From “The Worst Chapter Ever Written” to “…in reality it’s an excellent book” in a single bound!

Jeff and I put our email addresses in every book that we write together, invite our readers to comment, and do our best to cope with the resulting influx of comments and e-mail.  A few days ago I opened my inbox to see a message with the following and incredibly ominous subject line:

non thank you for the worst chapter ever written

“Oh boy!” I thought, when I got around to reading the message that evening (I’d been in all-day meetings in Pittsburgh the day it showed up and was too apprehensive as to its contents to want to open it up to take my medicine while sitting in a room with six other people on whose good opinion I depend for a substantial chunk of my income).

But when I actually got into the content it contained, it wasn’t all that bad. A reader named Chris T. simply wanted to remonstrate that we shouldn’t recommend the built-in Windows Notepad plain-text editor, but rather, that we should recommend the excellent (and free) Notepad++ source code editor instead. I can certainly understand Chris’s point of view, and his desire to see me recommend the best possible tools to aspiring HTML authors, as they grope their way into learning a new markup language, master its syntax, and begin to appreciate the nuances that HTML (and CSS) can express.

So without further ado, I visited the Website, and downloaded the latest version of this nice little tool (v5.9.3, as I write this post). I had to futz around with it for a bit before I remembered how to use it (and that I had to tell it to recognize the language, even though my source files always end in the .htm or .html extension). But upon due reflection on Chris’s input and the problems you will run into with plain-vanilla Notepad (documented in another blog here entitled “”), I have to agree with his feedback that Notepad++ beats the pants off the built-in tool even for tyros who’ve never created a markup file before.

The Notepad++ application window fails to convey its many and great capabilities

The Notepad++ application window fails to convey its many and great capabilities

In the next edition of the book, I’ll be sure to mention Notepad++ and recommend it as a potential (and better) replacement for Notepad. But I do still use Notepad myself for quickly hacking HTML files even with DreamWeaver, HTML-Kit, and who knows what else at my beck and call to help me edit HTML files from time to time. It’s not so much that Notepad isn’t good for anything: it’s really more that it’s not good for much, but it does do what I want it to, and it’s a rare day when I don’t use it to capture something I need to remember, though I am turning ever more often to Evernote instead for that purpose.

The story also has a happier ending than I sometimes obtain from encounters with unhappy readers. I responded to Chris that while I thought his rating of the chapter was a “bit extreme” given that he was dinging me for an offhand remark in a single paragraph of that chapter. To my amazement, I got another email back from him where he admitted as much (that is, the message starts with this line: “My original email was a bit extreme.”) and goes on to utter the snippet at the end of the title for this very blog. I am delighted to have turned the situation around, and to have renewed my acquaintanceship with the Notepad++ editor. Talk about a win-win situation. So nothing loathe, I’m sending Chris a T-shirt if we still have one in his size!

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