Use QuickTime Player to ‘watch’ text files

Rob Griffiths
17 April, 2009
View more articles fromthe author

Although there are about a billion different apps—OK, maybe somewhat less than that—that can open and view text files, here’s one you may not have considered: QuickTime Player. That’s right, QuickTime Player can play text files (at least, as long as their names end in .txt; it seems quite picky about that). Just drag-and-drop any text file onto QuickTime Player, and each paragraph in your file will appear as a separate “frame” of the movie, with each frame appearing for two seconds.

Why, you may ask, would you ever want to do this? Only you can answer that question, of course, but the QuickTime Player does have one really interesting attribute as a text player—it converts all the fonts into vector graphics, so the text will scale up beautifully as you resize the QuickTime Player window—no jaggies anywhere to be found.

In case you’re curious as to why QuickTime Player can play text files, you can thank titles, subtitles, credits, and other text-based elements of the typical movie. QuickTime Player uses something called text tracks for this text-based information, and these text tracks are actually quite powerful. If you have QuickTime Pro and you’d like to experiment with them, here’s an easy way to get started.

Open any text file in QuickTime Player, then choose File -> Export. Set the Export pop-up menu to “Text to Text,” give your new file a name and save location, then click Save. Open the exported file in any pure text editor, and you’ll see how QuickTime formats your text for display in the QuickTime Player:

{QTtext}{font:Geneva}{plain}{size:12}{textColor: 65535, 65535, 65535}{backColor: 0, 0, 0}{justify:center}{timeScale:600}{width:160}{height:640}{timeStamps:absolute}{language:0}{textEncoding:0}[00:00:00.000]{textBox: 0, 0, 642, 160}Greetings from Oodnadatta![00:00:02.000]{textBox: 0, 0, 642, 160} [00:00:04.000]{textBox: 0, 0, 368, 160}<p>This is just an example of a QuickTime text track file.</p>[00:00:06.000]{textBox: 0, 0, 368, 160} [00:00:08.000]<p>Next paragraph goes here, etc.</p>

You can edit this file as you wish, but you’re not restricted to what you see there. A full set of text descriptors lets you change the font face and style, alignment, colour, and a slew of other parameters. If I go any deeper than this, though, I’ll really be in over my head, as this is far from my area of expertise. Suffice it to say that if you’re interested in text tracks in QuickTime, it’s pretty easy to start playing around with them.

Leave a Comment

Please keep your comments friendly on the topic.

Contact us