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StickyBrain: Like Having a Second Brain

by

Episode 58
April 14th, 2006

Macintoshes are great, but one thing they don't include is a place to store important little snippets of stuff you may someday need, such as text, pictures, movies, URLs, e-mails, and other "data." I used the venerable Scrapbook desk accessory for this under OS 9 but it was a less-than-optimal solution. What I wanted was a program that could:

  1. Store any type of information: text, graphics, movies, sounds, Web pages, bookmarks, etc.
  2. "Suck in" information from other applications quickly and easily.
  3. Let me search for and retrieve that information quickly and easily.

After years of trying to find a program that fit the bill, I found what I was looking for and its name is StickyBrain 4, made by Chronos. They call it a universal note manager but I call it my second brain. Any time I come across some bit of information I think I might want to use again someday I send it to StickyBrain. Take this paragraph, for example... I merely select it and then either:

  • Choose Grab from the contextual menu as shown in Figure 1

or

  • Invoke my Grab hot key (which is Command-F11, not shown)


Figure 1: Here I'm grabbing some text from a Word document...
(Click the thumbnail to see a larger image)

As soon as I do either I hear a delightful little "grab arpeggio" sound as the text is captured in a new note in StickyBrain, as shown in Figure 2.

Note: Ignore the fact that the contextual menu says "SOHO Notes Grab To" where it ought to say "StickyBrain Grab To." I'll explain why it's confused in a moment.


Figure 2: …which is captured to StickyBrain's Unfiled folder.
(Click the thumbnail to see a larger image)

The cool part is that this happens EVEN IF STICKYBRAIN ISN'T OPEN! You have to admit that is pretty darn cool, but wait - there's more! Watch what happens when I do the same thing with text and graphics on a Web page that I've selected in Safari and grabbed (not shown). The text and graphics appear in a new StickyBrain note looking exactly like they did in Safari, complete with hyperlinks. And the URL is captured and appended to the bottom of the note for reference, as you can see at the bottom of Figure 3.


Figure 3: Text and graphics grabbed from my Web site (note the live hyperlink and appended URL).
(Click the thumbnail to see a larger image)

Of course you can also create notes yourself and add text or graphics to them the usual ways - drag and drop or copy and paste. And in addition to the aforementioned text and graphics, StickyBrain can handle almost any type of data you throw at it including bookmarks, Web archives, PDF files, other files, movies, and audio, as shown in Figure 4.


Figure 4: StickyBrain offers a note for almost any data type.
(Click the thumbnail to see a larger image)

As you would expect, you can search your notes for words or phrases. What's unexpected is the FlashNote feature, a menu item that lets you search through your notes without launching StickyBrain as shown in Figure 5.


Figure 5: FlashNote is available in the menu bar even when StickyBrain isn't running.
(Click the thumbnail to see a larger image)

StickyBrain has one more killer feature I use daily-the ability to paste the contents of a note into almost any document via contextual menu or keyboard shortcut.


Figure 6: Using the contextual menu (left) to paste a graphic (my signature) into a document (right).
(Click the thumbnail to see a HUGE image)

Here's another way I use this feature. I get a lot of e-mail that requires the same response. So I've created notes with those responses that I can paste into an email reply with a single click as shown in Figure 7.


Figure 7: Using the contextual menu (left) to paste text (shown in red on the right) into an email message.
(Click the thumbnail to see another HUGE image)

There's a lot more StickyBrain can do including alarms, links between notes, Palm syncing and more, but those are things I rarely (or never) use. The grabbing and pasting features are what make StickyBrain essential to me.

By the way...The reason my copy of StickyBrain says SOHO Notes all over the place is that I use both StickyBrain and SOHO Notes. SOHO Notes is the "Pro" version of StickyBrain. It costs more ($69.99 vs. $39.99 for StickyBrain) and does everything StickyBrain does but offers two additional features: .Mac Synchronization and client/server networking. If you don't need those two features, save $30 and buy StickyBrain instead of SOHO Notes.

There is one last thing: Fully functional 30-day demos of both programs are available from Chronos. My prediction is that if you try either one you'll buy a license before your demo expires.

StickyBrain 4 by Chronos. S.R.P. $39.99.
SOHO Notes by Chronos. S.R.P. $69.99.

And that's all he wrote...

Bob "Dr. Mac" LeVitus has been a Macintosh user for a long, long time and has written 49 computer books including Mac OS X Tiger For Dummies and GarageBand for Dummies. He also offers expert technical help and training to Mac users, in real time and at reasonable prices, via telephone, e-mail, and/or unique Internet-enabled remote control software. For more information on Bob and his services, visit www.boblevitus.com.

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