While most Notepad replacements expand on features, very few rebuild the concept of a lightweight text editor. Quicknote introduces an entirely unusual interface and features that don't exist in its cousins, importing the traditional concept of notes--as a mix of text and doodles--but in a decidedly unpolished package.

As you can tell from the screenshots, this freeware program looks very atypical. There's a small control panel in the right corner to control what can be best described as gross functions that determine overall program behavior. Fortunately, mouse-over help text save users from playing "guess the feature". The L controls focusless input, N determines the Quicknote list on the left half of the program, B shows and hides the toolbar, M is the main menu that hides Save, Print, Options, accesses tool buttons not available on the toolbar.

Quicknote is a Notepad replacement that offers an unusual interface and a transparent window, among other features. (Credit: CNET Networks, Inc.)

Some of these tools, such as the Calculator, are accessible elsewhere. Others are unique to Quicknote, such as the function that lets you send a note--which can include text or drawing--to another computer, provided you have the computer's name or IP address. To receive a note, you need to go to M then Tools and click on Receive text from another computer.

To send a note, you need to highlight the text you would like to send, and from the context menu access the Copy Text drop-down and select To other computer. After that, you'll be asked for the other computer's information. Type that in and you're on your way to low-fi note sharing, across the room or, one supposes, the world.

The last button in the right corner, the double box icon, minimizes Quicknote to a white bar. The default setting for the bar is in the upper left of your monitor, although that's configurable from the Menu/Options/Sleep Mode. The line's called the Wake Up bar because when you mouse over it, the program maximizes to its previous position.

Quicknote lets users choose a variety of options related to Show/Hide behavior, as well as the transparency. I found it particularly useful to set the application to minimize when the focus program, the program that I was currently using, wasn't Quicknote. By sticking the Wake Up bar in an easy-to-mouse-to corner, I was able to wake the program with a quick shift of the mouse.

Users can set Quicknote to run on start-up, and can control speaker volume using hot keys while the program is the focus. The actual creation and use of notes is an entirely different work flow from Notepad and its replacements, which often function as super-lite versions of larger word processors.

Quicknote's tiny and customizable Wake Up bar requires nothing more than a mouse over to reopen the hidden program window. (Credit: CNET Networks, Inc.)

Here, you're given a Main Note, followed by two category trees--one for Personal notes, and the other for Professional notes. Categories are customizable, and users can create new ones via any note or category's context menu. No matter the category, the notes all function the same way.

Users can create as many notes under as many categories as they like. Notes can only be sorted through the Category menu, but other than that the menus are very similar. You can also drag-and-drop notes around to organize them.

Saving is a crucial feature in Quicknote, and users can choose different locations and different formats to save notes, or go with the default and save them internally as part of the program. Also important is the program's access to noncrucial but useful add-ons. It comes with a minimalistic drawing tool, where users can create freehand doodles. The only drawing-tool option available is to adjust the size of the pen.

Also included in Qucknote: command line access, a scheduler with alarms, a screen measuring tools that converts pixels to centimeters, a built-in task manager, all of which are accessible from the upper-left corner's context menu. The buttons in the upper left are similar to those on the upper-right, in that they're small, gray and strange-looking, and give the whole program an unprofessional feel. You can use them to change the note being worked on, but that feels redundant since the navigation tree makes notes readily available.

Quicknote does some great things that other note-taking applications don't, especially the Wake Up bar, the doodling, and the ability to send notes to other computers from within the program. However, the interface will take most users some time to get used to, and some may never feel comfortable with the awkward layout. For the features it offers, though, Quicknote might be the only game in town.