We’ll be honest: We love Notepad in Windows for taking occasional notes or light text file editing. But if you’re using it for anything else, it might be time to seek better alternatives. Here’s why—and what you should use instead.

The Problems With Notepad

Notepad is simple and fast, but the same bare-bones nature that makes it easy to use also makes it deficient in other areas, especially when organizing notes. Let’s take a look at its drawbacks in more detail—and suggest something better.

No Built-in Organization

Do you edit multiple notes at once or keep them open for reference? Then you’d probably benefit from a tabbed note-taking application such as Notepad++ or one with a list of notes like OneNote. With regular old Notepad by itself, you’re left with many individual text files that you need to open in many individual windows and manually organize using folders if you want to keep any semblance of order.

In OneNote, for example, you can create “Notebooks,” which are collections of notes that you can organize by topic. It makes handling many notes for large, unwieldy projects much easier.

Limited Text Formatting

While the lack of fancy text formatting—such as italics, bold, centering, bullet points, and multiple fonts—is part of Notepad’s charm, it can also be a huge drawback when attempting to organize information within your note document. For a free app with basic formatting capabilities, try WordPad, which ships with Windows 10 and 11. Or you could try Google Docs for a cloud-based solution.

If you need substantial word processing capabilities, try Microsoft Word or the aforementioned Google Docs. And if you like using Notepad for programming, you can get a lot out of Notepad++, which automatically formats code from different programming languages to make it easier to read.

No Cloud Backup or Easy Multi-Device Access

Unless you save your Notepad text files to a cloud file service like OneDrive or Dropbox—or keep really good backups—you could easily lose your notes in a mishap. Instead, try writing in Google Docs or OneNote, both of which allow you to store your files in the cloud and access them from many different devices.

RELATED: The Beginner's Guide to Google Docs

No Deep Search Feature

Sure, you can hit Ctrl+F in a Notepad file and search for text within a single document. But if you want to search for text among many text files created with Notepad, you’d need to use Windows’ built-in search feature, which is a messy and slow process.

Otherwise, if you use an app like OneNote or Notepad++, you can easily search for content between note files. With Notepad++, for example, you can even perform powerful find-and-replace actions across many note files at once.

No Encryption by Default

By default, Notepad’s text files aren’t encrypted or secured in any way. You’d have to manually store them in an encrypted file partition using a tool such as Microsoft’s BitLocker to keep your data safe. In contrast, if you use OneNote, you can password-protect individual notes with 128-bit AES encryption.

Try Notepad++ Instead

As mentioned several times above, Notepad++ by Don Ho is a completely free replacement for Notepad with many extra features that are ideal for power users editing text files for configuration or programming. It’s available as a free download at the Notepad++ website.

an image of Notepad++ for Windows
Don Ho

Even if you decide to stick with Notepad, it’s good to know that there are other tools available for different types of note-taking or word processing tasks. Good luck!

RELATED: Why Notepad Is Still Awesome for Taking Notes

Profile Photo for Benj Edwards Benj Edwards
Benj Edwards is a former Associate Editor for How-To Geek. Now, he is an AI and Machine Learning Reporter for Ars Technica. For over 15 years, he has written about technology and tech history for sites such as The Atlantic, Fast Company, PCMag, PCWorld, Macworld, Ars Technica, and Wired. In 2005, he created Vintage Computing and Gaming, a blog devoted to tech history. He also created The Culture of Tech podcast and regularly contributes to the Retronauts retrogaming podcast.
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