What can and cannot be done in a text file?

Updated: 10/07/2019 by Computer Hope
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When working in a text file, it is important to realize what can and cannot be done in a plain text file. However, before discussing what's possible, you must understand the differences between a plain text file and a rich text file or text document created in a word processor.

A plain text file is any file created with a text editor such as Microsoft Notepad and often ends with a .txt or no file extension and supports no formatting. A rich text file created in a word processor may still be considered a text file, but should be called a document because it supports formatting and other features.


In short a text file only supports text and nothing else. A rich text file or document supports text formatting, alignment, pictures, and more.

What can be done to a text file?

As mentioned above, a plain text file can only have text and nothing else.

Common questions about text files that are not possible


Open the text file in a rich text editor such as Microsoft WordPad or a word processor. Once open, choose the option to Save As and save the file as a rich text file (.rtf) or a word processor file (e.g., .doc, .docx). Saving the file as one of these file types lets you do all of the below tasks. You can also select all of the text in the text file and copy and paste it into a program that supports formatting.

How to center text in a text file

Centering text or changing the alignment of text (e.g., right align) is not possible in a text file because a plain text does not support formatting.


You could indent text in a text file using the Tab or the spacebar. However, aligning text using this method may cause problems with the layout of the page when opened with a different editor, different sized window, or printed.

How do I bold text in a text file?

Bold, italic, and underline are all types of text format that are not supported in a plain text file.

How do I change the font in a text file?

A plain text file does not support any fonts, and therefore the font cannot be modified. You can also not change the font size or font color of any of the text in a plain text file.

How can I insert a picture into a text file?

Plain text files cannot have other files like a picture inserted into them.