Walkthrough: NotePlan 2 on macOS

Posted on Posted in general, HowTo

NotePlan helps you to become twice as productive by getting more serious work done with less planning. It lets you track your work and get things quickly out of your head, so you have the headspace to be creative – that’s what brains are made for. Find out how!

The second version of NotePlan on macOS is a complete rewrite of the app and features a new design as well as many new features. Here I will walk you through the core features, so you can get started right away.

1. The Layout

Find out the basic structure of NotePlan.

At the center of NotePlan is the monthly or weekly calendar (switch it by hitting the list icon beside the search bar). Each day has a note attached to it which hosts events, reminders, tasks, (+headings, comments or just plain text). Basically, anything relevant you need to know on a given day should be in this note assigned to this day. The note is displayed inside the editor pane right of the calendar.

The monthly calendar warns you with red badges if you have still open tasks in the past – means they are overdue. Once you have overdue tasks, a big red badge will also show up beside the month name. Click on this one to see a summary of all open tasks, which are in the past.

On the left side, you find a sidebar where you can switch to your project notes – notes which are not attached to a specific calendar day – along with a list of tags. In the calendar, you can tag single tasks with an @tag or #tag. For example, use @tags for people and #tags for topics. Once you tagged a to-do, you can search for it by clicking on the tag in the sidebar.

Use the project notes to create lists or to capture any other information you may need later. You can also schedule tasks from there directly into the calendar.

2. Capture To-Dos

Capture To-dos and plan your first day.

Plan your first day by capturing everything important for this day. These can be to-dos, ideas, addresses, reminders or any other textual information you need. Just get it out of your head and into NotePlan, so you have the headspace to be creative while being assured your ideas and tasks won’t slip through the cracks.

The most basic thing you need to know is that you can start a to-do by typing an asterisk followed by space and then the name of the todo, just like this:

Alternatively, you can use a dash (- todo). Check out the preferences, if you want to tweak it and use “real” markdown to-dos.

Once you have a list of things, start structuring it using headings. A heading is a hash sign (# ) followed by space and then the heading title:

You can also use the tab key on your keyboard to indent tasks to make them subtasks or add a comment using greater than (> ) and then space and the comment:

These are the most basic things you need to know in order to use the editor efficiently.

If you need to create events or reminders, hit the + button at the top of the editor. A dialog pops up and you can write the title of the event. NotePlan also understands if you write out the time directly, like “Meet John at 7 pm”. NotePlan will set the time field automatically to 7 pm.

3. Manage Tasks

Manage your tasks inside NotePlan.

During the day you complete and manage multiple to-dos and there are multiple ways to handle them inside NotePlan. The simplest one is to check them off. Click on the orange asterisk or dash to mark a to-do as done. Alternatively, you can also hit CMD+D or select multiple lines to check them off all at once.

(In the preferences, you can make NotePlan also append the date and time when you completed the to-do.)

However, you won’t finish always all to-dos on the list, if you are very busy. Besides, you have probably added more things during the day. NotePlan lets you move tasks to another day. When you hover over a to-do a menu icon appears left of it. Hit this to open the task manager. Here you can move the to-do to tomorrow or any other day in the calendar. Once you do this, the to-do is marked as “scheduled” and a copy is sent into the selected day.

In the preferences, you can tweak this workflow a bit more so that NotePlan appends date links, so you know the date where you scheduled it to and from.

If you know Bullet Journal, this approach might be very familiar to you.

The third and probably most convenient way to schedule a to-do is by dragging the menu icon which appears when hovering it. You can drag and drop it into the calendar directly (also works with multiple lines, if you select them and then drag).

4. Project Notes

Beside the calendar notes you can capture projects notes as well which are not attached to a specific date. The to-dos you create here can be scheduled into the calendar using “dated to-dos”. When you schedule a task here NotePlan doesn’t copy it into the calendar but attaches a date tag instead. The calendar scans the project notes for these tags and displays the to-dos in the appropriate days:

Further, you can organize your notes using simple hashtags:

If you add a new hashtag it appears after a few seconds in the sidebar. Click on the tag to filter your notes:

5. Two More Things Worth Mentioning

Switch to editor-only for more focus.

You have everything to get started, however there are two more features worth mentioning before you go: View modes and Themes.

The 3-pane layout is not made in stone. You can switch on and off panes as you wish. The most interesting ones may be editor-only and calendar-only, so you can focus on either the calendar or the editor. To get into editor-only mode click on the button top left in the editor:

The text will have a fixed width and centered, so it still looks good even in fullscreen mode. Under View in the menubar, you will also find the calendar-only option. Or use the shortcuts CMD+1-4 to switch the modes.

Now themes! Yes, there are a number of light and dark themes to choose from. From totally white to deep black. Just check out the preferences:

Change Themes.

That’s all! You are ready to make your planning more efficient and give your creativity a boost! As usual, send me your feedback, anything you got (hello@noteplan.co or Twitter). NotePlan lives and grows through your feedback. We reply to every email or every feature request and bugs gets recorded!

Thanks!