NoteTab Light gives you what Windows doesn't
Notepad is such a horribly basic editor that there’s now a host of more powerful alternatives, all competing for your attention. But if you’ve sampled these then you’ll know that they’re often complex, aimed at programmers, and not so useful to people who don’t need Perl syntax highlighting, 18 clipboards, or whatever other high-end options they’re offering.
NoteTab Light, fortunately, takes a more mid-range approach. It has plenty of advanced features, it’s very configurable (the Options dialog splits its many settings across 17 tabs), but is also easy to learn, and you’ll quickly feel at home.
Launch the program, for instance, and it displays Readme.txt, WhatsNew.txt and templates files in separate tabs. And so browsing through these not only provides useful information on the program, but also gives you a basic feel for how the interface works.
Check out the menus and you’ll find a nicely judged editing engine. It has plenty of functionality: you can drag and drop text selections; sort, split and join lines; indent and align text; create bulleted and numbered lists; run Find and Replace operations with regular expression support, and more. But it’s also not as overwhelming as some of the more developer-oriented tools can be, and you may actually feel like you’ll use most of the features (one day, anyway).
It’s a similar story with the HTML functions. An HTML-CSS library displays all the important tags; double-click these, a dialog appears (when necessary) to help you configure them properly, and the code is automatically wrapped around the selected text.
There’s also a neat Document to HTML feature, where you can create or open a text document, then have NoteTab Light add an HTML header, line breaks, paragraph tags and everything you need to transform it into a web page.
Extras like HTML Tidy integration help to clean up your code. But again, while these aren’t aimed at beginners, they’re not overly complex, either. You’ll quickly get a feel for how everything works.
And there are plenty of interesting and more general editing options available. Like built-in expression evaluation (enter 2.481^3= , press Ctrl+E and the solution will be inserted for you). Tools to automatically capture text as it’s pasted to the clipboard, and insert it into documents. And a series of Clipbook Libraries to automatically correct text, download and edit files from remote FTP servers, create websites with Twitter’s Bootstrap framework, and more.
NoteTab Light does also have one or two restrictions (it’s the free version of a commercial tool, and the developers are hoping you’ll upgrade). The most notable issue is probably that you only have a single level of Undo. But it also has no spell checker, URL highlighting (in plain text files), or syntax highlighting.
On the plus side, though, NoteTab Light has no adware, no nag screens or other marketing annoyances. It’s free for personal or commercial use, and has no major dependencies on .NET or anything else, so runs happily on anything from Windows 98 through to Windows 8. And it’s both powerful and usable, an awkward balancing act to pull off, but in our view the program gets it just right.