Take notes while watching full-screen movies

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If you work as a video editor, or are otherwise involved in viewing and commenting on video, then you know that watching movie clips in full screen mode is of the utmost importance—you may see details which are otherwise too small to see. Back home in your studio, you’ve probably got a separate monitor for video output, leaving you free to work and take notes while the video is playing back. But what happens when you’re on the road, and all you’ve got is your trusty Mac laptop to work with? How can you take notes while watching a full-screen video?

It turns out that there are a number of ways to do this—some built into OS X, and others that rely on third party solutions. Since this is an OS X tips column, we’ll start out with the built-in solutions. Launch Stickies and create a new note (File -> New Note). Then select Note -> Floating Window, which will force your new note to float on top of all other windows—including the full-screen video you’re watching. Optionally, you can also set Note -> Translucent Window to make your note semi-transparent, allowing you to see the video through the note. Switch back to QuickTime, start the movie again, then start typing in your sticky note. Here’s an example of a note floating over a movie (click the image for a 1,440-by-900 version):

Note that when you click in the sticky to start taking notes, the main menu bar will appear, as Stickies is now the frontmost application. If that bothers you, you can use this hint to hide Stickies’ menu bar while it’s active.

Another built-in solution, at least for OS X 10.4 users, is to use Dashboard’s Stickies widget. Since the Dashboard layer floats above all others, your sticky note will be visible on top of the playing movie. Of course, so will any other Dashboard widgets you have open, which could lead to a bad case of visual clutter—and it’s something of a pain to close all those open widgets any time you want to comment on a movie.

Third-party solutions

There are a number good solutions involving third-party tools. Movie Time, for instance, is a free movie player that lets you specify on which “layer” you’d like your movie to appear (behind regular windows or on the desktop, for instance). You could then use your favorite text editor to take notes on top of the playing movie.

If you use Unsanity’s $10 WindowShadeX, you can make any window from any application float on top—so you could take your notes in BBEdit, TextEdit, or any other editor of choice.

The free SideNote is a notepad that slides out from the edge of the screen, letting you comment when you need to before disappearing until it’s time for the next comment. It supports many of the same features as Stickies, including colored notes, font and style settings, and support for images. It even includes system-wide hotkey access.

Finally, if none of the above seem to meet your needs exactly, you can always go old school: grab a pen or pencil and some paper, and you can take notes in full-screen movie playback mode without any visual distractions at all!

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