FYI: Text Files from Linux to Windows XP Notepad

Sometimes when you open up in Windows XP a text file that was created by someone using Linux (e.g., an open source project developer), you’ll get a really ugly block of solid text, with the lines all wrapped around each other. For a long time, I used to get ticked off at whoever had created this file. Well, now that I’ve gotten into programming (Ruby a while back, and now, C++), I’ve now realized that it’s really Windows’ fault, not Linux’s.

In Linux, if you press ENTER to type text on a new line, the program inserts an invisible character called a newline character. This character is represented as ‘\n’ by the program. When you open up the text file later, the text editor will look at all the newline characters, and create a new line each time it finds them.

In Windows XP, and for example in Notepad (and other simple applications), the program expects two characters to denote a newline — the regular ‘\n’ AND another character, the carriage return character, or ‘\r’. Isn’t this redundant and unnecessary? If we’re editing a text file — the only thing we need is a newline character, not a newline AND a carriage return, to denote the beginning of the next line of text.

So take your frustration to Windows. Linux wins once again.