This is part of a new category here on this site dedicated to Cool Software. Some of them are installable desktop tools, some are web applications, and some are services. These are tools I use myself day to day, many of them are free.

These tools are the result of many hours of careful search, stumbling around, word of mouth and dumb luck. I thought it might be a good idea to share these tools as this will almost certainly help you.

First up are a couple of free text editors.

One of the problems I regularly see is when people use the built in Notepad editor in Windows – it doesn’t work the way you would expect it to. Crazy I know, but Notepad will embed hidden characters and sometimes apply some strange formatting and justification if you’re not careful. I see this happening when comments are left on my blog posts, and also on forum posts.

I know what’s going on because I’ve done this myself and learned the hard way.

This is what happens. You decide to leave a comment or a forum post, write a few sentences or a couple of paragraphs and the phone goes, or someone comes to the door or whatever – you get distracted.

Thirty minutes later, you go back to your writing, gather your thoughts and finish what you were doing. You press the submit button, and you find you’ve been timed out or you’ve lost your network connection, and you get an error message.

You press the back button, but it’s no good, you’ve lost everything you’ve typed in.

Aaagghhh!

Now you’ve learned a valuable lesson, and you decide that from now on you’ll type it all locally into a text editor and save it regularly instead of typing it into an online form. When you’ve finished and it all looks good, you copy and paste it into the text box on the blog or forum. It’s a good habit to have.

The problem is, if you’ve used Windows Notepad, it will sometimes format the text for you, inserting line breaks at the end of each line. It looks okay, but when you copy and paste it into the web form, all the formatting breaks.

So that’s one good reason not to use Windows Notepad, and here’s another – it’s just not very good. Here are two MUCH better ones.

Notepad 2

This first Notepad replacement is ideal for carrying around with you on a USB stick as it doesn’t require installation, doesn’t create any registry entries, and all you need do is double click the executable. (Why oh why – sorry – did Microsoft ever introduce the registry? It’s caused us all no ends of problems with having to re-install applications every time we move PCs or have to re-install Windows. In the good old days, all you had to do was copy the files back to the PC and run them. It was easy. I’m always delighted when I find an app that doesn’t require installation.)

You can get Notepad 2 from here:-

http://www.flos-freeware.ch/notepad2.html

Notepad++

This is a little more feature rich than Notepad2, and adds a menu item to the Windows shell, so when you right click on a text file or HTML or whatever, one of the options you see is “Open in Notepad++” – VERY useful.

You can see the full feature set and download it from here:-

http://notepad-plus.sourceforge.net/uk/site.htm

Enjoy.

-Frank Haywood

Update: Tom Brownsword left a comment saying that there’s a portable version of NotePad++ that you can use on a USB stick, along with a load of other apps on the same site that will all fit on a 512MB USB stick.  Cool!