Text notebooks

Jupytext can save Jupyter Notebooks as text files, with e.g. a .py or .md extension. These text files only contain the inputs of your notebooks, as well as selected metadata.

Text notebooks are well suited for version control. They are standard text files and you can easily edit or refactor them in the editor of your choice.

The outputs of the notebook are not stored on disk, unless you decide to pair your text notebook to a regular .ipynb file.

How to open a text notebook in Jupyter Lab

Once you have installed Jupytext, .py and .md files get a notebook icon in Jupyter. And you can really open and run these files as notebooks.

With a right click

Right click on the text notebook, then select Open WithNotebook:


  • you can achieve the same result if you use Open WithJupytext Notebook

  • to open links to .md files in notebooks with the Notebook editor, you will need jupyterlab>=3.6.0.

With a double click

Right clicking and the Open With submenu allows you to choose among several ways to open a file (several viewers, in Jupyter Lab jargon); and when you double click instead, you open the file using its default viewer.

The default viewer for text notebooks is by default configured to be the Editor (which means: text editor); if you’d prefer to have the text files open as a notebook instead, you have the option to redefine the default viewer, which is something defined for each document type.

Since version 1.15.1, jupytext comes with a helper command that allows you to do this from the command line; and essentially you would just need to run

jupytext-config set-default-viewer

See also the last section below for alternative means to change and inspect the default viewers configuration

How to open a text notebook in Jupyter notebook (nb7)

As of July 2023, Jupyter Notebook now comes as version 7.x - and is known in short as nb7

nb7 being built on top of Jupyter Lab, the principles described above apply as well in this context; which means that

  • you can always right-click a file and select Open WithNotebook;

  • and if you have properly defined the default viewers as described above, you can also double-click a file to open it as a notebook.

How to open a text notebook in Jupyter Notebook (classic)

Previous releases of Jupyter Notebook, i.e. up to version 6, were known as notebook classic

By default, notebook classic opens scripts and Markdown documents as notebooks. If you want to open them with the text editor, select the document and click on edit:

How to decide which extensions are notebooks

By default, Jupytext will classify documents with a .py, .R, .jl, .md, .Rmd, .qmd extension (and more!) as notebooks. If you prefer to limit the notebook type to certain extensions, you can add a notebook_extensions option to your Jupytext config file (jupytext.toml) configuration file with, for instance, the following value:

notebook_extensions = "ipynb,md,qmd,Rmd"

More on default viewers


This command has more options than the one shown above; in particular:

  • you can use jupytext-config to set only some of the default viewers; for example, if you want to have your .py and .md files open as a notebook when you double-click them e.g. jupytext-config set-default-viewer python markdown

  • you can use jupytext-config to inspect the current configuration, e.g. jupytext-config list-default-viewer

  • you can use jupytext-config unset-default-viewer python to remove some of the settings

Here’s an example of a session, starting from the default config of Jupyter Lab

# starting from the default config of Jupyter Lab
$ jupytext-config list-default-viewer
# we add the default viewer for 2 doctypes
$ jupytext-config set-default-viewer python markdown
# we check what was done
$ jupytext-config list-default-viewer
python: Jupytext Notebook
markdown: Jupytext Notebook
# we can now remove the default viewer for markdown
$ jupytext-config unset-default-viewer markdown
# and check again
$ jupytext-config list-default-viewer
python: Jupytext Notebook

From Jupyter Lab settings dialog

Alternatively to using jupytext-config, you can also find the configuration of the default viewers from Jupyter Lab interactively; to do so, go to Settings, Advanced Settings Editor, and in the JSON view for the Document Manager copy-paste the following settings (or the subset that matches your use case):

  "defaultViewers": {
    "markdown": "Jupytext Notebook",
    "myst": "Jupytext Notebook",
    "r-markdown": "Jupytext Notebook",
    "quarto": "Jupytext Notebook",
    "julia": "Jupytext Notebook",
    "python": "Jupytext Notebook",
    "r": "Jupytext Notebook"

Here is a screencast of the steps to follow: