Many Windows users will probably be familiar with Notepad, the “bare bones” text editor that has come bundled with the operating system ever since Windows 1.0 all the way back in 1985.
What makes Notepad popular is its simplicity and ease of use. Unlike WordPad or the more complex word processors it doesn’t get bogged down in text formatting, bloated file sizes, backward compatibility issues or anything like that. Sometimes, however, that simplicity can be a little restrictive.
I use Notepad++ almost daily, at home and at work. It’s my default text editor.
|Notepad++ in action, writing this post!|
At home, I use it for writing. Every post I make on this blog (including this one) is written in Notepad++.
Emails in which I have a lot to say or may want to do some editing later are written in Notepad++ first.
Its seamless interface with Dragon Naturally Speaking makes it a breeze to dictate things directly into Notepad++ for those many times when I can think faster than I can type and I want to get that flow of thought down on paper.
Tabbed editing allows you to work on more than one file at a time, and Notepad++ can remember your last-opened tabs.
If WordPad is giving you grief but you want something more than Notepad, I’d suggest giving Notepad++ a try.
At work, I use Notepad++ often to do work with source code and programming languages.
The software will often recognize various coding languages automatically and it will colour-code the document for you to make scanning the code a much easier task. The colours are customizable for your taste, but I haven’t found the need to change the defaults.
Another really handy feature is the ability to do document comparisons. If you have two versions of the same file and you want to easily see what the changes are between the two files, the “Compare” plug-in allows you to do that with ease. It will display both files side-by-side with a synchronized scroll, and it will also highlight the parts that are different between the two documents. This is quite handy when you’re troubleshooting an error in code.
Notepad++ has an auto-complete feature for many common coding languages, but I tend to turn the auto-complete off after a while. I’m used to typing my own code, and I tend to forget the auto-complete is on, and that results in me going back and deleting what I’ve typed after the auto-complete.
Notepad’s Find and Replace feature is limited to just what you can fit on a single line. For most users, that’s sufficient, but if you’re working with large blocks of code or text, that can be a nuisance. Notepad++ uses a Find and Replace that can span multiple lines, so you can Find and Replace large chunks of text or code.
For code monkeys, other features make Notepad++ very easy to use. The Document Map feature shows you a top-to-bottom thumbnail of the entire document and highlights where the editing window is located in the whole document. Features such as Multi-editing and Column Mode editing make it easy to make the same change in multiple places at once. For many programming languages, Notepad++ also provides lists of Functions to make your editing easier.
It may not be as fully-featured as some IDEs, but it’s an excellent, free and lightweight editor for most of your needs. It’s not a do-all tool, but something worth trying out for your developer’s toolbox.
The last thing that I like about Notepad++ is that you use as much of it as you need. The GUI is not distractingly fancy, and everything is easy to find.