5 Tips to Make OS X TextEdit Work Better

Old Smith-Corona typewriter

TextEdit is the built-in word processor that comes with OS X. While Pages comes with new Macs, the allure of TextEdit is still there. Sometimes you don’t want a full-blown word processor like Pages or Word and instead just want a more basic window to type in.

Whether you’re making a quick list or saving journal entries, a basic text editor is often a great option to get your work done. For instance, TextEdit uses less energy and fewer resources than Pages or Word, which helps if you need to conserve battery life.

There’s a lot you can do with TextEdit to make it better, and we’ve outlined five of the best tips below.

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1. Make URL Links

It’s easy to think of TextEdit as a basic plain-text editor, but it’s far more. For starters, you can add links to your documents just like in any other word processor. So instead of listing full URLs you can make your links look pretty just like on a Web page.

Selecting Make Link from drop-down menu in TextEdit

Just highlight the word you want to be a link, right-click and select Make Link. To make this work you need to format the word you’ve typed in a website format such as Scrubly.com or www.scrubly.com.

2. Save as Word Documents

While nobody truly likes Microsoft Word, chances are you’ll need to either read or save a file in this format at some point. If TextEdit is your weapon of choice, you can still use it to read and save Word documents, with a few conditions.

First, by default TextEdit creates RTF (Rich Text Format) files. These can be easily read by most word processors. But if you need to save a document in Word format, just hit Save on your file and in the Save As box that appears click the File Format drop-down.

Saving TextEdit file as a Word document

Choose the format you want and you’re all set.

To read Word documents inside of TextEdit, just right-click on the file, choose Open With, and select TextEdit. While the file will open, many advanced formatting aspects of the document will not be present, so do this at your own risk.

3. Make TextEdit Work Like Windows Notepad

If you’ve ever used a Windows machine then you probably know how great Notepad is. The completely plain-text editor is just what’s needed for simple lists and for stripping the formatting out of text when copying it from a website or Word document and all you want is the text.

Selecting plain text format in TextEdit Preferences

TextEdit for the Mac is great, but with all of its advanced features, the simplicity of an app like Notepad is lost. Thankfully, you can make TextEdit function like Notepad fairly easily.

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Just open up TextEdit and click the TextEdit drop-down menu. Next, click Preferences and select the New Document tab. Finally, click the Plain text radio button at the top.

Now when you type you won’t have the option for any formatting, and anything you copy/paste into and out of this window will be stripped of all formatting.

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4. Insert Images and Videos

You can do far more with a TextEdit file than just type, as the application supports the embedding of files right into the document itself. This means you can easily include pictures, videos, audio files, and even other text files right in line with the text.

To add files to a TextEdit file, just drag and drop them in. But remember, the more you add, the larger the file will become, as it’s not just referencing the pictures or video files but actually storing them inside the document itself.

5. Use Page View

If you’re looking to make TextEdit more like a traditional word processor, then why not show what you’re typing in page view? This way you can more easily see how long the document you’re typing is and better gauge length and content.

Closeup of drop-down menu to select Wrap to Page option in TextEdit

Turning this feature on is easy. Click the Format menu and choose Wrap to Page. This will draw a gray box around your document and end it when a standard page does. Now, your TextEdit looks and behaves more like Word.

Page view of text in TextEdit file


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