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See BLT.

I think I have a pretty good gut level feel for the difference between an editor and a word processor, but it seems like a complicated thing to explain. It's a little easier if you prefix "editor" with "text".

Text Editor: A text editor is a program that lets you edit plain text files (usually consisting of characters from the ASCII character set). Some of them are very primitive (edlin from Dos, and there is a counterpart in Linux), some are much fancier (maybe you start to call them programmer's editors) -- things like Nedit and so forth that are line oriented, can wrap text in different ways, uses macros and regular expressions, etc. I guess as long as the output is plain text, it is a text editor (distinct from fancier things like special purpose editors for HTML, SGML, TeX, etc.). I think some editors are very close to being WYSIWYG -- so part of what I'm trying to say is that the line between editors and word processors is getting blurred.

Word Processor: Perhaps one distinction of a word processor vs. a text editor is (or was, at least) that the primary output of an editor was a file to be used for some purpose (including possibly to be printed), while the primary output of a word processor is a printed document, which, almost incidentally is stored in a file. Word processors were created to make good looking printed text, in a one stop shopping kind of effort (see text processing and text processors). Word processors often profice a wide choice of fonts, and facilities to incorporate all kinds of insertions (pictures, tables, spreadsheets, sketches, mathematical equations, ...).

Aside: Word processing is (I think) more associated with dos/Windows and the Mac, while Unix/Linux is more associated with a two step process if a printed document is needed -- editing followed by text processing -- see below.

Text Processing / Text Processor: In Linux, if a nicely printed document is needed it traditionally has been more likely to be created in a two step process, editing of a plain text document, possibly using a mark up language followed by processing with a text processor which uses certain rules (including taking account of the mark up if present) to format and print the document neatly. Text processing is the process, a text processor is the program that might be used.

Text Formatter: Oops, looks like I skipped Text Formatter. My guess is that this is a (command line) program like nroff or groff that can take a text file with a markup and produce a printed document (or a file ready to print).

I suspect I'm a little confused about some of the definitions above -- maybe Text Processor is really a Text Formatter. Guess I'll have to do some reading (or let somebody else straighten me out).

Some Related Terms

  • groff
  • nroff
  • TeX
  • texinfo
  • lyx
  • klyx
  • SGML
  • XML
  • HTML

Some Links

See Also (or Combine with)


  • RandyKramer - 24 Jan 2002
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