My love for Notepad++

I’m writing this as I’m working. Partly to keep track of what I’m doing and partly for a break from what I’m doing.

OK bit of a divergence here.

This is a diary rather than a tutorial, but hell, I’m completely against writing about the social media scene (My colleagues, and folk I follow do a much better job of it than I ever will) so I’ll persist with this quick tutorial and hopefully the one(s) still reading will benefit from it.

I didn’t bother with Yahoo Pipes in the end. I decided that Yahoo Pipes would work but having drawn a whole load of graphs about how my Pipe might work, I gave up and decided Notepad++ would be sufficient.

Notepad is probably one of the least used programmes on your computer, barring Spider Solitaire and the Tour Windows XP programme. It’s ugly as sin, it doesn’t wrap the text so you can’t read what you are writing, there’s only one font and most importantly: there’s no spell checker. It’s basically only used by those who couldn’t afford Microsoft Works or Office [I seem to recall writing school essays using it] back in the day.

Notepad++ however, is the greatest upgrade in technology since someone stuck a II on the end of Streetfighter.

Remember the first time you looked at Netvibes or Bloglines? RSS? “What’s the point?”, you were thinking right? But then when you were persuaded to use them either on the recommendation of the sweet tongue of Mr McInnes, you couldn’t believe how you functioned without it.

Notepad++ is like that. Only better because you pretend you are Dougie Howser when you are using it.

This next bit will sound complicated, but believe me, I’m probably the most ill equipped person to deal with “computers and that” never mind programming. Seriously Bryony, try it – you’ll love it.


2 responses to “My love for Notepad++

  1. My name is Mat Morrison and I endorse this message.

    Look — seriously, there are certain things that you’re going to have to get used to if you want to shine in Digital Media. And those things are the technical bits.

    Think of it like preparing food (I’ve spent a lot of time cooking for fun or profit, so it’s an easy analogy for me.) There’s more than one way to go about it. You could get a ready meal. You could follow a recipe using lots of clever gadgets.

    But the only way you’re really going to understand what you’re doing is if you get yourself a good sharp knife and learn how to chop properly.

    Restaurant kitchens aren’t full of labour-saving devices. Instead, you’ll find a few very powerful, very simple tools with very few moving parts that just work (and can be relied on to work in the heat of service.)

    Sure, they’re not always pretty. Yes, in the wrong hands they can be bloody dangerous. Yes, it takes a while to learn how to use them.

    But you watch what a decent chef can do with a twenty-quid 10″ Victorinox Microban knife and you’ll wonder why you spent so much money on all that kitchen clobber.

    The mark of a great chef isn’t how many tools they have in the kitchen, it’s how few.

    The same is true for digital media gurus. Even if you’re not going to be building the stuff, you should be looking for more from your tools.

    First of all, you’re going to have to get yourself some RSS-fu. That’s not just “how to use an RSS reader,” it’s bigger than that — how to filter and chop and scan RSS feeds. How to cook them up when none exists. How to use RSS feeds to pick and choose ingredients from one or more sites do some magic with it and serve them up as something new.

    Then, as Tim says, you need to throw away your copy of Microsoft Word. Most of the world’s great novelists and playwrights managed without Word. They managed without being able to choose their fonts, or italicizing or emboldening them. They managed without being able to insert graphs. At best they had a typewriter, but most of the time they just had a pen.

    A word processor is a tool for making things look pretty. But a text editor is a tool for creating content. It strips away all your opportunity to waste time thinking about presentation when you should be thinking about content. And that content is ready for the web in a way that MSWord content really just isn’t (ask Tim, and he’ll share tales of woe.)

    But a really good text editor (and now we’re talking about something like Notepad++ for the PC or BBEdit for the Mac) is the main tool of a programmer (just like a knife is the main tool of a chef.) Once you get to know your way around you can use it to process your data in extraordinary ways. There are things like syntax colouring (essential for bloggers who want to go that little bit further and dip into HTML and CSS.) Or the ability to roll-up bits of content so that you only concentrate on the important parts of the document you’re editing. There are search-and-replace functions that use the massively powerful “regular expression” syntax.

    The developers who write each new version of Word only really use three tools. One of those is a text editor like Notepad++

    I suspect that — if you’ve read this — I’ve scared off more people than I’ve convinced. Of the few of you who are tempted by the challenge, the greater part of you will give up in disgust. But the few of you who Tim and I persuade will learn that really getting the digital media thing means that — if you want to be an expert — you have to learn how to create a meal the hard way.

  2. yeN5c9 Excellent article, I will take note. Many thanks for the story!

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