Word processing is the process of adding text to a word processing unit such as a computer or typewriter. The typed words are stored in the computer or word processor temporarily to allow for editing before a hard copy of the document. The term "word processing" is a fairly general term, so it may refer to several types of writing without the use of pen and paper. Typewriters, for example, process words directly onto a paper without storing the data, while computers use specific programs to store the typed data before printing.
Modified typewriters have been commonly used in the past for word processing. The typewriter would store the data — usually with the use of a computer chip — before printing the words onto a page. The person using the word processor could then check the writing for errors before printing the final draft. When computers became common in the workplace and at home, word processors became mostly obsolete, though some models are still used for a wide range of purposes, including as educational devices for students with special needs.
Computers have generally taken over word processing duties. The computers feature specific programs in which a person can type manuscripts of any length. The data is stored as an electronic document that can be opened, closed, saved, and edited at any time. This allows the user to make corrections or changes to a document multiple times before printing out a hard copy of the document. In many cases, the document is not printed out onto hard copy paper at all; instead, it can be used on the internet, in e-mails, or for other digital purposes.
Simpler programs, such as text editors or notepads, can be used to record text quickly without excess formatting options, such as multiple fonts or font sizes. Such programs are easy to use and do not come loaded with formatting features, such as color, multiple fonts, line spacing options, and so on. They are meant to be used for quick word processing that will not need to be formatted for presentation.
Word processing software often includes several features unavailable on typewriters or older word processors. Such features may include the ability to manipulate the layout of the text, the size and color of the font, the type of font used, line spacing, margin adjustments, and the ability to insert photos, web links, graphs, charts, and other objects directly into the document.