Hey, is there somebody around to accept this award?


Back in the late 1990s, some large Internet association conducted a survey in order to bestow awards in categories like Best Web server and Best Web browser, and one of the categories was Best Web authoring tool.

We didn’t find out about this until the organization contacted the Windows team and said, “Hi, we would like to present Microsoft with the award for Best Web authoring tool. Please let us know who the author of Notepad is, so that we can invite them to the award ceremony.”

Yup, Notepad won the award for Best Web authoring tool.

The mail went out to the team. “Hey, does anybody remember who wrote Notepad?”

Even a decade ago, the original authorship of Notepad was lost to the mists of time. I think the person who ended up going was the original author of the multi-line edit control, since that’s where the guts of Notepad lie.

Comments (66)
  1. John says:

    How is this possible?  Notepad is, quite possibly, the best software ever to come out of Microsoft.  And now you tell me that nobody knows who wrote it?  Unbelievable.

  2. jMarkP says:

    I wish I worked at a company where writing a simple UI control made me eligible for an award…

  3. keith says:

    I have read that with a lathe, you can make any other machine tool (and if it comes to it, you can scale up a lathe from a piece of string and wooden stock, and bootstrap yourself to a metalworking lathe out of increasingly harder materials – something to remember if you are dropped back in time to before the industrial revolution).  Who invented the lathe?  I dunno; but I am perfectly copacetic to acknowlege Notepad as the lathe of programming.  

  4. oliver says:

    post-emptive snarky comment:

    Probably the only other contender was FrontPage. That would make the decision very understandable.

  5. nksingh says:

    @jmarkp:

    The edit control is probably one of the more complicated UI elements you could write though. Not as complicated as RichEdit, but up there.

  6. Henke37 says:

    Must have been before source control was used. Otherwise, it would be easy to use blame to find who should get the honor.

  7. GWO says:

    @oliver: Probably the only other contender was FrontPage. That would make the decision very understandable.

    I was editing HTML in emacs html-mode in 1995.  I’m pretty sure that was easier than doing it in Notepad.  Adobe PageMill was already released on the Mac, and for the non-coder, was much better than either.

    Notepad is great for quick viewing and editting of text files, and pretty awful for anything else.

  8. voo says:

    I have a hard time trying to understand, how anyone would give notepad a price for "Best Web authoring tool" or anything else.

    Don’t misunderstand me, notepad is great for what it is – a simple editor to view text files, but that’s it.

    The only price I’d give it, would be for simplicity – imho it’s not even in the same league as emacs and co.

  9. James Schend says:

    I always preferred the Mac version of Notepad, where the pages were auto-saved when you closed the program and you could type several pages worth of notes.

    When I moved to Windows, it always bugged the crap out of me that Notepad bugged me to save the document– Notepads are supposed to auto-save! Text editors ask you to save! (The distinction between the two never existed in the Windows world, I guess, like the distinction between "Return" and "Enter" on the keyboard.)

    I wrote a quickie .net app to do the same in Windows if anybody’s interested: http://blakeyrat.com/jamespad/

    Haven’t implemented drag&drop or printing yet.

  10. Gabe says:

    Henke37: Notepad was written in 1983. Does your company keep change logs going back that far?

  11. Mark Jonson says:

    @James Schend Try OneNote, it does what you are describing.

    But I always recommend vim for HTML editing. Much more powerful than Notepad, and with syntax-highlighting it’s just about perfect.

  12. porter says:

    That would make "vi" the best program development tool then.

  13. Leo Petr says:

    @GWO:

    I suspect that the award was based on size of userbase rather than anything else. Most Windows-based web developers have tried Notepad at least once. The other tools have fragmented mindshare.

    This is also why Pizza Pizza keeps getting voted the best pizzeria in Toronto. They have franchise locations everywhere, so everyone’s had Pizza Pizza. Anything better is either not on the ballot, or splitting the vote on the ballot. There’s far better pizza out there, but the customer base for better pizzerias is very fragmented.

  14. pm says:

    i knew the original author when I was PM in win2k. He was in the printing test group

    dont recall his name

    [Chris wasn’t the original author, he was just the current maintainer. -Raymond]
  15. Chris L says:

    Baffling decision – Notepad doesn’t handle Unix line-endings, making it one of the most irritating tools I have ever used for editing web files.

  16. Joe says:

    Out of curiosity, how can someone be "the current maintainer" of notepad? Wouldn’t that be the easiest job in the world? (Or is his job to fight off the zealots who want notepad to use COM and whatever the new alphabet technologies is?)

  17. Gabe says:

    Chris L: if Notepad is your web authoring tool, how would you ever get Unix line endings into your file anyway? Unix line endings generally only show up in files that originated on Unix machines, which generally don’t run Notepad.

  18. Ymgve says:

    Gabe: Maybe they took over a web project from someone that wrote HTML on a Unix-like system?

  19. Jonathan says:

    Joe: Presumably it’s not a full-time job. More like "fix a bug once a year" or so, and probably some overhead that’s surely incurred for being an executable distributed by Windows.

    I’d like to see the threat model though…

  20. Dean Harding says:

    I’m pretty sure Notepad gets a few changes every now & then. For example, Windows Vista addded MUI support which would’ve required changes in Notepad.

  21. alex.r. says:

    Okay I’ll bite:

    Joe, you do realize he doesn’t have to maintain it full-time and can have other tasks as well — like say printing test related things?

  22. Joe says:

    Oh, good grief. Make a quip, cause lots of hand wringing. Heaven forbid I joke about maintaining calculator.

  23. Spartacus says:

    No, I wrote Notepad.

  24. Spartacus says:

    I wrote Notepad.

  25. Gabe says:

    Joe: It’s well known who wrote calculator.

  26. Miral says:

    Gabe: especially as it just got a major rewrite for Win7.

  27. I’m pretty sure that "notepad" in this context was meant as a journalistic shorthand for "your favorite plain-text editor" — because much of the readership would have no general idea what a plain-text editor *is*. Saying "notepad" is probably the most effective way of getting that concept across to an unsophisticated readership of which the majority has never even heard about vi or Emacs.

    The point is not that notepad.exe is better for writing HTML than Emacs — which it isn’t by any reasonable metric — but that *any* plain text editor is preferable (or was, at that time) over a specialized HTML tool that tried to isolate the author from the actual markup.

  28. ted says:

    @porter — but we know who wrote vi.

  29. LonTonG says:

    Raymond, i think you can ignore this award.

    I believe someone is trying to make a joke by submitting Notepad to software download sites.

    Check out Andy’s "the software awards scam article":

    http://successfulsoftware.net/2007/08/16/the-software-awards-scam/

  30. Brian says:

    I wrote Notepad, and so did my wife.

  31. Jeff says:

    LonTonG:

    You missed the part where it said "1990s" and was filed under "History".

  32. Alexandre Grigoriev says:

    @Chris L:

    Unix line endings may be coolest thing after frozen yogurt, but how do you explain then, that line endings in HTTP protocol are CR+LF?

  33. Worf says:

    Notepad’s pretty complex these days, though I remember the fun times when it was a multi-line edit control. You had that oh-so-useful 32kiB limit. I don’t know who fixed it so you can open arbitrarily large files, but that was probably the single best improvement.

    Nowadays it does Unicode in practically any encoding, leading to several amusing sentences where the Unicode detector fails to properly identify the text.

    And I remember the multitude of websites back then with "Created in notepad" badges (like created in vi, etc.)

  34. Chuck Norris says:

    No, I did Notepad.

    Right after your mom.

    Mental note: Invent Raymond Chen Facts.

  35. Anonymous Coward says:

    Using blame to find who should get the honor. Strange, yet symbolically compelling.

  36. Gabe says:

    Worf: What makes you think Notepad is not still just a wrapper around a multiline edit control?

    The limit on file size was really just a limit on the size of an edit control. When the edit control was rewritten for WinNT, Notepad lost its file size limit.

    BTW, it was Kraig Brockschmidt who wrote the Calculator that shipped in Win3.0 through Vista. It replaced the one in earlier versions of Windows.

  37. C++ says:

    Well … hehehe.. it maybe me or my "darkside" who create Notepad in the first place… hehehe..

    By the way… Yup I do create website via Notepad until now… almost 13 years

  38. Anonymous Coward says:

    @Alexandre Grigoriev:

    The HTTP protocol requires ASCII CR+LF line endings in its headers (and some Unix tools get this wrong), but HTML uses SGML (or XML) rules and allows CR or LF or both.

  39. Austin Donnelly says:

    Line endings in HTTP are CRLF because they were inherited from the Telnet RFC, which defined a "Network Virtual Terminal" which happened to use CRLF.  The telnet client for different systems (Unix, DOS, Mac, IBM mainframe) was requires to translate between their local line-termination conventions and the Network Virtual Terminal.

  40. Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler. -Notepad

  41. Source control? No?

    [Archived off ages ago. It’s probably on a magtape in a salt mine in Montana somewhere – not worth the effort to go look for it. -Raymond]
  42. Pete says:

    That’s cause Microsoft, like big corporations, likes to keep programmers anonymous. Easier to pay low wages to top performers if there’s no external recognition. Sadly, for the programmers, there’s no external recognition.

    Free software, and even commercial software 30 years back, would come with credits. You hit about, and you get a list of names. Notepad->Help->About should have given the shmuck’s name.

    I guess it also means programmers don’t have responsibility for their bugs. Explains a lot.

  43. Phil Ramsey says:

    The most important improvement in Windows 2000 was that notepad now supported CTRL-S

  44. Skizmo says:

    I didn’t write notepad.

  45. SCB says:

    IIRC Another big improvement was getting rid of the "Search" menu and replacing it with the (Windows) standard Edit > Find (Ctrl+F).

  46. A Softie says:

    Pete, you’re an ignorant, biased idiot fan-boy.

  47. Steve Jobs says:

    @Bill Gates: Only after you stole it from me.

  48. Alexandre Grigoriev says:

    One major Notepad annoyance is that it doesn’t handle Ctrl+Backspace.

  49. notepad says:

    I’d like to thank my Mom and Dad,  edlin and edit; my uncle, RichEdit; and of course… my brother, Multi-Line Edit Control!!!  I couldn’t do it without you!

    And to my billions of users, thank you, thank you! I grew to handle files larger than 64K because of you, and one day I’ll one able to handle non-native line endings!  We can dream, can’t we?

    You love me!  You really love me!!!

    Visual Studio – watch out!  I’m on your tail!

  50. Stephen C. Steel says:

    The 32 kiB limit still lives on in some dark corners of the Notepad code, even though it no longer applies since the edit control was rewritten to support longer text for NT.

    Once of the little publicised features of Notepad is that if you open a file that begins ".LOG", it will jump to the end and append a timestamp. However, if the file exceeds 32 kiB, it will jump to teh end and pop up a dialog telling you there is not enough memory to perform this operation (but if you manually insert a timestamp with F5, it works fine). It seems they forgot to removed the warning when they removed the 32 kiB limit.

  51. Jon Shirley says:

    KarlSt did most of the work on merging the MLE into the standalone notepad.  KenSh, NeilK, ScottLu and MarkTa at times all had a hand in it as well.

    His Billness didn’t want names everywhere because Windows booted on 2 floppies; every byte mattered.

    Time to move along.

  52. James Schend says:

    Mark Jonson – OneNote costs money. JamesPad (the version I made) doesn’t.

    Corollary: since OneNote costs money, I haven’t used it. Maybe it’s suited for my needs (although I wager it’s WAY overkill).

  53. Paul Allen says:

    I wrote Notepad while Bill was out striking strippers and racing his Porsche.

  54. some call me Tim says:

    @James: The one to try on Windows is the free Notepad++.

    While Notepad is useful for what it is, it’s pretty much crap for doing "real" programming, IMO. I really have little respect for people who use Notepad to code, since tools make such a difference in productivity. How can someone NOT spend a little bit of energy to try and/or learn a new tool that can make their life so much easier? Boggles me.

  55. mebigfatguy says:

    But what was Notepad written in?

  56. COBOL guy says:

    Oh, you young fellas, always goin’ on about them “editors.” Back in the old days, we used copy con notepad.c, and if you need to change something, you had to type everything again. We were motivated not to make mistakes in the first place, oh yes!

  57. mikeb says:

    You had a console to type "copy con …" into? We had front panel switches to toggle our programs into RAM, and we were happy to have ‘em.

  58. ENIAC guy says:

    Front panel? We had to hardwire everything! With good ole vacuum tubes! No fancy-schmancy transistors or even “microprocessors.” The days when a bug was still an insect. Oh yes!

  59. Jim Birch says:

    Coincidence! Notepad was written by an insect.

  60. someone else says:

    So Notepad is the result of … a bug?

  61. Gerhard says:

    This looks like a grade 1 IQ test. Select the one that does not fit:

    a) Microsoft

    b) Notepad

    c) Best

    I go with Best.

    …rather keep quiet and let everyone think you’re an idiot than to use your keyboard and remove all doubt.

  62. Frédéric says:

    "Notepad was written by an insect."

    Yes. No fancy-schmancy vacuum tubes! Real programmers use butterflies: http://xkcd.com/378/

  63. C. Babbage says:

    My first editor was a chisel and a stick.  But it had Autosave built in.

  64. Cheong says:

    [Chris wasn’t the original author, he was just the current maintainer. -Raymond]

    If the maintainers did face-to-face handover, or the names of previous maintainer can be found on the documentations, I’d think it’s possible to trace back.

    [Tracing via face-to-face handover fails when one of the previous maintainers no longer works at Microsoft. -Raymond]

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