Saturday, January 28, 2006

Google Notes (unofficial personalized homepage module)

I just finished making a little module for Google Personalized homepages (if you have/use one). Basically, it shows a small text box that you can write things down in and edit. Very simple, very straightforward. The nice thing is, if you go to a different computer or log off and log back on again, your notes will still be there. Also, there are three different notepad sizes available, so you can choose the size that’s right for you. Here’s a picture of what it looks like:

It’s completely free, and I basically did it for my needs—if you want to use it too, you’re more than welcome to do so. Here’s how to add it to your Google Personalized Homepage:

First, login to your Google homepage at www.google.com/ig. If you don’t have a Google account, let me know and I can get you one.

To add one of the new modules, click any of the button(s) below

Small Notepad Add to Google
Medium Notepad Add to Google
Large Notepad Add to Google

Once the module appears on your homepage, fill in the blanks appropriately (for example "myname@example.com", "miscellaneous", and "Random" are filled in below). Click "save" and your notepad will be ready to go. (edit: now you can also select font size, timezone, and toggle display of "last update" time)


Note that this stuff isn't password protected, so I recommend against using a password in your keyword field or in the notepad area itself. You can get some degree of privacy by choosing an unusual keyword. Alternatively, you can create a shared notepad by sharing the email & keyword combination with your friends. Also, there is not a strict requirement that the email field contain an email address: both the email and keyword fields are just text fields and can be whatever you want.


Enjoy, and please let me know if you have any feedback...

P.S. I know that you can effectively produce the same results by sending emails to yourself. However, (1) that makes a for lot of outdated messages to sift through, (2) to edit them, you have to reply/forward the emails to yourself again, and (3) there’s simply too much effort involved if you just want to keep a simple reminder or short to-do list.

P.S.S. Just to be clear, this is not an official Google product. This is just something I made in my free time of my own interest, and is not endorsed or sponsored by Google in any way. Your data is not even stored on their servers (thus far), so if there's a problem, it's probably my fault. I'll do everything I can to protect your data from third parties and keep it continuously available to you. However, if you have some data really worth protecting, use common sense and secure it with something that requires a password. The privacy policy is here.

59 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not intuitive, at least not to me.
Saving isn't consistent.
Keyword is confusing.

2/17/2006 6:39 PM  Edit
Blogger infinityis said...

Oh well, to each his own, I guess.

In case it helps: it autosaves (or at least tries to) within one second from the last moment you type something. The save is confirmed by the date & time stamp that shows up just below the notepad area. If you happen to type something and then close the window less than second later, it won't autosave, so this *might* cause some inconsistencies.

As far as the keyword, that's just a field that lets one email address have multiple notepads. For example, I might have the keyword "school" for school notes and the keyword "personal" for my todo list. Without this keyword, there would be no way for the server to differentiate which list is which.

Thanks for the feedback. If you really want, I could create a version that doesn't use the "keyword" field...

2/18/2006 7:10 PM  Edit
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neat module. Thanks. As a suggestion for future options, a way for users in different time zones to adjust the time stamp to reflect their own time would be nice. I'm in PST, but the time is always in CST.

2/24/2006 11:47 PM  Edit
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love it! Can we either pick our time zone or just not have the date and time appear. That is my only suggestion otherwise it is just perfect for me.

2/26/2006 11:48 AM  Edit
Blogger infinityis said...

Good suggestions. I'll look at putting in an option to toggle the visibility and make the time zone selectable. Thanks for the feedback!

-David

2/26/2006 4:02 PM  Edit
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great idea! I'm still concerned about noting down personal information (e.g. password reminders, etc.) on a third-party server.

3/06/2006 10:22 AM  Edit
Blogger infinityis said...

I would be concerned about passwords and such too, and I actively discourage using Google Notes for that purpose at this time. If Google takes this service in-house or provides their own similar service, then I might be more willing to do it, but until then, I'd only use it for casual notes and reminders.

3/06/2006 1:22 PM  Edit
Blogger infinityis said...

In response to your requests, I've added the capability of selecting your own timezone AND the ability to turn off the timestamp text entirely. See more here.

3/08/2006 10:59 PM  Edit
Anonymous mark said...

great module! thanks! ^_^

3/27/2006 12:58 PM  Edit
Blogger Chih-Yao said...

This module is neat, thanks. But I think if you can add an option "Resizable length" will be good. So if the user has a longer notes, users can choose to extend the length of the notes instead of having a scrollbar.

3/30/2006 8:44 AM  Edit
Blogger infinityis said...

I would love to have a user-settable "height" option. Unfortunately, the Google Modules API doesn't support something that dynamic (yes, I've tried). To account for that, I have three module variants where the only difference is the height of the module. It sounds like you'd be interested most in the large notepad:
Large Notepad Add to Google

If someone wants one even larger (height-wise), let me know and I can set you up with a custom module or maybe add another one to the list (extra large, perhaps).

3/31/2006 4:43 PM  Edit
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like it!! Concerned about privacy/security though.

4/11/2006 3:34 PM  Edit
Blogger infinityis said...

Thanks, and I agree with your concerns. With respect to increased security, I had to make a choice between security and convenience. If the Google API allowed certain fields to be visually password protected (like this: *******), I could have added better security. However, because the API doesn't support it, I would have needed a separate logon to accomodate users who wanted extra security. (I think RLwidgets does things this way).

If there's any demand for it, I could build a high-security version, but if you have to log in, you might as well use Gmail and edit a saved email draft.

UPDATE: Sophia B. at Google has created a module that stores the text on Google servers. This might be considered safe enough to address your security concerns, but you will still want to avoid storing passwords. In any case, properly stored passwords are never retreivable, so if you write passwords in any online notepad/storage, there will be a risk.

At this point in time, Sophia's module does not have a print button, does not allow resizable text, and does not display the last time the module was saved. Also, because the notepad resizes as you type, it may be unsuitable for storing a large quantity of notes. However, you can set background and font colors. Basically, it looks a lot like the one offered by RLWidgets without all the hassle of signing up for an account. You can find this module here and give it a try by clicking the button below.

Sticky Note by Sophia B. Add to Google

4/11/2006 10:51 PM  Edit
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, it's a great idea and very useful.

4/16/2006 9:41 AM  Edit
Blogger Peter said...

Another good addition to the settings would be the font size. I don't mind 8 point fonts, and it would let me fit more text in a smaller box. Just an idea. Good tool.

4/18/2006 1:09 PM  Edit
Anonymous Kajathulhu said...

This is just what I've been looking for! I tried a couple of the other notes widgets for the Google homepage, and they didn't work as reliably or easily as this one.

And thanks for allowing time zone choice - I'm in Greece, so computing from CST would've been a pain.

4/19/2006 12:06 AM  Edit
Blogger infinityis said...

Peter, thanks for the idea about having selectable font sizes. I've implemented that feature so you can go from 6pt to 16pt. Excellent suggestion.

Also, I've added a print button for those who want easy-made hard-copies of their notes.

4/24/2006 11:03 PM  Edit
Blogger Hadrien said...

that's just cool !
exactly what i needed... i already have a personal blog, a gcalendar acount, a colaborative wiki and an online todo-list application.... but nothing as simple and neat as this google-notes module !!!

thanks

4/28/2006 8:22 AM  Edit
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i love this widget. it works great, thanks for sharing it.

5/01/2006 11:57 AM  Edit
Blogger xosseh said...

Very useful. Thanks!

5/03/2006 10:31 AM  Edit
Anonymous MMW said...

simple and useful, appreciate it.

Only thing I would like is the ability to group notes. Some sort of a tree, or tabs or something - I realize this would probably exponentially increase the complexity of the module, however.

"Notekeeper" ( http://realworldproductions.com/notekeeper/) has that option, but it doesn't seem to be very reliable on updates, and honestly it's kinda ugly :) I like your module better, but I don't always like scrolling through a yard of quotes to get to the phone number I want...

5/03/2006 3:30 PM  Edit
Blogger infinityis said...

I can definitely see the value in having multiple note "pages". It makes a lot of sense, and if I can do it without making the module unnecessarily complicated for new/existing users, I might give it a go. I'm envisioning something like a bar above the notepad that contains a non-editable drop-down menu, and the menu items are each a separate page in your notepad. There might be an arrow button to the right of it, so when you click it, the menu shrinks to reveal four buttons...one to add a new page (+), one to remove the current page (-), one to set the current page as the first one displayed by default, and one to edit the current page name. I would also add a module option (alongside timezone selection, etc) to disable the pages display.

Does this sound like it would be useful? Are there any proposed features that should be added, removed, or changed? Also, it's a minor issue that I haven't looked into at all, but what would make for a good icon for 'set as default page' and 'edit page name'?

5/04/2006 12:36 PM  Edit
Anonymous 0ct0pus said...

Thanks - this is a great module and I've been recommending it all over the place!

5/08/2006 5:16 AM  Edit
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so I'm confused.. the module is kewl and all, but I guess I'm not understanding how it works... I have it all set up on my Google Homepage and that is all fine, but I also installed the module into my Google Deskbar but dont see the notes I have entered on my homepage... are they supposed to be in synch?

5/11/2006 7:46 PM  Edit
Blogger sundar said...

multiple note "pages" is definitely a great thing to have. actually while trying out the module i assumed that functionality is present and while creating a new note i lost the old note.
great job....i like it a lot

5/13/2006 1:47 AM  Edit
Blogger infinityis said...

With regards to Google Desktop, I gave it a try, and yes, there appears to be a problem there. I'm still investigating to see what's causing the problem, and hopefully we'll have it fixed soon. Thanks for letting me know about it.

As to the multiple pages, I'll probably look at adding that feature after these recent problems are addressed. Thanks!

-David

P.S. Thanks for the recommendations, octopus

5/13/2006 3:41 AM  Edit
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a great module, especially the simplicity. I have two none networked computers with different operating systems, so it meets an unfilled need of mine.

One suggestion is to possibly use category instead of keyword, as multiple keywords may tag something, while a category seems more of a silo. Also, don't let anyone talk you into cluttering up the nice, clean interface.

5/17/2006 11:50 AM  Edit
Blogger infinityis said...

I agree, "category" is a much better choice than "keyword". I've updated the module to reflect the change. Thanks!

5/31/2006 4:20 AM  Edit
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent module; been using it almost as long as it's been available (I think).

What I would like is the option to point this at my own server; I assume I would then need to add something to my server as well. I know this is really an 'advanced' feature however the option would be cool and may help to allay some of the privacy concerns.

DRB

6/27/2006 10:29 AM  Edit
Blogger infinityis said...

With respect to the idea about multiple note pages, I think I'll pass on adding that feature for now because (1) it will undoubtedly add complexity for myself and the end user and (2) something with that level of sophistication already exists in Google Notebook.

DRB, the module has been around since January 28, 2006, in case you were wondering. As far as setting it up to operate on your own server, it is definitely possible with a little work. If you email me directly, I can help you give it a go.

Lastly, today (June 28) marks exactly five months since Google Notes was launched. I'm happy to announce that earlier this week, the 20,000th account was registered, which translates into about 2000 to 4000 active users (depending on your metrics). Thanks again to all of you, especially those who have provided feedback and inspired me to continually provide a better end-user experience.

6/28/2006 1:33 AM  Edit
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey this is a neat little mod! Thanks for your time and efforts into making it and giving it away for free!!! Too cool~~

6/30/2006 9:00 PM  Edit
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "remove" menu item doesn't appear in Google Notes. How do I manually remove it from the sidebar? Also, the options window is too small, thus hiding the Save button. It won't let me expand the window nor Tab over to that button. How do I hit save?

If you don't mind, please tell me how to remove the Notes at projectshave AT yahoo dot com

Thanks.

7/06/2006 12:28 AM  Edit
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey,

First, thanks for the great module!

Just a little question here:
I'd like to extend the textarea's width to the full column width; currently, it's about 30 pixels narrower. I've tried editing my userContent.css file (for Firefox), but I haven't had any luck. So, is there any way to avoid losing those pixels?

Thanks.

7/11/2006 1:54 AM  Edit
Blogger infinityis said...

For those curious, the probem mentioned two comments up about not being able to remove Googe Notes ended up not being a probem at all.

As far at the width of the module, you are correct. It was set in 28 pixels so as to give a buffer when resizing the window. That is, if you maximized your browser window, went to you personalized homepage, and then restored your window size to something other than maximum, part of the notepad would be hidden.

However, as requested, I've expanded the window so that it now leaves an aesthetically-pleasing single pixel space on each edge. We'll give it a try for awhile, and if there are no complaints, we'll keep it this way. Free upgrades for everybody!

7/20/2006 1:53 AM  Edit
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Was the single pixel space removed recently/today or something? I don't have any edge at all now, and it looks funny.

8/04/2006 8:52 PM  Edit
Blogger infinityis said...

You're right, it does look funny. Google apparently changed something so that the module width is no longer provided. I don't know whether this is temporary or permanent, but other modules have been affected as well, so we'll see what happens. If it looks like a long term change, I'll probably change it to a smaller fixed width or find some other way, because I can't stand it either. :)

If you're interested in the discussion about it, you can see it here

8/05/2006 3:19 AM  Edit
Blogger infinityis said...

Turns out the change was a permanent one on behalf of Google, so I adjusted my code so that things work again. Thanks again for the heads up on the initial problem report.

A good side effect from the update is that now the notepad area resizes itself to fit the right width, even when the window is resized.

8/11/2006 7:53 PM  Edit
Anonymous Anonymous said...

everything's dandy again :D

thanks for the great module!

8/12/2006 11:34 AM  Edit
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The module is loaded with errors
speciall the autosave function
it is failing to save.
same goes for the sync with the google deskbar module
help

8/15/2006 12:11 PM  Edit
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, have been using for a while and it's just what i need - but now i'm getting a "This page is parked free, courtesy of GoDaddy.com" page (losing the notes would suck bigtime). Thought i'd give you a heads up in case something unexpected is happening.

8/17/2006 8:38 AM  Edit
Blogger infinityis said...

Yesterday morning the domain name temporaritly expired. It was quickly renewed, but unfortunately it usually takes a day or two for the change to propogate to all the root servers. Most people should be able to access their notes at this time, and the few who can't should be able to relatively soon.

No notepad contents have been lost. Sorry about the problem, and thanks for your patience.

8/17/2006 2:23 PM  Edit
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should remove "Google" from the "Google notes" name because you make it look like it's a Google owned module. I do not trust you.

8/23/2006 7:45 PM  Edit
Blogger infinityis said...

Thanks for your suggestion. I've considered the implications of using the Google name, and here's what I've concluded:

This module was released in January 2006. As such, it was the first Google homepage notepad module--Google Notebook, StickyNote, and RLNotes did not exist, and so initially, there was no intent to override a Google name.

However, the module I created was designed from the outset to work only within the context of a Google homepage. As such, it was appropriate to specify that it was (and still is) meant for intergration with Google.

In a number of places, I clearly specify (1) that the module is NOT an official Google product, and (2) that the data is not stored on Google servers. Anyone even mildly concerned about where the notes are stored (such as yourself) will readily see that I do not hide the fact that it is not a Google product.

If anyone at Google requests that I cease using the Google name, I will happily oblige. However, in the meantime, the module already has a strong correlation with its name (try searching for "Google Notes"), so I'd like to leave the name as-is.

If you prefer a notepad module that is actually from Google, you might want to look at Sticky Note by Sophia B., a Google employee. Our modules differ somewhat in style and functionality, but it should suffice for most purposes. The most significant difference is that her module will resize to accomodate all your notes, whereas mine will remain a fixed size with a scroll bar.

In closing, there are presently over 30,000 Google Notes accounts. Even if only 5% to 10% of those accounts are actively used (which is a pretty accurate estimate), that means that there are thousands of people using Google notes on a daily basis. You can be fairly confident that I will respect the privacy of my users in every possible way, if not out of a sense of decency, then as a matter of practicality.

If you have any ideas as to how I might increase consumer confidence, I am open to suggestions. Incorporation? Paid subscription model? Larger userbase? Verisign? Let me know...

8/23/2006 10:59 PM  Edit
Blogger Lee said...

I love this module and use it everyday...in fact while I was trying to create two of them (one for each subject) the notes I had disappeared. The "category" and the "visible title" are still the same but my notes are gone.

Are there any way of getting my notes back? I don't know how all this works, just thought there might be an image of it from days ago?
Thanks
Lee Deavers

8/28/2006 12:22 AM  Edit
Blogger infinityis said...

Lee,

If you email me directly (david.hoelscher at gmail dot com), I'll see if I can figure out where your notes went. I put in most every safeguard I could to prevent inadvertent note deletion, so with any luck, they're still around somewhere.

Also, to have two separate notepads on your homepage, the only significant issue is that the email and category fields should be different from that of the first notepad. These two values are what uniquely identifies a notepad, so if you reuse the same values for a second notepad, it is possible to overwrite your note contents.

8/28/2006 1:10 PM  Edit
Blogger hpv said...

How about a version that allows you to use your own backend?

9/17/2006 11:01 PM  Edit
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about this http://bonstio.net/content/view/56/43/ Seems an advanced to me.

10/02/2006 10:10 AM  Edit
Blogger bulimic_monkey said...

is there any way I can add this to my blog ?

10/18/2006 2:14 PM  Edit
Blogger infinityis said...

Actually, there is a way to add Google Notes to your blog, but it's not trivial (although I could may make it simpler to do in the future). Google Notes basically exists within an iframe, filling up all the available space. If you add the code for an iframe within your blog (or any website) and point it at the right http address, you can certainly access your Google Notepad within your blog (of course, anyone else visiting your blog will have access to it too).

The easiest way to get the correct website address is to use Firefox and right-click on your Google Notes. Expand the menu item "This frame" and choose either "Open in new tab" or "Open in new window". The text in the address bar for the new tab/window can be used in the iframe src tag. Also, you can bookmark the new page for easy access to a full-screen of your notes.

10/18/2006 9:10 PM  Edit
Blogger bulimic_monkey said...

actually just before you said this
I figured it out
lol
and yes the public can access it
which was kind of my idea
you see:
http://bulimicmonkey.blogspot.com
its a very entertaining yet useful blog feature.
thanks!

10/19/2006 5:51 AM  Edit
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is something weird going between the notes on google desktop and the notes on the google homepage. The google desktop one doesn't want to update changes made from google homepage.

If there were a "refresh" button, it would probably pick up changes.

10/21/2006 7:48 AM  Edit
Blogger Papa Thanh said...

nice module to i use everyday.
I have a suggestion: have a button
like "send to blog". When you click
it, it will send the selected text
to your blog.
Reason is that i find going to your
blog to add stuff too time consuming.

11/13/2006 9:53 AM  Edit
Anonymous Anonymous said...

where did my important information dissapear to... all my information says is
Not Found
The requested URL /index.html was not found on this server.

Additionally, a 404 Not Found error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request

please email me at ChrisR1986@gmail.com !

11/28/2006 12:09 AM  Edit
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mine says the same thing as Chris1986@gmail.com. It has been that way for quite a while. What's up?

Please email me at ctopp6033@gmail.com.

Thank you!

11/28/2006 12:37 PM  Edit
Blogger infinityis said...

You've probably noticed, but things are fixed now. It's all summarized here.

Papa Thanh, I don't think it would work so well to add a "send to blog" button. That adds significantly more complexity (which blog? how to format?) and the tradeoff doesn't look favorable. The closest I'd come is this: I may enable a write-only mode. Thus, you can embed a read-only notepad in your blog and edit it all you want from Google Homepage and/or Desktop. If this feature is added, I'll post a quick how-to regarding it.

Also, just for reference, we will soon add a refresh button to satisfy Google Desktop users, and the same button will also enlarge to full screen for Google Homepage users.

12/05/2006 10:03 PM  Edit
Blogger Michael said...

Hi,

Thanks for this. I was wondering is there a way to copy and paste info into your module?

12/14/2006 9:02 AM  Edit
Blogger infinityis said...

Yes, copy and paste works just like any other application. You can copy in the usual way (edit|copy, right-click|copy, or control-c), and paste in the usual way (edit|paste, right-click|paste, or control-v)

12/14/2006 9:25 AM  Edit
Blogger Michael said...

usability tip:
for the saved date, make the hover detail the actual date, and display "Saved ## [Seconds|Minutes|Hours|Days ]ago"

3/14/2007 8:02 AM  Edit
Anonymous Todd said...

I like the features a lot. Maybe I am used to a yellow background but I find it stands out on my homepage more if it had background color. Is that possible?

3/18/2007 9:39 PM  Edit

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