Configuration Files Details

Configuration Files

Notepad++ offers a comprehensive user interface to review or change most of its settings. However, there are some special cases where it is worthwhile to edit the configuration files directly, including:

  • Customizing the Context Menu
  • Editing previously-recorded macros, or crafting new macros manually
  • Adding keywords to a language, because the new language version isn’t matched yet

The underlying XML files are all found in %AppData%\notepad++\ (or, for zip-based local installations, in the notepad++ executable directory) unless otherwise noted.

Editing Configuration Files

ALWAYS BACKUP THE FILE TO BE EDITED. If you make a mistake, Notepad++ may erase the whole contents and replace it with useless defaults. This is probably the worst that can happen, but it does happen.

If changes are made in the Notepad++ UI to settings which are stored in configuration files, those will be written to disk when you exit Notepad++ after any file saves you do. Thus, if you are going to edit a Notepad++ configuration file with Notepad++ (and why would you want to edit it with anything else?), you will need to be careful. The safest sequence when editing a configuration file:

  1. Close all active instances of Notepad++
  2. Open one instance of Notepad++
  3. Edit the configuration file
  4. Save
  5. Exit Notepad++
  6. Reload Notepad++
  7. The changes will now be in effect.

The context menu: contextMenu.xml

The context menu does not have a GUI-based editor; you just need to edit the file. As a result, the Settings > Edit Popup Context Menu entry exists to make it easy for you to access this config file.

All menu commands can be added to the Context Menu, including plugin commands:

  • To add a built-in command, you need to provide the main menu name (as it appears in the main menu bar) as the value of the MenuEntryName attribute and the command’s item name (as it appears in the menu) as the value of the MenuItemName attribute. The MenuEntryName attribute must reference an entry on the main menu bar and must be an ancestor of the MenuItemName attribute, regardless of its depth.
  • To add a plugin command, you need to provide the plugin’s menu item name (as it appears in the Plugins menu) as the value of the PluginEntryName attribute and the command’s menu item name (as it appears in the plugin’s sub-menu) as the value of the PluginCommandItemName attribute.

Note that the value you add should be in English, not in a translated language. The Shortcut Mapper will help you find the English name of plugin commands; simply switch to English localization for the raw name of built-in commands. If you wish to use IDs, they can be found in menuCmdID.h, or can be found in your localization file.

Grouping items into sub-menus

If you add a FolderName="name_of_submenu" attribute to consecutive items, they will be grouped into a sub-menu with that name. Specifying “” is the same as leaving the FolderName attribute out. Note that sub-menus do not nest - you cannot add a sub-menu to a sub-menu. Non-Latin characters are supported.

Overriding a menu item name

If you add an ItemNameAs="new_name_for_the_item" attribute, the new name will be displayed instead of the standard one, which you’d get from the menu bar or its sub-menus. This is useful when the name is lengthy, as it makes the Context Menu unwieldy otherwise. Non-Latin characters are supported.

Keyboard shortcuts: shortcuts.xml

Defines keyboard shortcuts for various types of commands. The shortcuts are most-easily defined in the various tabs of the Settings > Shortcut Mapper.

This file has the following nodes:

  1. <InternalCommands>: Keyboard shortcuts for Notepad++ menu commands that have been remapped by the. (Commands that use their default shortcuts are not listed here.)
  2. <Macros>: Keyboard shortcuts for the macros listed in the lower part of the Macro menu. Also defines what commands those macros execute.
  3. <UserDefinedCommands>: Keyboard shortcuts for the Run menu entries. Also defines what actions those entries take.
  4. <PluginCommands>: Keyboard shortcuts for plugin commands that have been remapped. (Commands that use their default shortcuts are not listed here.)
  5. <ScintillaKeys>: Keyboard shorcuts for Scintilla commands, most of which relate to selecting text and moving around in the editor. (Commands that use their default shortcuts are not listed here.)

The definitions of the <Macros> and <UserDefinedCommands> are generally all that benefit from manual editing of the shortcuts.xml. It is much safer to edit the shortcuts using the Shortcut Mapper

Virtual Key Number

All the types of commands in shortcuts.xml have a key attribute, which uses the Windows virtual key number as the value. This is not necessarily the same as the ASCII code or Unicode codepoint. In standard English locales, the virtual key usually lines up with the ASCII code for the character, but that is not universally true. The complete list of base virtual key code is to be found on keys.h. Because of this reliance on OS-defined virtual keys, many letters in your native alphabet cannot be used, though for characters that are entered directly with a key on your keyboard, it may be possible (with some effort) to determine the virtual key number for the key. (Some hints are given in the Notepad++ Community Forum at this post and this other post.)


When not empty, this node is made of <Macro> nodes, each of which represents an individual macro. Each <Macro> holds a nonempty list of <Action> tags which represent individual macro steps. These steps are either Scintilla commands or Notepad++ commands, not raw keystrokes. For more details on macro recording, see Macros.

Attributes for the <Macro> node

Position Name Value format Meaning
1 name string The name of the macro. Several macros may have the same name
2 Ctrl “yes”/“no” The key being mapped to has the Control modifier
3 Alt “yes”/“no” The key being mapped to has the Alt modifier
4 Shift “yes”/“no” The key being mapped to has the Shift modifier
5 Key integer The base virtual key number, in the 1..255 range

Although it is possible for several macros to share the same name or shortcut, this practice is highly discouraged.

Attributes for the <Action> tag

Position Name Value format Meaning
1 type integer 0 for Scintilla messages that do not pass a string as second parameter
1 for Scintilla messages that pass a string as second parameter
2 for Notepad++ defined commands
3 for search and replace recording
2 message integer 0 if type=2, otherwise use the message id
3 wParam integer Command id when type=2 or type=3, else actual first parameter of the message. Use 0 if the message or command doesn’t require a wParam.
4 lParam integer 0 unless type=0 and the second parameter of the message is actually used, or scalar value used when type=3.
5 sParam string "" unless type=1 or type=3, in which case this is the string pointed by the second parameter of the message.

The full list of Scintilla messages for type=0 and type=1 Scintilla messages, as well as a concise documentation, can be found in Scintilla.iface. More details on those messages can be found in the Scintilla Docs.

The wParam command IDs for type=2 Notepad++ messages can be found as the IDM constants in the source file menuCmdID.h, or you can look at the localization\English.xml (or your language of choice), which lists the <Item id="..."> next to the text of the command; the value of the id attribute is the “command ID”.

For type=3 search-and-replace macros, see the detailed description in “Searching > Searching actions when recorded as macros”.

You can use any Scintilla or Windows message that does not return a value, that passes an integer in wParam, and either an integer or string in lParam. There are some messages that require strings in the wParam, or various data structures: those will not work in a macro.

For more on the messaging system, see Plugin Communication.


When not empty, this node contains <Command> tags, which have the command string as contents. Their order is reflected in the Run menu, otherwise it doesn’t matter.

Attributes for the <Command> tag

Position Name Value format Meaning
1 name string The name of the Run command.
2 Ctrl “yes”/“no” The key mapped to has the Control modifier
3 Alt “yes”/“no” The key mapped to has the Alt modifier
4 Shift “yes”/“no” The key mapped to has the Shift modifier
5 Key integer The base virtual key number, in the 1 - 255 range

Although it is possible for several commands to have the same name, this is confusing and thus discouraged.

The run command may contain any valid command for the Windows OS. If you use a command that can be found in your PATH (like cmd.exe), then you don’t need to specify the full path to the command. If it’s not in your path, then you should specify the full path. Note that Windows will launch your default browser if you put a URL in this If the command, or one of its arguments, has an embedded space, then put quotes around it (like you would for any command line environement). For example, <Command name="Run Putty" ... >"c:\program files\putty\putty.exe" -ssh -load "my session"</Command> shows the quotes around the executable and one of the arguments, because both have spaces.

There are a number of variables available, which are accessed in the form $(VARIABLE_NAME), which can be used to supply portions of the command entry.

Variable Description Example
FULL_CURRENT_PATH The full path to the active file E:\My Web\main\welcome.html
CURRENT_DIRECTORY The active file’s directory E:\My Web\main
FILE_NAME The active file’s name welcome.html
NAME_PART The filename without extension welcome
EXT_PART The extension html
SYS.var the var system environment variable $(SYS.PATH) will expand to your %PATH% environment variable
CURRENT_WORD the active selection in Notepad++, or the word under the cursor
CURRENT_LINE the line number where the cursor is currently located in the editor window 1
CURRENT_COLUMN the column number where the cursor is currently located in the editor window 5
NPP_DIRECTORY the directory where the notepad++.exe executable is located c:\Program Files\notepad++
NPP_FULL_FILE_PATH the full path to the notepad++.exe c:\Program Files\notepad++\notepad++.exe

User Interface settings: config.xml

The following sections are defined:

  1. <GUIConfigs>: user interface settings (usually set in the Settings > Preferences).
  2. <FindHistory>: most of the latest state of the Find/Replace dialog box.
  3. <History>: the list of recently used files.
  4. <ProjectPanels>: associates workspace files with a given project panel

Note: (new to v7.8.3) The command line interpreter that is invoked by “Open Containing Folder in cmd” and “CMD here” can be changed in the <GUIConfigs> section. For example, add the following line to set the cli to powershell

<GUIConfig name="commandLineInterpreter">powershell</GUIConfig>

In principle, any command that can be found in your PATH can be used, but starting up an MSYS/MinGW-like environment usually requires more than just running bash or zsh. This also applies if you want to start your favorite cli in a conhost emulator like ConEmu.

Keyword lists: langs.xml

This file contains the keyword lists for syntax highlighting languages.

Attributes for the <Language> node

Position Name Value format Meaning
1 name string The name of the language.
2 ext string The list of file extensions associated to this language by default. Lists are space separated, without leading periods.
3 commentLine string The character(s) that prelude a comment extending to the end of the physical line. Use “” if the feature is not supported.
4 commentStart string The character(s) that start a block comment. Use “” if the feature is not supported.
5 commentEnd string The character(s) that end a block comment. Use “” if the feature is not supported.
6 exclude “yes”/“no” Set to yes” to remove from the Language menu, else “no” or no attribute.
7 tabSettings integer If present, the value encodes the number of spaces a tab is equivalent to: value + 128 if the Replace tabs vy spaces is checked, else raw value. The default value of 4 is used if attribute is absent.

Inside each of the languages, you could add keywords. However, it’s better to use Settings > Style Configurator and make use of the user-defined keywords box for a given category (when available). These user-defined keywords are stored in stylers.xml (described below).

Highlighting schemes: stylers.xml

This file sets the color scheme for the default theme. The other themes are stored in themes\*.xml, which follow the same format at stylers.xml. In general, use Settings > Style Configurator for easier maintenance of styles.

Each lexer type has it’s own <LexerType> section, with multiple <WordsStyle> entries. Each lexer from the Language menu has it’s own list of available <WordsStyle> entries. Trying to add a new <WordsStyle> to a lexer to try to get more categories of keywords will not be successful, because the underlying code which does the syntax highlighting has no internal rules for mapping the entries found to that style.

If you have added user-defined keywords in the Settings > Style Configurator, they will be stored as the contents of the <WordsStyle>, as a space-separated list (for example, <WordsStyle>fancyKeyword1 fancyKeyword2</WordsStyle>).


Defines what counts as a “function” for View > Function List. There are some comments in the file, and lots of examples of the builtin languages, which you can customize.

If you want to add Function List capability for your User Defined Language (UDL), you can. You need to add two groups of information:

  1. In the <associationMap> section, you need to add lines like the following

    <association id="fn_udl_example"          userDefinedLangName="ExampleUDL"     />
    <association id="fn_udl_example"          ext=".ex"                            />
    <association id="fn_udl_example"          ext=".exudl"                         />

    where fn_udl_example is a name unique to this UDL. It is best to define it both based on userDefinedLangName=... (which must match the name you saved for your UDL) and on extension ext=... (which must match the extension(s) of your UDL type, with one extension per entry).

  2. In the <parsers> section, add a parser, with a similar format to all the builtin parsers shown. An example would be

        displayName="Example UDL Name (UDL)"
                <nameExpr expr="^[\s]*(private[\s]+)?(procedure|function)[\s]*[\w_]+" />

    where the fn_udl_example must match the <association id>. The displayName sets what shows in the Function List window header. The ...Expr values are all defined in regular expression syntax.

Other Configuration Files

  • autoCompletion\*.xml: files for defining per-language auto-completion.

  • doLocalConf.xml: this will only exist on local installations of Notepad++ (when you tell the installer to not use %AppData%, or when you install from the zipfile). This is a zero-byte file that is just used as an indicator to notepad++.exe to not go looking for %AppData%.

  • nativeLang.xml: if you make a selection in the Settings > Preferences > General > Localization, Notepad++ will copy the appropriate localization\*.xml to nativeLang.xml.

  • session.xml: stores the current session information. Overwritten on every exit of Notepad++ if Settings > Preferences > Backup > Remember current session for next launch is enabled. If you want sessions that you control, use File > Save Session… to save it; the file is safe to edit; and you can reload that session at any time using File > Load Session….

  • userDefineLang.xml: see the User Defined Languages doc.