So, to the surprise of absolutely no one, Microsoft went ahead with its plan – first announced back in September 2023 – to deprecate WordPad, the venerable document editor that’s been a part of Windows since 1995. Ars Technica reports that the program is not included in either the latest beta version or the January dev channel build of Windows 11. It can also not be re-installed from e.g. the Microsoft app store.
It’s not clear whether the next significant update for Windows 10/11 will actually delete the executable program file itself from any active OS installations or if it just won’t be included in any new Windows installation moving forward. For all intends and purposes, though, this really is the end of the road for WordPad, an application yours truly has been using daily since the early Windows 95 days. So he just hates to see it go, as do other people if online comments to relevant stories are anything to go by.
More importantly, though, it is the reason behind Microsoft’s move that’s infuriating – and also pretty much in line with the company’s attitude towards consumer choice over the last decade or so. Here’s why.
The real reason why WordPad is deprecated
In many ways, WordPad is the perfect document editor for the Web. It does exactly what people who write posts or articles every day need it to but not much else. It does a bit more than that – although one won’t often e.g. make extensive lists or insert Excel spreadsheets in WordPad – but it’s so easy to just use as a digital typewriter. It allows for basic formatting… but that’s all. It does not offer advanced page layout features, it does not support markdown formatting (font and document styling are applied by the destination website’s CMS and CSS nowadays), it does not even feature a word counter (who needs that on the Web anyway?).
Microsoft did not offer any official reason why WordPad is being removed from Windows 10/11. Everyone assumes it’s because “nobody uses it anymore” – that’s what people publishing stories on this seem to think anyway – but the company never mentioned anything of the sort. Here’s all Microsoft has to say on the matter:
WordPad is no longer being updated and it will be removed in a future release of Windows. We recommend Microsoft Word for rich text documents (.doc or .rtf) and Windows Notepad for plain text documents (.txt).
Anyone who writes for a living will immediately notice how calculating and self-serving that sentence is. WordPad is a basic document editor, not a text editor, so even mentioning Notepad here is misleading. Plain text editors are built for specific things in mind – like coding – so writing e.g. posts or articles or essays on them is out of the question. Microsoft knows this, but is bringing up Notepad to make it look like it could maybe work as an alternative to WordPad. It clearly can’t.
Microsoft Word, on the other hand, is a ridiculously bloated, monolithic word processor that does way, way more than what’s needed just for writing articles, essays or other relatively short documents. Using Word to write anything less than spreadsheet-filled, graph-heavy, extensive reports or actual books nowadays is the very definition of overkill.
It’s clear as day that what Microsoft is hoping people will do if they can’t use WordPad anymore – but can’t possibly bring themselves to write more than a few paragraphs in Notepad – is one of two things: either purchase a copy of Word or, even better for the company’s bottom line, subscribe to the Microsoft 365 software platform in order to use the company’s famous word processor.
It’s worth noting that Word as a stand-alone program itself is priced in a way that encourages people to subscribe: it costs $159.99 (for use on just one computer), while the most affordable annual Microsoft 365 subscription – including every Office app for use up to 5 computers, plus a few other perks – goes for $69.99. It’s no wonder that most consumers probably go for the latter option.
Either way, Microsoft is removing WordPad from Windows in order to push people towards purchasing overly complicated programs they have no real use for or locking themselves into subscriptions they do not actually need. WordPad is a 3MB application. Its functionality can’t be replicated by any other built-in Windows app. It did not have to go. But Microsoft is more than OK with creating a new profit opportunity for itself by simply taking away what it once offered for free… so here we are.
So if Wordpad is on its way out, what are the alternatives?
It was only when yours truly started looking for an actual alternative to WordPad – it’s not beneath Microsoft to remotely delete the executable file from an active Windows installation, after all – that he realized how rare such an app is these days. An ultra-lightweight program that’s just for writing, no fluff, no bloat, no fancy features, no AI assistants, no weird UI, that works locally and saves files locally? Hard to find, it turns out.
Sure, there are a number of free MS Office-like suites including word processors far less bloated than Word (Open Office or Libre Office comes to mind), but those are still overkill for just writing. There’s Google Docs or MS Word Online, obviously, but if it’s “the cloud”, then it’s just someone else’s computer (just local storage and password-protected cloud backups for this journalist – thank you). There are also a lot of “distraction-free writing apps”, in both online and locally installable forms, but they come with different caveats. In short, it seems that there is no actual alternative to WordPad.
The good news for people who want to use Wordpad on their Windows 10/11 PCs – no matter what Microsoft does with the actual executable file – is that they can keep a backup of the program itself. Finding and just copying the Wordpad.exe file from the Windows directory to a different one may not be enough, though, as there are other files the program needs to work as intended (namely WordPadFilter.dll and WordPad.exe.mui – which Microsoft may delete too in a future update rendering the backed up executable useless).
Luckily there is a way around this and Corbin Davenport over at The Spacebar provides a simple guide on that, as well as a clean .zip file that contains Wordpad 64-bit and its associated files in one directory. All people have to do is place that directory wherever they like on their system and run the Wordpad executable from there. Yours truly tested it and it works as promised, so he dropped the same .zip file in his own Google Drive too for anyone interested (and for easily adding it to his own Windows installations in the future).
It’s obviously a shame that people who love WordPad’s simplicity have to resort to such measures in order to preserve a genuinely useful program. But if it’s anyone who should be ashamed, it’s definitely not us. It’s Microsoft – assuming this company is even capable of shame nowadays, that is. Now there is a question capable of tripping Copilot up, no?