Miscellaneous Ramblings

Jotz 1.3, an Innovative, Thoughtful Replacement for the Old Mac Note Pad

Charles Moore - 2005.03.14 - Tip Jar

There must be a dozen or more shareware and freeware apps themed closely or loosely on Apple's old Note Pad desk accessory, a program that dates back to System 6 days (and perhaps before). It was part of the Mac OS when I came on board with System 6.0.1.

Steve Jobs apparently didn't like the Note Pad, hiding it by default in OS 9 and then leaving it out of OS X altogether - replaced by an enhanced Stickies application. Trouble is, I - and apparently a lot of other Mac users - never really liked Stickies, and the Note Pad void in OS X has created an opportunity for third-party developers.

A couple of Note Pad replacements I like are the imaginatively named Note Pad, which among the various offerings most closely approximates the original Classic app, and Note Pad Deluxe X, which is really a mini-database program.

Sitting somewhere between those two variations on the Note Pad theme is the subject of this review, Jotz 1.3.

Jotz notepadApple Note Pad
Default view for Jotz and Apple Note Pad

Jotz RosesJotz takes the notepad metaphor whimsically literally, with its default lined yellow legal pad interface motif. However, there are many available pad decor options (including no decor), and you can substitute plain, ledger, or quadrille formatting for the lines. To the right is "Roses" with ledger formatting.

The program's files are kept in a folder called "Jotz Folder", which is located at the root level of your Documents folder in your Home folder. A Jotz Folder must remain in that location and have that name for Jotz to find it, but you can replace it with an alias to a Jotz folder somewhere else if you wish. The single location makes several of Jotz's features possible, such as multi-Pad searches and hierarchical Pad-note menus.

The Jotz folder contains your pads, and inside the pads are notes. You can create new folders inside the Jotz folder to add a hierarchical organization to your pads. Jotz will automatically regenerate the affected menus. You can open a Finder window on the Jotz folder by using the Open Jotz Folder command from Jotz's File menu.

If you need to move Jotz to another computer that has never had Jotz installed, just copy the Documents folder containing the Jotz folder to the new computer, and all of your preferences (including your registration serial number) will automatically follow - a nice, convenient touch I wish other developers would emulate.

Jotz' basic document type is the Pad. Each Jotz Pad contains an unlimited number of Notes. Each Note is a full Rich Text document capable of supporting fonts, styles, colors, images, and attachments. In Jotz, the Note corresponds to an individual sheet of paper in a regular paper notepad - except that Jotz Notes are of unlimited length and can do much more.

Each Jotz note is actually an RTFD file, so individual notes can be dragged from inside the Pad and opened with any RTFD-capable application, such as TextEdit.

A note can contain just about anything. You can drag text, pictures, even applications and other kinds of files onto a note. All items that aren't text are stored as separate files inside the Note's file package.

Jotz has three classes of Cocoa drawers:

Pad-related drawers: Drawer deals with pad data in some manner

Examples: Shuffle Drawer, Text Drawer

Application-wide drawers: This drawer deals with a single, application-wide data source, regardless of what pad it is opened in.

Examples: To Do Drawer, Reference Drawer

Utility Drawers: Drawer is a tool for manipulating data, and each instance deals with a data source unique to it, but unrelated to the parent Pad.

The tab on the right-hand edge of the drawer is the drawer-close tab.

Jotz tries to retain as many of the benefits of a paper notepad as possible. As notepads rarely stick Save dialogs in your face, Jotz doesn't either. Each Jotz Pad periodically checks to see if it has been changed recently, and does a background Save operation if it has. You can also save manually if you wish.

Jotz' auto-title system creates a list of all of the words in the note, removes the most common words (in multiple languages), and then strings together what it sees as the most significant words based on statistical language theory. The resulting title is usually representative of the note contents, although it is generally not polished prose. AutoTitle is not intended as a substitute for your own title, but as a convenient shortcut that is vastly superior to a collection of Untitled notes.

AutoHide causes Jotz to Hide itself when it hasn't been used for a while. This can be disabled in the Jotz Preferences.

The MultiButton (short for "Multifunction Button") is a user-configurable button control. There are two MultiButtons on the Pad.

If you click-and-hold on a MultiButton, a popup menu appears that looks like this:

The top items in the menu (with icons) can be programmed into the MultiButton by simply selecting them from the popup menu. The MultiButton icon will change to match the icon on the menu item, and the item feature will be activated. The MultiButton will remember its setting for its pad. Once set, a normal button click on the MultiButton will toggle the MultiButton's current feature. If you select one of the convenience items at the bottom of the MultiButton popup menu, that feature is activated without changing the MultiButton setting.

Jotz can also find and import Classic Note Pad notepads, stickies files, as well as importing RTF and RTFD files. To import your old Classic Mac OS Note Pads, select Find and Import Classic Note Pads from the File menu, and follow the onscreen instructions.

Jotz will find any Classic notepads on your mounted volumes and let you select which ones to import as new Jotz pads.

To import a plain text, RTF, or RTFD file as a Jotz note, open the pad that you want to add the note to, and then select Import... from the Pad menu. Jotz will create a new note and set its contents to the contents of the file.

Jotz has numerous methods of jumping to a particular note:

  • You can open the Shuffle Drawer of a Pad and click on the Note title
  • You can use the Select Pad or New Note In Pad items of the Pad menu.
  • You can use the similar menus available from Jotz's Dock menu when Jotz is running
  • You can use the contextual menu available from the Iconize window when Jotz is Iconized.
  • You can use the Note Selection Combo Box at in the Full Featured Pad mode: (click on the blue arrow thingie)
  • You can click-and-hold on the Note Title text area just above the pad contents to get a popup of all the Notes in the Pad.
  • You can use the Browser Style Search to find the note, and then double-click on the results to be taken there.
  • You can just use the Riffler or the Next-Previous buttons to just browse around.

I've found plenty to like in Jotz, which abounds with thoughtful and innovative touches, like the fact that Jotz documents can be opened with any application that supports RTFD files. I hate having my data locked into proprietary file formats.

The Jotz interface is attractive, flexible, and functional. Having a search field right in the Pad window is convenient, and the multiple drawers toggled by the multibutton are great. Jotz also supports OS X Services.

There are also a few things I don't like. Some standard Mac OS keyboard shortcuts, such as F3 for Copy and F4 for Paste, are not supported, which I miss, and drag & drop is not always as quick as it might be - in or out, although this has improved substantially in recent Jotz versions.

I find that Jotz interface response in general tends to be draggy and hesitant (this is on a 700 MHz G3 iBook), and Browser toggling from Web URLs in Jotz pads is way too sensitive. Also, there should be an undo function (preferably multiple undos). I lost a half hour's work on one occasion due to a keystroke error.

And then there are odd glitches like Jotz leaving this artifact on my desktop for several days.

However, those are relatively minor niggles. In general, this is a nice little note pad application and a very decent value at $17.95

Jotz Features:

  • Rigorous adherence to the Classic notepad metaphor. This is a notepad, not a database or a PIM.
  • Near-zero learning curve. Tested on both "techie" and nontechnical users. (true for basic functions, although some of the advanced features require scaling a learning curve)
  • Commonly used functions available on pad window. (New Note, Select Note, Shuffle Notes, Find, etc.)
  • Notes are individually dated with creation and modification dates.
  • Automatic Find/Import of Classic Note Pads.
  • Autosave: Changes made to a note are intelligently saved in the background within seconds.
  • Background note-loading: even very large notepads immediately available.
  • One-button automatic polylingual significance-theory note auto-titling (currently supports English, German and most Romance languages).
  • User-configurable auto-hide: minimizes desktop clutter.
  • "Shuffle Drawer" for easy note reorganization: notes can be dragged around inside the pad, or between pads.
  • Multilevel, multi-pad search (Search in: current note; current pad; all open pads; all pads in Jotz folder).
  • Simple and Full interface styles. See for images
  • 100% "live" (non-modal) preferences.
  • Auto-closing drawer-based alerts instead of flow-disrupting alert windows or sheets.
  • Full Cocoa application, not Carbonized Classic app.
  • Standard file format (RTFD) for robust data availability. You can read your notes without Jotz, if need-be.
  • Unlimited notes
  • Unlimited Note Pads
  • Unlimited note length
  • Notes can be text, graphics, web pages, whatever
  • Drag and drop import of numerous file types
  • Drag and drop export to RTFD (TextEdit) files
  • Drag and drop Notes between Pads
  • Finds and imports Classic Note Pad files
  • To Do Drawer
  • Reference Drawer
  • Sophisticated printing control with WYSIWYG preview
  • Each pad has Full-contents "live" search
  • Multi-Pad "Browser Style" search
  • Sorting on multiple attributes
  • User configurable Pad background decor
  • Multiple Pad window designs
  • Alias support for desktop/laptop sharing
  • Encrypt Notes with Blowfish
  • Automatic note title generation
  • Automatic note time/date stamping
  • Open file format - notes can be read by TextEdit
  • Robust, auto "safe save" every few seconds
  • Extensive Undo support
  • User configurable Pad layout
  • Built-in suggestion box: encourages feedback from users.
  • System Services
  • Sensible, easy to live-with, real-world license:

Upcoming Jotz Features

  • Timed reminders
  • One-window, all-pads "iJotz" interface option
  • Journal window
  • Transparent Auto-encrypt/decrypt option
  • Network note sharing/collaboration

New in version 3.1.12:

  • Jotz now validates the printer information object returned by the operating system, as it appears that it is occasionally possible for that object to be incorrectly configured, which could cause Jotz to fail to display Pads correctly.
  • Jotz is now more robust with respect to corrupted Pads.

System requirements: Mac OS X 10.2 or higher.

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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