Finally: A better Notepad than Notepad

August 07, 2008 10:25 PM EDT

SANTA BARBARA, CALIF. -- I try new software almost daily. But I have to admit: The most useful and frequently used application on all my PCs is Notepad, the bare-bones text editor that comes with Windows. After 18 years of using Notepad every day, I have finally found something better.

By the way: Am I the only one who uses Notepad more than any other application? If you do, too, drop me a line and let me know that I'm not alone: mike.elgan@elgan.com.

I write stories and blog posts every day. And every time I start a story, I write it in Notepad. I drop the links in there, notes to myself, and the copy itself. For columns, features and other longer material, I usually copy everything in Notepad and paste it into a Word document when I'm about 90 percent done. That's when I start worrying about spell-check, formatting and so on.

I use Notepad for writing HTML code, for jotting down quick notes and for "laundering" all kinds of content (capturing the text while getting rid of formatting).

I've tried really hard to break my Notepad habit, but I always find myself involuntarily returning to it. I've tried "sticky notes" applications, Google Docs, and even a utility called HovText that's supposed to strip out formatting when you copy and paste, but it doesn't work half the time.

Today, however, I've discovered something I think might finally allow me to stop using Notepad forever. Why? Because it has all the benefits of Notepad, and solves three problem I've always had with it.

It's called MyTextFile. The site lets you log in using your Google account (it's not built by Google, but uses Google's AppEngine).

There's nothing to install, and you don't even need to register. Just type in your Google username and password, and you'll be dropped into your own private blank page.

Like Notepad, you can choose the displayed type style and size. But there's really no formatting. So if you paste something from the Web, or from a Word document, it strips out the bolding, pictures and other "stuff," just like Notepad does.

That's it. It serves as a simple, generic, no-frills, no-formatting text editor. But with three important differences:

1. It's online. That means you can use it on all your devices. Just step away from your desktop PC, and open up your Subnotebook, and there are all your notes. If you're on a business trip, and your laptop dies, your notes will still be accessible from any PC. It's built for mobile, and works great on my BlackBerry Pearl.

2. It keeps revisions. That means if you blow it, you can go back to the last version. Or the one before that. Or the one before that.

3. It auto-saves. The default is every five minutes.

I really like MyTextFile -- not because of what it does, but because of what it doesn't do. It's not "social." It's not fancy. It's not powerful. It's not complicated. It's just like Notepad, but a little bit better.