There are plenty of third-party programs and other widgets that may help you keep information close at hand. Here’s a neat trick to keep short notes or other small pieces of information accessible from the taskbar without any extra software.
You may be familiar with the Quick Launch toolbar that was available in earlier versions of Windows, but has been hidden or removed since. Did you know you can bring it back, or even make your own toolbar like it? This same functionality will allow us to create a toolbar that contains items with small bits of information we want to keep handy. Start by making a new folder wherever you want to keep the information, and make a new toolbar that points to it.
For demonstration purposes, we’ll use “C:\Notes\Phone Numbers”
Creating a Template File
After you have prepared the toolbar and placed it where you want, you’ll want to create a template file for your notes. This file can be placed anywhere you want, but to keep your toolbar looking clean you may want to put it somewhere other than the toolbar’s folder. Here the template will be saved to the toolbar’s parent folder, “C:\Notes”.
To create your template, simply open up a fresh instance of Notepad and save the blank document with an extension of “.lnk”. Make sure to specify the extension in the “File name:” field, and change “Save as type:” to “All Files”.
When you look at the file in Explorer, you’ll see that Windows thinks it’s a Shortcut. Since it’s really just an empty text file though, trying to open it will do nothing — it’s harmless. Making the file as a Shortcut allows you to choose a custom icon for it.
Populating Your Notes
Once the template is made to your satisfaction, creating the notes in your toolbar is a simple matter of copying the template into the toolbar’s folder and renaming the copy to whatever you want the note to say.
As you create new notes, they’ll be visible in your toolbar by clicking the arrow next to the toolbar’s name.
Automating Note Creation
It’s easy to take a lot of the manual work out of this process, once the toolbar and template file are created. For the above scenario, where the notes are in “C:\Notes\Phone Numbers” and the template is at “C:\Notes\Template.lnk”, the following Batch script will work to facilitate creation of a new note:
@ECHO OFF SET /P X=Text for note: COPY "C:\Notes\Template.lnk" "C:\Notes\Phone Numbers\%X%.lnk" SET X= PAUSE
Save that into a file with a “.bat” extension — you’ll probably want to put it into your toolbar’s folder for easy access — and run it any time you need to make a new note.
Notes created this way have the same restrictions as any file name in Windows. Particularly, you will want to keep in mind that the following characters are invalid:
- < (less than)
- > (greater than)
- : (colon)
- ” (double quote)
- / (forward slash)
- \ (backslash)
- | (vertical bar, pipe)
- ? (question mark)
- * (asterisk)
Also, there is a limit to the length your notes can have before it will be truncated in the toolbar display. Our testing saw this limit at around 410 pixels, or 38-71 characters (depending on which characters were used), but your mileage may vary. In order to see the full text of notes that exceed this length, you’ll have to open the toolbar in Explorer. The easiest way to do this is to right-click the toolbar and select “Open Folder”.
Ultimately, the length of each note is capped by the upper limits of the file system. For NTFS (the default for modern versions of Windows), the extreme maximum for a file name with a three-character extension is 251 characters. The actual maximum for most files is shorter though, since the length of the folder path can reduce the limit.
If the list of notes becomes long enough that it exceeds the height of your screen, it will become scrollable.
At this point, you’ll probably want to get the whole list sorted so it’s easier for you to find items within it. Any time you want to sort the items in your toolbar, just right-click one and choose “Sort by Name”.
So now there’s a list of phone numbers (or whatever else you want to put in there) that’s just one click away no matter what other windows are open!