Word processor

Updated: 07/06/2021 by Computer Hope
Microsoft Word

Sometimes abbreviated as WP, a word processor is a program capable of creating, storing, and printing typed documents. Today, the word processor is one of the most frequently used programs on a computer, with Microsoft Word being a popular choice.

Word processors can create multiple types of files, including text files (.txt), rich text files (.rtf), HTML (hypertext markup language) files (.htm & .html), and Word files (.doc & .docx). Some word processors can create XML (extensible markup language) files (.xml).


A word processor should not be confused with a text editor, such as Notepad, that only allows editing and creating plain text documents.

Overview of Word

A word processor presents you with a blank white sheet, as shown below. The text is added to the document area; after it's been inserted, it can be formatted or adjusted to your preference. Below is an example of a blank Microsoft Word window with areas of the window highlighted.

Microsoft Word document diagram

Features of a word processor

Unlike a basic plaintext editor, a word processor offers several additional features that can give your document or other text a more professional appearance. Below are popular features of a word processor.


Some more advanced text editors can perform some of these functions.

  • Text formatting - Changing the font, font size, font color, bold, italicizing, underlining, etc.
  • Copying, cutting, and pasting - Once text is entered into a document, it can be copied or cut and pasted into the current document or another document.
  • Multimedia - Insert clip art, charts, images, pictures, and video into a document.
  • Spelling and Grammar - Checks for spelling and grammar errors in a document.
  • Adjust the layout - Capable of modifying the margins, size, and layout of a document.
  • Find - Word processors allow you to find any word or text in any document quickly.
  • Search and Replace - You can use the Search and Replace feature to replace any text throughout a document.
  • Indentation and lists - Set and format tabs, bullet lists, and number lists.
  • Insert tables - Add tables to a document.
  • Word wrap - Word processors can detect the edges of a page or container and automatically wrap the text using word wrap.
  • Header and footer - Being able to adjust and change text in the header and footer of a document.
  • Thesaurus - Look up alternatives to a word without leaving the program.
  • Multiple windows - While working on a document, you can have additional windows with other documents for comparison or move text between documents.
  • AutoCorrect - Automatically correct common errors (e.g., typing "teh" and having it autocorrected to "the").
  • Mailers and labels - Create mailers or print labels.
  • Import data - Import and format data from CSV (comma-separated values), database, or another source.
  • Headers and footers - The headers and footers of a document can be customized to contain page numbers, dates, footnotes, or text for all pages or specific pages of the document.
  • Merge - Word processors allow data from other documents, files, and sources to be automatically merged into a new document. For example, you can mail merge names into a letter.
  • Macros - Set up macros to perform common tasks.
  • Collaboration - More modern word processors help multiple people work on the same document at the same time.

Examples and top uses of a word processor

A word processor is one of the most used computer programs because of its versatility in creating a document. Below are examples of how you could use a word processor.

  • Book - Write a book.
  • Document - Any text document that requires formatting.
  • Help documentation - Support documentation for a product or service.
  • Journal - Keep a digital version of your daily, weekly, or monthly journal.
  • Letter - Write a letter to one or more people. Mail merge could also be used to automatically fill in the name, address, and other fields of the letter.
  • Marketing plan - An overview of a plan to help market a new product or service.
  • Memo - Create a memo for employees.
  • Report - A status report or book report.
  • Résumé - Create or maintain your résumé.

Examples of word processor programs

Although Microsoft Word is popular, other word processor programs and services exist. Below are these word processors in alphabetical order.

Word processor advantages over a typewriter

See our typewriter page for a listing of advantages a computer with a word processor has over a typewriter.

Computer acronyms, Doc, Microsoft Word, Software terms, Untitled, Word processing, Word processor terms, WordStar, Write