How to Work with Text in Mountain Lion's TextEdit - dummies

How to Work with Text in Mountain Lion’s TextEdit

TextEdit in OS X Mountain Lion operates on the “select, then operate” principle, as do most Macintosh programs, including the Finder. Before you can affect text in your document — change its font face, style, size, margins, and so on — you need to select the text you want to operate on.

You can use several methods to select text in a document:

  • If you double-click a word, the word is selected.

  • If you triple-click a word, the entire paragraph that contains the word is selected.

  • You can click anywhere in the document, hold down the Shift key, and then click again somewhere else in the document, and everything between the two clicks will be selected.

  • You can click anywhere in the document, hold down the Shift key, and use the keyboard arrow keys to extend the selection.


Give all these methods of selecting text a try, decide which ones feel most comfortable, and then memorize them for future use.

Rather than bore you with a rundown of what the buttons on TextEdit’s toolbar do, just hover the cursor over any item to display its tooltip, as done for the Line and Paragraph Spacing drop-down menu.

When text is selected, you can operate on it. For example, you can use the Format menu’s Font submenu to make text Bold, Italic, Outlined, or Underlined.


Another way you could have applied the Bold style to the text is by clicking the B (for Bold) button on the toolbar. Note that the toolbar is only visible when working on a Rich Text document; if you were to choose Format→Make Plain Text (Command+Shift+T), the toolbar would disappear.

The same idea applies to tabs and margins. Here, the left-margin markers have been dragged from 0 inches to the one-inch mark. Notice that the selected text is now indented by one inch.


Select some text in your document, and try all the items in the Format menu’s Font and Text submenus. As you see, you have a great deal of control over the way your words appear on the screen.

And because TextEdit, like most Macintosh software, is WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get), when you print the document (by choosing File→Print), the printed version should look exactly like the version you see on the screen.

Before you print your masterpiece, however, you might want to check your spelling and grammar — something that TextEdit makes extremely simple. Merely choose Edit→Spelling and Grammar→Check Document Now or press Command+; (semicolon). TextEdit highlights and underlines what it perceives to be mistakes in your document. Right-click (or Control-click) to correct the error.


Don’t put too much faith in Mountain Lion’s spelling and grammar checker. It’s good, but not perfect, and no substitute for a good proofreading.