I got the chance to review this recently updated app, StickyBrain. This app allows users to do more than the “Stickies” app that Apple has created. (Obviously, Stickies will be inside of Dashboard when Tiger is released, but StickyBrain still is much more than that).
At first glance of the main StickyBrain window, you can see a table, showing you the list of sticky notes that come with the app starting out. I didn’t care about these so much, so I selected all of the notes, and hit the “delete” button. (The delete key on the keyboard doesn’t work. It beeps. Kind of annoying, since I like keyboard shortcuts).
There are minor instances where the app doesn’t follow Apple’s UI guidelines, but Apple doesn’t follow them closely, either, so no points marked off for that. Obviously, as they have re-written it from the old OS 9 days, into Cocoa, I wouldn’t hold too much against them. It looks nice, so far.
The backbone of StickyBrain – the thing that makes it tick – is the database engine that they’ve built into the app. It seems to be fast and fairly responsive enough, and works well. Notes’ changes aren’t saved to said database until you save them, which can be handy if you’re a klutz like me. Why do they use this database in the background? Well, Apple is doing the same thing for Spotlight in Tiger. Basically, the program compiles this database, and allows for pretty nice searching. Similar to looking for files on your Mac, you can type in a search term to look through the piles of notes you would have in StickyBrain. Works fairly well.
StickyBrain’s biggest characteristic seems to be the way you can sort your writings and such into folders. The drawer that opens on the side shows you those folders. Thinking that it would behave like a typical app, I dragged the note I wanted to move to the folder in the drawer. This does work, though you can also use “Move” in the “Notes” menu. It has some occasional bugs, where notes forget where they belong, but they usually don’t hurt anything.
I noticed there was an “iPod” folder in the drawer. This sparked my interest. I plugged in my miniPod, and dumped some notes into it. It works pretty well. Inside a “StickyBrain” sub-folder in your “notes” folder, are the notes you’ve selected. In addition to iPods, StickyBrain will hand your stuff off to your Palm, if you have one. If you have .Mac, and wish to move notes from one location to another, you can sync over .Mac. I don’t have .Mac, so I wasn’t able to try this.
StickyBrain has a feature that they heavily market – working with other apps. As they state it, it’s supposed to allow you to select material in your browser, word processor, etc, and send it to a note or something. Using this feature is pretty neat. You could see something on eBay that intrigues you, or you get some pictures in an email from relatives, and send your notes out in an email in Mail or Entourage – since it’s open-ended, this is pretty cool. StickyBrain doesn’t have to be running when you do this, since it runs a service in the background. This can be turned off in the preferences. In addition, you can use this background feature to write what they call “QuickNotes”, which are basically what the name implies – write a quick note, without having to launch StickyBrain. These notes will be waiting for you the next time you launch StickyBrain, so that you can file them away into the folders.
They have also emphasized linking in StickyBrain – which lets the user insert hyperlinks to web pages (which open in Safari), and links between notes in the program. This is useful for a student’s class notes, where a chapter’s notes would refer to an earlier chapter’s notes. You can also link to contact entries, basically attaching a person from Address Book to a note.
StickyBrain has menus at the top that let you grab pictures, text, links, etc., from your computer to write up a note from scratch. This is pretty simple to do, similar to inserting stuff in Word or Pages.
Other features that are kind of interesting are tabbed views – like Safari – which let you open multiple notes at once, and alarm features – which means that you can assign an alarm to a note, and it will go off at the designated time, similar to iCal.
If your monitor is covered with Post-it notes, To-do lists, and passwords, and you’re obsessed with organization, this app will fit you like a glove. Its purpose can cover a variety of uses, but the main thing it does is storing virtual Post-its, reminders, and that sort of thing.
When I first installed this program, the installer reset my dock to the factory settings. This would be an issue with the installer that needs to be resolved if it’s a common problem. It’s still a little buggy in my experiences so far, but if the occasional issues I noted are resolved, then StickyBrain could be an awesome app, especially when Tiger appears, since it could really make good use of those new APIs. In terms of value, it’s a pretty nice program. If you need something to help you organize, for 40 dollars (U.S.), this is good.
If you’re interested in this app, it’s available on Chronos’ site.