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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Replace Notepad with Notepad2

Notepad is one of the few tools that have always been a part of Windows, but in the process of updating and improving the OS, were left behind and have not evolved at all. Microsoft views Notepad as a final product and does not plan to make any changes or additions to it in the foreseeable future.

The original Notepad shipped with Windows is probably the handiest program of all times, small, fast, without frills! But Notepad has many disadvantages that are clear to any person using it on a daily basis. That's why many programmers and 3rd-party software developers looked into developing better tools that will still be as simple to use as Notepad, yet offer additional features and capabilities that were left out of the original Notepad. For example, notepad hangs if you try to open a large file (even if just a few MBs). Also there is no option to view line numbers or to go to a line. Again notepad can undo only the last action and neither can it detect external file changes.

Even if you have many complex IDEs and advanced word editors installed on your machine, we still use notepad at least a few times daily, probably to copy and paste the clipboard content or quickly note down something or even to open one or two files in a rush instead of waiting for the bulky IDE to load. I have EditPlus and Programmers Notepad installed on my machine, but still I use notepad for something or the other.

I considered multiple options, which finally boiled down to
1) Programmers Notepad
2) Notepad ++
3) TinyEdit
4) Notepad2

And the winner is, well the first position is shared between two, Notepad2 as a notepad replacement and Programmers Notepad for programming uses. Notepad2 doesn't have any installer. Just download and unzip and you are ready to go. See Notepad2 in action below. You can see the line numbers, current line highlighting, wrap & long line indicator etc.

To replace windows notepad, do the following:
* Backup your original c:\windows\Notepad.exe (say copy to old_notepad.exe).
* Rename Notepad2.exe to Notepad.exe in above unzipped folder
* Copy the above notepad.exe into 4 directories (in given order) :
1. c:\windows\servicepackfiles\i386 or C:\WINDOWS\i386
2. c:\windows\system32\dllcache
3. c:\windows\system32
4. c:\windows

If when you replace notepad.exe, a "Windows File Protection" message box appears, click Cancel. Now wherever notepad used to come, you get notepad2 instead. Notepad2 is fast and light (260KB versus 67KB windows notepad) and very much worth the extra 200 KB.

You can download it from here:

I did like Notepad ++ a lot too, because:
1) Comes with an autoupdater (no need to download and install again when a new version is released)
2) Supports code folding and syntax highlighting
3) Has plugin support and MDI (multiple tabs)
4) Can replace the default notepad
5) Supports USB mode (all settings stored in app folder)
6) Auto-completion and explorer context menu
7) Love the function list in java files
and a lot more....

My favorite NPP (Notepad Plus) plugins are:
1) Function List (No Unicode Support)
2) Hex Editor
3) Search In Files (No Unicode Support)
4) Spell Checker

Download NPP from here:

Here is the list of complete plugins:

To install the plugins, just unzip to C:\Program Files\Notepad++\plugins

Since Function List and Search In Files doesn't work in the new versions because of no unicode support, I had to ditch Notepad++ and select Programmers Notepad (PN) instead.

Advantages of Programmers Notepad are:
# Code Folding/Outlining
# Docking tool windows
# Excellent external tool support with user-configurable output matching - click on errors and warnings to jump right to the place in the file where they were generated (compile and run from PN itself)
# File association manager
# In-file method/definition navigation (using Ctags)
# No limit on file size (although large files may take a while to load)
# Projects and Project Groups with multi-level folders and file system mirroring
# Support for unicode files
# Support for windows, unix and macintosh file formats
# Syntax highlighting for many languages through “schemes”.
# Tabbed MDI interface

But I wish PN has an auto updater too :(

You can download it from here:

You can map new file types to existing schemas for enabling syntax highlighting as shown below. Now I can create/edit JSPs with PN.

This is the file type manager in PN.

PN in action. See the methods and member variables listed nicely, excellent!

You can also notice that I compiled the java program from inside PN. Click on the error and it will take you to that line in source file.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Browser Bookmarks Synchronizer

Do you have multiple computers? Say you have a desktop and a laptop? Or perhaps you have a PC/laptop at work and have another one at home too? For e.g.: I have a work laptop, a personal laptop and also a desktop at home. I get online from all of these and many times I wish I had the bookmark on the other machine here or wish I could bookmark a site and it is accessible from everywhere. Many years back I found a solution. It was a different browser called 'Avant' which is basically an Internet Explorer extension. Avant has an online storage and a bookmark manager (multi-tabbed too), and while starting the browser I can login to my account and all my bookmarks are available anywhere... wow! It was so cool and very helpful. Over the years I changed my work PC and laptops many times and I still I have all the bookmarks I accumulated. Trust me, in these days a bookmark is almost as valuable as a contact number. Of course you may be able to locate a site thru a search engine like Google or Yahoo, but then many times when you quickly want something you may not have the luxury to search and find it. Also what is the guarantee that it appears on top of your search results!

So back to the story, I was a happy user of Avant for many years (since 2004). But then in between I quit using IE (2005-06) and fell in love with my sweet, sexy and versatile Firefox browser. Once a foxy (firefox user :P), always one. Back in the days of slow stupid single tabbed IE 5/6, firefox was a charmer with amazingly fast page loading, multiple tabs, integrated download manager and a general sturdy and dependable feel. It even has an integrated search box which can be associated with any search engine of your choice, including msn, Google, Yahoo and even wikipedia. Oh and as an extra bonus, you can even change your search engine in one click. I believe I started using firefox from version 1.x and now it is 3.x. But the only thing I miss is my well arranged huge collection of bookmarks. Firefox didn't have an option to automatically synchronize bookmarks (but you can import IE bookmarks). So I still used to install Avant just to get my bookmarks, but then managing bookmarks and synching between my computers became a big headache. And then I stumbled upon this, a nifty firefox add-on called ‘foxmarks’.

"If you use Firefox on more than one computer, you'll want Foxmarks. Install Foxmarks on each computer, and it works silently in the background to keep your bookmarks and (optionally) passwords synchronized. Foxmarks also keeps your data backed up and safe from computer failures. If you're away from your computer, Foxmarks allows you to access your bookmarks online by logging into"

If you are excited already wait to hear this. Foxmarks just launched a beta version for IE (and Safari) too. Wow! What more do you need?! What are you waiting for, download foxmarks today itself, give it a try and share your experience. It also has an optional 'secure' password synchronizer, but as a word a caution, I would rather stay away from it as I don't want to take any risk and trust anyone else with my password. I prefer not to store my passwords even on the browser!

Here is the download link for foxmarks: (home page)

Very useful, compiled link of popular Firefox add-ons

These are my favorite Firefox add-ons:
1) Firebug - allows the debugging, editing, and modifying of any website's CSS, HTML, DOM, and JavaScript, and provides other web development tools.

2) DownThemAll (DTA) - a download manager/accelerator extension

3) IE Tab - view pages using the IE rendering engine from within Firefox. This is useful for some websites that do not work properly in Firefox.

4) Adblock Plus - used for blocking ads

5) PDF Download - allows users to customize the handling of PDF files. You can also convert web pages to PDF for printing or saving. Instead of the default action of opening a pdf inside browser (which clicked the pdf link), instead you can save it and open externally or even view it as html. Makes browser crashes and slow downloads a thing of the past.

6) Tab Mix Plus - provides tabbed browsing enhancements. It includes such features as duplicating tabs, controlling tab focus, tab clicking options, undo closed tabs and windows, plus much more. It also includes a full-featured session manager.

I haven't tried this, but BookmarkSync is another free bookmark synchronizer which supports even more browsers (opera, safari etc) and platforms.