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Sticky Notes:
The Poor Man's PIM?

You might ask why you'd want to use sticky notes when there are plenty of good Personal Information Managers out there that do a lot more.

But - in truth - many people just want a simple, easy to use solution to the problem of storing random information on their PCs in a way that won't get lost.

And a good sticky note application will do several things for you that a paper note can't.

For example, you can put an alarm on a sticky note so that it pops up and reminds you about something at an appropriate time (most of the applications we review here do that).

You can also sort your notes, search them or move them around fairly easily. And the ability to attach notes to data or applications on your computer (like spreadsheets, word documents or web pages) is pretty cool and hard to ignore if you've ever tried it.

Sticky notes in a networked environment can also provide an internal office communications system that's both simple, extremely powerful and (in some environments) more effective than email or instant messengers.

So - like 'em or loathe 'em - the sticky notes metaphor seems to have found itself a permanent home in the computing world, no matter what happens to their real-world counterparts (and they show no signs of losing their popularity either!)

Other Sticky Notes Resources

Sticky Notes
Background: Incredible but 100% true - the first Post-It notes* were only invented in the late 1970s after 3M Company scientist Spencer Silver invented a reusable, pressure-sensitive adhesive (in 1968) and colleague Art Fry finally realised that sticky notes were a good application for it (in 1976).

Even more incredibly, Post-It notes bombed very badly when 3M produced their first batch in 1977. This was largely because consumers weren't aware of the product. But within 3 years they went on to become a runaway global success and have remained that way ever since.

And even though 3M's original patents expired in 1990 and other companies now produce them, the majority of the world's Post-It notes are still manufactured at 3M's plant in Cynthiana, Kentucky.

In the computer world, the first sticky note application (called "Stickies") was developed for the Macintosh by Jens Alfke and included with Apple's System 7 in 1991.

Like real-world Post-It notes, this idea proved so popular that since that time hundreds of sticky note software applications have been developed for all the major computing platforms (even though computers offer many options for storing and retrieving random bits of information that sticky notes never will - and often far superior ones).

But if you love your sticky yellow notes and feel more comfortable having them on your computer's screen than a different type of software application (eg: a personal information manager), here are six great sticky note applications that can do the job for you:

*Note: The name "Post-It" and the canary yellow colour are trademarks of 3M Company. Alternate (non-trademarked) names are "sticky notes" or "repositionable notes"


Popular Sticky Notes Software
ZHorn Software's Stickies is a multi award-winning sticky note program that ZHorn's chief programmer originally wrote simply to cut down on the number of real Post-It notes he was pasting on his computer monitor. It's a small, simple program that doesn't interfere with your system files or write to the Windows Registry (the program stores all information in a single text-based ini file instead). To use it you simply create a new note on a yellow, rectangular window. The note will then stay on your screen until you take it away (just like a real Post-It note!). However, Stickies does a lot more than that. For a start, you can customise the fonts, colours and buttons on your sticky notes and save your styles. You can also resize the notes and set them to snap to each other or the sides of the screen. Stickies can also be attached to a web site, a document or a folder so they only show up when it's on screen; and - uniquely - you can share your notes over a network as well if you want. Stickies can also be hidden for any period of time you'd like to define (ie used as reminders) and you can give them alarms to make sure you don't overlook them. Stickies also supports non-English languages and can be easily transferred to your PDA or Palm Pilot. Personally, we found Stickies was a treat to use and we're not at all surprised that it's won so many plaudits over the years. They're well deserved. Stickies runs on all versions of Windows from Win95 to Vista and it's freeware. Get Stickies.


PNotes is another multi award-winning sticky notes application that's very similar to Stickies (above) but does a few things a little differently. PNotes (which stands for either Pinned Notes or Portable Notes, as you prefer) is written in C so it's fast, lightweight and flexible. It also doesn't interfere with your Windows Registry, so it can be easily ported from one machine to another. PNotes lets you set up a wide range of preferences for both the program as a whole and for any individual sticky note you create. These can include the skins (there are quite a few downloadable ones to choose from on PNotes' web site), fonts, colors, alarms and transparency level. You can also schedule each note to remind you about significant events in any of three different ways: either to alarm you once; to do so every day at specified time; or to pester you at specified intervals. You can dock your PNotes to any side of the screen (either separately or in a bundle). And you can join notes into groups by your choice by simply dragging and dropping them into (or out of) a group. PNotes fully supports Unicode for non-English languages and is available in 30 language versions including most major European languages as well as Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese. PNotes runs on all versions of Windows from Win98 to XP/2003 and it's freeware. Get PNotes


If neither Stickies or PNotes (above) quite meet your sticky notes needs, then PrestoNotes may be worth your inspection instead. PrestoNotes is another award-winning sticky notes program that does most of the things that Stickies and PNotes do as well as several things they don't. Like the other programs, PrestoNotes lets you write little memos and stick them to your screen. Each note can be completely customised (eg: background and text colours, transparency, fonts, position and size) but - uniquely - you can also attach an image to a note and you can optionally save any note in an external text file too. PrestoNotes allows you to attach alarms to your sticky notes (a large variety of alarm settings and behaviours are available) and you can decide whether you want your notes to be always on top of other windows (or not) as well. Other neat features of this program include an ability to integrate it with your regular email program (PrestoNotes will check for mail and notify you if any arrives, then let you pass straight into your email program to read it); the ability to send and receive notes over a LAN or the Internet (a basic address book is included with PrestoNotes); and the ability to print any note just as it appears onscreen. PrestoNotes are also Net-ready, so you can click URLs or email links in notes and fire up your browser or email program automatically. PrestoNotes is simple to use - you can show or hide any note with just 2 mouse-clicks - but it includes an in-built Help file if you want to explore its full capabilities. And it's available in 7 European language versions apart from English. PrestoNotes runs on all versions of Windows from Win95 to XP/2003 and it's freeware. Get PrestoNotes


NetNote Client
If you really want to use sticky notes in an office network environment, AlShare's NetNote may be the leader of the pack. This sticky note program was originally developed in 2000 for the health and veterinary community and it's now squarely targeted at the SOHO and small business market. The NetNote Client is a freeware sticky notes program that runs on all versions of Windows from Win98 to XP. Like other programs reviewed on this page, it allows you to create and manage sticky notes on your PC quickly and simply, and to customise and/or set alarms on each note easily. NetNote also comes with models (ie templates) of popular sticky note set-ups to save you time. The program's main strengths, though, lie in its communications ability and its ability to link into your office network and telephone systems quickly and securely to deliver an internal communications system that leaves most Instant Messenger systems well in the shade. However, these capabilities are not free and if you want to use NetNote in this way you'll need to pay US$75 (and upwards) for a NetNote server and/or US$330 (and upwards) for caller ID hardware if you want NetNotes to integrate with your phone system as well. The NetNote client is a very good program and if you genuinely want a terrific office notes communication system and the price for the LAN-enabled version is affordable and good value for money (well, we think so anyway). And AlShare have many happy clients to prove it. But if you just want a sticky notes program for your own use, then we must add that the freeware client software is pretty good too. Get NetNote Client


If you just want a simple sticky notes program, then Robert Paresi's iQ-Notes can fill the bill nicely. This elegant little program lets you create and resize an unlimited number of sticky notes. You can also sort them; set alarms on them; print them and archive them; and you can attach your notes to webpages, spreadsheets, applications or any other type of file and have the note open automatically when you view that web page or open that file.You can also set passwords on confidential notes and synchronise notes with a server when you're using multiple computers (eg: in an office environment, or if you want to transfer desktop notes to your portable). Another unique feature of iQ-Notes is that the latest release also includes Expense and Time Tracking functionality on each note (along with Start/Stop Timer), which is particularly handy for anyone who works on a time-billing basis (eg: many professionals). iQ-Notes only runs on Windows XP and Vista and it's still a relatively young program. But against this, the software is regularly updated and if you have suggestions for features you'd like to see if new releases, you can email Robert direct and suggest them. iQ-Notes isn't quite as powerful as some of the other programs we list here and at the moment it does use a little bit more RAM than we'd like. But we think it could grow to become quite excellent over time. Get iQ-Notes.


Finally, Veign's NoteIt is another neat little sticky notes application that - again - does many of the things that the other sticky notes programs on this page do, along with a few that they don't. Like other programs, NoteIt lets you create sticky notes very easily. But it also allows you to append multiple notes to a single file and to drag and drop text and images into your notes (which we thought was a nice touch). NoteIt also has a spell-checking capability and its notes are Net-aware (ie you can fire up your browser or email program by simply clicking an appropriate link within a note). NoteIt also has Special View Notes which display useful information like available computer memory, hard disk space and what's currently in your Windows Clipboard. You can also minimise any of Note-It's notes down to icon size if you need more screen real estate. You can also customise any note's fonts, transparency and colour, and email your notes to other people. NoteIt isn't an elaborate program but what it does it does simply and well. NoteIt runs on Windows (Win98 to Vista) and it's freeware. Get NoteIt


This page last updated: 19-Nov-2008


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