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I love taking notes. Or the more accurate term is I need to always take notes. Ideas, to dos, reminders and other noteworthy items always pop up out of the blue and evaporate as fast as they came.

And since my handwriting could rival Picasso’s paintings every time I take quick notes; the pen and paper practically become useless. I have to rely on electronic gadgets for taking legible notes.

Fortunately, I spend most of my working time in front of my Mac. So it comes down to choosing what app is the best for taking quick notes.

In the blink of an eye

I fell in love with JustNotes ever since I wrote about “Four Free Quick Note Taking Apps For The Mac Four Free Quick Note Taking Apps For The Mac Four Free Quick Note Taking Apps For The Mac Read More “. Besides being useful, the interface is just gorgeous. But that didn’t stop me from trying to find better alternatives for taking notes.

A reader recommended another quick note-taking application for Mac called Notational Velocity or NV for short. And after trying it for a while, I fell in love all over again.


01 Notation interface.jpg

NV is the perfect application to take not only quick notes but also extensive notes. It’s blazingly fast and it takes very little to no system resources.

Unlike JustNotes, NV doesn’t stay in the menubar. But this is hardly a drawback, because it opens in a blink of an eye. You could just use any launcher to open it. And after it opens up, you could use a shortcut to quickly reveal/hide the app.

Setting up the shortcut could be done from the “General” tab in the “Preferences” window.

03 General Preferences.jpg

After clicking the “Set” button, you could assign any unused shortcut there. Just press the desired combination and click “OK“.

04 Notational Velocity Shortcut keys.jpg

Look, Ma. No mouse, no icon, and no need to save!

Every first-time NV user will quickly notice that there are no icons in the interface. Just three simple areas: Search area, Title area, and Text area. That’s because NV is designed to work without a mouse.

NV comes with the basic instructions on how to use it. But let me recap on the general flow of using NV:

  1. Open NV everytime you have something to write.
  2. Hit Command + L to quickly go to the search area
  3. Type something. If there is already notes with a matching title or content, NV will show them.
  4. You could hit Delete or Backspace to unselect any automatically selected notes in the Title area and then hit Enter to create a new note or…
  5. Choose one of the available notes using the Up and Down arrow buttons, and then hit Tab or Enter to start editing.
  6. To delete a selected note, hit Command + Delete/Backspace.
  7. To rename a selected note, hit Command + R

There’s a complete list of available shortcuts for NV in the note titled “Excruciatingly Useful Shortcuts”

05 Notation - Shortcuts.jpg

But you will never find any shortcut to save notes, because the saving process is done automatically.

Share and Sync Away

NV comes with the ability to sync its notes through Simplenote service. Enter your Simplenote login and password in the “Preferences > Notes > Synchronization” window after checking the “Synchronize with Simplenote” box.

06 Notes - Simplenote account.jpg

At the moment, Simplenote has changed their business model. Any iPhone/iPod Touch/(future) iPad owner can download and use the Simplenote app for free but with ad support. If they want to get rid of the ad, they have to pay a one time fee of US$ 3.99. People who do not own one of those gadgets can also use the service for the same price.

But you don’t have to use Simplenote’s service to be able to sync your NV notes to another Mac(s). You could just point the location of NV notes in all of your Macs to a Dropbox folder and all of them will automatically synchronized.

To do this, open the “Preferences > Notes” window and choose “Other” from the “Read Notes from Folder” options.

07 Change the location of NV notes.jpg

Then choose (or create) a folder within the Dropbox folder as the new location.

08 New Folder inside Dropbox.jpg

If you already have many notes in NV, you would want to copy/move the content of the old folder to the new location. The default old location is in: “Your Home Folder/Library/Application Support/Notational Data

And using the sharing feature from Dropbox, you could easily share the notes folder to anybody that you want.

If Only

There are few other settings that you can tweak from the Preferences window including changing the font used by the note and applying encryption and password to notes.

All of the features make NV a solid application for taking notes. If only the interface is as gorgeous as JustNote, I would gladly ditch other similar apps without thinking twice. Even though functionality comes first, I too – like everybody else – almost always judge the book by the cover.

Have you tried Notational Velocity? Do you know other alternatives to take and organise quick notes for Mac? Share using the comment below.

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  1. Geo
    February 26, 2010 at 2:56 am

    Synced with SimpleNote and with SimpleNote iPhone app, the combinaison is deadly :)

  2. Miguel Wickert
    February 25, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    NV is one of my favorite apps! Thanks for showing it some love. Cheers!


  3. fellowweb
    February 25, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    Great article, thank you!

    So, do you stay with JustNotes or have you switched to NV?

    The third one on my current short list is Spark App:

    Have you had a chance to look at it?

  4. fellowweb
    February 25, 2010 at 11:58 am

    Great article, thank you!

    So, do you stay with JustNotes or have you switched to NV?

    The third one on my current short list is Spark App:

    Have you had a chance to look at it?

    • Jeffry Thurana
      February 28, 2010 at 4:44 am

      Still torn between two lovers - LOL!

      BTW, thanks for the suggestion. I'll definitely check out Spark App.

      • fellowweb
        February 28, 2010 at 2:10 pm


        Thank you for the follow-up!

        Spark's iCal/Mail sync feature (for Tasks/Note) sounds interesting as this might facilitate syncing its content e.g. with cell phones. However, I couldn't really find a documentation or any information e.g. regarding keyboard shortcuts. Therefore, NV sounds much more powerful to me.

  5. Beat Schindler
    February 25, 2010 at 9:16 am

    Wow, what I timely post, just as I was looking for it :-) Always on the lookout productivity increase in the note taking space. Will give NV a test drive, and if it even saves url's/links, I'll be a happy camper for sure.