How to import files and folders into Notebooks

Notebooks stores all its books and documents as folders and files on your hard drive instead of hiding them away in a database. So there are two options to add documents and folders to Notebooks:

  1. you can drag & drop files and folders from Finder onto a book in Notebooks; this copies the selected files and folders to the book (folder) in Notebooks
  2. you can move or copy documents to Notebooks’ hierarchy directly in Finder

How to rename a document

To rename a book or document in the tree view or list view, just select (highlight) the document and either type Return or right-click the item and select Rename from the context menu. Documents you create in Notebooks by default use the first line of text as title; so changing the first line of text is another option to change a document’s title. (When title and first line do not match, Notebooks does not change the title when you modify the first line).

How to remove or change the ruled background

By default, Notebooks shows plain text documents on a ruled background. Formatted documents, however, always use a solid background color. You can easily change the background pattern or replace it with a solid color. There are three places where you can change that:

  • In Notebooks’ preferences > “Fonts and Colors” you can set a “Background Pattern” or a “Background Color”. This setting will be used by default throughout Notebooks.
  • Right-click (ctrl-click) on a book in the tree view (or click on the action button in the footer) and select “Background Pattern” or “Background Color”. This sets the default for the contents of this book (and its sub books) and overrides your preferences.
  • To change the pattern or color for an individual (plain text) document, you can
    • right-click on the text of the document and select an option from the Background submenu
    • From the Format Menu, select “Background Color” or “Background Pattern”

Open iWork documents in Notebooks

Pages, Numbers and Keynotes documents (wer refer to them as iWork documents can be stored and viewed in Notebooks (both on macOS and iOS), but depending on the iWork version you are using, you may need to handle them differently.

  • iWork 09
    iWork 09 saves documents as single files. Without further action, these documents can be viewed in Notebooks on all devices.

  • iWork late 2013
    When Apple introduced iWork for iOS in late 2013, they also changed the document format. Now, a document is saved as a bundle, which is a folder of files, instead of a single document. Notebooks for Mac detects that and correctly displays the documents, but to view them on an iOS device it is necessary to compress them first (so Document.pages becomes – Alternatively you can save the documents in iWork 09 format.

What are plist files for?

For each document, Notebooks creates a separate file with the extension .plist. These files contain details and information about the document (description, selected font or color, creation date etc). When you synchronize the contents of Notebooks between multiple devices, these plist files make sure that books, documents and task lists appear identical on all devices.

When you are unable to open PDF documents… (Mac App Store version)

For some users, Notebooks is unable to open PDF documents. This issue is related to “sandboxing”, Apple’s technology to keep apps from accessing documents they are not allowed to. As a consequence, Adobe Reader is no longer allowed to open Notebooks’ documents…
As a workaround you can remove the AdobePDF Reader plug ins and revert settings back to using Preview. You do so by moving the files

  • AdobePDFViewer.plugin and
  • AdobePDFViewerNPAPI.plugin

away from the folders

  • ~/Library/Internet Plug-Ins and
  • /Library/Internet Plug-Ins.

A step by step guide is available at the Adobe website.

This is another side effect of Sandboxing (Mac App Store). Notebooks is allowed to access the contents of its Home folder (the folder you select in the file selector dialog), but nothing else. If a hard linked folders resides somewhere outside of Notebooks’ home folder, on a different partition, for example, sandboxing prevents Notebooks from accessing or even listing its contents. The folder seems empty and Notebooks displays its title in a lighter color.
If you rely on hard links in Notebooks, we would recommend to download and use the versions available directly from our website.

Webarchives created in Notebooks cannot be viewed in Safari (Mac App Store version)

Yet another side effect of Sandboxing. Some files created by applications are automatically quarantined by macOS. When you double click to open them in Finder, macOS displays a warning and does not open them. – In the case of Notebooks, all webarchives are affected (they are created when you copy some formatted text and then choose New from Pasteboard).

To open these webarchives from Finder, right click on them, choose Open with > Safari, choose Open and enter your password. This removes the quarantine flag from the file, and from now on you can open it as usual.

If you are not afraid of using Terminal, you can use the following command which does not require your password:

xattr -d <path/to/the/file>

Keyboard Shortcuts

Most standard OS keyboard shortcuts work in Notebooks as well. Below it a list of additional shortcuts supported by Notebooks:

cmd-N create new default document
cmd-alt-N create new book
cmd-Backspace delete currently selected item(s)
cmd-O open current document in its default application
cmd-shift-I show document info
cmd-1 show document only, hide left two columns
cmd-2 show document and one left column; repeatedly type cmd-2 to change the left column
cmd-3 show tree view, list view and document (default layout)
cmd-ctrl-F toggle fullscreen mode
cmd-shift-F Open search window

Plain Text / Markdown Documents

cmd-T insert current date and time
cmd-D insert current date
cmd-B insert the Markdown code for Bold
cmd-I insert the Markdown code for Italic
cmd-K insert the Markdown code for Strike Through
cmd-Return Switch to formatted Preview or return to plain text view
cmd-[ and cmd-] Indent / outdent the current paragraph or selection.

Formatted Documents

cmd-T insert current date and time
cmd-D insert current date
cmd-B Bold
cmd-I Italic
cmd-U Underline
cmd-K Strike Though
cmd-L Type cmd-L repeatedly to cycle between bulleted list, numbered list or no list.
cmd-Return Switch to HTML source code or return to formatted view
Tab / shift-Tab Indent/outdent the current paragraph.

Known Issues and Limitations

  • Protected Items from Notebooks on your iPad and iPhone appear unprotected in Notebooks on your Mac. The reason is that Notebooks’ protection does not encrypt your documents. When synced to Dropbox or your computer, the documents are freely accessible from Finder. While we could add protection and hide these documents in Notebooks for Mac unless you enter a code, this would suggest a level of security that is not given (you can always access these document from Finder). The ultimate solution to this is encryption, which we need to implement in Notebooks on iOS devices and on Mac, but until then, protected documents are unprotected in Notebooks for Mac.