Mac Gems: Sticky Notifications posts reminders on your screen

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Mountain Lion’s notifications system and Notification Center are great for letting applications get your attention and present you with information; if you’re using Lion (OSX 10.7), the third-party utility Growl performs a similar function. But have you ever wished you could use these features to get your own attention—for example, to post a quick note or reminder without having to use a full-blown notes or calendar/reminder app, or to leave an onscreen note for yourself when you step away from your Mac?

That’s the idea behind Sticky Notifications (Mac App Store link), a simple but useful utility that lets you take advantage of Notification Center (in OS X 10.8) or Growl (in 10.7 or 10.8) to post simple reminder notifications. (In Lion, you don’t even need to have Growl installed—Sticky Notifications integrates the feature. If you have Growl installed in Mountain Lion, you can choose whether Sticky Notifications uses Growl or Notification Center.)

Sticky Notifications' new-reminder window

Launch Sticky Notifications, and a small note icon appears in your menu bar. Click that note, or press the app’s customizable keyboard shortcut (I use Shift+Control+Option+Command+N, believe it or not), and a small window appears for you to type your reminder’s title and, optionally, a subtitle and a message. Press Return (or click Notify) and your reminder appears onscreen immediately as either a Mountain Lion notification or a Growl notification. It stays there until you dismiss it by clicking it.

If your reminder contains URLs, Sticky Notifications can automatically open those links in the appropriate applications when you click the reminder. This feature makes Sticky Notifications a convenient way to remind yourself to check a website or to email a friend or colleague.

You can hide the app’s systemwide menu if you’d rather just use the keyboard shortcut, and you can tweak Sticky Notifications’s alerts using the standard Notification Center settings in System Preferences. For example, if you’d rather not have your reminders always visible on your desktop, you can switch them to Banner-style alerts so they show only within Notification Center. You can also opt to have your reminders produce an audible alert, and you can set how many recent Sticky Notifications alerts appear in Notification Center.

A reminder using Notification Center

Though Sticky Notifications is a simple app, the developer has added some nifty extras to make it easier to integrate into your workflow. For example, once the app is installed, you get a new systemwide service that lets you quickly create a new reminder from selected text, as well as a new Automator action that lets you trigger notifications from within your workflows. Sticky Notifications also supports a new URL scheme, sticky-notifications://, for creating reminders, and the app integrates with LaunchBar and Alfred to let you create new notifications from within your favorite launcher.

One issue I’ve experienced with Sticky Notifications is that only the first 48 characters of the Message field appear in Mountain Lion notifications—fewer in Growl notifications—and there doesn’t appear to be a way to view the rest of the message. A minor complaint is that when you create a new note, the cursor remains in the field it was in when you previously created a note, rather than starting in the Title field each time.

A reminder using Growl

Sure, you could use OS X’s Stickies app for such notes, but for a simple onscreen reminder, Stickies is overkill. (That’s not a phrase I ever thought I’d use, but it’s apt here.) And because Sticky Notification integrates with Notification Center, your reminders won’t get buried behind or between other application windows—they’ll be right where you normally look for reminders and alerts, in Notification Center or in your Growl corner or roll-up. I also like how convenient it is to create new reminders, using either a keyboard shortcut or LaunchBar. I’m finding Sticky Notifications to be surprisingly handy.

(Sticky Notifications is available on the Mac App Store, but you can also download a trial version, or purchase the app directly, from the developer’s website.)

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