Notepad vs. Wordpad

By Michael Stark

Notepad and WordPad are both included in the standard Windows operating systems. While they appear to share the same job--working with text documents--they are different in how they function and in what they allow you to do. Both applications are excellent when used for work that suits them, but they each have a well-defined role on your desktop that, if not respected, could cause you problems with certain types of files.

Notepad Pros

Notepad is very fast to load on even old computers. It opens and saves documents as plain text files. Although you can change the font in Notepad, no font data saves with the document. This has the advantage of keeping text files free of formatting characters that could cause errors in certain types of files, such as program configuration scripts or web pages. Notepad is a great editor for creating and altering HTML. Notepad can open a file that is already opened by another process, whereas WordPad cannot.

Notepad Cons

Notepad does not allow you to add images, font changes or formatting such as bold or italics. You cannot change the color of text or embed objects into the file. You can only change the font and color of the text as it appears to you--once you save the file, anyone else who opens it will see only the plain black text on a white background.

WordPad Pros

WordPad is much better for creating formatted documents. You can place graphics and pictures into the document, change fonts--including colors and sizes--in whatever manner you choose, add hypertext links to web pages, insert a formatted date with a simple button click, and zoom in and out of the text. Additionally, WordPad can save documents in the .docx and .odt formats, the file types commonly used in Microsoft Office and OpenOffice.

WordPad Cons

WordPad is not a full-featured word processor. It does not include a spell checker or grammar-analysis function. It is also a poor choice for editing HTML or working with configuration files, as it may alter the formatting of those files when you save--causing program errors or display issues on web pages. WordPad is slower to load than Notepad, but faster than full-blown word processors or office suites.


Plain text files saved by Notepad are viewable and editable on any operating system. Wordpad files, if saved as "plain text," may still include formatting--especially carriage returns--that are not intended. Text that is copied and pasted into Notepad will immediately strip any formatting, while the same action in Wordpad will, in most cases, preserve font, size and color information.