How to open TXT files

A TXT file is an unformatted text file that doesn’t require any special programs to be created or opened. To open a TXT file, most operating systems offer word processing programs such as Windows’ Editor or macOS’ TextEdit. On smartphones, on the other hand, free or pre-installed apps like Google Docs or File Aid are available.

What is a TXT file?

Not all word files are made equal. Besides pure text (plain text), word files with endings like DOCX, ODT, or RTF also include additional information, formatting, or, in the case of Microsoft Word and Word alternatives like LibreOffice, they also include images, graphics, and macros. Most of these text files are therefore binary files and need their own word processors or programs that support the format. That’s what makes the TXT format different. TXT is considered the original text file format and the equivalent of the binary file.

Since a TXT file doesn’t contain any formatting such as bolding or fonts, no separate software is needed to open or edit it. Most operating systems include word processing programs that can create and open the TXT format. One important feature of TXT files is that stored text and character sets are interpreted as a sequence. Contents of binary files, in turn, can be interpreted in a variety of predefined ways. Although both binary and text files store information using binary code as bits and bytes, bits and bytes in binary files are user-defined data, while in TXT format bits stand for characters, i.e. pure text.


To store the characters of a TXT file in a specific binary bit sequence and convert them into text, character encoding is required. For this purpose, common encoding systems like ASCII, Unicode, UTF-8 or ISO 8859-1 come in handy.

How to open TXT files on different devices

Since the TXT format is the basic form of information transfer and word processing, TXT files offer a great advantage in that they can be edited and opened with numerous free programs. Unlike proprietary formats such as DOC or DOCX, no special software or special compatibility is needed. A pre-installed text editor such as Windows’ Editor, macOS’ TextEdit, or Linux’ Gnome Text Editor is already sufficient to open and create TXT files. Unlike operating systems, TXT files on Android or iOS require an app to work with the TXT format.

There are many reasons why you might want to open a TXT file. Maybe you want to find more information on a program’s README before installing or using it. Or, as a software programmer, you may want to use the TXT file to keep up with the latest developments, or to record notes and instructions for other developers. In any case, it’s easy to open a TXT file on your desktop or smartphone:


Double-click on the TXT file once it’s on the computer (or via an email attachment). Unless otherwise specified, the TXT file will now open automatically via the editor preinstalled on your operating system. On Windows, you have the option between the programs Editor and WordPad. If you want to use another program, right-click on the file and select “Open with...”. If you want to open a TXT file with Word, you may have to select the encoding standard beforehand, e.g. Windows (Standard) or Unicode (UTF-8).

Smartphone (Android or iOS)

Smartphones are basically not designed to open or create TXT files. However, as the boundaries between desktop and smartphone word processors become more fluid, you’ll find more and more apps that let you open, save, and edit TXT files. In addition to the Microsoft 365 Mobile Apps included in Office packages, like Word, the Google Docs app is also available on Android devices. On iOS, the free app File Aid is a good choice, and on iPad, you can use the Pages app.


You may have heard a TXT file referred to as a README file, which is usually found in a program’s installation folder and contains important software information. You can save README files in TXT format or in markdown format with a text editor, HTML editor, or markdown editor.

An overview of programs that can read TXT format

Below are common free or paid word processors, apps, and some of the best code editors to open, create, edit, and save files in TXT format.


Program for TXT format




Microsoft Word







Gnome Text Editor



Google Docs

Word Mobile


Word Mobile

File Aid

Pages (iPad)

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