Text Processor

One of the most frequently used applications is certainly the text processor. This is a program that allows to write pretty formatted documents, from simple letters to large manuscripts, even containing tables and illustrations.

Text processing programs often come as part of a software bundle, called an office suite. It usually contains at least a word processor, a spreadsheet, a data base and a presentation program.

Probably the most widespread office suite is MS Office from Microsoft, containing Word, Excel, Access and PowerPoint, which we will use as a prototype in the following (in the version Office97). Several competing products exist, which all contain much more features than anybody can reasonably learn or apply. An interesting alternative is StarOffice, which runs on Windows and UNIX systems and can be used free of charge.

The following screen dump shows a typical Word97 window containing:

Element Function
menue bar all functions in several levels of submenues and option windows

two symbol bars

quick access to the most important functions

text area

used like in an editor

status line

information about the document (e.g. size, actual page)


Some basic commands from the symbol bars:

Icon Function
2671 new, open, save document
2672 print the document
2673 undo the last action(s)
2674 display the document in another size
2675 change type of font or size of font used
2676 switch to boldface or italics
2677 align left/right, centered, justify
2678 text color

To apply a special format, first mark a text part, then choose the corresponding function.

Formatting attributes are grouped into three categories :

change the appearance of a letter or a group of letters

apply to whole paragraphs

layout of pages, heading and footing areas

Some of the most important attributes are:

Important character attributes:
  • font type (Arial, Times, Courier)
  • font size (12pt, 8pt, 24pt)
  • text color (black, red, magenta)
  • text style (bold, italics, underlined)
  • letter spacing (normal, narrow, wide)

Important paragraph attributes:
  • horizontal alignment (centered, left aligned)
  • line spacing (1, 1 1/2, 2)
  • indentation, hanging (6pt, -12pt)
  • border style (all sides, below and above, none)
  • border width (2pt, 6pt)

Important page attributes:
  • page size (DIN A4, Letter)
  • margins (2.5cm, 0.5in)
  • columns (1, 2, more)
  • footing, heading (size, content)

Though the intuitive WYSIWYG approach is very appealing, there are some drawbacks, especially in the following areas:

This is the arena of layout systems like LATEX.

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Peter Junglas 8.3.2000