Computing with Bifocals - Fancy Footwork with TextEdit
- January 28th, 2005
Do you know much about TextEdit, the free text editor included in Mac OS X? I didn't. I thought it was just something to use once in awhile to write yourself a note or to cut and paste something if you needed to hold it somewhere.
Fine and dandy for me, I have a couple of word processing programs that I like to use. However, not everyone has that, or chooses to spend money on word processing apps because they don't need them that often.
Fortunately, TextEdit can substitute very nicely as a word processor, and recently I discovered it has some nice attributes that can be used to create an attractive document, such as a personalized letterhead. Some of these attributes may be of use to you.
Before you start experimenting with it, though, you probably should check out the preferences to see if you want to make any adjustments -- such as increasing the font size beyond what will fit on the head of a pin, or forcing the working window to open in a more convenient page size. With TextEdit open, choose TextEdit > Preferences
Adjust the page width and length by adjusting the number of characters and lines you want the default to be. To adjust the font style and size keep the preferences window open and also open the Font pop-up window by choosing Format > Font > Show Fonts.
Select Rich text fonts and/or Plain text fonts by clicking on the name of the font and the size and then clicking on the set button. If you plan to do any thing other than straight text, such as centering, choose Rich Text. You will need the ruler open at the top of your page to effect centering, paragraph indentions, etc. Make any other setting choices that you wish and close the window. Those settings will be your default settings until you make addition changes.
If you are like me and feel more comfortable seeing page boundaries you can achieve that by hitting Shift + Apple Key + W. ( If you want every TextEdit page to open with page boundaries visible just put a check in the box next to Wrap to Page under New Document Attributes in the Text Edit preferences.) You also can direct TextEdit to employ soft hyphenation by choosing Allow Hyphenation from the Format menu.
Working with fonts in TextEdit is not much different than working with them in expensive word processing applications. You can open a font dialog box by choosing the Apple key + T.
TextEdit Font Book
You can select the font family, the type face style and the font size. You can view the font (as illustrated) by clicking on the small wheel to the left of the minus sign in the bottom left portion of the open window. The area just under the preview window allows you to adjust font color, adding drop shadows, etc.
As an example I will create a letterhead for Computing With Bifocals.
Starting The Process
The first step, of course is to type in the text you want to modify. Open the font panel (Apple key + T). Highlight the text you want to modify. Choose the font and size. Keep the text highlighted until all modifications have been completed. To create the drop shadow effect, click on the box featuring the T with a drop shadow effect in top middle portion of the window. Doing so will activate the drop shadow effect. You can adjust the effect by manipulating the three sliders and the circle to the right of the T. The sliders adjust the darkness, amount of shadow and amount of blur and the circle adjusts the direction of the light. When you are happy with your creation close the font panel and save the document.
Example of Using Drop Shadow with TextEdit
Quick Tip: If you have a two-button mouse you can avoid going to the Menus at the top of the TextEdit window for spell check, cut, copy, or paste, and for opening the font panel by clicking on the right button while the application is the active application. A pop-up window will open giving you access to all of these things.
Speaking of tips - here is another that I personally wish more of my software offered. You know those time when you can't quite remember the word you want to use or you can't remember exactly how to spell a specific word? In TextEdit you can type in the first two or three letters and then hold down the F5 key and suggestions will appear. I tried this several times and sometimes I got a single word recommendation that just finished filling in the word on my page. Other times there were a whole list of options presented in a pop-up window format.
If you have to send documents to people who use computers from the dark side, you can still create them in TextEdit and save them in Word format. When the Save As window opens one of the options you have is what file format you want for the document. The one that is always shown is Rich Text Format (RTF), but if you place your cursor over those words and hold down the mouse button a second option for "Word Format" is offered. Pull the cursor down to Word Format and release and the document will be saved in that format and you can easily forward it to the unenlightened.
Note, too, that the RTF format itself can be read by many Windows applications, including Word.
There is one last thing you can do that is both cool and will save you time. Say you create a document with a several headings, subheadings, and paragraphs. After it is finished you decide you want to do some creative formatting to the paragraphs without messing with your headings. Take one paragraph and fix it like you want it, using the ruler component. In other words, don't indent the paragraph by hitting the tab key on your keyboard. I tried that and it didn't work. Once you have modified the one paragraph to your satisfaction, control-copy it by selecting the Apple key + Control + C. Now you can highlight any other paragraphs, select the Apple key + Control + V and your formatting will be applied to the selected paragraphs. You can apply the formatting to several paragraphs at a time. I was able to highlight a whole page of paragraphs, even those separated by headings and apply this technique without affecting the headings.
Apple Store note
I visited our local Apple store this week and I have three comments for what they are worth.
- The Mac Mini is adorable and smaller than most women's purses. It would almost fit into mine. I know teckies don't like the word adorable applied to their machines. Tough. It is adorable.
- Keynote 2 is outstanding and I can hardly wait to have it.
- I can't figure out why anyone really needs a 30" monitor. I'm sure there are people who make movies and such who need them, but there is such a thing as excess and I can't see how Average Joe can possibly need a 30" monitor for anything other than bragging rights.
Copies of Nancy's book Tips, Hints, and Solutions for Seasoned Beginners Using Apple Macintosh Computers With OS X are available in PDF download versions for US$9.57 and in print version for $18.15 plus $4.00 shipping. To view sample pages and get ordering information visit the September 14, 2004 column.
|Check out Nancy's complete index of all her columns for the most complete list of tips anywhere. The list is categorized and is a great reference when you are looking for help!
Nancy has a Master's degree in Human Services Administration and prior to her retirement she worked for almost 30 years in field of mental health and mental retardation. She has been a Mac user for 11 years, and has recently developed an avocation of teaching basic computer skills in both group and one-to-one settings.
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