Notepad++ Cheat Sheet: 11 Tricks And Tips For Plaintext Power Users

Cody Cardarelli

It's hard to think of a program that's as quintessentially Windows as good ol' Notepad.exe. It's been there for us since the very beginning, and it hasn't changed a bit. And that's the problem.

If you do much work with plaintext, you know that there are better options than Notepad, chief among them Notepad++. If you've never tried Notepad++, you should give it a shot. It's available for free here and adds a whole bunch of modern features to the plaintext editor formula, including tabbed documents, syntax highlighting and plugin support.

If you have used Notepad++, you probably haven't used it to its full potential, read on for 11 quick tips and tricks to get more out of Notepad++.

Go Portable

A portable Notepad++, you say?  Indeed!  You can bring the joys of this feature-laden program with you on a USB key or portable hard drive, provided you’ve gone and grabbed the Notepad++ Portable Edition—an offshoot of the primary application.  It works just as well as the chained-to-your-desktop Notepad++ you’re used to using, so have at it!

Predictive Text

TypingAid is a cool little application that builds the benefits of predictive text right overtop your standard Notepad++ interface.  Not only can the app learn words as you type—which it then uses to help you auto-complete commonly used words and phrases—but it can also boost up its own vocabulary with word lists you download from the Internet.  And did we mention it’s a portable application, too?

Code Faster, Harder, Stronger

Zen Coding is an add-on that allows you to construct HTML documents in a brand-new fashion.  By that, we mean that you’ll no longer have to repetitively type various tags both opened and closed, and then dump your content in the middle.  The plugin—or, rather, set of plugins—lets you instead enter your desired HTML all on a single line.  It then parses this out to create a huge indented output of correct HTML, thus saving you time from having to write all that yourself.

Save, Save, Save

The add-on Autosave for Notepad++ does just what its name implies—it builds an autosave feature right into the application (one that’s sorely missing, mind you) such that you’ll never lose your work again due to the personal error of forgetting to save one’s information pre-system-crsah.  You can set the plugin to auto-save on a timed interval or, more useful, whenever you jump out of the app to focus on a new window temporarily.

Get On Top

The add-on TopMost is a very simple extension to slap into Notepad++, and the single feature it offers—while not life-changing—is nevertheless helpful, especially for those of the coding variety.  With said add-on, you can automatically stick Notepad++ on top of any other window on your desktop, even if you’ve pulled your actual focus to a different window entirely.

Notepad++ Tetris

While it’s not the best add-on productivity-wise, the extension Fallingbricks for Notepad++ gives you a bare, but working, version of Tetris to play within the app itself.  It even automatically pauses for you if you close the game’s dialog box, a kind-of built-in boss key--though we've gotta say it's pretty sad if you’ve resorted to playing Tetris within a Windows Notepad replacement just to pass the time.

Synchronize with an FTP

Nppftp is an add-on that is one part useful, two parts awesome: It allows you to quickly synchronize what you’re working on with an FTP server that you’ve set up within the add-on’s configuration screen.  For any who use Notepad++ to get actual coding done, this is an excellent way to both upload and download files from a server with great haste—you’ll never need an external FTP client ever again!  Well, maybe hardly ever.

Automate Your Editing Life

Just like its bulky counterpart, Microsoft Office, Notepad++ comes out of the gate with full support for Macros—an automated task that you can repeat over, and over, and over by selecting said macro instead of repeating whatever actions you’ve previously recorded under the Macro menu of Notepad++.  Once you’ve built your masterwork, you can also assign it to a keyboard button for even quicker access.

Edit… Vertically!

Not only can you select text and make all sorts of changes in a horizontal fashion within Notepad++ (or any application, for that matter), but if you hold down the Alt key while selecting a chunk of text, you’ll do so vertically.  Any changes you make will now be replicated across the rows of text you’ve selected, meaning that you can do things like change one character in a tightly structured document with just a single edit, for example.

Save Your State

One of the coolest features of Notepad++ is its ability to dump a tabbed “browsing session” of-sorts within the application—making it super-easy to jump through and edit multiple files at any given time.  Well, if you have a series of documents that you often play around with, you don’t have to constantly load them into Notepad++ time and time again.  Just go to the app’s File menu and select the Save Session option.  Reloading said session will pull up the litany of tabs you’re used to working on.

Editing Side-By-Side

Staying on the tabbed bandwagon for a moment, you can also quickly move the contents of a particular tab into a side-by-side editing window, which is extremely helpful if you need to quickly look at the contents of two files at once.  Just right-click on any given tab within Notepad++ and select the “Move to…” or “Clone to Other View” options for the ultimate in side-by-side text editing!

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