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Cleartext is transmitted or stored text that has not been subjected to encryption and is not meant to be encrypted. As such, cleartext does not require decryption in order to be displayed. In its simplest form, cleartext is rendered as ASCII that can be read by any word processor or text editor. However, cleartext can be subjected to encoding in a special format such as Word, WordPerfect or HTML . Any text that can be read on a computer with the appropriate program but without the need for decryption is considered cleartext.

The terms cleartext and plaintext are sometimes confused. Plaintext is a special instance of cleartext that is (1) meant to be encrypted prior to transmission or storage or (2) the result of decryption of received or retrieved data.

In information technology, text is any human-readable sequence of characters and the words they form that can be encoded into computer-readable formats. Text differs from non-character encoded data, such as graphic images or programs that are sometimes said to be in "binary" code but are actually in their own computer-readable formats.

This was last updated in July 2006

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