What is a Word Processor?


Updated: 04/01/2018 by Computer Hope

Sometimes abbreviated as WP, a word processor is a software program capable of creating, storing, and printing typed documents. Today, the word processor is one of the most frequently used software programs on a computer, with Microsoft Word being the most popular word processor.

Word processors can be used to create multiple types of files, including Text files (.txt), Rich Text files (.rtf), HTML files (.htm & .html), and Word files (.doc & .docx). Some word processors can also be used to create XML files (.xml).

Tip: A word processor should not be confused with a text editor, such as Notepad, that only allows editing and creating plain text documents.

Overview of Word

In a word processor, you are presented with a blank white sheet as shown below. The text is added to the document area and after it has been inserted formatted or adjusted to your preference. Below is an example of a blank Microsoft Word window with areas of the window highlighted.

Microsoft Word document diagram

Features of a word processor

Unlike a basic plaintext editor a word processor offers dozens of additional features that can give your document or other text a more professional appearance. Below is a listing of some of the most popular features of a word processor. Note: Some more advance text editors can perform some of these functions.

  • Text formatting – Changing the font, font size, font color, bold, italicizing, etc.
  • Multimedia – Insert clip art, charts, images, pictures, and video into a document.
  • Spelling and Grammar – Have the ability to look for spelling and grammar errors in a document.
  • Adjust the layout – Capable of modifying the margins and layout of a document.
  • Indentation and lists – Set and format tabs, bullet lists, and number lists.
  • Insert tables – Add tables to a document.
  • Header and footer – Being able to adjust and change text within the header and footer of a document.
  • Thesaurus – Look up alternatives to a word without leaving the program.
  • Auto Correct – Automatically correct common errors (e.g., typing “teh” and having it autocorrected to “the”).
  • Mailers and labels – Create mailers or print labels.
  • Import data – Import and format data from CSV, database, or another source.
  • Macros – Setup macros to perform common tasks.

Examples of word processor programs

Although Microsoft Word is the most popular word processor available, other options are available. Below is a listing of different word processors in alphabetical order.

Other examples and uses of a word processor

When it comes to computer programs, a word processor is one of the most used programs on a computer because of its versatility in creating a document. Below are just a few other examples of how you could use a word processor.

  • Book – Write a book.
  • Document – Any text document that requires formatting.
  • Help documentation – Support documentation for a product or service.
  • Journal – Keep a digital version of your daily, weekly, or monthly journal.
  • Memo – Create a memo for employees.
  • Report – A status report or book report.

Doc, Software terms, Word, Word processing, Word processor terms, WordStar

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