What follows is from an old post I wrote on replacing Windows Notepad with Notepad++, but is just the part where I ramble about how amazing it is and why you should use it. To get to the post on Notepad replacement, go here.
If you ever use Notepad, Windows’ native text editor, you should upgrade to Notepad++. Immediately. Seriously, every moment that you don’t is one more moment of sheer misery you don’t even realize you’re going through! Even if you don’t normally use a text editor, you might as well get a nice one. Just in case.
So what’s the difference between a text editor and a word processor (like Microsoft Word)? Well, the name pretty much says it all. A text editor does nothing but manipulate text, just by adding or removing characters. A text editor can also be used to read any file-type, though if you open something like a jpeg you’ll have what looks like complete gibberish. Editors do absolutely no formatting. No font changes, size changes, italics, bold, etc etc. A word processor adds all of this fancy formatting, and usually uses all kinds of added code for both proprietary and useful reasons. For a good example, open up a Word document with Notepad. You’ll see the text of your document, but there is all kinds of crap between words, letters, paragraphs, and at the header and footer.
You can actually edit any kind of file you want with a text editor, but chances are you’ll just make the file stop working properly. It can be fun, however, to explore different files and see what kind of stuff is added by the software that runs them. You may even find that some files store and hide some information about you…
If you’ve made it this far, the next question is “what’s the difference between Notepad and Notepad++?”
First off, Notepad++ is completely open source, free, and community-maintained. There are all kinds of plugins that come with it, and others you can download to add functionality. At base, ++ does a lot of things that plain old Notepad doesn’t do. It does spell checking, for one. It also does syntax highlighting which means that ++ will read the extension of the file (the part that says .txt, .doc, .jpg, etc) and then add colors and underlining in some sort of sensible fashion. This is extremely useful for any kind of coding such as LaTeX, HTML, and other computer languages.
Perhaps even more useful (for most people), ++ has a tabbed interface, and can be set up to remember what tabs it previously had open (and is set this way by default). So, you can have 10 different documents open at once, all in the same window, and if you somehow accidentally close it you can just reopen the program and everything will be there, safe and sound. Like magic.
If I’ve convinced you of NP++’s awesomeness, please go to the old post to replace your crappy Windows Notepad (instructions are currently for XP only).