Word processing is the phrase used to describe using a computer to create, edit, and print documents. Of all computer applications, word processing is the most common. To perform word processing, you need a computer, a special program called a word processor, and a printer. A word processor enables you to create a document, store it electronically on a disk, display it on a screen, modify it by entering commands and characters from the keyboard, and print it on a printer.
The great advantage of word processing over using a typewriter is that you can make changes without retyping the entire document. If you make a typing mistake, you simply back up the cursor and correct your mistake. If you want to delete a paragraph, you simply remove it, without leaving a trace. It is equally easy to insert a word, sentence, or paragraph in the middle of a document. Word processors also make it easy to move sections of text from one place to another within a document, or between documents. When you have made all the changes you want, you can send the file to a printer to get a hard copy.
Word processors vary considerably, but all word processors support the following basic features:
- insert text: Allows you to insert text anywhere in the document.
- delete text: Allows you to erase characters, words, lines, or pagesas easily as you can cross them out on paper.
- cut and paste: Allows you to remove (cut) a section of text from one place in a document and insert (paste) it somewhere else.
- copy : Allows you to duplicate a section of text.
- page size and margins: Allows you to define various page sizes and margins, and the word processor will automatically readjust the text so that it fits.
- search and replace: Allows you to direct the word processor to search for a particular word or phrase. You can also direct the word processor to replaceone group of characters with another everywhere that the first group appears.
- word wrap: The word processor automatically moves to the next line when you have filled one line with text, and it will readjust text if you change the margins.
- print: Allows you to send a document to a printer to get hardcopy.
Features of Standard Word Processors
Word processors that support only these features (and maybe a few others) are called text editors. Most word processors, however, support additional features that enable you to manipulate and format documents in more sophisticated ways. These more advanced word processors are sometimes called full-featured word processors.Full-featured word processors usually support the following features:
- file management: Many word processors contain file management capabilities that allow you to create, delete, move, and search for files.
- font specifications: Allows you to change fonts within a document. For example, you can specify bold, italics, and underlining. Most word processors also let you change the font size and even the typeface.
- footnotes and cross-references: Automates the numbering and placement of footnotes and enables you to easily cross-reference other sections of the document.
- graphics graphics: Allows you to embed illustrations and graphs into a document. Some word processors let you create the illustrations within the word processor; others let you insert an illustration produced by a different program.
- headers , footers , and page numbering: Allows you to specify customized headers and footers that the word processor will put at the top and bottom of every page. The word processor automatically keeps track of page numbers so that the correct number appears on each page.
- layout: Allows you to specify different margins within a single document and to specify various methods for indenting paragraphs.
- macros: A macro is a character or word that represents a series of keystrokes. The keystrokes can represent text or commands. The ability to define macros allows you to save yourself a lot of time by replacing common combinations of keystrokes.
- merges: Allows you to merge text from one file into another file. This is particularly useful for generating many files that have the same format but different data. Generating mailing labels is the classic example of using merges.
- spell checker: A utility that allows you to check the spelling of words. It will highlightany words that it does not recognize.
- tables of contents and indexes: Allows you to automatically create a table of contents and index based on special codes that you insert in the document.
- thesaurus: A built-in thesaurus that allows you to search for synonyms without leaving the word processor.
- windows: Allows you to edit two or more documents at the same time. Each document appears in a separate window. This is particularly valuable when working on a large project that consists of several different files.
- WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get): With WYSIWYG, a document appears on the display screen exactly as it will look when printed.
The line dividing word processors from desktop publishing systemsis constantly shifting. In general, though, desktop publishing applications support finer control over layout, and more support for full-color documents.