MS Word: Notepad v. Wordpad v. MS Word document

I just noticed Notepad and Wordpad on my computer, yet have no idea what they are or how they differ from a “normal” MS Word document.

Whenever I create a document, I just click on File > New and create a new document–the kind whose icon has a blue “W” on what appears like a tiny sheet of paper (MS Word 2000 version.)

A secretary told me using Notepad or Wordpad for creating letters, memos, and such makes more sense.

WHY? If so, what’s the purpose of a “normal” MS Word document?

Notepad is a text editor, meaning it can only create pure text files. Text files store only text; they can’t contain any other information like character size, font selection. Text files are the most universal file format, and can be read on any computer.

Wordpad is a very crude word processor. Unlike text editors, word processors let you create a document - that means you can select the character size, choose the font, specify text alignment, etc. It lacks many features of a “real” word processor like MS Word. Features such as graphics, tables, spell check and, uh, a whole lot of stuff I don’t use. For a simple letter I think WordPad is good enough.

Both WordPad and Word create files with the “.DOC” extention. Word can open WordPad files but not the other way around, because WordPad can’t handle many of the things that may be included in a Word document.

Notepad creates plain text documents. For most people, the distinguishing hallmark of plain text is that it has no formatting (bold, italic, different font sizes, different font types for that matter). Plain text files can be read by practically anyone. File sizes are very, very small.

Wordpad is a replacement for an older product called Write. It uses a file format that is compatible with MS Word 6, which is the closest thing to a word processing lingua franca since Word Perfect 5 was 10 years ago. Wordpad offers some text formatting, but very little in the way of advanced features. File sizes are bigger than plain text.

MS Word is a full-blown word processor, which is to say (thanks to the ballooning of features in the last 10 years or so) it is the closest thing to desktop publishing most people will ever need. File sizes can be huge.

To see the difference in file sizes, type a simple sentence (something like “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”) into each and save them. Then go into Explorer and compare file sizes.

Hope this helps.

I think the main questions in your post have already been answered by the replies so far, but just to answer the above quote, since MS Word is both nicer to use and offers more functionality than the other two, the only reason you would use Notepad or Wordpad over MS Word would be if you were incredibly concerned about the size of the file.

Unless you’ve been told this specifically, I doubt this is the case and recommend you use MS Word.

Not at all. I often direct people to Wordpad if I feel that they are doing themselves a disservice trying to use a full-fledged word processor.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but there are some people who just don’t handle lots of options very well. Novice users especially need to learn how to handle the basics of word processing before they are presented with options like WordArt, tables, track changes, and all the other features Microsoft has stuffed Word with.

As a rule of thumb, if the time you spend figuring out how to type your document is greater than the time it takes you to actually type it, then you may be using too complex a tool.


Ah, I see what you’re saying, good point. :slight_smile:

When presented with the same situation, however, I tend to just remove a few of the more complex toolbars and still have people use Word. This is mainly because it saves future compatibility/format problems when opening W2k doc files they have received etc. Not much of a complication-busting solution if you don’t have anyone about to remove the toolbars for you though!

Notepad is used a lot in making webpages. The full-blown word processors add formatting characters that can be useful for letters and stuff, but don’t always work well for webpages.

Yuck. There are decent, free text editors for Windows…notepad is simpy dreadful.

I’m using NoteTab Lite at the moment and I used to use PFE. If you’ve got web pages to do, I suggest one of those.


I disagree with you on notepad being dreadful for web pages. It’s just like its use in typing letters. If you don’t need features, you’re better off without them.

I believe it’s a fact that notepad is the single most used software in creating web pages. I’ve used notetab and its nice, but I’ve found notepad better for me.

Ok, fair enough…I’m not sure I could go back to it though!

So, Emacs or vi? :wink:

My desktop has shortcuts to four different text editors and word processors. Notepad, Wordpad, Word97, UltraEdit32. Each of them are better than the others for one thing or another.

I use Notepad the most. It opens instantly and doesn’t annoy me by trying to guess what I’m doing and “help” me.


Gosh, I kinda hate to chime in here, but feel a few other points must be made. I agree with the sentiment that each has its uses, some can handle more than one use.

That is to say, I use all three, on some ocassions (Word and Notepad frequently, Wordpad infrequently).

I normally use Notepad for any plain text editing - writing “raw” HTML or ASP, viewing .TXT, or creating .BAT files. Often, when working on the SDMB for large posts, I’ll open notepad and type my message into it instead of the “Your Reply:” window. That way I can review the thread and type at the same time. I simply copy and paste in the window to preview. If the hamster eat the post - no problem - I simply copy and paste again (nearing 300 posts here, I’ve yet to lose a significant post to the hamsters).

If I need a letter or memo, I use Word. More formatting capability than I will likely ever need. But I can’t stand it’s “save as HTML” capability, so I never use it for HTML (too much stuff I can’t see).

Recently, I had a need to edit a text file that was over 1 GB in size. Suffice to say, Notepad and Word have definite memory limitations. To my surprise, Wordpad was able to handle it.

I tend to think of them as tools. Like hammers, you can have a tack hammer, a claw hammer, and a mallet hammer. Each may drive a nail, but in certain circumstances, only one will do the job properly.

The old Write program could even open binary files and sometimes you could identify enough info in the file header to know what kind of file you had. (This was tremendously helpful if you had people who had been raised on Word Perfect for DOS and were used to giving files function-related extensions instead of program-related extensions, like .mem for memos.

Jed. Why do you ask?

I use both Notepad and MS-Word. I have a small file with a list of “to do” things. As .txt it opens with Notepad in a fraction of a second and I can look at it, make a quick note and save it in no time. With MSWord it would take much longer.

When coding HTML I find Notepad much better as all I see is the plain text which is all the browser will see.

Different tools for different chores. Same with graphics. MS-Paint is very basic but if it does what you need to do, why launch a full blown photo editor?

There are much better plain text editors than Notepad. Notepad has some severe problems dealing with the end of line characters found on Unix systems. It runs all the text together into a big wad of suckage.

Word is a full featured word processor. Disk space is cheap. If you’re writing stuff to be printed, use Word. If you need to share a document with people that don’t have Word, save it as a Rich Text Format (RTF) document. Then Wordpad and all other wordprocessors (on multiple platforms) can read it.

The only reason I use Wordpad and Notepad is that they load quickly. Everything else goes to a better tool.

For writing any sort of computer code (HTML, or programming), you want to use a text editor rather than a word processor. With a text editor, you have exact control over what’s going into the file. A word processor, though, will put all sorts of extra stuff into the file which is guaranteed to choke the web browser or compiler which tries to read it. You can save as text in a word processor, but even there, you can have problems if it does things like converting plain quotes into smart quotes, and if you just want plain text to begin with, why bother waiting half a minute for Word to start up?

While the debate about various text editors is fascinating (OK, no it’s not. It’s boring and silly), I think we’ve answered the General Questions here. No?

I’m not sure if you’re actually asking for opinions, manhattan, but if you are, I don’t know why you think that. I’m learning a lot of factual stuff on the differences between various programs by reading this thread (although I admit that not everyone here is contributing to it).

Fair enough. Thanks.

Folks, let’s keep it to a discussion of the factual differences among such editors.