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A to-do list is a very tidy thing. Items are listed in orderly progression, a neat sequence of checkboxes to be marked as done in due time. For some people, that works. Others, myself included, need a bit more chaos in their organization. Stickies (free) lets me spread my to-do list all over my desktop and arrange it so that it makes visual sense to me.
You may think having your desktop covered in sticky notes is irritating. That is actually true: It does feel cluttered, especially if you've got a large backlog of tasks you wrote down and didn't do. That's part of the magic of Stickies: It gets you to actually do your to-do list, because you want to remove those notes and uncover your fancy wallpaper.
To create a new note, simply hit Win+S from any application across your system. This global shortcut can be changed or disabled, but it's on by default. There are a number of other handy shortcuts, such as Alt+Ctrl+S for creating a sticky and instantly populating it with the clipboard contents. However, this is just scratching the surface of what Stickies can do.
Stickies can contain rich text as well as images. If you type "" (open bracket then close bracket), Stickies automatically turns that into a checkbox. Stickies also handles Hebrew and Arabic gracefully, and does not get mixed up if a right-to-left line contains English text.
While editing a sticky note, you can press Ctrl+Shift+A to access the Set Alarm dialog. You can also do this by right-clicking the note. Once there, you can set the note to pop up at a certain time and date. When the time comes, the note sets itself as "always on top" and starts vibrating--moving in very rapid, small motions in all directions. The effect is very noticeable.
You can also set alarms to recur; you can have Stickies remind you to water your plants every three days or update your resumé every six months, for example. You do this by right-clicking a note's title bar and selecting Sleep > Recurring. Recurring notes can also have an end-date.
Speaking of the title bar, you can collapse each note down to the title only. You can also use the title-bar to set the note as "always on top," and of course, to close the note. And if you closed an important note by mistake, the Manage Stickies dialog (easily accessible through Ctrl+M from any note) lets you browse and search all notes, including closed ones. Incidentally, that means if you've written down some sensitive information in a sticky note and want to make sure it's gone, you should delete that information yourself (using plain old Backspace on your keyboard) prior to closing the sticky note.
Stickies packs so much functionality into its 1MB installer, I cannot begin to cover it all. I haven't even touched on its networking facilities, which let you send notes to other computers on your LAN.
Stickies is an essential part of my daily workflow. It is one of the first applications I install on any Windows machine I use, and it ensures I always have the information I need right in front of me. Highly recommended.