What is a Word Processor in 2021?

what is word processor - 2021


  • A Word processor can be used to create, edit, format, save and print documents.
  • With online word processing platforms, you can share and collaborate with teams.
  • Word processing app for android makes it easy to create documents with android devices.
  • A huge difference between text editors and word processing apps is their inability to format texts and layout documents.
  • There are two major types of word processors: mechanical and software-based.
  • Four types of software-based word processors were identified: proprietary, standalone, open office, and online.
  • Some identified examples of word processing applications include:
    • Microsoft 365
    • WordPerfect
    • AbiWord
    • Apache OpenOffice
    • Applix Word
    • Adobe InCopy
    • StarOffice Writer
    • Apple Pages
    • LibreOffice Writer
    • Google Docs
    • Zoho Writer
    • SkyDesk Docs, etc

What is a Word Processor?

A word processor, like word processing, is a computer application used to create, edit, format, save and print documents. Usually, a word processor has inbuilt features that assist users to create and format texts in standardized document formats.

Text editors can process texts but they do not have features to format texts and documents. Hence, they are usually used in coding or to preserve texts. Examples of text editors include Notepad, TextEdit, Sublime, Vim, Atom, Visual Studio Code, etc.

What is a Word Processor in 2021? 1

Text editors have text processing capability in that they provide room for input, editing, and out of texts. But texts processed with text editor remain as was inputted. To create a standard document for business and presentation, a word processor is required.

Word processors have the capability of producing standardized documents such as a memo, letter, newsletter, resume, books, etc. This is why they are one of the most used applications in business, education, and industry.

Types of a word processor

Technically, there are 2 major types of word processors, namely mechanical and software word processors.

Mechanical word processors, whether manual or electronic are devices that can be used to create text documents. A typical example is a typewriter. Software-based word processors are computer programs used to create text-based professional business documents.

We can classify the software-based word processors into four as follow:

1. Proprietary word processors:

These are word processors that represent the trademark of the company that produces them. E.g. Apple, Corel, etc. Moreover, in this article, we define proprietary word processors as word applications that usually come with the operating system. Proprietary word processors are shipped together with the operating system; they, therefore, represent their operating system brands.
Examples are:
a. Microsoft WordPad: it comes with Windows operating system.
b. Pages: it comes with Mac operating system and is part of the iWorks office suite.
c. OpenOffice writer/ AbiWord: OpenOffice is installed with most Linux distribution, e.g. Redhat, but Redhat 7.1 comes with AbiWord.
d. Microsoft word: Windows OS usually comes with MS Word starter version preinstalled, however, it expires after 60 days.

2. Standalone word processors:

These are word processors that could be installed in any operating system. They may be shipped with an operating system, however, they can be installed or uninstalled. They may be designed for different Operating Systems, say, Mac, Linux, or Windows. But the owner can decide to install or uninstall such application at will. Unlike proprietary that can only be removed with the operating system.
Examples are:
a. Microsoft word: part of Microsoft 365 suite, a product of Microsoft inc.
b. Starwriter: part of StarOffice suite, a product of Sun Microsystem inc.
c. WordPerfect: part of WordPerfect Office productivity software developed by Corel.
d. Apple Pages
e. Applix word, a product of VistaSource inc.
f. Atlantis Word, a light-weight word processing program created for Windows operating system.

g. Adobe InCopy: a word processing application developed by Adobe Inc. used to create professional documents.

3. Open source word processors:

These are word processing applications that are publicly accessible. Being public means that anyone, including users, has access to the source code. Therefore, anyone with coding knowledge can inspect, modify and enhance such code. Most open-source software is free for the public to use.

Hence, open-source word processors are word processors that are available for the public to download, install and use.

Examples are:

a. Apache OpenOffice Writer: Apache OpenOffice is an office productivity software suite with a word processor, spreadsheet application, etc. It is a cross-platform application that has versions for Windows, Mac, and Linus operating systems.
b. LibreOffice Writer: LibreOffice is also based on openOffice.org and is a cross-platform office application. It has the writer (word processor), Calc (spreadsheet), Impress (presentation), Draw (graphics), Base (database), and Math (formula editing). A great advantage of LibreOffice is its support for Microsoft Office document formats such as .doc, .docx, .xls, etc.

c. AbiWord: AbiWord is a free word processor licensed under the GNU General Public Licence (GPL). It is small and fast and has support for Linux operating systems.

d. GNU TeXmacs: TeXmacs is free application software used to create well-structured text and scientific documents. With TeXmacs you can create the following types of content: text, mathematics, graphics, interactive content, slides, etc. The software is available for Linux, Mac, and Windows operating systems.

e. Calligra Words: Calligra words is part of the Calligra Suite,  a word processor. Calligra office has applications to handle most desktop publishing services such as word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, database, etc, It has versions for Linux, Mac, and Windows operating systems.

4. Online word processor:

Online word processors are applications that allow you to create and edit documents from anywhere and with any device. Most of them will allow users to share and collaborate with others in real-time as well as track changes made.

Some of the leading proprietary and standalone word processors have their online versions. With the advent of mobile devices, different word processing app for android and ios have been developed.

One advantage of online word processors for students and small businesses is that one can use them for free. Also, there is a free word processor app for mobile devices. These apps can be used by anyone who installed them or uses the online word processor version.

Examples of word processors – Online word processors

The following are examples of online word processors. Some are free while some require a subscription to have access to the full functionality.

Microsoft 365

Formerly called Office 365 is a superb cloud-based office productivity tool for education and business. You can collaborate with friends and colleagues using the word, excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.

Key features
what is word processing - ms word
  • Bring out your best
  • Protect what’s important
  • Free and subscription plan available
  • Work across your devices
  • Organize your time
  • Accomplish more together

Google Docs

An online-based Google word processor is used to access, create and edit documents on the go.  

google docs -
Key features
  • Get a head start with templates
  • Create more than letters and words
  • Get to your documents anywhere, anytime
  • Do more together: share, edit, chat and comment in real-time
  • Work with Microsoft Word
  • Never hit save again


Pages are Apple’s word processor that lets one create stunning documents. It usually comes included with most Apple devices. With real-time collaboration, you can work together from anywhere using Mac, iPad, iPhone, or a PC.

To get started with Pages on a PC, you will need an Apple ID.

Key features
pages - what is word processor
  • Start with beautiful templates
  • Turn handwriting into text, magically
  • Write reports easier with the report wizard
  • Skim through your document without accidental editing
  • Play video in your document
  • Create gorgeous charts

SkyDesk Docs

With SkyDesk Docs, you will get started creating documents with 1 GB of free space for storage. You can access all your files anywhere, anytime, and from any device.

Key features
what is word processor - skydesk
  • Store and manage documents
  • Organize your files
  • Share files securely
  • Password-protected file sharing
  • Available for word, spreadsheet and presentation

Zoho Writer

A free cloud-based online word processor for creating elegant documents and collaborating with team-mates in real-time.

Key features
word processor - zoho
  • Create beautiful documents easily
  • Don’t worry about constantly saving your work
  • Lock or mask sensitive information
  • Improve your writing with Zia, the smart writing assistant
  • Start with an extensive collection of templates
  • Work better together: chat with collaborators

Examples of word processors – Word processing app for android

With massive apps being developed for android devices across the world, users have a wide range of choices to make. Word processing app for android is one of the numerous free competitive apps made available for users to choose from.

examples of word processor app for android

With a word processing app for android, you can create, edit, format, and share documents. Note that online word processors can be used on any device, hence, they can be used in android devices. Some of the popularly used word processors for android are:

  • Microsoft word
  • Google docs
  • Zoho writer
  • WPS Office
  • Documents to Go
  • SmartOffice
  • Polaris Office
  • OfficeSuite

Each of the above word processors can be downloaded from the Google Play Store on any android device.

Basic Features of a Word Processor

Modern word processing applications are designed to help users create standardized and professional documents with ease. As a result, such applications are packed with similar features. Such features allow users to create standard layouts and formats for different purposes.

For example, creating a resume, newsletter, blog post, or report requires different layouts. Such layouts are made possible because of the rich-features that come with the different word processing applications.

Also, different documents have different sizes depending on their purpose and use. For example, a memo may be printed on an executive or A5 paper size. Similarly, a letter may be printed on a letter or A4 paper size. The need for differing sizes of papers is taken into account by this application software.

Below are the common features that can be seen in most word processing software in the market today.

1. Templates

These days leading word processing apps are competing with each other with the provision of already made documents. These documents are already designed and customised to assist people in creating similar documents.

select a template in zoho

With templates, creating a document is easy and fast. You don’t need to start from the scratch to create a memo, letter or report. You will simply select a template of choice and change its contents with your own. This is one of the power of a modern word processor.

2. Layouts

In an office setting, there are different paper sizes for different documentation purposes. Some documentation requires the legal paper type while others require the A4 size.

layout document in word processor

Page layout allows you to create different layouts for your document. Here you set the orientation, margins, and determine to use columns or add page borders. In general, the shape, size and overall outlook of your document is made possible with the layout feature.

3. Formatting

One of the basic features of every word processor is the availability of formatting commands. These commands are used to format texts in a document in order to make them readable. Such format commands include text color, bold, italics, font, font size, underline, bullets & numbers, and alignment.

formatting a document in word app

The formatting feature differentiates a text editor and a simple word processing app like Grammarly or WordPad.

4. Images & charts

With word processing software you can insert images, clipart, shapes and charts to a document. This functionality makes it easy for one to create a blog post of newsletter using word processing apps. With modern word processing applications, you can insert, crop, resize and position different sizes of pictures in a document.

add a picture or chat in word

In fact, in Microsoft Word, you can even edit a shape using edit shape command in the Format tab. This has made word applications useful in mini graphics designing, though not as powerful as graphic applications. But with a standard word processing app, you can create a document that graphics and charts.

5. Proof reading

Word processing applications usually come with inbuilt dictionary that contains basic English words. As a user inputs text in a document, the application compares words entered with the ones in the dictionary. Words that do not match are usually flagged for error with a red underline.

check spelling and grammar in word

Different underline colors mean different things to a word processing software e.g. spelling or grammatical error. We usually use the Spelling & Grammar command tool for proofreading in MS Word.

6. Review

In recent time, review is a key feature of word processing applications because it helps to keep track of changes. Most, if not all online word processing platforms, include this functionality to maintain different versions of a document.

track changes in word processing

In Microsoft Word, the review tab is loaded with features that help users to track changes made to a document. You can save each revised document as a version of the document.

7. Autocomplete

Autocomplete is an AI capability that assists you in writing. This feature automatically suggests words and tenses to a user while he/she is still typing. You can immediately select the word or phrase from the suggested list. With this feature typing is made easier and faster.

However, this feature is not available by default in all word processing applications.


Though Microsoft Word is the most used word processing application, other word processors exist. If you do not have access to the desktop software, you can make do with the online word processing apps.

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