Word processing generally means the task of creating printed materials like letters, reports, thesis, books and so on. It involves the tasks such as entering text, editing, formatting, proofing, and printing.
Word processing nowadays is the use of computer to produce documents consisting primarily of text or words (as distinguished from numbers). Word processor is a general application software used for producing such text documents.
In the initial days of development, the computer was primarily used for performing mathematical calculations. The documents produced on computers consisted of recording the results of the calculation with a very little textual material. With the development, special computers and computer software were developed to produce documents such as letters and reports. Such computers were used in the printing industry for composing the material for printing.
These days, it is common that the computers are used extensively for word processing, and has almost replaced conventional typewriters across the world.
Of all computer applications, word processing is probably the most common. To perform word processing, you need a computer, a special program called a word processor, and a printer. A word processor enables you to create a document, store it electronically on a disk, display it on a screen, modify it by entering commands and characters from the keyboard, and print it on a printer.
The great advantage of word processing over using a typewriter is that you can make changes without retyping the entire document. If you make a typing mistake, you simply back up the cursor and correct your mistake. If you want to delete a paragraph, you simply remove it, without leaving a trace. It is equally easy to insert a word, sentence, or paragraph in the middle of a document. Word processors also make it easy to move sections of text from one place to another within a document, or between documents. When you have made all the changes you want, you can send the file to a printer to get a hard-copy or disk to store for future purpose.
Basic Features of Word Processors
There are various Word processors, but all word processors support the following basic features:
- Insert text: Lets you to insert text anywhere in the document.
- Delete text: You can remove characters, words, lines, or pages from document easily and without leaving any trace.
- Cut and paste : It has facilities to move the selected text by removing (cut) it from one place of document and inserting (paste) it somewhere else.
- Copy : Supports creating duplicate of a selection of text without any trouble.
- Page size and margins : It has options to define and change among various page sizes and margins, and the word processor will automatically readjust the text so that it fits in new layout.
- Search and replace : Allows you to search for a particular word or phrase in document. You can also replace one text with another and optionally everywhere that the match occurs.
- Word wrap : Word processor has this feature to automatically moves to the next line after you complete a line. This is also known as soft line break or auto line break. Word wrap also readjust text if you change the margins, paper orientation or page size.
- Print: Word processor supports various printers to send a document for printout.
Word processors that support only these features (and maybe a few others) are called text editors. Most word processors, however, support additional features that enable you to manipulate and format documents in more sophisticated ways. These more advanced word processors are sometimes called full-featured word processors.
Additional Features of Full-featured Word Processors
- File management : Many word processors contain file management capabilities that allow you to create, delete, move, and search for files. File menu is MS Word has commands for this task.
- Font specifications: Allows you to change typeface (fonts) within a document. You can specify font, font size, font styles such as bold, italics, and underlining and different effects like superscript, subscript, outline, strike-through etc.
- Footnotes and cross-references: Automates the numbering and placement of footnotes and enables you to easily cross-reference other sections of the document.
- Graphics: Allows you to embed illustrations (images) and graphs into a document. Some word processors let you create the illustrations within the word processor (using autoshapes and drawing tools); others let you insert an illustration produced by a different program.
- Headers , footers , and page numbering: Allows you to specify customized headers and footers that the word processor will place at the top and bottom of every page. It can keeps track of page numbers so that the correct number appears on each page.
- Layout : Supports different page size, margins and page orientation within a single document. It also has facility to apply various indentation to paragraphs.
- Macros : A macro is a character or word that represents a series of keystrokes. The keystrokes can represent text or commands. The ability to define macros allows you to save yourself a lot of time by replacing common combinations of keystrokes.
- Merges: Allows you to merge text from one file into another file. This is particularly useful for generating many files that have the same format and structure but different data. Generating mailing labels is the classic example of using merges.
- Spell checker : A utility that allows you to check the spelling of words. It will mark any word having spelling mistake or that it does not recognize. Spell checkers have ability to produce a list of suggested word to make you easier to correct mistakes.
- Table of contents and indexes: Word processors have features to automatically create a table of contents and index based on special codes that you insert in the document.
- Thesaurus: Word processors have a built-in thesaurus that allows you to search for synonyms without leaving the document.
- Windows : Lets you to edit two or more documents at the same time. Each document appears in a separate window. This is particularly valuable when working on a large project that consists of several different files.
- WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get): With WYSIWYG, a document appears on the display screen exactly as it will look when printed.
Word Processors And Desktop Publishing Systems
Desktop publishing is as good as having a mini-printing press within a personal computer. Publishing software helps design the page layout for each document. Tools in desktop publishing applications can help the user to configure the layout, where things are printed in the final design and how things are printed.
The line dividing word processors from desktop publishing (DTP) systems is constantly shifting. In general, though, desktop publishing applications support finer control over layout, and more support for full-color documents.
Both word processing and desktop publishing are similar in many ways but different in areas that cover the publication of documents.
Similarities between Word Processors and Desktop Publishing Systems
- Both the word processor and DTP systems deal with text that can be formatted.
- Word processors and desktop publishing systems work with tables and pictures.
- Both tools have many similar features like WordArt, Clip Art, and text styles.
The differences between Word Processors and DTP Systems
Word processing involves creation, editing, and printing of text while desktop publishing involves production of documents that combine text with graphics.
- Word processing is difficult to layout and design as compared to desktop publishing. Thus, desktop publishing is used to work on things like newsletters, magazines, adverts, and brochures where layout is important. Word processing documents are common for simple memos, letters, manuscripts, and resumes.
- When creating a desktop publisher, the first page is blank and a text frame must be added to add text. This is unlike the word processing in which text can be directly entered into the blank page.
- With desktop publishing, users can easily manipulate text and graphics and try new ideas. In contrast to this, word processing tools are adding more page layout features. Thus, the line that draws the difference between the two hardly exists now.
- Though there are many differences between the two, more word processing applications are coming out with enhanced features that mimic many of the desktop publishing tools on the market today. So, whether you choose to use word processing or desktop publishing software all depends on your document publishing needs and what application your are most comfortable using
Types of Word Processing
Word Processing applications are organized into a number of categories according to their complexity: Simple programs that manipulate ASCII are called Text Editors. More complex programs that feature formatting commands are called Word Processors. Some word processors are included in integrated application packages, which also feature other application programs. Such packages are convenient, but may not have all the features of larger programs. Full – featured word processing programs contain many options for formatting text and documents. They also might contain special utilities for more complex formatting and composition. Desktop publishing programs are designed for more complex formatting, especially the integration of text and graphics.
The simplest programs that do word processing are known as text editors. These programs are designed to be small, simple, and cheap. Almost every operating system comes with at least one text editor built in. Most text editors save files in a special format called ASCII. The biggest advantage of this scheme is that almost any program can read and write ASCII text.
The biggest advantage of text editors is the price. There is probably already one or more installed on your computer. You can find a number of text editors for free on the Internet. The ability to write ASCII text is the biggest benefit of text editors. It is a very good way of storing text information, but it has no way of handling more involved formatting. Text editors generally do not allow you to do things like change font sizes or styles, spell checking, or columns.
Windows: Notepad, DOS: Edit, Macintosh: SimpleText etc are some common text editor programs:
An integrated package is a huge program that contains a word processor, a spreadsheet, a database tool, and other software applications in the same program. The advantages of an integrated package derive from the fact that all the applications are part of the same program, and were written by the same company. Since they were presumably written together, they should all have the same general menu structure, and similar commands. The word processor built into an integrated package is probably more powerful than a typical text editor.
Integrated packages have some disadvantages. With the advent of GUI and modern operating systems, programs have become more and more standard even if they were written by completely different companies. The programmers had to make some compromises in order to make all the applications fit in one program. Word processing programs that are part of integrated packages generally have their own special code for storing text information, although they can usually read and write ASCII as well. However, if you choose to save in ASCII, you cannot save all the special formatting commands.
Microsoft Works, Microsoft Office Suite, Lotus Works, Claris Works are some examples of integrated packages.
High-end Word Processors
Word processing programs have evolved a great deal from the early days of computing. A modern word processing program can do many things besides simply handling text.
Since the early ’90s, most word processors feature a WYSIWYG interface. This feature is important because the real strength of word processors is in the formatting they allow. Formatting is the manipulation of characters, paragraphs, pages, and documents.
Modern word processors also are designed to have numerous features for advanced users. Some of the additional features that one can expect to find on a modern word processor are spelling and grammar checkers, ability to handle graphics, tables, and mathematical formulas, and outline editors.
These full-featured word processors sound wonderful, and they are. You might wonder if they have any drawbacks.
- Word processing programs as I have described often cost hundreds of dollars.
- Many of the features of full – fledged word processors are not needed by casual users.
- High-end word processing programs almost always save documents in special proprietary codes rather than as ASCII code. This makes the document incompatible with other applications. If you write a document in WordPerfect, you may not be able to read it in Word.
WordPerfect, Microsoft Word are some examples of commercial Word Processing packages
Another classification of word processing you should know about has an uncertain future. These programs are called desktop publishing applications. Desktop publishing is taking the text that already been created, and applying powerful formatting features to that text. Traditionally, applications that allowed the integration of text and graphics, and allowed the development of style sheets were thought of as desktop publishing. Such a program makes it easy to create other kinds of documents than plain pages. With a desktop publisher, there are already style sheets developed to help you create pamphlets, cards, signs, and other types of documents that you wouldn’t be able to create on a typewriter.
The higher end word processing programs give you most of the features you could want in a desktop publishing program. It is possible to do many of the same things. Desktop Publishers are still very popular in certain specialty fields (graphic arts, printing, and publishing,) but the effects can be duplicated with skillful use of a word processing program.
Adobe Pagemaker, Adobe Illustrator, Microsoft Publisher are the example of some common Desktop Publishing programs.
Sign / Banner Programs
Another level of desktop publishing that has become very popular is the advent of specialty printing programs such as ‘The Print Shop’ or ‘Print Master +.’ These programs are designed specifically to help the user create signs, banners, and greeting cards. They are very easy to use, and much less expensive than full-feature desktop publishing applications, but again the effects can be duplicated with a higher end word processor.
Points to Remember
- Word processing did not develop out of computer technology. It evolved from the needs of writers rather than those of mathematicians, only later merging with the computer field
- The term word processing was invented by IBM in the late 1960s.
- A word processor is a computer application used for the production (including composition, editing, formatting, and possibly printing) of any sort of printable material.
- Word processor may also refer to a type of stand-alone office machine, popular in the 1970s and 1980s, combining the keyboard text-entry and printing functions of an electric typewriter with a dedicated processor (like a computer processor) for the editing of text.
- Microsoft Word is the most widely used word processing software. Many other word processing applications exist, including WordPerfect (which dominated the market from the mid-1980s to early-1990s on computers running MS-DOS operating system) and open source applications OpenOffice.org Writer, LibreOffice Writer, AbiWord, KWord, and LyX. Web-based word processors, such as Office Web Apps or Google Docs, are a relatively new category.
- Desktop publishing applications support finer control over layout and more support for full-color documents where as the word processing systems focus on editing and formatting of text.
- Text Editors, Integrated Packages, High-end Word Processors, Desktop Publishing, Sign / Banner Programs are the different types of word processors.
- Webopedia – http://www.webopedia.com
- Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org
- Bright Hub – http://www.brighthub.com
- IUPUI, Department of Computer and Information Science – http://cs.iupui.edu/
- A brief history of WordProcessing
- WordProcessors: Stupid and Inefficient by Allin Cottrell
- Desktop Publishing: by Szu-chia Wang