Mac Efficiency

by Deborah Shadovitz

Easy Notes with EZNote

Written and published Feb 2001
(but not available at MacCentral)

Once upon a time, in a millennium or so ago (August 99), I talked about note taking in a short series of columns and a few good people wrote to tell me about a shareware called EZNote, by John V. Holder. Well, I did try it — and like it as much as those of you who recommended it. So this week, EZNotes, it is.

John is working on a major update that will turn it into an actual application, with full drag & drop support, multiple windows, and many other features. He hopes to have that out in a couple of months. So I won't get hung up on some of the details, but will give you an overview of it here.

Overview of EZNote

EZNote is... well... a really easy way to create, file, search through, and read notes. The notes can be created as SimpleText, clippings, or other document type of your own choosing. Each note is actually a stand-alone document, stored within one main folder called EZNote. This is the interface. When you select text and press the keys to make a new note, your text appears within the big window pane. To format your note's text you use the menus. Using the File menu, you can create new folder so you get to sort notes by topic. Of course, you can move notes between folders; that happens using the File menu too. Each note is fully editable so you can add more to it, or remove text too.

EZNote window

Installing EZNote

EZNote doesn’t have an installer so its up to you to move the two items into their proper places (but it’s real easy). Here's what I recommend:

  1. Place EZNote’s folder in your Applications or Utilities folder.

  2. Make an alias of the Control Panel and place it in your Control Panels folder, leaving the real Control Panel in EZNote’s folder. (Remember, you can press Command-Option as you drag the Control Panel into the open Control Panels folder to make an alias without the word alias at its end.)

  3. The EZNote folder inside the application's folder, is the folder that will actually contain your notes. It needs to reside lose in your System folder so the installation instructions tell you to drag this folder there. However, as always, I strongly recommend that you do not keep your documents in the System folder so instead, I suggest you open your System folder and press Command-Option as you drag the EZNote folder into your open System folder. Then I suggest you move the actual EZNote folder to wherever you store your own documents. (If you followed my early columns and consider your notes to be misc data, you might choose the personal data folder you created back then.) As long as there is an alias of the EZNote folder in your System folder, EZNote will find the real folder. You can even move the EZNote folder around later on. (You may have to restart if you do move it.)

Setting up EZNote

The current version of EZNote doesn't have an actual application. Instead, you create new notes and get to your notes by using keyboard commands. You use the Control Panel to change the shortcuts and other behaviors of EZNote. If you're using a desktop Mac, you can use the default command. If you're on a PowerBook, you'll need to choose your own key commands.

On the front of the Control Panel, each of the five possible commands is listed. It's your reference to learn the commands. If those keys are convenient for you, you can skip this section and begin using EZNote. (The commands you see here are my own choices, for use on my PowerBook, no the defaults which begin with F13.)

EZNote Control Panel

If those keys aren't convenient for you:

  1. Double-click the command you wish to change. This opens the dialog box shown below.
  2. Press the desired keys. (I have a PowerBook so I use Control-F1 for the top command, then use the following keys for the next commands.)

EZNote Key Settings

You can also set the note's default name. You can have it use the first line of your note, or use the date or date and time. To set this,

  1. Double-click any command in the Control Panel's main window.
  2. Click the radio button that corresponds to your desire. (In the shot above, you see my choice to use the first text of the note.)

Notice there is also a "pop-up" command listed at the very top of the Control Panel. That's the command that gives you EZNote commands contextually from your desktop. To change the keys for this command, double-click on the command listed. Then check the boxes for the keys you want as triggers.

Other Preferences include the font you use and auto insertion of the date, etc. Just click the Prefs button to get to them. For example, by default, EZNote creates SimpleText documents. However, you can choose an file type you'd like. In the Preferences, click File Type, then click Select File Type, and finally navigate to the desired application.

EZNote File Type Setup

Using EZNote

When you're reading an interesting email, web page, or document and wish to keep a record of some or all of the text:

  1. Select the text
  2. Press the key combo for Copy Text/Edit.
    This copies the selected text, creates a new note,
    and pastes it in, giving the note its default name.
  3. Edit if desired.
  4. Click the Category pop-up and choose the desired folder in which to file it.
  5. (Optional) If the category doesn't exist yet, choose File->New Category and create your new Category.
  6. Click OK.

When you're seeking information you have stored:

  1. Press the key combo for Get/Edit Notes.
    This opens the EZNote window shown in the first screen shot.
  2. Click the Category pop-up and choose the desired folder in which to seek your info.
  3. Click the desired note name in the note list at the left.
    You can also use the arrow keys to move up and down in the file list.

To add more information to an existing note, or change the info you have:

  1. Press the key combo for Get/Edit notes.
    This opens the EZNote window.
  2. Choose the folder your desired note in, by clicking on the pop-up menu at the lower left.
  3. Click on the note's name in the note list at the left. The selected note appears immediately in the content area.
    You can use your arrow keys to move up and down through the note list.
  4. Paste your new text or otherwise edit your existing note within the content pane.

The Append Feature

If you have a note to which you frequently add text, you can easily set it up so you can append the new text to it with a key command instead of seeking it out within the EZNote window. This feature can add substantial convenience, but it also takes a bit of practice.

To make a note appendable:

  1. Select the EZNote window
  2. Choose File->Move File To, then choose the Appendables folder.

To append a note:

  1. Select the text
  2. Press the key combo for Append Text/Edit to see the appended text
    Press the key combo for Append Selection to append the note without seeing the EZNote interface.

If you have just one appendable note, this places the selected text at the end of the existing text in your Appendable note, adding the date and time to the added text unless you change that default. You will only see the new text. However, later when you view the note using the Get/Edit Notes command, you'll see all of your appended text.

Note: If you have several appendables, the note last appended is automatically appended. To change the appendable note, use the Get/Edit Notes command first, to select the note to which you want the text added. Then you can use the Appendable command.

Cleaning up Text

After you place any text into a note, you can clean up the text, removing extra characters such as line feeds. You can also count the number of words in any selection. You'll find all these commands under the Plug-ins menu. Just select the text within any note, then make your choice from the EZNote menu. In fact, you can even pop text into EZNote, clean it up, then copy it back out for use elsewhere.


If you're not already using a note-taking application that you love, consider EZNote. Some of you may already be using and enjoying FinderNote, a freeware I wrote about back in '99. I still think its cool too. If you who are using FinderNote, you may want to know that its web site announces FinderNote is being carbonized to run on Mac OS X as well as on Mac OS 8 and 9 — a complete rewrite.

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