Scrollable Stickies

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Stickies, those little Post-It-type notes you can leave on your Mac’s desktop, have gained a lot of functionality over the years. You can dress up notes with multiple fonts and colors, add images, and make notes float over all other applications windows (Option-Command-F). Notes can appear translucent (Option-Command-T) and even hold QuickTime movies. But the one thing you still can’t do is scroll through a long note. If you have a lot of text you want to keep handy, you have to use the keyboard (arrows and Page Up/Down keys) to navigate the note’s contents.

Thankfully, there’s a simple solution, as long as you have Apple’s Developer Tools (also know as Xcode tools) installed. Even those of us who are just users can take advantage of these applications to add features the programmers left out. In this case, we’ll be using a program called Interface Builder (/Developer/Applications) to add scrollbars to our Stickies.

Please note that this hint is not a comprehensive introduction to modifying programs with Interface Builder. If you’d really like to learn more about Xcode, or Interface Builder in particular, you can start by reading Apple’s Xcode User’s Guide. But be forwarned, it’s written by and for programmers, and as such, it’s not the easiest read.

But back to today’s trick. Assuming you’ve got the Xcode tools installed, this shouldn’t take more than a couple minutes. First, make sure Stickies isn’t running, and then make a backup of the application—Option-drag it to another folder or drive to make a copy. Interface Builder will automatically make a backup of the file we’re going to modify, so this step isn’t technically necessary. Personally, however, I prefer to have a full backup of the application, as it’s sometimes easiest to just replace the entire bad version with a safe backup.

If you have a lot of important info in your actual Stickies notes, you may want to back up them up as well, though nothing we’re going to do will touch your data files. (Your notes are stored in a file called StickiesDatabase, located in your user’s Library folder. If you keep a lot of important info in your Stickies, you should be backing this file up regularly!)

Now control-click on the Stickies application and choose Show Package Contents from the contextual menu. In the new window that opens, navigate to Contents/Resources/English.lproj. (If you’re not using an English version of OS X, replace English.lproj with your chosen language.)

Inside this folder, you’ll see a number of files. Double-click on StickiesDocument.nib, and Interface Builder should launch and open the file. Interface Builder displays three windows when it opens—StickiesDocument.nib, Stickies, and Cocoa-Menus, as seen here:

The window you’re interested in is the big empty white one entitled Stickies. Click within the white area on the window itself. When you do, the window will come to the foreground, and you should see a selection rectangle (with smaller rectangles at various points) around the white area, indicating that this is the selected portion of the window—it’s visible as the green outline in the above screenshot.

Once this section of the window is active, select Tools: Show Inspector, or just hit Shift-Command-I. The NSTextView Inspector appears. Make sure the top pop-up is set to Attributes—it should be by default. You’ll see a lot of options here, but you’re only interested in two: Show Scroller and Automatically Hide Scroller. Select the Show Scroller option and the Automatically Hide Scroller option appears. Select it as well. The window should look like this when you’re done:

Once you’ve checked those two boxes, you’re done. Hit Command-S to save the file, and then quit Interface Builder. Relaunch Stickies, resize a note, and marvel at the automatically appearing-and-vanishing scrollbars.

Now why didn’t Apple simply give Stickies scrollbars from the start? Who knows; perhaps they felt the scrollbars were ugly, or maybe there’s some deep-seated bug that may crop up in certain situations. I haven’t encountered any bugs yet and I’ve been using a modified version of Stickies for a year. But please proceed at your own risk and back up your important data!

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