Believe it or not, Microsoft worked hard on Notepad for Windows 10’s October 2018 Update. Notepad is packed with new features in this update, which was originally codenamed Redstone 5.
Linux and Mac Line Breaks
Microsoft is finally adding support for UNIX-style end of line (EOL) characters to Notepad. Notepad now supports both UNIX/Linux style line feeds (LF) and Macintosh-style line endings (CR.)
This means that you can take a text file created on Linux or Mac, open it in Notepad—and it will look like it’s supposed to! Previously, the file would look like a mess because Notepad wouldn’t notice any line breaks. Every line would flow into the next one with no line breaks.
Notepad still supports Windows-style line endings (CRLF) and uses them by default. But, when you open a file with other line endings, Notepad will automatically detect that and display it properly. You can edit and save the file, too—Notepad will automatically save the file with the correct type of line break. Notepad displays the end of line characters it’s using for the current file on the status bar at the bottom of the window.
This makes Notepad more useful if you’re working with Linux software in the Linux subsystem for Windows, previously known as Bash for Windows. It’s a godsend for developers, too.
Notepad can now search the web with Bing. To use this feature, select some text, and then click Edit > Search With Bing—or press Ctrl+B. Notepad searches Bing for the selected word or phrase and show the results in your web browser.
Wrap Around Find and Replace
Microsoft’s text editor now offers a “Wrap around” option you can check when using the Find or Replace dialog windows. To use it, just check the “Wrap Around” checkbox in the dialog window.
Without Wrap Around, Notepad will only search from the point of the text entry cursor to the end of the file. So, if you had your cursor in the middle of the document and then used Find or Replace to search for a word, it would only find (or replace) that word if it appeared after the cursor. The Find dialog also has an “Up” option to search from the cursor to the start of the file—but it couldn’t search the entire file unless you placed the cursor at the start or end of the file and selected the appropriate option.
With Wrap Around enabled, Notepad will “wrap around” all the way from the cursor to the end of the file, and then from the beginning of the file to the cursor. In other words, Notepad will search for text or find and replace it in the entire file.
More Find and Replace Improvements
Microsoft has improved the Find dialog in other ways, too. It will remember the options you select, so you can check the Wrap Around option once and it will automatically be selected the next time you open it. And, when you have text selected and open the Find dialog, it will automatically be placed into the search field.
Notepad now allows you to “zoom” text, quickly making it larger or smaller. You can use the View > Zoom Level menu to quickly adjust the zoom level, which is also displayed on the status bar at the bottom of the window.
There are keyboard shortcuts for this, too. To use these shortcuts, hold down the Ctrl key and then press the plus sign (+) to zoom in, the minus sign (-) to zoom out, or zero (0) to restore the default 100% zoom level—just like it works in most web browsers. You can also hold down the Ctrl key and scroll up and down with the mouse wheel to zoom in and out.
Line and Column Numbers With Word Wrap
Even when Word Wrap is enabled to automatically wrap text to new lines, Notepad will now show line and column numbers in the status bar. Previously, Windows just wouldn’t show this information while Word Wrap was enabled.
Word Wrap is still optional, of course, and you can toggle it on or off by clicking Format > Word Wrap.
Status Bar Enabled by Default
As many of these features use the status bar, Notepad’s status bar is now enabled by default. You can still disable it by clicking View > Status Bar.
Ctrl+Backspace for Deleting Words
Notepad already supports many common Ctrl key shortcuts for text editing, including Ctrl+left or right arrow to quickly move the cursor through entire words at a time. This can be used along with the Shift key for selecting text, so you can press Shift+Ctrl+left or right arrow to quickly select text by words rather than characters.
Now, Notepad also supports Ctrl+Backspace, which will delete the previous word from the document with a single keyboard shortcut.
Improved Performance and Bug Fixes
Microsoft has made some smaller changes, too. Microsoft promises improved performance when opening large files in Notepad. That’s the only time we’ve really seen Notepad slow down, anyway.
Enterprising Notepad developers have squashed a few bugs, too. Now, when you have text selected and move the cursor with the arrow keys, the first key press simply unselects the text and positions the cursor to the left, right, top, or bottom of the selected text. Previously, the first key press jumped an additional character away from your selected text.
Some display bugs are fixed. Microsoft says Notepad “now correctly displays lines that don’t fit entirely on the screen,” although we’ve never run into this problem in the past. And, when saving a file, the line and column numbers on that status bar don’t reset to 1 but continue showing the correct position of the cursor in the file.
Delayed: Tabs for Notepad
Microsoft is working on bringing tabs to every window. This work isn’t yet complete, but it will bring tabs to Notepad, File Explorer, and other applications.
This feature is called Sets, and it gave Notepad tabs in the early Insider Preview builds of Redstone 5. You could open multiple documents in a single Notepad window or combine tabs from multiple applications in a single window, so you could have Notepad, File Explorer, and Microsoft Edge browser tabs in one window.
Sets has been removed from the final October 2018 Update and will likely not be released as part of a stable Windows 10 update until the next update, so we’ll all have to wait a bit longer before we have tabs in practically every window on the Windows desktop.
It’s good to see Microsoft doing the hard, seemingly boring work on Notepad that will make Windows 10 useful for people who need to use this important utility. Paint 3D may be flashy, but Notepad is a crucial tool for many people.