Choosing a program to write a document

You should pick your program based on how complicated your document is. What kind of formatting do you need? Does the document include graphics or tables? Will people using other operating systems need to open or modify it? How large is the document? Are you creating a Web page?

Windows includes two word processing programs: Notepad and WordPad. Each provides basic text editing capability, but you may have tasks that are better suited for one editor than the other.

Decide whether your document needs any of the following before you choose an editor.

Text formatting

Notepad provides only the most basic text formatting. You can specify a font and insert tabs. The font applies to the whole document, not an individual paragraph or word, and it is not saved with the file. If someone else looks at the file on another computer, that person will see whatever font is available.

WordPad allows you to create more complex documents, giving you most of the capability of a word processor. You can change the font for the entire document or just a word within it. With the click of a button, you can insert bullets into text in WordPad or align a paragraph to the right or left. All of this formatting is saved with your document, so no matter who opens it, it will appear as you created it.

Word processors provide even more text formatting options, such as automatically numbering lines of text, creating columns, or inserting frames.


If you plan to use tables in your file, you should probably create the document using a word processor. You can create a table in a Notepad or WordPad document, but you must count characters or insert tabs to align the columns. Most word processors will separate the columns and rows and automatically wrap text within columns.


Notepad does not support graphics. You can insert graphics into a WordPad document and modify them by linking or embedding them in your document. Almost all word processors provide graphics support.

Page setup

Basic page setup is available with both Notepad and WordPad. You can set margins, add headers and footers, and orient your documents to print either vertically or horizontally. Your word processor may offer more options.

Large documents

The more elaborate the document, the longer it will take to open and modify. Notepad and WordPad are both compact programs that start and open files quickly, and work best when used with smaller files.

Word processors are intended for larger, more elaborate documents. A word processor gives you more control over your documents than Notepad or WordPad. Often you can add footnotes, annotations, and even generate a table of contents for your documents. Many word processors offer macros and templates to help you automate repetitive tasks, such as typing your name or formatting headings. Usually word processors will automatically check the spelling and grammar in your document.

Cross-operating system support

Notepad is a basic text editor that is most commonly used to view or edit .txt files, such as the Readme.txt files provided with your Windows software. Text-only files are critical if you share documents with someone using another operating system such as Macintosh or UNIX. WordPad also allows you to save your files as a Word document, so you can modify files created in Word even if you don't have the program yourself.

Multiple languages

WordPad and Notepad allow you to save your files in different formats, such as Unicode, providing you greater flexibility when working with documents that use different character sets or documents created by other programs.

Most word processors also allow you to save your files in a variety of formats. Some provide support for multiple languages, even including several dictionaries for checking spelling. In WordPad, documents that use multiple languages should be saved in rich text format (.rtf).

HTML and Web pages

Many people who use HTML to create Web pages or other documents find Notepad a useful tool for writing in HTML. Because Notepad supports only very basic formatting, you cannot accidentally save special formatting in documents that need to remain pure text. This is especially useful when creating HTML documents for a Web page because special characters or other formatting may not appear in your published Web page or may even cause errors.

Many word processors provide additional tools or converters to help you create HTML documents. But, if you are creating simple pages or if you want to make a few quick changes, Notepad opens files quickly. Also, Notepad shows all of the HTML tags so you can troubleshoot your page. Not all word processors or converters make the HTML code available.

If you only need to create simple documents, Notepad is your best choice. Click here to open Notepad You need to use WordPad or another word processor for anything more complicated. Click here to open WordPad


To open Notepad, click Start, point to All Programs, point to Accessories, and then click Notepad

To open WordPad, click Start, point to All Programs, point to Accessories, and then click WordPad

For information about using Notepad, click the Help menu in Notepad. For information about using WordPad, click the Help menu in WordPad.

Related Topics

Linking and embedding

Using Paint

Using WordPad

Using Notepad

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