Back in 2012, I discovered Windows Sticky Notes

Your computer screen doesn't have to look like this

Your computer screen doesn’t have to look like this

I’ve been using it ever since, despite the fact that its simplicity borders on the simplistic. I did find a way of overcoming one of its limitations (not being to find the data file so as to be able to copy it or share it between devices), but this proved more complicated than it was worth.

Fast forward to one of the recent Windows 10 upgrades, and my Sticky Notes decided not to work at all. A quick Google led me to this Microsoft Technical site and it seems I wasn’t alone. There were suggestions for trying things but, oh dear, this is getting too complicated: the game isn’t worth the candle.

So, I decided to try to find an alternative.

After a few disappointments and false starts (a fact of life when researching software), I came across Simple Sticky Notes. I’ve been using it for a few weeks now and found it simple (but much better featured than the Windows equivalent) and completely reliable. Some of its features include:

  • Attach an alarm to a note
  • Print notes
  • Include hyperlinks in notes
  • Configure the appearance of notes – colour of note, font, size, bold, italic, underscore
  • Create bulleted or numbered lists
  • Change text alignment
  • Change a note’s title
  • Change the location of the data file – eg put it in Dropbox
  • Lock a note to prevent accidental overwriting or deletion
  • Change the “opacity” of notes so that the screen beneath can show through (which I have found more useful than you might imagine – seeing where desktop shortcuts are hiding, for instance)

You can even download different sounds for the alarms and different note backgrounds (called, rather grandly, “themes”).

Simple Sticky Notes

The one thing I couldn’t get to work is emailing a sticky note. No big deal: just copy the text of the note and paste it into a new email message. I haven’t tested “sharing” a note to Facebook or Twitter but the options are there and, if they don’t work, the copy/paste method probably will.

Sticky Notes MessageThis is a lot of functionality for a free program and I can’t find any catch. There’s no adware or spyware downloaded with the program, no ads or anything built into the program itself, and no morally-challenged pre-ticked “choices”. I’ve run Malwarebytes several times since installing Simple Sticky Notes and I’ve had no suggestion of anything undesirable on my system.

When you think of the vast resources available to Microsoft and the probable resources available to a company like Simnet Software, you can’t help but wonder why Microsoft can’t make a better fist of the “utilities” in Windows.

A week or two after I’d started using Simple Sticky Notes, I was playing around in windows 10 Settings and found that you can repair Windows 10 Sticky Notes (or, “reset” it, as they euphemistically call it):

  • Click on the Start Menu
  • Click on the Settings cog wheel
  • Click on System
  • Click on Apps & Features
  • Click on Sticky Notes
  • Click on Advanced options
  • Click on Reset
  • Click the “x” to close

And, guess what, it worked. It mended my broken Sticky Notes. Too late. That ship has long since sailed. I can’t see me going back from Simple Sticky Notes now.

Pity the “uninstall” option doesn’t work.

Nothing too involved today – it is a holiday weekend, after all

iPad and iPhone tip – recent list

iPhone Open Apps Image

Swipe up on the image of the app you wish to close

If you wish to return to an app that is difficult to find on your home screens then a double-click on the home key will bring up a list of your recently used apps. You can swipe left and right through this list to go backwards and forwards between the open apps. Just tap on the app that you are looking for and it will come to the front.

This is also the way that you unload a program that’s in memory. Just bring the program to be closed to the centre of the screen (as described above) and then swipe upwards. I often use this function (when I remember) to close any mapping programs I have open (such as the London A-Z). These programs track your location even if you are not actively using them (as long as they are open and the GPS feature is switched on). In my opinion this is a cheek. If I’m not using the program then there’s no legitimate reason at all for its publishers to continue to track me.

Amazon Pickup Locations
Amazon pickup locations now include post offices. This is extremely useful if it is unlikely that anyone will be at home when deliveries are attempted. Amazon send an email to tell you when the package is at the pickup location and you just collect it at your leisure (armed with the usual proof of identity and Order Tracking Number).

Post Office SignWell, that’s the theory, but I think Amazon are touchingly naive in thinking that just because they’ve delivered it to the pickup point, then it’s ready for collection. The Post Office in Clapham kept telling me last Saturday that they hadn’t received a package that Amazon said they had delivered. It took a bit of time to persuade the PO clerk to go and check for parcels they hadn’t yet booked into their system. It was there, of course.

It may be worrying that Amazon are single handedly destroying our town centres, but at least they can usually be relied upon to be efficient while doing it. You do lose the “free delivery” option when you arrange for delivery to a pickup location.

Transferring or copying Microsoft’s Sticky Notes to a different computer

A while ago (see Who Needs Word?), I blogged about the rather useful little utility built into Windows that allows you to create sticky notes on your screen and display or hide them at a keystroke. I find this so useful that I’ve got a version of it on my main laptop and also on my Microsoft Surface Pro 3. The problem is that the notes are completely different from each other. I wondered if it might be possible to store the data (ie my specific sticky notes) in a Dropbox folder so that both computers would address the same data.

File Explorer Address Bar

Figure 1. Type the circled text into the File Explorer (Windows Explorer) address bar to open the folder containing the Sticky Notes data file.

This is a bit fraught with problems such as could you have the same file open on two machines, what happens if you change them both, and so on? The only way of finding out would be to try it. Well, I couldn’t find any way of easily changing the location of the file. It’s almost certainly to be found in a key in the registry but I never play with the registry unless I’ve got very good reason. What I did find out, however, was that your Sticky Notes data is to be found in one of those folders that is normally hidden. If you want to open the folder (so that you can copy the file for pasting into a different computer, or for backup purposes), then do the following:

  • Close the Sticky Notes program. Do this by right-clicking on its icon on the taskbar and left-clicking on “close window” (or you could close it via the Task Manager)
  • Open a Windows Explorer window (NOT Internet Explorer, but Windows Explorer (now known as File Explorer, actually))
  • Type the following into the address bar of the Explorer window – %AppData%\Microsoft\Sticky Notes (see figure 1) and click the enter key.
  • You will then find the file called StickyNotes.snt. This can be copied and pasted elsewhere for backup or for transfer to a different machine.
Sticky Notes Data File

The circled file is the Sticky Notes data file

Who needs Word? For many situations, opening up Microsoft Word and creating a document can be like wielding a sledgehammer to crack a walnut. Word seems to get more and more complicated with every iteration of Microsoft Office. I’ve delivered a lot of computer training over the years to people who just feel overwhelmed by the quantity and complexity of the choices they have to make when using it.

Apart from the time it takes to open the program, we often just need don’t need any of the fancy formatting, fonts or other complications that Word introduces. And it may be that we’ll only need the information for a short time, so we may not even want to bother thinking of a name, saving the file, etcetera.

There are three applets in Windows 7 that can help us record text more simply than by launching Word:

a small window showing Windows NotepadNotepad is like a word processor (such as Word), but it doesn’t have any formatting capabilities. The resulting data file is known as a “text file” (with a file extension of “.txt”). Simple word processors that deal with pure text files are usually known as “text editors”. The fact that the data file is nothing but pure text has the great advantage that it can be read by any other text editor. There will be no compatibility problems when reading text files created or edited by different text editors as the files they read and create have nothing but text in them (so there are no complicating factors of invisible commands embedded in the text or anything like that). Also, Notepad is very quick to open and close. One thing to remember, though, is that by default the text will appear on one great line of text that scrolls sideways as you add to it. This can be changed by clicking on the “Format” command and then clicking on “Word Wrap”. This wraps the text onto the next line automatically as you would expect.

Wordpad is also like a simplified word processor, but it does have some formatting capability, such as fonts, inserting objects (eg pictures), and text justification (aligning text left, right, or centre). If you find Word irritatingly complicated and sometimes think you can’t see the wood for the trees when using it, then do give Wordpad a try.

2 Windows Sticky NotesSticky Notes is a computer representation of the physical bits of paper that some people feel compelled to spread around their desk, computer, and anywhere else with a smooth surface. Using Sticky Notes, the notes appear on the computer desktop. If they disappear behind another program that is currently to the fore on the computer’s desktop they can be brought to the “top” by clicking on the Sticky Notes icon in the task bar at the bottom of the screen. The one thing I don’t like about Sticky Notes is that the text comes out in one of these “pretend handwriting” fonts that I find hard to read. There isn’t any simple way of changing the font, but what I do is to start off a note by pasting a piece of text from elsewhere into a new sticky note. The font of the pasted text is retained on that sticky note until it is deleted, so I keep re-using the same sticky note. You don’t save the individual notes, but Windows will retain the current batch of sticky notes and re-present them if the computer is re-booted and the applet started again. You can also copy the text of a sticky note to paste elsewhere if you decide that it’s worth saving as an individual file.

Searching from the Start MenuAs with all programs running under Windows 7, there are several ways to launch these applets. The easiest way is to click on the “Start” button, type in the first few characters of the applet name, and then click on the applet name when it appears in the menu above the search box – eg for Sticky Notes, just type “st” (without the quotes) and then click on “Sticky Notes” above.

When we think of creating and saving text, most of my computer clients will automatically use Word. Over the years, I have found that I use it less and less. I think this is partly because emails have replaced letter-writing and partly because there often better ways to store text information in our computer systems. All of the applets mentioned here are easy to use and get to grips with. Go on, give them a try.

© 2011-2015 David Leonard
Computer Support in London
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