Mountain Lion arrives

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Up close with Mountain Lion: Notes

If you rummage around in your Mac’s Applications folder in Mountain Lion, you’ll still find a copy of Stickies, that venerable (some might say long-in-the-tooth) application for creating short notes that you can pin to your screen. It’s a limited application for taking notes, one that many of us haven't used in years. Mountain Lion’s new Notes application is not an update to Stickies, but rather a Mac-based version of the Notes app found on iOS devices.

Launch Notes, and you'll see an interface very much like the Notes app found on iPads. Unlike the iPad version—where you find a two-column view that shows you a list of notes and then the contents of a selected note—by default the Mac’s Notes application adds an Accounts column to the left of the Notes window. Here you can view all your notes by clicking on All Notes, or choose notes synced with a particular IMAP account—iCloud and a Gmail account, for example.

Within this first column you can additionally create folders for filing your notes—a convenience we’d love to see on iOS devices. Just choose File -> New Folder or Control- or right-click in the Accounts column and choose New Folder. The new folder will appear under the currently selected account heading, but you’re welcome to drag it to another account. Once you’ve created a new folder you can drag notes to it or select the folder and create new notes that will be filed within it.

Formatting options

When creating notes you have three default font options—Noteworthy, Marker Felt, and Helvetica. If you like, you can select a different font by choosing Format -> Font -> Show Fonts and then selecting a new font from the Fonts window, but you can’t designate one of these fonts as the default, which is unfortunate if the three default fonts don’t appeal to you. When you create a new note, you’re back to the three default font options. However, Notes isn’t entirely limited in regard to formatting. You can create colored text, make text larger or smaller, format lists (in bulleted, dashed, and numbered styles), choose the alignment (left, center, justify, or right), assign a writing direction (left to right or right to left), and you can indent text.

Notes on the Mac is friendly to embedded links as well as attached files. To add a clickable link to a note, simply drag it into the note—from Safari’s Address field, for example. Click on that link and your default browser opens and displays the linked webpage. Attaching a file is just as easy—drag it into a note. Image files will appear as pictures within the note. Other files will display their icons and names. You can’t open larger versions of embedded images but you can open attached files by double-clicking on them.

Note that when notes with embedded files are synced to an iOS device, you won’t be able to view or open those files. Instead, they appears as an Attachment paper clip icon. You can tap on these icons from now until the end of time and they remain unresponsive.

Notes interface
The Notes app shows you the accounts where you can keep notes (including iCloud); the middle column shows you a list of notes; and the right pane holds the notes themselves.

The ubiquitous Share button also appears within Notes. Click this button at the bottom of a note and you can send the note as an email or message attachment.

Lastly, if you'd like to keep a note handy but not within a large window, you can open that individual note in a smaller window. Just double-click on a note within the Notes pane and it will open in a smaller resizable window. To close that window just click on the red Close button.

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