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TextEdit for Word Processing in OS X Mavericks

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TextEdit is a small yet surprisingly powerful word processor. Lynn Beighley shows you how to perform many tasks in TextEdit, including create a document, find and replace words, use text styles, work with tabs and indents, create lists that number themselves, create tables, print automatic page numbers, correct spelling, select noncontiguous text, show substitutions, and read Microsoft Word files.
This chapter is from the book

TextEdit is a small yet surprisingly powerful word processor. Use it to write memos, letters, diaries, novels, grocery lists, memoirs, or any other text document. You can create simple tables and automatically numbered or bulleted lists, add shadows to type, insert images, search and replace text, and more. But it’s not a full-blown word processor such as Apple’s Pages (check the App Store in your Dock). Although TextEdit can’t do all the fancy things a big word processor can, it’s excellent for many projects.

If you’ve never used a word processor before and you don’t know how to open an application and save files, enter text, select text for formatting, cut/copy and paste, etc., please read The Little Mac Book first! This lesson assumes you know the basics of working in a word processor.

Create and Save a TextEdit Document


Open TextEdit (it’s in your Applications folder and in Launchpad). Then from its File menu, choose “New.” A blank window opens for you to start typing.

Choose how you want to see the document: From the Format menu, choose “Wrap to Window” (below, left) or “Wrap to Page” (below, right).

Save your document as usual (from the File menu, choose “Save...,” give it a name, and store it in a folder where you’ll find it again). As you continue to work on your TextEdit document, the word “Edited” appears to the right of the document’s name in the window. This is a visual clue that the document has been changed and you might want to save the changes (press Command S).

Click “Edited” or the triangle to use several options related to naming and saving your file:

  • Locked checkbox prevents further changes. If you try to type, you get an option to Unlock it. This is not a secure lock—anyone can click the Unlock button.
  • Name is where you can give this new document a name.
  • Tags let you add a tag so you can find this file more easily. See Lesson 16.
  • Where is a dropdown menu that lets you pick from top-level folders to save this document in. Choose “Other...” from this menu to save your file in a specific folder.

AutoSave and versions

TextEdit automatically saves your document every hour as you work on it, as well as when you close it (it doesn’t ask—it just saves). In addition, you can (and should) save more often (press Command S).

As soon as you save and name a document, TextEdit keeps track of all previous versions of that document; that is, every time you save or TextEdit saves, a new version is stored. You can return to any of these versions, as explained below.

To manually save the current version, go to the File menu and choose “Save,” or press Command S.

To save a document with another name or in another file format, go to the File menu and choose “Duplicate.” Save this new file with a new name.

Restore a previous version

To turn to a previous version of the document, go to the File menu and choose “Revert To” to get the menu shown below. Choose “Browse All Versions....” All previous versions of your document appear, as shown at the bottom of this page.

Click on the title bars to go back in time to previous versions, or click in the vertical timeline to view various versions. When you find the one you want, click the “Restore” button at the bottom of the screen.

Rename a document

New documents in TextEdit are named “Untitled” by default. When you save a document in TextEdit (choose “Save...” from the File menu), you are prompted with the Save dialog box and given the chance to assign your document a name other than “Untitled.”

You can always change the name of a document, even one you’ve saved, at any time. If you forgot to give your document a name the first time you saved it, or if the current name ought to be changed to more accurately reflect the contents of the file, click the disclosure triangle that appears when you mouse over the document’s title and change the “Name” text field.

When you choose “Rename...,” the title of the document highlights and becomes editable. Start typing the new title you want to give your document. Press Return when you’re finished.

Keep in mind that when you change the name of your document, it changes the name for all previous document versions as well.

Move a document

If you want to save the current document in a different location, you can use the Finder to drag it from one place to another. But TextEdit offers you a shortcut.

With the document you wish to move open in TextEdit, click the triangle that appears when you mouse over the document’s title and choose the “Move To...” option.

With the document you wish to move open in TextEdit, go to the File menu and choose the “Move To...” option. Click the “Where” select box and choose the folder where you want to move the file. If you’ve activated your iCloud account (learn how to set up your iCloud account in Lesson 23), you can store your document remotely and access it with other Apple devices.

Duplicate a document

When you save or move a document, you still have a single copy of the original document. If you need an additional copy of the document, use the “Duplicate” option. As with “Rename...” and “Move To...,” the “Duplicate” option is available in the File menu. Click and choose “Duplicate.” A copy of your original document opens in another TextEdit window. The new document is untitled, but displays the original document’s title with the word “copy” after it, as shown below. Save the copy by choosing the Save option as discussed at the beginning of this lesson.

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