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Introduction to Windows Notepad

Updated on June 22, 2011

Windows Notepad

A useful text editor is an essential component of any personal computer. Every day we need to make notes, compose documents, and record vital pieces of information. We depend on our text editor. Microsoft provided Notepad, a superbly useful software tool, for precisely these purposes.

This tutorial provides an introduction to the functionality of Notepad. No computer user should be without a thorough understand of the capabilities of this vital software application.

In a broad sense, the application provides us with the ability to create, edit, and save files containing text. Text is a general category of keystrokes including, but not limited to:

  • Alphabetic characters (both upper and lowercase),
  • Numeric characters (0 through 9),
  • Punctuation characters, and
  • Formatting characters such as Enter, Tab, and Space.

Starting Notepad

We endorse three different technologies for opening the Notepad application:

  1. Use the Program Menu,
  2. Type Notepad into the Run Dialog Box, and
  3. Use a shortcut on the desktop.

For the purposes of this tutorial, we will assume that Notepad has been started properly and a blank document is in the document window. Discussing the Program Menu, the Run Dialog Box, and Desktop shortcuts are beyond the scope of this document.

Verisons of Notepad

For the purposes of this tutorial, we will assume the use of Version 5.1 of Notepad. Learners may wish to download this version from the Internet or verify that their computer has a compatible version currently installed and available. Subtle and significant differences may exist between extant versions: take care when applying concepts and instruction provided here.

What is text?

In the context of Notepad, text represents information entered from the keyboard that is human-readable. The concept of readability applies only to the recognition of individual characters: information conveyed by the aggregation of characters is not at issue here.

By contrast, a file that is not 'text' is considered 'binary' or some format that is not readable by humans. Many files stored in a computer are binary. Pictures, videos, music, and executable programs fall into the category of binary file types. Ironically, Notepad is actually an executable program: Notepad could not be used to edit itself.

Notepad, ready to create a new document.
Notepad, ready to create a new document.

Creating a document

Notepad supports standard ASCII keyboards typically installed on modern computers. It also recognizes mouse inputs such as double-clicks, single-clicks, and alternate-clicks (commonly called right-clicks, but that is a common misnomer.)

To create a document, click in the blank document area. The cursor will appear as a blinking vertical line in the upper left corner of the blank document area.

Keystrokes entered into a Notepad document
Keystrokes entered into a Notepad document

Entering Text into a Document

Pressing keys on the keyboard will cause Notepad to echo those keys into the document window. Each keystroke causes the cursor to index on position to the right until the line fills: after that, the cursor indexes to the next line.

Keystrokes may be entered into the document until all required information has been transcribed. There is, in fact, an upper limit to the size of s Notepad document, but it is sufficiently large that most computer users will rarely, if ever, find it to be an inconvenience.

An example of the Save As dialog box.
An example of the Save As dialog box.
An example of the Save As dialog box after a file name has been provided by the program user.
An example of the Save As dialog box after a file name has been provided by the program user.

Saving a document

Most documents that are created in Notepad will need to be saved to a permanent storage device such as a hard drive or flash drive. Saving a document causes Notepad to transfer the keystrokes represented in the document window to a file. This file can be recalled into Notepad at a later date, but that discussion is beyond the scope of this exposition.

Initiating the save process can be accomplished in several ways:

  • Click on the File Menu, then click Save,
  • Press Ctrl-S (The Control key and the S key simultaneously), or
  • Alt-F (The Alt ket and the F key simultaneously) followed by the S key.

All of these methods cause a new window to open. This window, referred to as the Save Dialog, presents the user with many choices and options. The most important choice is the text box labeled File Name. No Notepad document can be saved without a file name. The most ardent and experienced Notepad users will devise file names that carefully reflect the textual contents of the file. It is indeed possible to simply type a few characters of gibberish: Notepad does not validate file name structure or context against the contents of the file.

Notepad.exe loaded into Notepad. Just because you can doesn't mean you should.
Notepad.exe loaded into Notepad. Just because you can doesn't mean you should.

What is Notepad poorly suited for?

Not every program is applicable to every task. A savvy computer user would not attempt to employ Solitaire to add numbers: the Calculator program is obviously a better option for such a task. Along the same lines, Notepad should not be used to edit files that are not human-readable. Notepad works very well with text files, not with binary files. For better or worse, Notepad will open binary files and will actually support edits to such files. Unfortunately, unexpected behind-the-scenes character translations make take place without the knowledge of the computer user. Binary files can be easily corrupted by attempting to edit them with Notepad.

Additional Features

After saving the contents of the document window, note that the file name appears in the title bar of the window. For purposes of illustration we entered the file name MyDocument.txt. This file name should by no means be construed to be a meaningful or useful file name in the 'real world'. The use of more descriptive file names is strongly endorsed. For example, this particular file could have been saved as 'IntroToNotepad.txt' or 'myFirstNotepadFile.txt.' or any number of other meaningful titles.

Future Work

Students may want to expand upon their newfound knowledge of this program. Notepad offers a plethora of additional features that have not been introduced here. We encourage additional study and experimentation with this fascinating and useful software application.


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    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 2 years ago from Ohio, USA

      This is still an Editor's Choice Hub and gets a few hits daily but no one comments.

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 3 years ago from Ohio, USA

      This is an Editor's Choice hub. I am so proud.

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 3 years ago from Ohio, USA

      3 years and two comments.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 6 years ago from south Florida

      nicomp - I am definitely up for a plethora. Thanks for sending it my way.

    • The Frog Prince profile image

      The Frog Prince 6 years ago from Arlington, TX

      I've tried it before but don't really care for it. I use Power Point and it's various programs mainly. Yeah you have to buy it but it is worth the money.

      Great Hub and excellent writing. Should I ever expect less?

      The Frog