How to Use Sticky Notes on Windows 10

Microsoft transformed the Sticky Notes app in with Windows 10’s Anniversary Update. The new Sticky Notes app supports pen input and offers reminders and other “insights”, thanks to Cortana. It’s a convenient, lightweight alternative to OneNote for taking quick notes.

How to Launch Sticky Notes

The Sticky Notes app is like any other application included with Windows 10. You can launch it by opening the Start menu, searching for “Sticky Notes”, and clicking the shortcut. Once launched, you can right-click the Sticky Notes icon and select “Pin to Taskbar” if you plan to use it frequently.

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Sticky Notes can also be launched from the Windows Ink Workspace, if you have a Windows device with a pen. Click or tap the ink icon on your taskbar and select “Sticky Notes”. To show the Windows Ink Workspace button if you can’t see it, right-click your taskbar and select “Show Windows Ink Workspace Button”.

Sticky Notes 101

The app is simple to use. By default, you’ll see a yellow sticky note. You can type whatever you want into the note and Windows will save your note for later.

To create a new note, click the “+” button. To delete the current note, click the trash can button. To change the color of a note, click the “…” menu button and select one of the color circles.

These windows can be moved or resized as normal. Just click-and-drag or touch-and-drag the title bar to move them, or click-and-drag or touch-and-drag a corner of the window to resize them.

Move note windows around on your desktop by clicking and dragging (or touching and dragging) the title bar. You can also resize notes by clicking and dragging or touching and dragging at a corner, making them as small or large as you like.

Writing With a Pen

If your Windows device has a pen or stylus, you can draw or write notes directly in a sticky note. You just have to start with an empty note—every note can either contain typed text or something drawn with the stylus, but not both.

Getting Insights

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Sticky Notes works along with Cortana, Windows 10’s integrated virtual assistant, to provide more information.

This feature is called “Insights”, and it’s enabled by default. To check if Insights are enabled, click the “…” menu icon in a note and click the gear-shaped settings icon at the bottom left corner of the note. Ensure “Enable Insights” is set to “On” if you want to use this feature.

When you type or write something like a flight number—for example, “AA1234”— it will turn blue. This works both for typed text and for handwritten text you wrote with a pen. Click or tap the blue text to see more information.

For example, you could write a flight number and then click or tap it in the note to view up-to-date flight tracking information.

Sticky Notes are also integrated with Cortana for reminders. This is just another type of “insight”. When you type something with a time or date, the time or date will turn blue and you can click or tap it to set a reminder.

For example, let’s say you type or write “Lunch at 12:30” or “Go shopping tomorrow” in a note. “12:30” or “tomorrow” will turn blue. Click or tap it and Sticky Notes will ask if you want to create a reminder. Select “Add Reminder” and it will create a Cortana reminder about this event.

You can even get these reminders on your phone if you install the Cortana app for iPhone or Android phone and sign in with the same Microsoft account you use on your PC.

Sticky Notes offers other insights, too. It will automatically detect the following things, whether you type them with your keyboard or write them with a pen:

  • Phone numbers: Call phone numbers like “1-800-123-4567” using Skype.
  • Email addresses: Compose emails to email addreses like “bob@example.com”.
  • Web addresses: Open web addresses like “www.howtogeek.com” with your web browser.
  • Physical addresses: View the location of a street address like “123 Fake Street, California 12345” and you can view its location and get directions via the Maps app.
  • Stock symbols: View the performance of stock symbols like “$MSFT”.

Some of these features may only work in certain countries at the moment, but Microsoft is extending them to new languages and countries with the Creators Update. Expect Microsoft to continue adding Insights and continue expanding the available Insights to more people in the future.

Windows Doesn’t Sync Your Sticky Notes, But You Can Back Them Up

RELATED: How to Back Up and Restore Sticky Notes in Windows

As of Windows 10’s Anniversary Update, Sticky Notes don’t sync between your different Windows 10 devices. They’re stored on your computer in a local database for the Sticky Notes app. You can back up your Sticky Notes and restore them on a different PC, but you have to do that yourself.

Sticky Notes are ideal for quick, transient notes you don’t want to keep for a while.  For more complex notes, notes you want to keep for a long time, and notes you just want to sync between your devices, you’ll want to use a more full-featured note-taking app.

RELATED: The Beginner’s Guide to OneNote in Windows 10

For example, Microsoft’s own OneNote is included with Windows 10 and is very capable. But Sticky Notes is a convenient, lightweight alternative if you just want to jot down a phone number without going into your OneNote notebook.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Twitter.