Microsoft Notepad

Microsoft Notepad

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Microsoft NOTEPAD Is a Text Editor (Not a Word Processor)

Aug 5, 2001 (Updated Aug 5, 2001)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Very simple text editor-- screen is clean

Cons:Inconsistencies between Win95 and WinNT4; text files capped at 64Kb

The Bottom Line: NOTEPAD is a text editor, not a word processing program. As such, it will be limited in its capabilities. But NOTEPAD has its uses for which it is ideal.


Since Microsoft started selling its Windows environment in the mid-1980s it bundled a number of programs it called Accessories so that Windows users can be productive the moment they reach the Windows screen. When Windows was using "groups" in the days before Windows '95, there was a group named Accessories, and this group contained simple programs such as Calculator, Clock, Cardfile, Calendar, Paint, and Notepad. These accessory programs did what their names implied. They were not anywhere near the same level as applications programs from the 1980s such as Word and Excel, but they served their functions well.

When Microsoft changed to the Windows '95 era and switched to the Desktop and START button, clicking the START button brings up an initial menu, and on this initial menu is an item called Programs. One of the selections available within Programs is Accessories. Both the quantity as well as the quality of accessory programs increased from what I saw in the mid-1980s. However, one accessory program which made the migration to Windows '95 is NOTEPAD (which will be capitalized for the remainder of this opinion/review).

Most of us have used word processing programs at some point of our computing experience. Word processing software has been around since the days of the original Apple and Commodore computers which preceded IBM's hegemony of the personal computer market and Microsoft's domination courtesy of the MS-DOS operating system the IBM PCs (as well as their compatibles and clones) needed to run for the computer to function. Over the years, word processing programs acquired features such as text formatting (adding effects such as bold, italics, underlining; changing font styles and their point sizes; very primitive layout features).

Word processors, therefore, are feature rich programs-- so rich that we don't even know about half of the available features. NOTEPAD, however, is a text editor. As a text editor, there is no formatting capability at all. NOTEPAD will allow the writer to cut, copy, and paste text from one area to another area-- and that is it. NOTEPAD has a Word Wrap capability which can be enabled; if Word Wrap is disabled, then text will not wrap as it reaches the visible edge of the screen-- if a line of text is long enough, NOTEPAD will force the wrap to the next line, but by then the line of text will have about 255 characters. (I will return to this point later.)

NOTEPAD is a text editor, so it is necessarily more limited in functionality than word processing applications we see in offices and in business. However, NOTEPAD does have its uses, and it can be a lifesaver in a quick pinch.

Why even bother using NOTEPAD? Below are some reasons for using NOTEPAD (all of which I have done over the years):
Computer program writing
Letter writing to people named "To Whom It May Conern"
Primitive FAX cover sheets
To Do lists
Lists for other purposes
Report writing which required certain criteria
Resume creation
Short business letters
Web page creation

Any reason for which you would use a word processor was good enough for using NOTEPAD when times were simpler. For certain things, word processing software is better. For other things, though, NOTEPAD is best.

These days I use NOTEPAD to create web pages-- text files which contain not only the content of the web page but also the HTML tags which format the text or other sections of the web page file for use with a web browser. HTML is simply text which a web browser recognizes and interprets to render a web page properly. Since HTML is simply text, a text editor is perfect for making HTML files (and, therefore, web pages). HTML editors such as FrontPage did not exist when I learned HTML in 1994, so all I had was trusty NOTEPAD and a book on learning HTML.

As in traditional programming with languages such as BASIC, Pascal, C, and many others, web page creation involves formatting for human readers of the HTML, for people making changes to web pages. The web browser doesn't care about the appearance of the web page file as long as there are no syntax errors which would cause the web browser to choke. However, people care about things such as indenting and spaces and other readability issues. For those reasons I use NOTEPAD.

Even if you aren't interested in using NOTEPAD for making web pages the old fashioned way, you need a way to make text files which can be used by other text editors and word processors (and possibly even spreadsheets, databases, and other full-blown applications which use data files). By default, NOTEPAD saves files with a .TXT filename extension; however, when using the File menu and then selecting Save As... it is possible to use any other filename extension as long as the file type of "All Files" is specified. The file itself is a text file in nature, but it is in this way where a filename extension which is not .TXT can be chosen. After the text file is created in NOTEPAD, it can be opened by the full-blown application program (and if necessary, the file can be imported).

NOTEPAD is not a complicated program-- on the contrary, it is very simple. However, NOTEPAD is very minimal in its feature set. As I said earlier, Word Wrap is available, but if NOTEPAD is being used for web page creation or for writing computer programs, then Word Wrap should be turned off. Standard cut, copy, and paste commands exist, and a Select All feature exists if everything in the NOTEPAD window is to be highlighted for cutting or copying. NOTEPAD will let you find text; however, the Windows '95 version of NOTEPAD which I use at home will not let text be replaced (which the Windows NT 4.0 version of NOTEPAD allows). Additionally, NOTEPAD will not allow text files greater than 64Kb to be saved-- if a text file to be created or saved is greater than 64Kb, then NOTEPAD should be bypassed in favor of the Wordpad accessory or a word processing application (whatever alternative program is used, it should provide the option for saving the file as a text file).

There is one other purpose for which I use NOTEPAD: composing reviews for Epinions. Once or twice my computer system crashed while I was composing opinions for submission. The other day I lost an opinion I was writing concerning Billy Joel's 1982 album The Nylon Curtain. Since that happened. I type my opinion or review in NOTEPAD, save the text periodically, then when I am ready to submit the opinion I copy the text from NOTEPAD and paste it into the Opinion Body field on the page where I enter my opinion or review. I also use NOTEPAD in conjunction with the Epinion spelling checker: I look for the text Epinions flagged, and I use NOTEPAD to locate the offending text so I can correct it. When the corrections are done I use the Select All feature of NOTEPAD to highlight the text so I can paste it in the comment page for Epinions.

Don't expect NOTEPAD to do anything fancy. Don't expect NOTEPAD to be rich in features. Do expect NOTEPAD to be very simple. Do expect NOTEPAD to be ideal for certain tasks. NOTEPAD is not used for learning HTML, but it is used for typing text and HTML tags to make a web page. NOTEPAD can be used for typing text which is intended to be copied and pasted into another application or form. Do not underestimate the power of NOTEPAD, for its simplicity is its salvation.


Recommend this product? Yes


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