Save And Search Text Notes At Blazing Speed With Notational Velocity [50 Mac Essentials #43]

NV icon

I’ve been using Notational Velocity for years and years, and I can’t imagine using a Mac without it.

It’s an extremely simple application, but that’s a large part of its appeal. It stores text notes, and searches through them at blazing speed.

In its early days, NV was a niche product with a small adoring fan base. In recent years it has seen something of a resurgence, with new updates from its developer and a series of forked versions by others.

NV’s greatest assets are its speed and simplicity. To search, you just type. Matches will show up instantly. If there are no matches, you just hit return to create a new note.

The only thing that some people might consider a disadvantage with Notational Velocity (although personally I don’t see it as such) is that it is limited to text notes (plain or rich text). You can’t store images inside it. There is support for PDFs – drag one in, and NV will strip out all the text and save just that. The contents of your PDF will get saved as a new text note, but not the PDF itself. There are many hidden features and special tricks – John Arundel wrote a great summary of them which is worth reading.

What do I keep inside it? Ideas, lists, snippets, and random notes of all kinds. Anything I think I might need to refer to again someday. Oh, and my todo list. For years – until I bought an iPhone – I used NV as my address book too, simply because it was faster at searches than anything else.

NV comes with built-in sync support so you can reach your files from pretty much any device.

Everything I do in NV is synced to my phone, where I view and edit the same notes with Simplenote. I’ve always got my random stuff with me, wherever I am.

Most people I’ve ever shown NV to have taken to it with great enthusiasm. Even if you don’t use the sync features, it’s still a handy text notebook for any Mac. And it’s free. That’s why I think it deserves a place in our list of 50 Mac Essentials.

(You’re reading the 43rd post in our series, 50 Essential Mac Applications: a list of the great Mac apps the team at Cult of Mac value most. Read more, or grab the RSS feed.)

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  • Warrick

    Great little program: good choice

  • JohnMartine09876

    .my best friend’s mom makes $77 an hour on the computer. she has been out of job for 9 moths but last month her check was $7487 USD just working on the computer for a few hours. read about it http://CashDone.com

  • BMWTwisty

    I prefer JustNotes.  Works the same as NV but you can also tag your notes, making organization even more flexible and it also syncs beautifully with SimpleNote for the iPhone/iPod/iPad (another absolute must-have app).  

    JustNotes, too, is free.  And worth it!

  • Pedro Morais Leitão

    Tried it in the past, no way to run it just as menu bar icon – instant delete. I don’t want an unimportant program that will be running all the time in my dock, thank you. 

    Been using JustNotes ever since, because it does everything that notational velocity does, with the advantage of running as a menu bar icon and all the other things mentioned by BMWTwisty.

  • Jeff Bernard

    NVAlt is much better. Its a fork of notational velocity that is like a small slice of heaven. 

  • dmsrfd

    Ditto – notational velocity is good, but nvalt is an overall better/improved experience.

  • Nutz320

    That’s exactly what I thought at first, I marked it for finding the menu helper, because I couldn’t believe they could ignore that. But now, I realise why. It loads so fast. Because of this, what’s the point in keeping it open and risking memory leaks, which slow down your computer and are a security threat?

    That said, I’ve found a fork which has menu support, though I haven’t tried it myself. Still, if you want it, it’s here: http://elasticthreads.tumblr.c

  • astrobin

    Considering that it has a very similar function as the Evernote, I personally do not see much use of NV. What do you think?

About the author

Giles TurnbullGiles Turnbull is a freelance writer in England. He also writes for the Press Association and The Morning News. You can find out more at his website, and follow him on Twitter @gilest.

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