A text editor is a simple computer program that allows users to create, change, or edit plain text files. It can be used for creating computer programs, editing the source code of programming languages, editing hypertext markup language (HTML), and creating web pages or web design templates. This software is most commonly used today for programming purposes, rather than creating documents, as is was in the past.
Only plain text may be entered into a text editor, as opposed to the formatted text of a rich text editor or word processor. These programs allow special functions such as bold, italic, and various text sizes and fonts. The editor displays only the characters visible in the file, while word processors add special formatting characters which are not visible in the document. One that only accepts plain text does not allow the user to format that text or add pictures or tables.
Most modern computers come with a text editor installed, usually of the most basic sort. There are also many available for download or purchase. Some have the ability to also function as a word processor, depending on the user’s need or preference.
Text editors can generally be placed into one of two distinct categories: line editors and screen oriented editors. Line editors are not used as frequently as screen-oriented editors, and require that the user specify a particular line of text before making any changes. Screen oriented editors, sometimes called full screen editors, feature the ability to modify any visible text on the screen by moving the cursor to its location.
The most common features available in these programs include the ability to cut and paste text, copy text, create a bulleted list, wrap the text to the next line, and undo or redo the last command. Some offer more advanced features, such as the ability to set macros, or command keys, for source code editing. Advanced text editors are preferred by programmers, and usually include features unnecessary for basic text editing.
A text editor also features the ability to read and edit very large files, and open them quickly. This is necessary for many professional computer applications, as they contain files that might be too large for the computer’s main memory to handle. Log files and source code files are examples of large files that administrators or professional computer users may need to view or edit.