Monday, February 20, 2006

Why I still use Notepad.exe

A reasonable response after reading my previous post about a Notepad.exe bug might be "So what? Just use a *real* text editor." However, despite its shortcomings, for simple text-editing tasks, I still use Notepad a lot. Some reasons for this are:

(1) It's lightweight and doesn't have features that I don't want. (Examples are Word's autoformatting of things like bullet points and emoticons.)

(2) It supports the basic set of text-editing shortcut keys that work in other common Microsoft apps like Word and Visual Studio. (For example, Ctrl+F = Find, Ctrl+H = Find and Replace.)

(3) It doesn't do anything unnecessary with the clipboard -- it both copies and pastes pure text only, without any formatting. (One method for stripping formatting from text on the clipboard is to Paste it into a Notepad window and then Copy the pasted text from Notepad.)

(4) I can jump to a specific line number (with Ctrl+G).

(5) Perhaps most importantly, it's on every Windows machine that I sit down at.

I'd like to use a more powerful text editor like vi or Emacs, but I think once I got used to those editors, I'd be too annoyed every time I sat down at someone else's machine (which I do with reasonable frequency) because the editor wouldn't be present, and my habitual keyboard shortcuts wouldn't be available. (I might access the editor from my own machine over the network or carry it around on a USB drive, but that's also annoying.)

I also haven't found a "Notepad Plus" application that I really like enough to make a point of using it instead of Notepad. I'm trying out Notepad2 currently, but there a couple of things I don't like about it, such as the "Recent Files" section of the File menu not being implemented in a standard way, and Alt+N not working to jump to the text field in the Find dialog (which I've found that I actually use a lot).

The feature that standard Notepad does not have which I most wish it did have is a "Reopen" feature. Oftentimes I have some log file open and I want to see the most recent version on the hard drive that has been updated with recent logged events, but to do this with Notepad I have to do through the File | Open dialog and retype or reclick the name of the current file, which is a hassle.

It would be really nice if some developer at Microsoft would ask for a week or two of development time to really "fix" notepad -- add the Reopen feature and some other basic features that most other modern text editors have, such as "smart tabbing" (selecting one or more entire lines of text and pressing Tab or Shift+Tab indents/unindents the text instead of replacing it with a tab character). They could package the updated Notepad with Vista as another reason for people to upgrade!

I hope the reason that Microsoft *hasn't* done this isn't something silly like they are concerned that it could adversely affect MS Word sales.


  1. You should check out PureText. It DOESN'T have the benefit of being at every machine you sit down at, but at my primary machine, I use it probably 10-20 times a day. It basically rewires Win+V to paste "pure text". (i.e. Win+V does the same thing as pasting into notepad then copying then pasting where you really want to paste) Usually the Win key is right next to the control key so it makes a pretty easy transition from Ctrl+V.

  2. I use JujuEdit after having been through various "Notepad wannabes". The biggest issue with it is that the author moved to mac and there's couple bugs that come up in heavy use and then but it's still the best thing around regardless. I think with some good persuasion from enough users he might give it up for others to look after.

    I recommend to try it out but beware to uncheck "add to context menu" option (and add it manually through regedit if you need to) or you may find explorer slightly broken.


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