Tip for Opening Large Text Files in Windows 11
Notepad is a simple editor that has been included as an inbox application since the very early days of Windows. Notepad is still part of Windows 11, but it is updated independently of the operating system via the Microsoft Store. In Windows 11, Microsoft can deliver updates to Notepad faster than in previous versions of Windows.
Notepad is sufficient as a simple text editor for most users, but it falls short when you need to open large text files. Especially in Windows 10. And by that, I mean anything that is 100MB or larger. In Windows 10, while you can open a 100MB file in Notepad, it will take a long time. If you need help with opening large files in Windows 10, you can find that info, here.
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Notepad in Windows 11 is much faster
The good news is that Notepad in Windows 11 opens large files faster. And I mean much faster. On the same hardware, Notepad in Windows 11 opens a 100MB text file instantly. And while large files do take a few seconds to open in Notepad running on Windows 11, the performance is significantly better than in Windows 10.
Notepad file size limits in Windows 11
Notepad can open files that are less than 1GB in size. At least according to my testing. I couldn’t find any official documentation that states a file size limit. I tested opening a 512MB file in Windows 10 using Notepad, but it took so long I wouldn’t even bother trying. Though the file opens, it was almost impossible to perform edits because Notepad was slow to respond.
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Apps for opening files 1GB or larger in Windows 11
If you want to open a file that’s larger than 1GB in Windows 11, you will need to use one of the third-party file editors below. If you need to work with large log files often, it’s best to ingest them into a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solution. SIEM products, like Splunk and Azure Sentinel, are specially designed for analyzing log files.
While the programs below can open files larger than 1GB, with a couple of exceptions, performance was poorer than Notepad on Windows 11.
LogExpert is a GUI replacement for the Unix ‘tail’ command, but in Windows. LogExpert was able to open my 1GB text file, although performance was very poor. You can download the latest stable version from GitHub here.
GVIM is the Linux VIM text editor with a GUI. I downloaded it on Windows 11, the latest stable version for x64, and it was able to open a 512MB file with no problem. Although navigating around the file was slower than Notepad. You can download GVIM for Windows here. There was also no problem opening my 1GB test file.
EMACS performed much better than the other apps listed in this article, apart from Visual Studio Code. It remained responsive scrolling up and down the file, which most of the other candidates didn’t manage. EMACS is a popular text editor for Unix, and you can download a Windows (x64) port from GitHub here.
Visual Studio Code
But the award goes to Visual Studio Code! Performance beats EMACS with a 1GB text file. And Visual Studio Code is more convenient to install on Windows 11. There’s no need to go to GitHub, download 7-Zip, and extract the runtime files. Despite being an inefficient Electron app, Visual Studio Code turns off some features when opening large text files, which help it to maintain performance.
You can get Visual Studio Code from Microsoft’s website here.
If you really need to work with text files larger than 1GB, the best option is to split them
If I had to work with text files larger than 1GB regularly, especially files much larger than 1GB, I’d be tempted to split them. You can do that using PowerShell or a third-party application, like the ‘split’ command in Git Bash. The command below separates a large file (dummy.txt) into 500MB parts.
split dummy.txt -b 500m
Alternatively, Visual Studio Code is the best text editor I’ve found for opening large text files in Windows 11. If you know any text editors that outperform Visual Studio Code with large text files, let me know in the comments below.