BowPad is an easy-to-use Notepad replacement


If Notepad isn’t enough for your text editing needs then there’s no shortage of possible replacements (we’ve covered plenty before). But most developers seem to focus on functionality above all else, cramming in as many features as they can, which means the end results aren’t always easy to use.

BowPad is a refreshing change. It doesn’t try to do everything, but for many people it’ll do enough, and a well-designed interface ensures the program is a comfortable place to work.

The program unzips to a single executable. This isn’t quite as portable as some of the competition (it requires Windows 7 or later) but it’s still a good start.

Smart use of a ribbon interface means BowPad looks great, too, with all its key functions just a click or two away.

File handling is strong. Documents can be browsed and opened from an Explorer-type pane; a tabbed interface allows multiple documents to be open simultaneously; you can restore all the tabs you had open last time with a click, or have BowPad do this automatically when you start.

The core editor has some neat touches. Select some text and BowPad automatically highlights matching text in the same document. You can drag and drop selected text elsewhere to move it, or right-click to convert case, or search for it on Google or Wikipedia.

BowPad’s "Find and Replace" dialog is a highlight. It can run text, case sensitive/insensitive or regular expression searches, throughout the current tab, all tabs, or all the files in a folder. It opens with the search text you used last time, keeps a history of your recent searches, and responds to the keyboard shortcuts you know already (F3 = Find Next, say, although you can reconfigure all of these if you like).

There are also a few more advanced text processing tools, including split/join/sort/duplicate line functions, space <> tab conversion, white space trimming, tab handling and so on. Useful enough, although quite weak compared to the high-end competition.

BowPad fights back well with a decent set of developer functions, including syntax highlighting for 100+ languages, automatic brace matching, line numbers, jump to function/method, one-click line (un)commenting and more.

The program is also extremely configurable. This might start by setting up custom fonts, colors, tabs, margins and more. A neat "Custom Commands" option can be configured to open the file you’re editing in a defined application, or pass the selected text to a search engine or any other website. And if you really know what you’re doing, there’s an option to extend the program with JavaScript or VBScript "plugins".

BowPad still doesn’t have the extras you’ll often find in other Notepad replacements. If you absolutely must have multiple clipboard support, eight case conversion options and a Snippets manager, say, this probably isn’t the tool for you.

But for everyone else, we think the program is a good balance between power and ease of use. Give it a try.

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