Super UserMost powerful Notepad / Text Editor replacement for Windows and Why
[+25] [22] DavidWhitney
[2009-07-15 10:48:34]
[ windows text-editing notepad ]

Over the years I've gone through a number of Notepad replacement text editors with various pros and cons. Always looking to improve on my current choice (which for clarity is Notepad++)

So a question to the floor:

What do you think is the best notepad replacement and why? What features do you like? What do you wish was different?


Marking the most upvoted suggestion as the accepted answer by "popular opinion".

(4) Are you asking for a Text Editor to replace Windows? In that case Emacs is the only choice. - Jared Updike
@Jared Updike - emacs is a bad notepad replacement. Too long to start. And that is the first requirement I ask of a notepad replacement editor. Otherwise, it's a fine piece of software. - ldigas
(1) No no, it can replace windows. - Nifle
(1) @Nifle: actually, I think they might need to add more bugs and remove some of the documentation before it can replace Windows ;-P - SamB
[+64] [2009-07-15 10:51:58] Lakshman Prasad [ACCEPTED]

Notepad++ indeed. It is the best. I also like the simple portable SciTE, based on the same Scintilla platform

(1) +1 Notepad++ is great. I've used it for quite some time now and it never disappointed me. - Albic
It's ok, after all it's free, just don't try loading very large files (100MB+) into it. - Ash
(2) Notepad++ with XML Tools is the only good xml viewer/editor/formatter I have seen - Jon Erickson
+1 The why: It integrates beautifully with total commander, just f4 on a file; mass search/replace; code highlight; macros; instant; decent performance on large (>20 MB) files; UTF-8 support; tabbed interface; free/open source; actively developed; customizable; standard keymap (f3 for search, etc); scintilla based - Mercer Traieste
(2) I'm a Vi/Vim user and have been for ~18 years. I used Notepad++ for awhile on Windows, but recently switched back to using Vim there too. Notepad++ is good for those who haven't learned how Vi works, but I encourage you to take the plunge and learn Vi. - jtimberman
I was disappointed with Interactive Search in Notepad++ and was surprised that it is a separate search subsystem than Ctrl+F. Why is that? - Jared Updike
Isn't Notepad++ shareware? - Chris Thompson
(1) Or am I thinking of TextPad? - Chris Thompson
Its ok. Its the standard tool I use because its fast loading and not too clunky and syntax highlights and loads files by drag and drop. It has performance issues for larger files that other editors seem to handle without as big a problem. Alt+click text select box behavior doesn't perform well. - bobobobo
[+33] [2009-07-15 10:51:16] RedBlueThing [1]. Join us. It's a way of life.


You can't beat that! - R. Martinho Fernandes
Beat me!.. With gVim you can command everything with your fingertips. - OscarRyz
Yep, no need to use those other appendages. - RedBlueThing
(2) It doesn't start instantaneously, though. That's why I still use Notepad2 for some things. - Tomas Sedovic
It takes time to be awesome. - RedBlueThing
@Cannonade nice line for a T-shirt. - R. Martinho Fernandes
(2) Actually, I find vim opens up pretty much instantaneously for me. Perhaps @Tomas is opening big files? - RedBlueThing
(19) "People who use Vim or Emacs are like the last surviving veterans of an ancient war. They're still fighting bitterly years after the war drew to a close, without realizing that both sides actually lost." - ChristianLinnell
(5) I choose not to think of myself as a bitter, misguided veteran of an imaginary editor war. Vim is nice, I like it. - RedBlueThing
(1) @ChristianLinnell: Certainly. Most of the most passionate and capable programmers of our time use either one or the other, and they are just silly curmudgeons. No way the programs themselves are any good. - Adriano Varoli Piazza
(3) 15 years of vi muscle memory cannot be stopped! See this blog post (and linked posts) for ways to get more out of Vim on any platform: - jtimberman
(1) @tomas: time vim -c q real 0m0.041s user 0m0.030s sys 0m0.009s Fast enough for me. - Tadeusz A. Kadłubowski
(1) Being able to use Vim is a definite advantage. Using Vim all of the time might make someone delirious. - Joe Philllips
(1) for me the main reason to use vim is: it runs on any platform (gui, console based) and it works everywhere the same. even if i would like notepad2 etc .. they dont work on mac, they dont work on servers via ssh... - akira
@ChristianLinnel: actually, for the most part the Emacs/vi war has become a joke by now ;-). - SamB
[+19] [2009-07-15 10:52:03] hmemcpy

Notepad2 [1]

Without a doubt the best replacement for notepad on my machine. Except for tabs, it supports everything else! It's lightweight and perfect.

I recently found out how to replace notepad.exe with Notepad2.exe without modifying any operating system files. Taken from this link [2]:

Replacing Windows Notepad with Notepad2

Replacing Windows Notepad with Notepad2 can be a little tricky since notepad.exe is a protected system file, which makes a direct replacement a bit difficult (though not impossible).

There is an easier way to replace Windows Notepad by using the "Image File Execution Options" registry key to trick Windows into running notepad2.exe whenever notepad.exe is run. This same trick is used by the "Replace Task Manager" function in Microsoft's Process Explorer [3]. The benefit to using this method to replace Notepad is that you will not run afoul of Windows File Protection (since you are not actually replacing the executable itself), and you can undo it at any time by simply deleting the registry key. The downside to this method is that it does not work properly with the official Notepad2 build; there are a few minor changes that need to be made to Notepad2 in order for this to work (see my img_exec_replace patch).

In order to use this method of Notepad replacement, you will need to follow these steps:

  1. Obtain a build of Notepad2 that supports this form of Notepad replacement.
  2. Create the following registry key: HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Image File Execution Options\notepad.exe.
  3. Inside the key, create a new string (REG_SZ) value, named "Debugger".
  4. Set the data of this new "Debugger" value to the full path to the Notepad2 executable, followed by the /z switch. For example, "C:\Windows\Notepad2.exe" /z

And it's even better if you replace notepad.exe so you always get notepad2. See links for XP and Vista here: - dwj
(2) There's a much better way of replacing notepad.exe with Notepad2 that doesn't require replacing system files! See the bottom of this page: - hmemcpy
[+14] [2009-07-15 10:57:05] Richard


from [1]

Lots of support for custom syntax highlighting, regular expressions etc..


(1) Sorry, no offence, bit I think TextPad sucks. - Lakshman Prasad
*but (in the place of bit) - Lakshman Prasad
(2) Textpad 4.7 was the best text editor for years, but development seemed to stall. They're on 5.2 or something now but it's fallen way behind other editors. - DisgruntledGoat
(1) Honestly, ANYTHING is better than Notepad/Wordpad, so whatever you use, it is an improvement. - geoffc
(1) Killer feature - cut/copy/delete bookmarked lines; not supported by the other popular editors mentioned here. - SDX2000
TextPad's Clip Library and Workspaces are excellent too. Haven't found another editor with the same feature mix. - Umber Ferrule
[+11] [2009-07-17 01:07:18] Jason Baker

Most powerful? Emacs. By far. But then that begs the question whether power is really what you're after. :-)

(1) Agreed. Emacs is wicked powerful. However, I don't know if I'd recommend it to new users, particularly windows users -- I'm not knocking windows or its users, it's just coming from a different mindset. It's got a little too much arcane history built into it. That all said, I use emacs and have been for nearly 20 years. - Doug Harris
(1) Takes too long to start for a notepad replacement editor. Otherwise, a fine piece, by any criteria, of software - ldigas
@ldigas - You'd be surprised at how fast a minimally configured emacs can be. - Jason Baker
(3) @ldigas - Run it in server mode, associate file extensions to emacsclient and/or add emacsclient to your Send To menu and you'll get instant start-up as long as emacs is already running. If you are in and out of files all day, leaving emacs running is an acceptable condition. - dwj
@dwj - I know that. But then we're not speaking "notepad replacements" anymore, are we. Visual Studio also works fast when running all the time, but I wouldn't use it instead of notepad. - ldigas
@Idgas: Yeah, emacs does seem to start awfully slowly on Windows... I can understand the one on my Linux machine taking a while, since it's a rather old machine and I've got lots extra elisp installed with a not-too-well-optimized .emacs file, but you'd think it would start a lot faster out-of-the-box... - SamB
@Jason Baker: where do you get an emacs for Windows that starts fast by default? - SamB
[+7] [2009-07-15 11:10:38] Matthew Schinckel

There is also E Text Editor [1], which is based upon, and has bundle compatibility with, the amazing TextMate.


(1) I use TextMate on Mac OS X, and love it. I'm pretty sure E adds some additional features too. - jtbandes
(1) eTextEditor - a very nice editor, but two flaws: depends on cygwin, and with every new version there are annoying bugs which you actually notice while working (for example, find in project in one of the newest versions) - ldigas
+1 Idigas - I love the program, but development seems to be sporadic and the quality can be iffy. - Dan Walker
@Idigas E does not require Cygwin, it's the Textmate bundles that need it, which is why it gets installed by default. You can remove it if you like, but then most of the bundles will stop working. And besides, why is its use of Cygwin a flaw? I see no problem with Cygwin myself. - Charles Roper
@Charles Roper - When you're developing command line apps, which depend on system commands, it can turn into a hell with \, /, file naming and such ... not to get into much detail, I would prefer it to be self contained. It doesn't require Cygwin, it just needs Cygwin for full functionality (therefore, requiring it). - ldigas
[+5] [2009-07-15 10:52:00] person-b

Either VIM [1], Intype [2] or Notepad++ [3]. Intype supports TextMate-like bundles and cool colour schemes (not compatible), has snippet support. Notepad++ does just about everything with its plugin architecture, and VIM is VIM. I love HJKL. And best of all, they're all free!


(2) +1 for InType. I love it. - Jonathan Sampson
@Jonathan Sampson - same here, but they really need to get some basic options in it (undo for example). Apart from that, looks like it has potential to become another textmate alternative. - ldigas
Love the look of it. - ldigas
@Idigas - they do have undo. - person-b
Everything Notepad has, definitely. - person-b
[+5] [2009-08-01 01:57:39] bobobobo


I just found this editor recently and I'm very pleased with it. Its a bit pricey, but it is a fantastic editor.

Browse filesystem at left, double click to open code file at right.. it is like an IDE, only its .. not as heavy as Visual Studio (or Eclipse!) and is great for quick edits to files you need to quickly upload to the web.

Other thing is it has a companion tool "UltraCompare" which can be used to compare files pretty easily through some menu option built into UltraEdit.


The column mode (block edit) is invaluable; activate with keyboard shortcut ALT+C. Bookmarks (set by Ctrl+F2, go to by F2) are very useful for navigating around in your large text files. - Peter Mortensen
+1 for all caps and two exclamation points. If it didn't have "ultra" in the name these things just would have been inappropriate. - donut
[+3] [2009-07-15 10:54:46] Tomas Sedovic

When I was doing this search, my criteria weren't the feature count or number of buttons in the toolbar -- I've got gVIM and Visual Studio for that already.

So, I wanted something very similar to Notepad, only being awesome instead of crap. And, unlike vim, something that starts almost before you run it :-).

Thus, Notepad2 [1].

It starts in a heartbeat and you can make it look almost like the original Notepad.


(1) I'm a vimmer, but I agree with you. Vim is not the best "notepad-replacement". It is the best "text editor", but that's an entirely different matter :) - R. Martinho Fernandes
(2) @Tomas: are you certain that your config is not the culprit? gvim (on windows right now) opens instantly, and I do have some settings (indentation, syntax for a few languages) loaded. Aren't you loading something that's taking a toll on performance? - Adriano Varoli Piazza
Adriano: this is on several computers with gVim out of the box. I'm not saying it's Firefox-like slow, but it does take about a second to start. And that pains me for the come-and-go things I keep using Notepad for. Agree with Martinho -- vim is the best "text editor". - Tomas Sedovic
My vim starts pretty slow as well, but it is because of all the plugins and configuration that I do in my vimrc. - Seamus
[+3] [2009-07-17 00:48:46] sastanin

Vim, certainly... But Emacs shoud work too.

[+2] [2009-07-15 10:59:45] Simone Carletti

When I was a Windows user I really enjoyed PSPad [1].

It provides syntax highlighting, templates, it works as FTP Client and it is super lightweight compared to other solutions.


+1 for PSPAD. More people should use this tool IMO. - barfoon
I actually went and installed this on my desktop and notepad++ on my laptop. Within a week i was scrambling to get this off. - RCIX
[+2] [2009-07-15 19:33:50] moshen

Komodo edit [1] is my favorite. Built in Vi keybindings, edit over ftp/ssh, awesome macros and extensibility makes it just fantastic.


Nice, but very slow to start up in comparison with other editors. - Umber Ferrule
(1) This is very true. The startup time is practically abysmal, but since I leave it open all the time, opening a document in a new tab is pretty much instantaneous. - moshen
[+1] [2009-07-15 10:57:42] Arcturus

I always liked the SciTE or Scintilla [1] text editor..

Pretty lightweight, and it has colors depending on the language..


[+1] [2009-07-17 00:40:49] user2499

Sublime text editor. It's like Textmate, except it is arguably even closer to TextMate (or perhaps even surpass) compared to the other two (more publicized) textmate-for-windows apps "intype" or "e".

[+1] [2009-07-17 00:47:52] ChristianLinnell

SciTE is my favourite:

[+1] [2009-07-17 01:26:17] FortunateDuke

Intype, because it is the closest to textmate in functionality and feel.

Actually one might assert that sublime text editor now is closest to TextMate - user2499
I will check it out. - FortunateDuke
[+1] [2009-07-17 03:48:46] CrimsoИ

I use notepad++. Its simple and works with just about every .nfo

.nfo is just a text file, every editor can read those... - DisgruntledGoat
[0] [2009-07-17 18:29:20] DisgruntledGoat

On Linux I use KATE. Brilliant syntax highlighting, sessions, document selector (way better than tabs), very good code commenting from shortcuts (a big NP++ failing) and loads more I don't remember OTOH.

[0] [2009-07-20 04:20:41] RCIX

Crimson Editor. It's kind of old but pretty snappy, and comes with plenty of features. I used it for the longest time before switching to Notepad++ and it was pretty nice.

[0] [2009-08-01 03:36:54] Matt Peterson

I've recently become a fan of HippoEDIT [1]. It isn't free, but it is fast and has all of the programmer-friendly features (e.g. syntax highlighting, indention indicators, brace/parenthesis matching).


[0] [2009-08-01 04:11:12] opello

I really like the afore mentioned TextPad, and used UltraEdit a long time ago!

But I have since moved to SlickEdit [1] for most things. It starts fast for me, but is quite a bit heavier than Notepad++ or other "light weight" editors.


[0] [2010-02-08 11:12:23] cori

Like folks have mentioned before, I like Notepad++ and Vim for code editing text editors, but for a Notepad replacement for editing plain text files I use ConTEXT [1]. Because of its simplicity it makes for a great Notepad replacement - does a great job on column-aligned text files, has regex search and replace - everything I need in a plain text editor.