Windows Notepad has been around for a long time. The simple text editor has been part of every single Windows version since 1.0.
However, just because it’s in its fourth decade doesn’t mean it’s the best text editor. In fact, in its 30+ years of life, you can almost count the number of new features on one hand.
Many apps have now surpassed it in ease-of-use and quality of features. But what are those apps? What do they do well? And when should you use them? Here’s where Notepad falls short, plus six leading alternatives.
Where Notepad Falls Short
I don’t want to criticize Notepad too heavily. It has a negligible draw on your system’s resources, it opens almost instantly, and it’s still the best way for making quick notes while you’re on a phone call or chatting with a colleague.
Nonetheless, when viewed alongside some of its modern competitors, you’ll quickly find some glaring weaknesses.
For example, it can’t handle newlines in Unix- or classic Mac OS-style text files, it lacks advanced formatting features, it doesn’t support multiple document interface (MDI), you can’t block-select, and there are no syntax coloring, code folding, or macros… The list goes on.
Some third-party alternatives remedy these omissions and introduce several additional features.
TL;DR: Best all-round alternative text editor.
The best known and most widely-used alternative is Notepad++. It was originally designed for coding and development, but it’s features have since made it popular among people who just want a more powerful text editor.
Out of the box, you’ll find several additions that instantly set it apart from the Microsoft product. There are line numbers, a more robust search tool, support for tabs, syntax highlighting, macro recording, and zoom.
Notepad++ really starts to shine when you delve into the plugins. You will find a spell checker, an FTP client, a script executor, hex editors, and more.
To use the plugins, either use Plugin Manager (which ships with the main app) or download your preferred plugin and install it manually. Navigate to the plugins subfolder of your Notepad++ installation, then put the DLL in plugins, the configuration file in plugin\config, documentation in plugin\doc.
Download — Notepad++
2. Syncplify.me Notepad!
TL;DR: Download Syncplify.me Notepad! for a word processing-esque experience.
Syncplify.me Notepad! is more geared towards people who want to use their text editor to write rather than to code and program.
When you open the program for the first time, you’ll instantly feel at home when you see the familiar Microsoft Office ribbon across the top of the screen. Start using the app, and the similarities with Word continue: it supports drag-and-drop editing, you can customize print jobs with margins, indentations, headers, footers, and your find-and-replace history is saved for later use.
Syntax highlighting for 35 programming languages is included, but you won’t find code folding, auto-complete, macro recording, or session support.
Download — Syncplify.me Notepad!
TL;DR: Anyone who uses Notepad to stay organized should switch to QOwnNotes.
Despite the growth of specialist to-do apps like Evernote, OneNote, and the recently-released Microsoft To-Do, some people still use Notepad for making lists and staying organized. Unfortunately, it’s not up to the task, especially if you want to do more than make a simple list of groceries.
However, if you like the simplicity of Notepad compared to OneNote, you should give QOwnNotes a try.
You can organize all your notes and lists into projects and sub-folders (accessible in the right-hand panel), and the app supports rich text notes, images, hyperlinks, and tables. The presence of folders, sub-folders, and hyperlinks means you can make your own wiki.
It also includes a built-in calculator and an “Import from Evernote” tool. Oh, and did I mention the app can even sync via Calendar Plus using AES-256 encryption?
Download — QOwnNotes
TL;DR: The best alternative for coders and programmers.
PSPad has been a favorite among coders and professionals for many years. It was first released in 2001.
Its myriad features are development orientated. There’s MDI, syntax highlighting, a HEX editor, an HTML code checker, a code explorer, a macro recorder, an external compiler, an FTP client, and even templates for HTML, PHP, Pascal, JScript, VBScript, MySQL and more.
It does have some useful features for casual users, including a spell check and search-and-replace, but you should use something else if you’re not planning to spend a lot of time coding.
PSPad is semi-portable: you can download a ZIP folder that can be unpacked into any directory. There’s also an installer, but it’s ad-supported — make sure you don’t install any unnecessary software.
Download — PSPad
5. EditPad Lite
TL;DR: The purest Notepad replacement.
If you’re looking for a replacement for Notepad but don’t want an app with hundreds of extra bells and whistles, EditPad Lite is your best option.
Some features separate it from the Microsoft app, but they’re minor enhancements rather than complete overhauls.
For example, EditPad offers a tabbed interface so you can work on several files at the same time and there is unlimited undo/redo (rather than the one step provided by Notepad). You’ll also find a more robust search-and-replace tool, and the app automatically backs up your work to prevent data loss.
Perhaps most interestingly, you can configure the app per file type. When you’re coding, you can turn off word wrapping, when you’re writing a personal memo you can turn off line numbering and turn on proportional fonts.
Download — EditPad Lite
TL;DR: If you’re an ASCII artist who wants a fun and quirky twist, download GetDiz.
GetDiz isn’t for serious coders or people who need to operate in 50 different programming languages. It’s primarily for people who want to make art with ASCII characters. Sure, it’s a niche group, but it’s also a fun group.
What makes it so good for artists? Well, it can read and create NFO and DIZ files, as well as ASCII art, then save the output as a GIF file. The only drawback is the app will create the GIF using what’s visible on the screen rather than the full window.
Other benefits include automatic window resizing to fit the text width of files, built-in URL support, and custom word highlighting.
Download — GetDiz
Which Is Your Favorite Notepad Alternative?
The very notion of a “best” alternative is subjective: the right app is the one that works for you. You should spend time testing a few different ones before settling on your long-term preference.
The most important thing to take away from this article is that Notepad has been surpassed and you will be able to find a more compelling alternative, regardless of how you use the app.
Which Notepad alternatives would recommend to your fellow readers? What features make them unique? Let us know in the comments below.