TextEdit is Notepad for Mac but better

If you’re switching to a Mac from Windows, you might be wondering: What’s the equivalent of Notepad on a Mac? The answer is TextEdit, and it’s way better than Notepad. Here’s why.

Mac’s main text editor

Believe it or not, TextEdit predates macOS itself. Originally it was an application called Edit.app for the NeXTSTEP operating system in the 1980s, which later became the basis of Mac OS X. In 1995, Edit.app got a rewrite for OpenStep (an intermediary between NeXTSTEP and OS X) like TextEdit. And when Mac OS X came along, TextEdit went with it.

TextEdit is great because it’s feature-rich but still lean. It doesn’t jump out at you with pop-up loading dialogs, welcome screens, or model selection windows. It doesn’t have all the features of a full-fledged word processor like Microsoft Word, but it’s much lighter and faster.

Rich text

One of the main features of TextEdit is its ability to write and edit files in RTF format. Unlike Notepad, TextEdit can read and write files in RTF, RTFD, HTML, and even Word format. This means that the TextEdit document can support different fonts, font styles (bold, italic), font colors, justification, etc.

an image of macOS TextEdit in action.

Of course, you can also edit plain text files (without special fonts or formatting) in TextEdit if needed. To create a plain text document in TextEdit, select File > New. When the document opens, choose Format > Create Plain Text from the menu bar or press Shift+Command+T on your keyboard.

RELATED: What is plain text?

A lightweight word processor

Rich text features make it easy to use TextEdit as a simple word processor instead of applications like Pages or Microsoft Word. In addition to text formatting options, TextEdit also includes other word processing-like features that Notepad lacks, such as bulleted lists, tables, headings, and line spacing. There are also spelling and grammar checking options (under Edit > Spelling and Grammar).

You can also embed images in RTF documents, which you cannot do in Notepad. Of course, you can use Word instead, but it’s much slower and takes up a lot more memory, and it has more features than you might need. Which brings us to the last, and perhaps most important, point: as long as you own a Mac, TextEdit is completely free. Good writing!

RELATED: Why Notepad is Still Great for Taking Notes

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Steven L. Nielsen