Home > Geeky, Software > Using a text editor instead of a word processor

Using a text editor instead of a word processor

January 18, 2006

One of my favorite pompous, arrogant things to say is; “When I need a machine to tell me what I want to say, throw in the dirt, because I’m dead”.  I like to do all my writing in a ‘text editor’, which is to a word processor what a paring knife is to a ‘Kitchen Slice-O-Matic Multifunction Blender™’.

Microsoft includes in Windows™ a very basic text editor called ‘Notepad’.  It’s a little too basic, in that it does not show line numbers (which are useful when writing HTML code) or other search/handling amenities. 

Check out Notepad++.  It has excellent line handling, and a wonderful macro recording feature for reducing that 50-keystroke URL you are always typing down to one hotkey.  In other words, it turns ‘clickity-clickity-clickity…’ into ‘Bam!’ and you can keep writing.  If you type a lot, saving keystrokes is always welcome.  The editor is very configurable so you can customize it for your preferred language and methods.

If you often find yourself swearing at Microsoft Word, you might enjoy using a text editor. 


  • Text editors do not have functions like spell-check, fonts, bold, italic, or grammar checker.  Using a text editor is like using a typewriter only you can cut-and-paste.  It’s just you and the words, which is a refreshing change from a talking paperclip butting in to ask if you want to fix your grammar.  Later, if you want to, you can paste the text into a word processor to make it all pretty for people who are more interested in style than substance.

  • Many text editors are designed as programming tools, and Notepad++ is no exception.  But their very stark simplicity makes a non-distracting writing environment.
  • Some might observe that my grammar and spelling could use a little ‘checking’, but I just don’t care.  If someone is likely to miss the whole point because I misspelled ‘etymology’ then it isn’t likely I’ll get through to them anyway.
  • There’s a whole passal of free software links at Unqualified Offerings.  One of their recommendations is ‘Open Office’ as a Microsoft Office replacement.  I use Open Office and recommend it.
  • When you install it, be sure to set the file type ‘.txt’ to associate to the notepad++ program.  In ‘My Computer’ click on ‘Tools, Folder Options, File Types’ and change the association of .txt to the Notepad++ application.  That way, anytime you double-click a .txt file, Notepadd++ will open it. 
  • If you write in HTML (or any of several other languages) you can turn on color-coding for that language.  It really cuts eyestrain for handling tags and other functions.
  • Also, turn on word-wrap in your text editor, so your lines will display more readably on screen.
  • Many people are uncomfortable with freeware, but let me tell you a little secret – it’s often better than the software you pay for.  The most common reason a piece of freeware gets created is some programmer is frustrated by the bloated commercial product, and writes a lean, simple, high-speed application that does ONE THING really well.  And, since there’s no way to make money on it, he or she just puts it out there for free. 
Categories: Geeky, Software
  1. January 18, 2006 at 21:47 | #1

    I use EditPad Lite from JGSoft as a text editor (and have for many years).  It does the job for me just fine.

    I actually don’t use MS Word nearly as much as I used to (I used to actually teach classes to secretaries at our office—though, of course, that was Word for DOS v3 and the like).  I find most of my composition is done in e-mail, in blogging clients, and, yes, in a text editor.

  2. January 19, 2006 at 16:33 | #2

    Amen about text editors over wordprocessors. I like Vim myself, although I admit the learning curve is a bit steep.

  3. January 20, 2006 at 09:06 | #3

    I find http://crimsoneditor.com quite a useful text editor, and recently came across http://www.webwriter.dk/english/ (Stone’s Webwriter) and found it useful when it comes to writing in different fonts (such as Earth Language or UNIFON) or European fonts with diacritical marks (such as Esperanto).

  4. Les
    January 20, 2006 at 09:42 | #4

    For quick text work I’ll just use Window’s Notepad or Wordpad as it’s there already and I don’t use them enough to worry about finding anything more robust, but one alternative that seems to be very popular is TextPad. Alas it’s not a free product.

  5. January 20, 2006 at 15:12 | #5

    I swear by Ultraedit.  I use it for both text and html.

  6. January 21, 2006 at 09:42 | #6

    I really like Notetab Light when I was using Windows.  I’m using Ubuntu now, and I haven’t really looked for a text editor to use.  It does come with “Text Editor” which is like Notepad on Windows, but much better.

  7. Tom
    January 26, 2006 at 18:02 | #7

    Thanks for the tip! Notepad++ has been incredibly useful already, and I’ve only had it for a few days. Lots of great features to support html, as well as numerous languages for coders. Very nice!

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