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

The Mac’s Main Text Editor

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

TextEdit is great because it’s feature-rich but still lean. It doesn’t get in-your-face with pop-up load dialogs, welcome screens, or template 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 key features of TextEdit is its ability to write and edit files in Rich Text Format. Unlike Notepad, TextEdit can read and write files in RTF, RTFD, HTML, and even Word format. This means that TextEdit document can support different fonts, font styles (bold, italics), font colors, justification, and more.

an image of macOS TextEdit in action.

Of course, you can also edit plain text files (with no special fonts or formatting) in TextEdit as necessary. To create a plain text document in TextEdit, select File > New. When the document opens, choose Format > Make Plain Text in the menu bar, or press Shift+Command+T on your keyboard.

RELATED: What Is Plain Text?

A Lightweight Word Processor

With rich text features, it’s easy to use TextEdit as a bare-bones word processor in place of apps like Pages or Microsoft Word. In addition to the text formatting options, TextEdit also includes other word processor-like features that Notepad lacks, such as bulleted lists, tables, headings, and  line spacing. There are also spelling and grammar check options (under Edit > Spelling and Grammar).

You can also embed images in RTF documents, which you can’t do in Notepad. Of course, you could 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 possibly greatest point: As long as you own a Mac, TextEdit is completely free. Happy writing!

RELATED: Why Notepad Is Still Awesome for Taking Notes

Profile Photo for Benj Edwards Benj Edwards
Benj Edwards is an Associate Editor for How-To Geek. For over 15 years, he has written about technology and tech history for sites such as The Atlantic, Fast Company, PCMag, PCWorld, Macworld, Ars Technica, and Wired. In 2005, he created Vintage Computing and Gaming, a blog devoted to tech history. He also created The Culture of Tech podcast and regularly contributes to the Retronauts retrogaming podcast.
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