB - Mac Help | JBlagden

TextEdit - More Than Meets the Eye                   By Josh Blagden


TextEdit may seem like nothing more than the free word processor that comes with OS X. It might even appear to be no more functional than Microsoft’s WordPad. 

In reality, TextEdit is a lot more functional than it seems. Not only does it offer different fonts and sizes, it offers Bold, Italic and Underline capabilities. It also goes so far as to be able to allow you to change the text and text-fill colors(i.e. highlighting). 


Most importantly, TextEdit can work with and save documents in more than just one format. It can even save documents as Word documents, which could prevent the need to buy Word or even Pages. So, if you need to be able to write Word documents and have them be instantly compatible without having to convert them afterwards, TextEdit is for you. TextEdit can work with and write Word documents, which is really nice. As much as I like Pages, the resulting documents are in the Pages format and need to be exported to Word format to be usable by Windows users, which is a bit of an inconvenience when I need to turn in a paper as a Microsoft Word document or even if I’m not sure if one of my professors has Pages. Also, as I mentioned in Using Pages, Pages used to have an issue where the Word documents it exported lost some formatting when opened on a Windows PC, though that is not the case with the more recent versions of iWork; Word documents exported from Pages now keep all of their formatting.

The default format for TextEdit is RTF, which is very good because it’s cross-compatible between Windows, Mac and Linux. Hopefully, whoever you are sending your work to doesn’t require a Word document with images, which I’ll address later. If you take a look at the screenshot above, you’ll notice that the available options are RTF, RTFD, HTML, ODT, doc, docx, and XML, which is pretty impressive for a free text editor.

However, the one caveat of TextEdit is that regardless of the format you choose, you cannot put images into a Word or RTF document in TextEdit. If you add images, TextEdit will require that you convert your document from its original format to RTFD, which unfortunately, is incompatible with Microsoft Word and Windows as a whole. So, if you wish to proceed in TextEdit, you’ll have to export your document as a PDF when you’re ready to send it. A PDF allows your document to be viewed with all formatting, colors, and etcetera the same, regardless of where or how they’re viewed.

If you have to submit your work as a Word Document with images, you’ll have to abandon TextEdit and use a different word processor, such as Pages or Microsoft Word. If you choose Pages, just as I would, you’ll have to export your document to the .doc** or to the .docx** format.

** .doc and .docx are both Microsoft Word formats. More specifically, .doc, is the older format used by Microsoft Word 1997-2006, while .docx is the newer format which is used from Microsoft Word 2007 onward.

Lastly, TextEdit may seem very basic and bare-bones, but that’s exactly what I like about it. It’s a lot less distracting than say, Microsoft Word or Pages. This simplicity makes it a lot easier for me to focus on what I’m writing instead of how it looks, or being distracted by the program’s User Interface. Also, unlike Google Docs, I don’t have to worry about server failures. I use TextEdit whenever I can because it’s preferable specifically because it’s less distracting and I can save my work as RTF documents which work on all operating systems as well as Microsoft Word documents. From a functional point of view, for pure text, TextEdit is far superior to Pages because it can work with Word and RTF documents natively without having to convert between different formats, especially because it’s easy to forget to convert an iWork document to Microsoft Office format.

© Joshua Blagden & Justin Barczak 2013-2015
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