Take advantage of Sticky Notes in Windows 7

While the Sticky Notes applet may not be the most exciting feature in Windows 7, there are situations where this little applet can come in handy.

While the Sticky Notes applet may not be the most exciting feature in Microsoft Windows 7, there are actually a number of situations where this little applet can come in handy. And, believe it or not, there's a lot more to Sticky Notes than meets the eye.

I must admit that when I first looked at the Sticky Notes applet in Windows 7, I really wasn't that impressed and promptly forgot about it. However, I recently reached for a real sticky note and discovered that somebody had absconded with the last pad of 3M Post-it Notes from my desk drawer. With no other option, I clicked the Start button, typed sticky in the Start Search box, and launched the Sticky Notes applet.

Ever since that day, I have been using the Sticky Notes applet here and there, discovering its features and its shortcomings, and of course learning about workarounds. In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, I'll show you how to take advantage of the Sticky Notes applet in Windows 7.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a TechRepublic download.

The basics

Using Sticky Notes is pretty easy. Once you launch the applet as I explained above, a blank Sticky Note will appear on the desktop. You can drag the note anywhere on the desktop that you want. You can then just start typing your note. As you type (Figure A), the note will automatically increase in length up to a certain point and then a scroll bar will appear. However, you can resize the note anyway you wish.

Figure A

As you type, the note will increase in length.

You can change a note's color by right-clicking inside a note and selecting one of the available color choices. To create a new note, just click the "+ button" in the upper left corner of an existing note or press [Ctrl]+[N]. To delete a note, just click the "x button" in the upper right corner or press [Ctrl]+[D].

When you launch Sticky Notes, you'll see that it has a button on the Taskbar. As such, you can easily minimize all notes on the desktop by clicking that button. Likewise you can restore them by clicking that button.

When you create a note, the Sticky Notes applet automatically saves the note. This means that you can close the Sticky Notes applet without fear of losing your notes. Just right-click on the button and select the Close Window command, as shown in Figure B. When you re-launch the applet, all your notes reappear.

Figure B

You can right-click on the button to close the Sticky Notes applet without fear of losing your notes.

Changing font workaround

If you are like me, one of the first things you'll want to change is the default font. While Segoe Print is amusing at first, since it resembles perfect handwriting, it gets old quickly. Unfortunately, there isn't a standard way to change the font. However, because Sticky Notes is font aware, you can change the font by copying and pasting text in the font that you want to use from another word processing applet.

For example, as you can see in Figure C, I pasted text in Cambria and Arial into a note. The nice thing is that once you paste in a new font, that font will become the default font for that particular note and you can continue typing in that font.

Figure C

Using the workaround, you can change the font.

However, any new note that you create will default to the Segoe Print font. While using the copy-and-paste method of changing the font isn't the most convenient, it is an easy enough workaround, especially if you just copy and paste one word from a previous note.

Formatting text

The font shortcoming aside, there are lots of ways that you can format text in a note. You just select the text you want to format and use the keystroke combinations listed in Table A.

Table A

Format Keystroke Combination
Bold Ctrl+B
Italic Ctrl+I
Strikethrough Ctrl+T
Underline Ctrl+U
Increase Font Size Ctrl+Shift+>
Decrease Font Size Ctrl+Shift+<
Align Text Left Ctrl+L
Align Text Right Ctrl+R
Center Ctrl+E
Bulleted/Numbered Lists Ctrl+Shift+L

Reviving the Delete Note confirmation

When you delete a note, you'll see the confirmation dialog box shown in Figure D. Chances are good that after a few times, you'll want to select the Don't Display This Message Again check box. However, you really shouldn't because when you delete a note, it's really gone. In other words, it is not sent to the Recycle Bin. Without this confirmation, it is really easy to accidentally delete a note you meant to keep.

Figure D

When you delete a note, you'll be prompted to confirm the operation.

If you do select the Don't Display This Message Again check box and then later want the confirmation back, you can revive it with a simple registry edit. To launch the Registry Editor, click the Start button, type Regedit in the Start Search box, and press [Enter]. When the UAC dialog box appears, respond appropriately. When the Registry Editor appears, navigate to the following folder:


Then, double-click the PROMPT_ON_DELETE value and set the Value Data to 1, as shown in Figure E, and click OK. To complete the operation, close the Registry Editor.

Figure E

You can revive the confirmation prompt with a simple registry edit.

Make a backup

If you want to individually back up the Sticky Notes data file or just make sure that it is included in your regular backup routine, you'll need to know that the file is named StickyNotes.snt. You'll find this file in the folder

C:\Users\{username}\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Sticky Notes

Create a query to search notes

When you have a lot of notes in the Sticky Notes applet, they can overlap each other. This makes finding a particular note a bit difficult. Fortunately you can create a special query that will scan through the Windows Search Index and find all your notes and display them in a neatly organized Search Results window. To do so, you'll create a shortcut that uses the search-ms protocol.

Right-click on the desktop and select New | Shortcut. When you see the Create Shortcut window, type the following command into the text box:


Of course, it is easier to simply copy the above command and paste it into Notepad. You can then replace USER%20NAME with your account name. For example, Greg%20Shultz.

When you look at this command, it looks like a mess, but you just need to understand that the %## codes are special codes for standard characters. For instance, %20 = space, %3A = :, and %5C = \

You can now click Next, name your shortcut, and click Finish. When you run the shortcut, you'll see an Internet Explorer security warning and can just click Allow. You'll then see a Search Results window like the one shown in Figure F.

Figure F

Your note will appear in a Search Results window.

What's your take?

Have you used Windows 7's Sticky Notes applet? Will the techniques discussed in this blog encourage you to use it? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

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