I use iText Express as my everyday word processor. I know that Microsoft Word is the defacto standard and Apple’s Pages is a common alternative. I own both and use Pages when I want to easily mix text and graphics to create a newsletter or flyer, but I find that iText Express meets my everyday writing needs. Technically, iText Express is a text editor not a word processor. What’s the difference? Typically text editors are very basic word processors that are used to create unformatted text files. Many programmers need to use text editors. By comparison, word processors offer more bells and whistles to let one create formatted text files. This means they can incorporate many fonts, font sizes, have columns of text, contain graphics or tables and footnotes or page numbers. In my opinion, iText Express straddles the line between barebones text editors and everything-but-the-kitchen-sink word processors. In fact, iTextExpress strikes the perfect balance for me. iText Express has all of the features that I typically use, opens quickly, and works reliably.
Here’s a list of the features that I need in a word processor: numbered lists, bullet lists, multiple fonts, bold and italicized text, autosave, links to web pages, spellcheck, headers, footers and page numbers.
iText Express has all of this and more. It has these additional features: multiple columns, embedded pictures, vertical writing, tables, footnotes and a bookmark feature for quickly navigating around a long-document. Because it’s a text editor it handles footnotes in a non-standard way.
iText Express saves documents as .rtf file by default. RTF stands for rich-text format. RTF is a type of file that can be read by all word processors. So you can send your .rtf files to anybody else, on a Mac or a PC, and they’ll be able to open the file with whichever word processor they use.
Microsoft Word creates .doc and .docx files and iText Express can open them. Sometimes the formatting gets adjusted slightly, but the file is typically readable so you might be able to get away with not owning Microsoft Word. iText Express is not able to open documents created by Apple’s Pages. This isn’t a big-deal since, in my experience, most Pages users tend to know how to send files as .doc files.
If you want to try iTextExpress you can buy it, for free, from the Mac App Store or from the developer. iText Express version 3.4.3 currently requires OS X 10.6.6 or higher. When you open it the first time, I suggest you make a few immediate changes to its default preferences. Click on the iText Express menu, select Preferences, click on the New Document button, and then check the box named Wrap to Page. Optionally, check the box to Number pages when printing to automatically add pages numbers to all of your documents. Click the iText Express button and change the Ruler Units from centimeters to inches.
When iText Express opens the first time it automatically opens its manual which, conveniently, is an iText Express document that demonstrates many of its features, including the bookmark feature to help navigating really long documents. You can easily access this manual in the future from the Help menu.
The developer, Michiaki Yamashita, also makes iText Pro ($15) and iText Pad ($2.99) for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. I haven’t used either of these applications. iText Pro has even more features, but I’ve never considered it since iText Express fits my needs so well. If your word processing needs are similar to mine, you might enjoy using this iText Express as well.