A text editor is a program that runs on your computer that allows you to … edit text. So WTF is text?
Text is complicated
This is not a trivial subject. Here is the best explanation I’ve seen; try reading it in a couple of months. For now, just think of “text” or “plain text” as characters you can type with your keyboard, without any fancy formatting.
Text is everywhere
This web page contains fancy formatting – headers, links, even stuff like this. It was written as plain text, though. Take a look.
Even your computer’s Preferences are typically stored as plain text, in
config files that you may be frightened to touch. You shouldn’t hesitate, though. Most of the time when you click and select options in a graphical menu, you’re just running a program that modifies these files for you. Cut out the middle man!
The mighty text editor
For this very purpose, every machine you come across will have some sort of plain text editor installed. On Windows it’s Notepad. OSX and Linux machines will usually have a command line text editor called vi installed.
All the tutorials on this site use a slightly fancier version of vi called Vim. If you’ve don’t have it, these instructions will help you install it (along with other essential, free computing tools). If you’re new to Vim, here is a guide to getting started.