Liven up Stickies

This comes in very useful when you just want to grab a bit of text off a Web page, jot down a phone number, or any number of other fiddly little tasks for which you don't want to open a fully-fledged text editor. And because Stickies can just sit on the desktop all the time without taking up undue space, they're even more useful than the Note Pad, which also lives in the Apple menu and does almost the same thing.

The other advantage of Stickies over the Note Pad is that you can have Stickies in a number of different colours - blue for personal notes, green for high-priority work-related notes, etc. As if to acknowledge the ancestry of Stickies (and to thumb its nose at 3M for not allowing it to call them Post-it notes), Apple has made the default colour for Stickies a hideous, sickly yellow (see below). Why 3M used this colour for the original Post-it notes is beyond my reckoning.

Post-it notes come in many different colours and styles these days, but Stickies are limited to yellow, blue, green, pink, purple, grey or black and white (which is handy if you want to pretend you have a monochrome Mac). These colours, of course, were chosen by a blind lunatic in an asylum just north of Cupertino, California, and bear no resemblance to colours you or I would have elected for as the only choices in Stickies. I mean, where is red? What's more, in its wisdom, Apple provides no easy way to change the colour selection. But that's why we have ResEdit.

In order to make Stickies easily modifiable, Apple would have had to give the application an open, possibly even modular architecture. Since the idea was to have as simple an application as possible sitting in the Apple menu, it is nothing of the sort. The data describing the colours of Stickies is locked away in the resource fork of the application itself. To change it, you have to modify the resource fork.

As with last month's ResEdit hack, modifying Stickies entails a certain degree of risk. In fact, there is greater risk this time because you have to replace your current Stickies application with a hacked version at the end. Therefore, follow the instructions carefully.


First, create a couple of new folders inside your ResEdit folder (see Australian PC World, April 2001, page 154 for instructions on where to get ResEdit and how to set up a ResEdit folder). The folders should be called "Original" and "Hacked". What you do with them should be fairly obvious from the names.

Next, open your System folder, and inside it open the Apple Menu Items folder. Locate the Stickies application, select it and press - to duplicate it. A file called "Stickies Copy" appears. Always work with copies of your applications in ResEdit, never the originals. Move "Stickies Copy" immediately to your "Hacked" folder. No, it's not hacked yet; but it will be.

Start ResEdit and open up "Stickies Copy". As with last month's System hack, you'll see all of the resources arranged in alphabetical order. The good thing this time is there are a lot fewer of them. Locate the one called "Colr" - it contains the definitions of the Stickies colours. Double-click to open it.

You should now be looking at a list of the available colours, just as you would see in Stickies' "Colour" menu. It's particularly difficult to add new colours to Stickies, so instead we're just going to modify the existing ones. For this column, I'm going to pick on my personal worst enemy, "Pink". Double-click on "Pink" to look closer at it.

What appears looks a little like gibberish. This is because it is. I've added colour highlights to make it easier for you to read. ResEdit doesn't actually understand colours at all, so it reads the hexadecimal values of the colours and dumps them as raw text. In FIGURE 3, the numbers marked as A define the background colour of your Sticky, B defines the border colour, and C the controls (resize arrow, close button, etc.).


What's that you say, you don't know how to define colours by their hex values? Odd. Oh well, Mac OS to the rescue again. Open the Appearance control panel, and click on the Appearance tab. Then, click on the Highlight colour pull-down menu and select Other ... This may all seem rather involved, but it brings up the selection of colour "pickers" that Apple lets you use to customise your work space. The one we're interested in is the "HTML Picker", which you select from the list at left. The cool thing about the HTML Picker is that it defines the colours by their hex values, which is what we need.

Using the slider bars, get the "new" colour in the HTML Picker to resemble the colour you'd like your Stickies to be. Deselect the checkbox that says "Snap to Web color", since this limits your choice of colours, and the whole point of this exercise is to give you more choice.

When you're happy with a colour, make note of the three two-digit "numbers" (they're hexadecimal, so they may well look like letters from A to F, but really they're numbers) given in the HTML Picker. Note down the numbers, but double them. If the Picker gives you "1F FF 4C" for example (a green only a mother could love), write it down as "11FF FFFF 44CC".

Back in ResEdit, these "doubled" hex values are what you must enter into the Colr resource for your hacked colour. Type in each four-digit group in turn, making sure to put the numbers in the right place. The best thing to do is to select each four-digit group and then type the new four-digit combination over the top. If you end up with more than nine four-digit combinations, you have done something wrong and need to start again. Repeat this for the border and control colours, then close the Colr resource.

Remember, these are your colours. Don't feel the need to be restricted by such niceties as good taste. Be free to clash. When you've finished with the HTML Picker, close it by clicking on Cancel, not OK, unless you want your system-wide highlight colour to be the hideous green we just created.

Next, you'll want to give your colour a name. Open the resource called "MENU". In the bottom left is the menu resource for the Color menu in Stickies; double-click to open it. Then click once on Pink to modify that menu item. Give your new colour a name (keep it short, something like "Toxic Waste") and, again, close the resource. If you wanted to, of course, you could alter the spelling of "Gray" to the less-American "Grey", just while the resource is open. You can also use ResEdit to make the menu say "Colour" instead of "Color", but I'll leave that for you to figure out.

Quit ResEdit, saving your changes. Now comes the tricky bit.


From the Apple Menu Items folder, move the original Stickies app to your "Original" folder. Then move "Stickies Copy" into the Apple Menu Items folder, and rename it, removing the word "Copy". There is no need to restart. All going well, you should now have a new, exciting colour scheme for your Stickies notes (see below). If you want to go back and redefine your colours again, I recommend moving the hacked copy of Stickies back into the "Hacked" folder and using it again. Leave the original alone.

Note: this hack is for Mac OS versions 9 and earlier. Do not attempt to use this hack on any part of Mac OS X.

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