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Creating a TextEdit Document in Mac OS X Lion

TextEdit is a word processor/text editor in Mac OS X Lion that you can use to write letters, scribble notes, or open Read Me files. It’s not as sophisticated as Microsoft Word (or Apple’s Pages, Quark Xpress, or Adobe InDesign, for that matter), but you can definitely use OS X Lion's TextEdit for light word-processing and text editing.

When you launch TextEdit, a blank, untitled document appears on your screen. If one doesn’t, choose File→New or press Command+N. Before you begin work on any document, save it to your hard drive by choosing File→Save or pressing 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 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. Apple’s apps do autosave and versioning, but most other apps don’t. 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. Mac 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 or press 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 then click the Insert button.

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