The inadequacy of Notepad.

Microsoft just announced yesterday that the upcoming update to Windows 10 is going to finally, after 20 years or so, fix Notepad so that it doesn’t jumble up and break on any file using unix line endings.

Starting with the current Windows 10 Insider build, Notepad will support Unix/Linux line endings (LF), Macintosh line endings (CR), and Windows Line endings (CRLF) as usual. New files created within Notepad will use Windows line ending (CRLF) by default, but it will now be possible to view, edit, and print existing files, correctly maintaining the file’s current line ending format.

Here’s what we’re talking about: Windows has always ended lines in text files with a Carriage Return and a Line Feed character "\r\n" while Unix has always ended the lines with just a Line Feed character "\n" . So when you try to open up a Linux or Unix file using Notepad, it’s going to break and display like the jumbled mess you see in the screenshot above.

I’m not saying that actual programmers use Notepad to edit websites. Of course they don’t. Real programmers use vim, and lesser programmers use some kind of IDE or Notepad++ or Ultraedit or any other tool on the planet that isn’t Notepad.

Why does it matter if Notepad can’t open Linux files? Because virtually every single web server on this planet runs Linux, and the world runs on the web. So if you’re editing files from your web server, you’re going to be editing files that are using Unix line endings, and if you happen to open them in Notepad, they are going to show up like a jumbled mess. And if you save that file… well now your website is probably going to break.

It’s not just Notepad either—-we all wanted developer features like the Linux Bash shell, copy and paste from the Command Prompt, and built-in SSH support, but it took Microsoft years and years to finally add them.

So tons of cloud-based programmers like myself just switched to Mac. And these features that should have been added years ago just aren’t good enough to make us switch back. MacOS has built-in support for everything that developers need, and significantly better tools available for all the little things.

It only took 20 years to display a text file correctly.

So when the next Windows Update comes down and Notepad finally starts displaying files correctly, like you can see in the screenshot above, just know that it’s a little too late for many of us.

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Lowell is the founder and CEO of How-To Geek. He’s been running the show since creating the site back in 2006. Over the last decade, Lowell has personally written more than 1000 articles which have been viewed by over 250 million people. Prior to starting How-To Geek, Lowell spent 15 years working in IT doing consulting, cybersecurity, database management, and programming work.
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