Word processors have become one of the signature software tools of modern businesses, replacing both handwriting and technologies like typewriters in most offices. Benefits of word processor software include the ease of making corrections and the ability to collaborate on editing documents. Still, some people prefer using typewriters or writing by hand for some purposes, and some people use alternative typing software such as plain text editors.
Advantages of Word Processing
Word processing software first came into widespread use with personal computers in the 1980s, and the importance of word processing tools such as Microsoft Word and Google Docs in many offices is difficult to overstate.
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The software largely replaced typewriters for a number of reasons, including the ease of making corrections and the relative lack of maintenance needed compared to typewriters, which required maintenance and ink replacements. Computer keyboards are usually less noisy than typewriters, which can be an advantage in some environments as well.
Modern word processors also make it easy for multiple people to collaborate on editing one document, which can be an efficiency gain for office workers and students.
Word processors also enable wide choices of fonts, text colors and other formatting options that often aren't readily available to end users with other devices. Many also offer built-in spell checking and grammar checking, which are useful for proofreading.
Disadvantages of Word Processors
Word processors haven't entirely replaced older technology. Some writers prefer the slow, mechanical process of using a typewriter or a pen or pencil, saying it helps them think deeply about the words they're putting onto a page.
Using word processing software requires a learning curve. Some people who grew up before word processors prefer to use older technology to avoid the learning curve that is necessary to master the keyboard, mouse and icons in use in word processing software.
In some cases, it's difficult to use word processors to fill out existing paper forms because it's hard to get a computer printer to align the text properly without sophisticated programming. Typewriters are sometimes used in these cases because they can line up text exactly where it needs to go. They can also be used in environments where computers aren't available, such as prisons.
In some cases, using word processors or any other digital tool can lead to security risks. Typewriters are sometimes used to handle sensitive documents to reduce the risk of digital spying. There is no electronic copy for hackers to find when a document is produced with a typewriter.
Word Processors and Text Editors
In addition to word processors, there are slightly different types of programs for entering printed text known as text editors. Often used by computer programmers, text editors offer fewer features like font selection and spellchecking and instead specialize in getting text into a file exactly as typed by the user.
Examples of text editors include Notepad on Microsoft Windows, TextEdit on macOS computers and the open source tools Emacs and Vim.