Version 8.0 of the popular Windows editor Notepad ++ has arrived with new features including dark mode, a native version for ARM64, and new optional toolbar icons using the Fluent user interface.
Despite the seemingly unstoppable rise of Visual Studio Code, there is still a place for a fast and capable native code editor. Notepad ++ is coded in C ++ and based on the Scintilla editor component.
Notepad ++ is open source licensed under GPL 3 (or later). It has never been the prettiest editor ever, but it has a lot of cool features like syntax highlighting and code completion for a huge range of languages, a range of character encodings and the possibility converting between them, understanding Unix-style line endings, the ability to shrink text sections, macro and plugin support, etc.
Lead author Don Ho has now released version 8, the first major version upgrade since version 7 in September 2016. The big news is Dark Mode, independent of system settings, which many say developers, reduces eye fatigue while saving small power consumption. Another change is that Notepad ++ now also includes Microsoft’s Fluent UI system icons, which are particularly suited to dark mode. The old icons are still there and used by default. Another innovation is distraction-free mode which is a full screen view that hides all icons and menus as well as the Windows taskbar.
Notepad ++ in dark mode
A new ARM64 version is provided, as requested in 2018 by a Microsoft software engineer (although it was already possible to build version 7.x from source for ARM64). Other new features include an option to reverse row order, an option to skip to the next occurrence when replacing text, parsing the list of functions for Ada, Fortran, and Haskell, and various fixes of bugs.
Notepad ++ includes a right click option for “Search the Internet”; handy for those who tap into the vast but sometimes unreliable resources of the web for stuck coders, and a choice of search engines is available in preferences.
These once included Microsoft’s Bing, but not anymore. “When a search engine censors its place of work, the search result loses its quality and is no longer reliable,” Ho said, no doubt referring to the incident. DuckDuckGo, which uses Bing, is still included.
Despite its popularity (GitHub has 13,400 stars and 3,200 forks), Notepad ++ is not the most polished of editors, and version 8 doesn’t change that.
“Dark mode missed a few points,” as one user observed, with the settings dialog still decidedly black on white. Dark mode also looks messy with certain file types, such as Markdown. That said, Notepad ++ hasn’t lost any of its speed and it’s possible to open a file in Notepad ++, copy some text and close it again, before VS Code finishes, especially if it’s it is loaded with many extensions. These are welcome improvements to a handy utility. ®