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.