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A word processor is computer software used to compose, format, edit and print documents. Word processing is one of the earliest applications for office productivity and the personal computer. Although early word processors used tag-based markup for document formatting, most modern word processors take advantage of a graphical user interface to provide WYSIWYG editing, possibly as a front-end to a tag-based system. However for specialised text processing applications systems like TeX and derivatives are used.

The 'word processing' typically refers to text manipulation functions such as automatic generation of

  • batch mailing using a form letter template and an address database (aka mail merging),
  • index of keywords and their page numbers,
  • table of contents with section titles and their page numbers,
  • table of figures with caption titles and their page numbers,
  • 'see also' cross referencing with page numbers.
Page number and footnote information is extremely hard to maintain without a word processor because addition or deleting of text can affect pagination i.e. page numbers can change in each edition. Other word processing functions include spelling and grammar checking.

Word processors can be distinguished from several other, related forms of software:

Text editor programs were the precursors of word processors. While offering facilities for composing and editing text, they do not offer direct support for document formatting, but batch document processing systems such as LaTeX and programs that implement the paged-media extensions to HTML and CSS fill this gap. Text editors are now used mainly by programmers and web site designers for creating and modifying computer programs, and by computer system administrators for creating and editing configuration files.

Desktop publishing programs, meanwhile, were specifically designed to allow elaborate layout for publication, but offer only limited support for editing. Typically, desktop publishing programs allow users to import text that they have written using a text editor or word processor.

The word processor has become a central component of the office applications suite and is increasingly only available in this form, rather than as a standalone program.

Word processing programs

Historically important programs

Programs still manufactured and in use

Related articles



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