How-To

Turn your Desktop into a bulletin board! Create post-it notes on your Mac


Do you miss the days of using post-it notes to remind yourself to pick up milk on the way home? Or to quickly jot down the number of that plumber your friend recommended? Perhaps you’re still a big fan of physical post-it notes, and wish your Mac had a similar feature?

In this article, we’re going to explore one of the less talked-about applications that come built into your Mac. By the end of this article, you’ll have turned your Desktop into your own personal bulletin board, by using the Stickies application to create colourful, helpful “To Do” lists, reminders, and miscellaneous notes, that are always within easy reach on your Desktop.


Get started with Stickies

The Stickies application gives you an easy way to add notes to your Desktop. Although it’s possible to bump these notes up a level, so they appear to “float” above your other apps and windows, by default these notes appear in the background, so you can create multiple notes without them interfering with the tasks you’re performing in the foreground.

All of your notes appear as soon as you launch the Stickies app, and disappear when you close the app, so it’s also easy to reclaim your Desktop, if your post-it notes ever start to get in the way.

To get started with Stickies:

  • Open a new Finder window.
  • Navigate to the “Applications” folder.
  • Find the “Stickies” app, and double-click to launch.

Assuming this is your first time using Stickies, the app should launch with a sample note already created. We can use this sample note to master some of Stickies’ core tasks:

  • To expand the note so that it fills your entire screen, select its little triangle icon (where the cursor is positioned in the following screenshot). Once a note is expanded, you can return it to its regular proportions, by selecting the icon in its upper-right corner.

  • To collapse a note so that only its toolbar is visible, select the icon in its upper-right corner. To expand the note back to its regular size, click this icon once again.
  • To delete a note, select the icon in its upper-left corner. When prompted, opt to “Delete note.”

Create your first note

Maybe there’s some information that you need to quickly jot down before you forget, or perhaps you want to bring some order to your day by creating a “To Do” list. Whatever your motivation, you can quickly and easily create a new, digital post-it note:

  • Launch the Stickies application, if you haven’t already.
  • Select “File > New Note” from the Stickies menu bar. A blank note should appear onscreen.
  • To add some text, simply click inside the note and start typing.

Notes are saved automatically, so you don’t need to go looking for a “Save” button before shutting down your Mac, or exiting the Stickies application.

6 ways to customise your notes

Stickies may seem like a fairly straightforward application, but beneath the surface it has all the same formatting options you’ll find in Notes and TextEdit – plus a few added extras!

When creating notes, you may want to use fonts, colours, and styles, to help you distinguish between different categories of note, or to ensure your most important post-its really jump out at you.

When creating a note, you can choose from the following formatting options:

1. Background colour

This is one of the most dramatic changes you can make to your notes.

You can use different background colours to create a colour-coded system, for example you might use blue for all the notes you need to work on today, and pink for notes that aren’t quite so urgent.

To change a note’s background colour, select “Colour” from the menu bar, and then choose from yellow, blue, green, pink, purple or grey.

2. Font

You can access and use all of your system fonts, within the Stickies application.

To see what options are available, select “Font > Show Font” from the Stickies menu bar, which launches the standard system fonts window.

In this window, you can select a new font, and then change that font’s appearance, for example by altering its size, typeface and colour.

3. Bold, underline and italic

Stickies are great for making quick notes, but there’s no limit to the number of words you can add to each note. If you’re placing large amounts of text in a note, then you may want to use bold, underline and italic effects to make the text easier to read, for example underlining the most important points.

If there’s a chunk of text that you find yourself using over and over again, then you may decide to store that text in a post-it note, so it’s always within easy reach. In this scenario, you can ensure this text is always ready to copy/paste into a new location by applying the correct formatting, for example by underlining all the headings and subheadings.

To apply bold, underline or italic effects to a piece of text, highlight the text in question, and then select “Font” from the menu bar, followed by your chosen effect.

4. Font size

You can get specific about font sizes, by selecting “Font > Show Font” from the menu bar and then choosing a particular size. Alternatively, you can quickly increase and decrease your font size, by selecting “Font > Bigger” or “Font > Smaller” from the Stickies menu bar.

5. Float on top

By default, your post-its will appear on the Desktop, behind every application and window that’s currently open on your Mac. While this does prevent notes from interfering with the other tasks you’re performing on your Mac, it also makes it easy to forget about your notes!

Worried about an important note slipping your mind? You can configure individual notes to “float” above every other app and window on your Mac, at which point that note becomes impossible to ignore.

To create a floating note:

  • Select the note in question, by giving it a click.
  • Choose “Window > Float on Top” from the Stickies menu bar. This note should now appear to float above all your other windows and applications.

  • Rinse and repeat for each note that you want to bring to the foreground.

If you find “float on top” too intrusive, then you can return your note(s) to the background:

  • Select the note in question.
  • Choose “Window” from the menu bar.
  • Deselect “Float on Top.”
  • Repeat the above steps for every note that you want to send to the background.

6. Collapse

Maybe there’s a tonne of things that you need to keep track of, or you got carried away and created a note for every little task. If your Desktop is starting to look cluttered, then you can collapse one or more of your notes, so only their first line of text is visible:

  • Select the note that you want to collapse.
  • Choose “Window > Collapse” from the menu bar.
  • Rinse and repeat for all the Stickies that you want to collapse.

You may want to try combining “Window > Collapse” and “Window > Float on Top,” to create notes that don’t fade away into the background, but also don’t take up too much space onscreen!

If you change your mind and want to expand a collapsed note:

  • Select the note in question.
  • Choose “Window > Expand” from the menu bar.

Sick of notes? Export all of your post-it data

Stickies can be a great way to quickly jot down notes, create “To Do” lists, and can provide you with a place to stash frequently-used text. However, there may come a time when you want to switch to a different note-taking application, or perhaps you decide to stop using “post-it” style applications altogether.

If you want to move away from Stickies without losing all the information stored in your notes, then you can export the contents of your post-it notes, and then import it into a new folder in macOS’ Notes application.

To export the contents of your Stickies:

  • Select “File > Export All to Notes” from the Stickies menu bar.
  • Read the popup, and if you’re happy to proceed then click “Export All.”

All the text from your Stickies will now appear in the Notes application, in a new “Imported Notes” folder. If you applied different background colours to your post-it notes, then your notes will also be divided into sub-folders, based on these colours.

About the author

Jessica Thornsby

Jessica Thornsby is a technical writer based in Sheffield. She writes about Android, Java, Kotlin and all things Apple. She is the co-author of O'Reilly's "iWork: The Missing Manual," and the author of "Android UI Design," from Packt Publishing.

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