Notepad++ is a text editor that incorporates all of the functions of the regular Notepad program but has been upgraded to support the use of programming languages. It was developed in 2003 by Don Ho, who was dissatisfied with the current text editor he was using and began to make his own. This program marketed toward both users that are beginners to learning how to code and program (but have basic knowledge of coding languages) and also users that are confident in coding but want the ease of using more simple software. On the website for the software, the developer describes it as a 'free source code editor and Notepad replacement'. Notepad++ includes Scintilla, a source code editing component that helps Notepad++ by increasing the execution speed and helping the software take up less space on your compute.
The most efficient and lightweight code editor available
For users that have little to no experience with coding or programming software, just figuring out which version of Notepad++ can be a bit daunting.
On the website, there are a few options to choose from, but the website does suggest that you download the first option listed for both 32 and 64-bit. Upon downloading the software, it presents similarly to a regular word processor and it's predecessor, Notepad. Opening the settings menu gives the user a good idea of just how many functions that Notepad++ provides.
In the General category, you can change the size of icons, darken the color of bars and inactive tabs, and make other customizations to the tab bar. Looking in the language menu shows you how many languages that the software supports, with over 70 available items. Instead of going into the settings tab, you can also just select the languages tab and search for the language that you'd like to code in from the list in alphabetical order. The style configurator comes with preset colors to change the appearance of the window in case the bright white default gets a bit hard on the eyes after a while.
Notepad++ has a lot of helpful features including syntax folding and highlighting. This is a big help when you want to choose what to hide and what to display while coding. Highlighting with a selection of different colors makes for a more relaxing experience as you're able to more easily find what you're looking for in the code. The multi-tab interface makes switching documents a breeze.
This software also supports a wide variety of plugins. It's simple to add and remove plugins with the help of Plugin Admin, the feature that comes built-in to assist users with customizing and installing supported plugins. A must-have plugin to start with would be AutoSave - this could save your progress if a computer error or a similar action were to occur, so you won't have to rewrite your code over again. Compare is another holy grail plugin. Compare allows you to open two different coding files in separate tabs. Then, they'll be lined up side by side and you can see coding that is present in both files or if some code is missing.
Notepad++ has a lot of little functions that add up to make the experience of using it very convenient. One of those functions is auto-completion, which saves users a few taps on the keyboard by recognizing the syntax and finishing code. Some users may not like this function, but the good news is that you can turn it off if you would like.
Where can you run this program?
Notepad++ is only available for the Windows operating system running Windows 10. This restricts a lot of users from being able to use the software if you currently own any other type of computer. This software is also only available on desktop PCs, so you cannot run it on a tablet, mobile device, or any other type of smart device. Currently, there is no news from the developer of plans to expand to other types of devices.
Is there a better alternative?
For Windows users who want a simple program and do not want to download software that will take up a lot of space on your computer, there is no better option than Notepad++. Since this software is only available for PCs running Windows, a good alternative for Mac users would be Atom, which is also hosted on Github like Notepad++. It has some similar features like being able to highlight text, and it also has the option to collaborate on a file with other users with Teletype. You could also attempt to run Notepad++ using Wine, a Windows emulator. It will work, but it will be missing a number of the features that come with the official program and you'll have to take a lot of extra steps just to install the program and get it to run. Brackets would also be a good choice - it's free, open source, lightweight, and easy to use.
Notepad++ is a must-have for every user who wants to code. It is user-friendly, has every coding language that you could possibly think of, and having the convenience of plugins like AutoSave could prevent you from experiencing that horrible moment when you accidentally unplug something, your computer shuts off, and you've instantly lost hours of work and progress. We've been there, and it's incredibly frustrating.
Should you download it?
Yes, we absolutely recommend downloading this software. Being able to code is an amazing skill to have, but it's also overwhelming to start learning because of the sheer amount of information to ingest. With some independent study on the types of languages to find what you're most comfortable with, Notepad++ is user-friendly and there's a button for everything that you can think of to make coding the most simple and efficient experience possible. It's fast, there are no load times for anything, and since the software is so lightweight it won't slow your computer down if you're running other programs, like music players, at the same time.