Clipping Tracking

Written and published August 18, 1999

Last week, as I thought about how clipping utilities FinderNote and ClipPad fit into the scheme of things, I decided that since they were good note aides I'd call the column "Note Taking". Boy, did I ever start something with that title. I'm impressed by how many of you wrote in to recommend note-taking applications. (I love that you did -- and do. Keep writing; that way we all get to learn new things.) Meanwhile, I have a few other things to cover here, so after this column I'll deviate from note-taking for a bit. I'll return to it soon.

Last week I told you about FinderNote. This week our focus is ClipPad ($10 shareware), another simple application that lets you create, edit and format clippings. But it also goes beyond that to allow full clipping management. Its author, Marc Respass, actually wrote it for himself because he wanted an app to do these things. In addition to creating clippings, ClipPad also reads and creates Internet Location Files (Web, FTP and email) and lets you search the contents of clippings. (Last week I wasn't sure whether Sherlock searches the contents of a clipping. Robert Sharl tried it for us and reports that it does. So, for this, ClipPad isn't a necessity.)


ClipPad's interface is a single, clean-looking window that provides some buttons at the top, information about your clipping at the top-right, and the clipping contents in the main area. The first time you launch ClipPad, choose Edit->Preferences, then use the Select Folder button to tell ClipPad the folder in which you store your clippings. After that, every time you launch ClipPad you immediately see the contents of the first clipping within that folder. Then use the forward or backward arrows in the main window to move through the folder's clippings. You can also search a clipping's contents by using Edit->Find. (This Find searches the current ClipPad folder.)

To open folder other than the default folder, click the Folder icon, navigate to and double-click the desired folder, then double-click any clipping. (If you're using Action Files you can have your URLs folder and other clipping folders set as Favorites for easy access.) The folder icon above the body text shows you the name of the folder you're cruising. When you're in another folder you can return to the default folder by clicking the same folder icon.

You can also view any clipping, regardless of location, by dragging it into the main area if ClipPad is already running or by dragging the clipping onto the ClipPad's icon (or alias) if ClipPad isn't running.

The contents of the currently viewed clipping appear within the ClipPad window so you can edit or format the text. There are menus for choosing a font, size, style and color. (Picture or sound clippings can't be edited.) To delete the clipping click the Trash can icon. (In Preferences you can set the way the Trash behaves.)

The note's name appears in a text field above its body. You can rename the clipping (or ILF) by changing the name in this field. Of course, you can also rename it in the Finder like you rename any file (when the file is closed, like with all files).

When you want more information about the clipping, click the "i" icon to open the Info window. (Remember to close the Info window when you're done.)

New Notes

Whenever you need to take a note you can launch ClipPad, choose File-New Note, then type away. (You have to select the words "New Text Clipping" that come in automatically so they'll be typed over. I'm going to lobby for those words not to come in anymore.) You can drag text into the composure window, too. Then save the note using File-Save and it will automatically save to the current folder.

Internet Location Files

One of my favorite Mac things is the Internet Location File (ILF), and one of the coolest things about ClipPad is that it converts clippings into ILFs. Granted, ILFs are already simple to make and already have a Comments field, but ClipPad enables you to edit the address and also enables you to keep the entire text of your original note or message.

When someone tells you about a great URL and you're not online to check it out, do you type yourself a note about it? (Maybe directly in ClipPad or maybe elsewhere.) If someone writes you about a great URL do you drag the info out as a clipping? If you create that note in ClipPad, or save that note as a clipping, you can later convert it to a proper ILF.

By using ClipPad to make and view the ILF, you get to see the original message that you wrote about the address. Apple's Get Info Comments field lets you add comments, but only a short note. For example, in the clipping I convert below, the result is an ILF but it also still refers to the other recommended URL, allowing me to track the source of the recommendation as well as recall the full context of it.

The address of the ILF appears as a link at the bottom of ClipPad's window. Clicking the link opens the file in the browser, FTP program or email application you designated in the Internet control panel.

To convert a clipping to an ILF:

  1. If you saved the clipping earlier by dragging it to your desktop or a folder, drag the clipping into the ClipPad window.
  2. Select the address part of the note and select Edit->Convert to Internet Location File. If you're changed any text you'll be asked if you want to save those changes. Click Save if you want them saved. Then an alert asks if you're sure you want to convert the file to an ILF. Click Convert. ClipPad is best at creating URLs.
  3. Another window opens. It contains the selected address. If you're creating a URL, you don't have to bother with the "http://" as it's automatically added. When creating an email message you need to add the "mailto:" part, though. Same for FTP; you must add "ftp://" in front.
  4. Select the address type from the pop-up. (Selecting the address type doesn't add these address parts.) The final IRL appears in the current folder. Back in the main window you'll notice that the icon next to the buttons has changed.

You can always edit the URL. To do this bring the ILF into ClipPad and choose Edit-> Edit URL.

By the way, you can open pre-existing ILFs in ClipPad, too. That way you can add comments to them.

FinderNote Amendment (from last week's column)

I wrote that after you save a file in FinderNote it becomes a regular clipping, so when you double-click the clipping it no longer requires any application to run. To open any clipping (FinderNote-made or other) in FinderNote so you can edit it, simply drag the clipping onto the FinderNote icon. However, there's a shortcut, too (Daniel Milligan wrote to remind me). By default, you can press Command and Option as you double-click any clipping (even Word's) and it will open in FinderNote. You can change the modifier keys (the keys you press) under Preferences within FinderNote. (That's why there's an extension.)

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