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Create and Compose Documents in Mountain Lion's TextEdit

In all previous versions of TextEdit, when you launched TextEdit, the next thing you saw was a blank, untitled document. OS X Mountain Lion’s rendition of TextEdit, however, presents you with an Open dialog.

If you want to open an existing document, select it and click the Open button near the bottom-right corner of the dialog. Or, if you want a new, blank document, click the New Document button near the lower-left corner of the dialog; choose File→New; or press Command+N.

You should now have a blank document called Untitled on your screen. Let its name — Untitled — be a message to you that before you begin working on this document you should probably give it a name and save it to your hard drive. To do so now, choose File→Save or press Command+S.

As you work with the document, it’s a good idea to save it every few minutes, just in case. After you’ve named a file, all you need to do to save its current state is choose File→Save a Version or press Command+S.

TextEdit uses Mountain Lion’s version support and autosave features, so your work is saved on the fly. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security; most third-party apps don’t support this feature. At least not yet.

Now begin typing your text. When you type text in a word processor, you should know a few handy things:

  • Press the Return (or Enter) key only when you reach the end of a paragraph. You don’t need to press Return at the end of a line of text; the program automatically wraps your text to the next line, keeping things neat and tidy.

  • Type a single space after the punctuation mark at the end of a sentence, regardless of what your typing teacher might have told you. Word processors and typewriters aren’t the same. With a typewriter, you want two spaces at the end of a sentence; with a word processor, you don’t.

    (Typewriters use fixed-width fonts; computers mostly use fonts with variable widths. If you put two spaces at the end of a sentence in a computer-generated document, the gap looks too wide.)

  • Limit most documents to a maximum of two different fonts. OS X offers you a wide selection of fonts — but that doesn’t mean you have to use them all in one document.

To put certain characters in your TextEdit document, choose Edit→Special Characters (shortcut: Command+Option+T). This command opens the Character Palette, where you can choose special characters such as mathematical symbols, arrows, ornaments, stars, accented Latin characters, and so on. To insert a character into your document at the insertion point, simply click it and click the Insert button.

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