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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Sticky Note programs for the Mac when you need to capture data quickly

My instructors at San Diego State University back in the ‘80s introduced me to “data capture”. Data capture means that you get the information into your database as quickly as possible. Someone tells you a phone number, you write it down or type it in as quickly as possible. Otherwise, you might transpose digits in the future.

Now as for the term “database,” it brings to mind row upon row of servers under fluorescent lights behind locked doors. No, a database is a collection of information. A list of phone numbers in a Dayrunner is a database. So is a photo album full of your baby’s pictures.

Esoteric books fill engineering library shelves on how to best organize information in a database. For the purposes of this article, the database program should give you some way to organize the data, such as by name or date or color of the note.

Now let’s get to the database programs. I am not going into Filemaker and Bento. I will present you the simple options. Apple has shipped a simple database program with every version of OS X and before that with Classic OS.

That program is called Stickies. PastedGraphic-2013-04-2-18-07.png Stickies is the program you should start with when you need to capture data, such as phone numbers and Web page excerpts,

You can sort notes by the color of the note, the date of the note, the content of the note, and where it is on the screen.

Advantages of Stickies:

System-wide hot key (Shift+Command+Y) to copy selected text into a note.

Service to Make New Stickie from selected text.

It can hold text, pictures, music, and video.


You can’t directly set up a table in Stickies. You must work around it by setting up a table in TextEdit. Then you copy and paste it into a stickie note. Stickies uses the same text engine as TextEdit, but Apple didn’t turn on all the features.

It lacks scroll bars for the text. You can insert a text block longer than the visible note, but you’ll have to use the Up and Down arrow keys to maneuver through it.

You can’t search in Spotlight for a note. You must use Stickie’s own search.

You can’t summarize numeric data in Stickies. Stickies treats all characters as text. You can style the text, but that’s it.

You can’t set up separate databases for different projects. It’s all mixed together. Try using colors to differentiate between projects.

Think of it as a Rolodex for your Mac. A simple database with one database file you can add to and subtract entries from. For many people that’s all they need.

For You Windows Users...

As for Windows users asking if they can get something similar to this for their machines, I would recommend they try the Notes built into MS Outlook. I use it to maintain my secretary’s database of arcane information at work.

If you don’t use MS Outlook, I would recommend the open-source PNotes

It surpasses the default Windows 7 Sticky Notes. But I still miss the all-time champ of simple Windows note programs, Cardfile from Windows 3.1. Look into AZZCardfile if you need a modern version.

Variations on the Theme

Anyway, back to Stickies. Many developers have used Stickies and made improvements to the basic concept. I will cover 3 apps here. Go to,, and the Mac App store for scads more of stickie note programs.

Stick-Em-Up improves upon the basic stickies by allowing you to segregate your notes by categories. You start out with 3 categories and can add more on your own.


You can also import an existing database of Stickies into Stick-Em-Up. They go into their own category of Apple Stickies.

No table function in this program. You have to use the work-around of constructing a table in TextEdit, then copying and pasting it into the note.

This program works with OS X 10.4 through 10.8, Intel and PPC.

SketchBox is another free (as in “buy our other software!”) stickies program. It offers several unique features.

Each note has 3 layers; a text layer, a drawing layer, and a timer layer.


You can’t import existing Apple Stickies databases into SketchBox, but you can use Sketchbox along with other stickies programs.

SketchBox works with 10.4 through 10.8, Intel and PPC.

Finally, a paid option. I read about Sticky Note in the December 2012 issue of Britain’s Macformat magazine. Intrigued, I went to the Mac App Store and installed it.

Sticky Note costs $7.99, comes from the Scottish developers Random Sequence, and runs on Intel Macs running 10.6 or higher.

It imports your existing Apple Stickies database.

It will set up tables on its own and comes with scroll bars.

Hit the Option/Alt key and you can arrange notes in a descending sequence. (Arrange in Front)


You can attach notes to applications. If you have a note about a document you composed in Word, you can attach a note to Word. Unfortunately, you cannot attach the note to the specific document.

You can send notes from one user to another over a LAN if they both use Sticky Notes.


That’s a sampling of the sticky note programs available for the quick capture of data. If you capture a lot of data from Web sites, then the default Stickies program best suits your needs. If you want to keep your stickies separated by category, go with Stick ‘Em Up. If you need to draw as well as write notes, then SketchBox should be considered.

Finally, if you need a program with more features than the default and free ones, consider Sticky Notes.

Tom Briant

Editor, MacValley Blog

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