For the first time in 40 years, Windows will ship without built-in word processor

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The venerable WordPad is one of the few built-in Windows apps that hasn't seen any kind of improvement in Windows 11, and now it looks like its days are numbered.
Enlarge / The venerable WordPad is one of the few built-in Windows apps that hasn’t seen any kind of improvement in Windows 11, and now it looks like its days are numbered.

Andrew Cunningham

Whatever its other flaws, Windows 11 has given the operating system’s built-in app suite its biggest overhaul in many years. For apps like Calculator, the changes have been merely cosmetic, but everything from Sound Recorder to Media Player to Paint to the Snipping Tool has gotten some kind of thoughtful redesign and new features, often for the first time in a decade-plus.

One exception was WordPad, the built-in rich text editor that Windows has included in every version since Windows 95. Though much more limited than Microsoft Word, WordPad was also more versatile than Notepad, capable of saving and reading .rtf, .docx, .odt, and .txt files (though its support for Word documents has always been prone to formatting errors). But its last substantial update came in Windows 7, when it picked up the then-new ribbon interface introduced in Office 2007. That version is still available in Windows 11, with few modifications.

According to Microsoft’s deprecated features page for Windows, it looks like WordPad will never be getting a redesign to keep pace with the other Windows apps. The app is “no longer being updated,” and though it remains available for now, it “will be removed in a future release of Windows.” Microsoft doesn’t specify whether it will be removed in an update to Windows 11, or some future major Windows release.

It doesn’t seem like Microsoft has plans to reintroduce any other kind of rich text editor for Windows; the support note that announces WordPad’s deprecation also recommends Word for editing rich text documents. Users are also free to use a wide range of alternatives, from web-based ones like Google Docs to open source alternatives like LibreOffice. This is what most people are already doing anyway and is part of the reason why WordPad has been deemed unnecessary in the first place.

The company could decide to keep adding capabilities to Notepad, an app that has been getting substantial attention from Microsoft during the Windows 11 era after many years of neglect. In the last year or two, the app has gotten a new look, the option to change the display font, and tabs. Or substantial user backlash could make the company reconsider, as it did several years ago when MS Paint was marked as deprecated. Though it was once slated for removal during the Windows 10 era, Microsoft quietly backtracked a few years later and began adding new features to Paint shortly afterward.

That said, it’s hard to imagine WordPad’s removal garnering the same reaction as Paint’s did. Paint’s history is even longer than WordPad’s, and there’s a history of people putting in lots of time and effort to make complex works of art within the software’s limitations; Microsoft’s official company accounts certainly don’t post screenshots of documents created in WordPad, though.

The version of Windows that deletes WordPad will be the first version of Windows ever not to include some kind of rudimentary rich text editor. Before WordPad was introduced in Windows 95, every release of Windows going all the way back to version 1.0 in 1985 included an earlier program called Windows Write. Like WordPad, Write was meant to fill the gap between the plain-text Notepad and a more fully featured word processor.

Listing image by Microsoft/Andrew Cunningham

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