When typing in a word processor, you can enter a newline character by pressing the "Enter" or "Return" key on your keyboard. This creates a line break (also known as a "carriage return" or "line feed") in the text and moves the cursor to the beginning of the next line. When a line break occurs at the end of a block of text, it is called a trailing newline.
The newline character is important in computer programming, since it allows programmers to search for line breaks in text files. For example, if a data file lists one element per line, the items can be delimited by newline characters. In most modern programming languages, the newline character is represented by either "\n" or "\r". Some databases, like MySQL, store line breaks using a combination of "\r\n". By searching for newline characters in text strings, programmers can parse documents line by line and remove unwanted line breaks.
Updated: March 1, 2011