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What Is Word Processing Software? - Definition, Types & Examples

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  • 0:09 Working with Text
  • 0:38 Word Processing
  • 2:37 Word Processing Software
  • 3:39 Office Suites
  • 4:23 Different Office Suites
  • 5:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Paul Zandbergen

Paul has a PhD from the University of British Columbia and has taught Geographic Information Systems, statistics and computer programming for 15 years.

Word processing software is used to manipulate text and apply a basic design to your pages. Learn about the functionality of word processing software in this video lesson.

Working with Text

Multimedia files, such as digital imagery and video, have become increasingly popular in today's business world, but the written word remains as important as ever. Just think about the nature of the documents being produced and circulated within any organization. Some examples include:

  • A marketing plan to promote a new product.
  • A memo from senior management regarding corporate strategy.
  • A new benefits policy developed by human resources.

Most of these documents are produced using word processing software.

Word Processing

Word processing software is used to manipulate a text document, such as a resume or a report. You typically enter text by typing, and the software provides tools for copying, deleting and various types of formatting. Some of the functions of word processing software include:

  • Creating, editing, saving and printing documents.
  • Copying, pasting, moving and deleting text within a document.
  • Formatting text, such as font type, bolding, underlining or italicizing.
  • Creating and editing tables.
  • Inserting elements from other software, such as illustrations or photographs.
  • Correcting spelling and grammar.

Word processing includes a number of tools to format your pages. For example, you can organize your text into columns, add page numbers, insert illustrations, etc. However, word processing does not give you complete control over the look and feel of your document. When design becomes important, you may need to use desktop publishing software to give you more control over the layout of your pages.

Word processing software typically also contains features to make it easier for you to perform repetitive tasks. For example, let's say you need to send a letter to all your customers regarding a new policy. The letter is the same for all customers except for the name and address at the top of the letter. A mail merge function allows you to produce all the letters using one template document and a table with customer names and addresses in the database.

Text editors shouldn't be confused with word processing software. While they do also allow you to create, edit and save text documents, they only work on plain text. Text editors don't use any formatting, such as underlined text or different fonts. Text editors serve a very different purpose from word processing software. They are used to work with files in plain text format, such as source code of computer programs or configuration files of an operating system. An example of a text editor would be Notepad on the Windows platform.

Word Processing Software

There are a number of different word processing applications. One of the most widely used ones is Word, which is part of Microsoft Office. Another widely used one is WordPerfect by the Corel Corporation. A third one is Writer, which is part of OpenOffice by Apache. While the first two are commercial software, OpenOffice is open source and can be downloaded and used free of charge. Finally, there is Pages, which is part of iWork by Apple.

While there are many differences between the various word processing applications, they all accomplish pretty much the same thing. Which one you use is partly a matter of personal preference. It is also important to consider which software is being used by the people you normally collaborate with. In many cases, people within the same organization will use the same software to make it easier to share documents or to work on the same document together.

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