Editor’s note: The following review is part of Macworld’s Summer of Mac Gems series. Each business day until the middle of August 2008, the Macworld staff will use the Mac Gems blog to briefly cover a favorite free or low-cost program. Visit the Mac Gems homepage for a list of past Mac Gems.
Mac users don’t exactly go wanting for productivity-boosting note-taking applications. Just off the top of my head, I can rattle off Circus Ponies Notebook, AquaMinds’ NoteTaker, Yojimbo from Bare Bones, Philip Dow’s Journler… we could go on like this for hours, and that’s still not going to stave off the flurry of “You forgot about this…” posts that are doubtlessly queuing up in our online forums, even as you read this sentence.
My point is, that there’s a surplus of quality note takers available for the Mac, each with their share of strengths and special features. So why do I favor TopXNotes from Tropical Software? Well, like many of the top apps in this category, it offers the kind of features you’d expect from a basic note-taking application. It’s got a clean, single-window interface that puts controls for highlighting and marking up your text right at your fingertips.
But what sets TopXNotes apart is its QuickNotes feature. Designate a note as a QuickNote, and you can access it from the drop-down menu of a floating palette that always appears on top of other applications. That lets you open notes quickly, without having to toggle through other apps or lose sight of the window you’re working in.
Other valuable TopXNotes features include the ability to group related notes together, open multiple notes at once, and view notes organized by group or category in the application’s NoteOrganizer window.
I prefer to create a new note and just start typing, but for users who prefer some guidance, TopXNotes provides 13 templates for common note-types like shopping lists, directions, and receipts where you start typing in your own information. For a basic application, TopXNotes also offers some useful formatting tools, allowing you to set the size, style, color, and font of your note. I particularly like the options for highlighting text in different colors, as it helps me better organize the information in a given note.
Fans of security will appreciate the application’s password protection features. You can apply passwords to specific notes as well as set read-only privileges. You can also set a password that appears when TopXNotes launches to keep unwanted visitors from rifling through your notes.
The program is not without its quirks. Hitting Command-P will print every note you’ve stored in the application; if you want to print a specific note, you need to instead click on the Print Note icon affiliated with that note. It took me several printing attempts—and a lot of wasted paper, unfortunately—before I figured this out.
Still, TopXNotes’ conveniences more than make up for its quirks. If you’re in the market for a lean, mean note-taker, TopXNotes lets you jot your thoughts down without a lot of distractions.
[Editor’s note: Expanded review replaced original review on 7/14 at 7:40 a.m.]