By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 1997, The Syracuse Newspapers
Proof that Microsoft hasn't a clue about how to write simple programs can be found in one of the most common parts of Windows, the dismal Notepad text viewer and editor. Notepad is a very important program, called into action each time you click on a text file, yet it is totally brain-dead.
Notepad doesn't know how to save its window size and position, can't handle more than one text file at a time, gives up when faced with large files and doesn't even give you a way to keep word wrap turned on.
Fortunately, Internet users have dozens of free replacements for Notepad to choose from. I checked out more than 20 of them last week and found eight that are outstanding. I'll describe all of them and tell you where to find them this week and next.
All the programs listed here make up for Notepad's deficiencies. They can save their window positions and sizes, can be set up to start with word wrap turned on and can handle files of any size.
All of them are designed for Windows 95 (and for Windows 98, when it comes out shortly). Most will also run without a problem under Windows NT 4.0. They will not run under the older version of Windows.
That doesn't mean everyone who uses Windows 3.1 and 3.11 is out of luck. The ideal replacement for Notepad under Windows 3.x continues to be Super Pad, a free program from PC Magazine. It's available from a page on PC Magazine's Web site, http://www8.zdnet.com/pcmag/download/utils/spad.htm. Super Pad works OK under the new versions of Windows, too—and it's certainly better than Notepad under Windows 95—but it's not designed for the 32-bit versions of Windows and can't function as well as the programs I'm listing below.
For Windows 95 (and 98) and, usually, Windows NT, you should consider these freeware replacements for Notepad. They are listed in order of complexity.
The most basic and in many ways most satisfactory program is NewPad, by Eugene Vassilstov. It's, available from his Web site at http://www.netcom.com/~ionna/newpad.html.
NewPad looks like Notepad and starts up very quickly, just as Notepad does. But NewPad adds control over the screen and printer fonts and has a good print preview window. It can track the four most recent documents and can load many files at the same time. (I stopped counting at 36.)
NewPad is ideal if all you want is a better Notepad. It's an exact replacement in every way; just rename NOTEPAD.EXE to something like NOTEPADX.EXE and put a copy of NEWPAD.EXE in the Windows folder and name it NOTEPAD.EXE.
Next up the ladder of complexity is EmEditor by EmSoft, available at http://www.emsoft.co.jp/index-e.htm. EmEditor adds many functions that NewPad lacks, although it's no better at basic text viewing and editing. What makes EmEditor stand out is its built-in HTML abilities. Load an HTML document (a Web page, for example) into EmEditor and all the hyperlinks become active, just as they would be in a Web browser. This makes EmEditor a great text editor for quick fixes to your Web-page codes.
EmEditor has a customizable toolbar and unlimited undo capabilities. This is an outstanding feature by itself, and turns EmEditor into a powerful tool. It also has customizable keyboard equivalents and knows how to work with the Microsoft IntelliMouse and its nifty wheel. It can be substituted for Notepad using the method I've described for NewPad.
Another interesting and well designed text editor is TxEdit by Gregory Braun, available from his Web site at http://www.execpc.com/~sbd/. TxEdit has five extras that stand out:
TxEdit does not look and feel as modern as some of the Notepad replacements I'll tell you about next week, but it's solid, with a lot of useful features.
(Next: Super NoteTab, QuickEdit, Notespad and others.)