Microsoft is finally updating its lowly Notepad editor, reminding users about the usefulness of plain text files.
Jeff Greenberg—UIG via Getty Images
By Aaron Pressman and Adam Lashinsky
July 13, 2018

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Microsoft disclosed this week that among the many improvements and highlights in its next update of Windows 10, known as Redstone 5, it is finally giving some love to the lowly Notepad app. Long forgotten in the rush to “word processors” like Word and WordPerfect, then overtaken by cloud writing tools like Google Docs, Notepad remains firmly entrenched as the most basic of text editors–and one that operates pretty much the same way it did back when it arrived in 1985.

Among the new innovations, the new Notepad will gain such cutting edge features as letting users zoom in and out to see text larger and smaller, automatically populating the find/replace search field with highlighted text, and—mirabile dictu—properly displaying lines of text that don’t fit on screen. Who would have guessed automatic word wrap was a 2018 new feature?

Some years ago, in an exercise defining what my “dream setup” might be, I wrote that I wanted “the perfect note-stashing program which could run on multiple computers and operating systems, have fantastic yet simple search and organizing features, index every word of everything saved, also be accessible on the web and automagically sync everything behind the scenes.” Shortly thereafter, Evernote hit the scene and my dreams became a reality. Nowadays, even Evernote is old hat, as it faces competition from Google Keep, Apple’s Notes, Microsoft’s OneNote, Dropbox Paper, and a million others.

But there’s a hidden downside to using most of these highfalutin note taking apps, as well as most modern word processors: proprietary data formats. Trying to find an old article I’d written in pre-Internet days recently, I was stymied by the ancient MS Word format of my 1990s era files. There are workarounds, to be sure, but maybe I would have been better off sticking to plain old text. There was even a meme that went around for a while about organizing everything into “one big text file.” Somehow I feel like the 2,959 notes I’ve saved in Evernote since 2009 would be lost in one humungous file. But maybe I should be saving more writing as plain text–for the future.

And that’s how we roll at Fortune’s daily Data Sheet newsletter: pondering multi-billion dollar mergers one day and the lowly .txt format the next. Have a great weekend.

Aaron Pressman


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