Use tables in Stickies

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If you’re running Mac OS X 10.4, there’s no reason to fire up Microsoft Word or Excel if you just need a simple table. You’ve got access to a pretty handy built-in tables feature in Apple’s TextEdit (/Applications). Create a blank TextEdit document in Rich Text mode (Format: Make Rich Text), and you can then use Format: Text: Table to insert and manage a table.

You may have already known this, but what you may not have known is that any Cocoa application running in OS X can now support tables. For our purposes today, we’ll look at Tiger’s Stickies. This application is now fully table-capable, even though the program seemingly lacks any way to work with tables. Here’s the secret.

To put a table in a Stickie note, you simply need to start the table in TextEdit (or even Word or Excel). Once you have even the most basic structure defined (nothing more than selecting Format: Text: Table in TextEdit is required), select the table in TextEdit, copy it by hitting Command-C, and then paste it into a new Stickies note. You’ll now see the blank table, happily residing within a Stickies note. This still may not seem like it’s much use, though, as there’s still no menu item that you can use to control the table’s rows, columns, and formatting. However, position your mouse anywhere over the table and then Control-click and notice the first item in the contextual menu—Table. (This option isn’t available in any way until you’ve pasted in a table from some other application.) Select it, and you’ll now have the standard TextEdit table controller available:

Change the number of rows or columns, the vertical and horizontal alignment of rows and columns, even the cell border or background. In short, you’ve got full control over the appearance of the table.

If you find this useful, here’s a timesaving trick. Create a new sticky note, paste in a table from TextEdit, then edit it to have one row and one column. In the one cell, enter something like “Table Template” and then collapse the note by double-clicking the window’s title bar. When you do, you’ll have a tiny one-line placeholder note, as seen at right. The next time you need a new table in a Stickies note, double-click the collapsed window, copy your table, and then paste it in a new Stickies note and edit is as needed. Re-collapse the template note when done, and it’ll be ready to go the next time you need to repeat the process.

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