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Replacements for Notepad, Part 2
technofile  by al fasoldt
Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology 
Simple gray rule


Replacements for Notepad, Part 2 


Bit Player for Sept. 14, 1997

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1997, The Syracuse Newspapers

Last week I reviewed three Windows 95 replacements for Microsoft's inadequate Notepad, which cannot save its window size and position, can't open more than one text file at a time, isn't able to load large files and doesn't even have a way to keep word wrap turned on.

I also mentioned an outstanding Notepad replacement for the older versions of Windows. If you have not read or saved that article, you can read it on the Web at http://www.dreamscape.com/afasoldt/texts/bit090797.html (at my own site) or at the same page at the newspaper's mirror site, http://www.syracuse.com/pluggedin/fasoldt/afasoldt/texts/bit090797.html.

This week I'm reviewing five more replacements and giving a cautious recommendation to one more. All the ones mentioned this week and last are free and available for a quick download on the Web. (There are shareware and even commercial Notepad replacements, but I'm not including them in this review. With so many excellent freeware choices, you'd have to be daffy to pay for a Notepad replacement.)

A relatively simple text editor with an up-to-date look and feel is QuickEdit by John Maddock, available at http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/John_Maddock/. QuickEdit cannot handle more than one file at a time unless it runs multiple times, which ordinarily would disqualify it as a satisfactory replacement. But QuickEdit is fast and flexible, offering a few handy extras —an ability to send the file it's editing by e-mail, a quick way to insert foreign-language characters and accents, fast case conversion and a menu item for counting the words in your document.

EditPad isn't as slick looking as QuickEdit but it's a great multi-document text editor. It was written by Jan Goyvaerts and is available at http://www.tornado.be/~johnfq/. As QuickEdit does, it also converts case and can send its contents by e-mail, but it adds a few touches: It can save a file in Macintosh or Unix format and can convert text to and from ROT-13 (a simple e-mail and newsgroup encryption format). A neat touch is the way EditPad uses tabs at the top of the edit window to provide single-click access to any loaded file.

EditPad minimizes its program window normally, in the Taskbar, but you can change this so that EditPad places an icon in the Tray area instead. (The Tray is the part of the Taskbar that holds the clock and volume control.)

Also using tabs for active documents is a slick Notepad replacement by Eric G.V. Fookes called Super NoteTab. It's available from http://www.unige.ch/sciences/terre/geologie/fookes/. If you appreciate a sleek interface, you could fall in love with Super NoteTab —especially once you cruise through the configurable (and superbly modern) toolbar and find features you won't see elsewhere.

In the area of minor features, Super NoteTab places an icon in the Tray and has the case-changing functions of the other editors while adding a case-reversal option —making This Kind of Phrase into tHIS kIND OF pHRASE, for example. It also has a "Favorites" button just like the one in Internet Explorer so you can quickly open a text you read or work on often. You'll also find HTML functions for minor Web-page editing.

Super NoteTab also uses tabbed windows, as some of the others listed here do, but adds the ability to stack all the tabs so that you can always single-click on a window even if you have dozens of files open.

But the big prize in Super NoteTab is the Clipbook, which can store text fragments, HTML code and shortcuts to documents and programs. Click on the Clipbook tool button and the Clipbook opens in its own window. You can any number of separate Clipbook sections, with one containing launchers for programs, another holding frequently used phrases, a third holding HTML code and so on.

Super NotePad comes with six Clipbook sections, including a helpful set of HTML tags. As with any good HTML editor, the HTML-editing functions work intelligently: If you highlight a section of text and apply a set of tags, they appear properly at the start and end points of the highlighted portion.

Another exceptional feature is Super NoteTab's Pasteboard, which captures everything cut or copied to the Windows clipboard. The Pasteboard does this for each item you cut or copy, saving each one in its open Pasteboard window. This lets you easily compile lists of shortcuts from the Web or of anything else —names, interesting items from something you're reading or entire sections of documents, for example.

If you are running a display resolution of 800 by 600 or higher, so you can view at least two windows at once, you'll be as amazed as I was to watch the Pasteboard in action, grabbing all the items that are cut or copied from any program. (Many Windows users don't realize that highlighting and pressing Ctrl-C will copy virtually anything from any kind of window or dialog. With the Pasteboard feature turned on, Super NoteTab provides a marvelous way to save anything you see in Windows.)

My vote goes to Super NoteTab if you want the best possible replacement for Notepad. But there is one disadvantage: Super NoteTab takes longer than most other replacements to get going. It's not ideal as a basic text viewer and editor if you want to be able to double-click on a text and have it displayed almost instantly. (Use NewPad, reviewed last week, for that purpose. It looks like Notepad and is almost as quick.)

A few others deserve mention.

Notepad +, written by Rogier Meurs, can be downloaded from http://www.xs4all.nl/~theroge/. It's a solid, no-nonsense replacement for Notepad. I used it as my sole Notepad replacement for months and loved it. It always proved reliable and everything worked perfectly.

Notepad++ seems like it would have to be an attempt top one-up Notepad+ but actually has fewer features. It's very good as an editor and viewer and has a more modern look than the program with one fewer "plus" in its name. It also lets you create and run batch files from inside an editing window and performs true drag-and-drop editing. (In other words, you can click on a word or phrase and drag it to another location in the text.)

Notepad++ was written by Michael Graham and is available from http://www.nac.net/~users/grahams/portside/.

Notespad, written by Skip Bremmer, is in many ways the single most ambitious replacement for Notepad. It uses tabbed windows and has a wonderfully modern interface. It even comes with a good spell-checker—it's the only program among all the ones I'm reviewing that has a spell-checker, in fact.

Notespad has many other unusual features, but the one that I find the most striking (and the most annoying) is the way it is able to stick itself in memory and pop open when needed. This feature can be turned off if you don't like it. (It's probably turned off by default when you install Notespad.)

The idea is sound: Because Notespad is a big program, using it to read or edit any kind of text means it would be loading all its code every time you need it. If the code stays in memory, Notespad can just pop open whenever it's needed.

But I could never get Notespad to behave when I used it my own way, which is to say when I renamed it NOTEPAD.EXE and placed it in the Windows folder. (All the other programs here do behave fine that way.) I followed Skip Bremmer's instructions but still couldn't get it to work right. Often, it would tell me it could not find the file I was clicking on.

You'll probably never have that problem. When it works right, Notespad ties for the top ranking in my list. Give it a try and see what you think. You can get it from this address: ftp://ftp.bremercorp.com/vendors/bremercorp.com/freeware/ntspad32.zip. (This is the actual file, not a Web page, but it's still an HTML address.)


Four final notes:

  • If you don't have access to the Web or just don't want to be bothered downloading files, you already have a much better text editor than Notepad as long as you have Windows 95 or any later version of Windows.

It's called WordPad. I have a helpful article about WordPad on my site and the newspaper's mirror. (The article has not appeared in the newspaper, so don't rummage through your clippings hoping to find it.) You can read the article through these links at my own site or at the newspaper's mirror.

WordPad cannot handle more than one text at a time and has a few other quirks that make it less than satisfactory for basic text editing, but it's a solid program. Try it out if you've never run it.

If you like WordPad, you should switch to a better version of WordPad called CwordPad (Cetus WordPad). It's a free replacement for WordPad that has a spell checker. In other ways, it behaves the same. It's available from http://www.cetussoft.com/. If you go to the Cetus site, you'll see that Cetus also has a free replacement for Notepad (called, as you'd expect, Cnotepad). It has a spell-checker and behaves much better than Notepad. But it can't handle large files and was therefore disqualified.

(Technically, 16-bit programs such as Notepad can't deal with files larger than about 50 kilobytes unless they use tricks in the way they handle memory. Super Pad, the best freeware 16-bit Notepad replacement, uses those tricks, but shows its heritage by hiccuping at the breakpoint between the normal addressing limit and the next multiple of that size. That's a good reason not to use Super Pad if you have a 32-bit version of Windows such as Windows 95 or Windows NT. There's no reason to use a 16-bit editor when so many good 32-bit versions are available for free.)

  • I've left out a lot of text editors in this survey, both freeware and shareware.

That does not mean I didn't test them. I disqualified many for various reasons. (All the shareware editors were disqualified because this is a survey of free programs, and many freeware programs were disqualified because they failed to behave properly.)

  • You may wonder why you would want a dinky text editor when you already have a word processor such as Microsoft Word or WordPerfect.

The answer is summed up in one word: Speed. A good text editor opens text files quickly. A good word processor can do many useful things, but it's an unlikely candidate for a speed contest.

  • Don't forget that your Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator Web browser makes an excellent text viewer any time the browser is running.

Using the browser to view texts is so simple you may wonder why you don't do it more often. All you do is drag the icon for a text onto the main window of the browser and let it go. It will be shown instantly in the browser. The text can be any length.

If you have Microsoft Word 95 or 97 installed and use Internet Explorer, you can even drop Word documents onto the browser window and read them —even edit them —inside the browser. You'll find that Internet Explorer's menus will instantly change into Microsoft Word's menus while the toolbar remains unchanged. This may not have a practical purpose most of the time, but it sure can impress the kids or the office worker in the next cubicle.


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