Introducing NoteBook 4

Introducing NoteBook 4

NoteBook 4 is a major update for NoteBook on the Mac that adds over 100 features and improvements:

Streamlined UI

Streamlined user interface

NoteBook’s user interface is cleaner, while still retaining the notebook metaphor.


Full support for 64-bit processors

With 64-bit support NoteBook is faster and can handle even larger amounts of information.

Scrollable tab strip

When tabs overlap just flick them out of the way until to reveal the one you want.

Retina display support

Full Retina display support

All interface elements draw themselves in full resolution on Retina Macs.

Enhanced Multidex Reporting

Enhanced Multidex listings

NoteBook 4 groups Multidex results by their page, and shows you the page’s path within the Notebook.

Diagramming improvements

Better diagramming

NoteBook 4 features new line ending styles; easier diagram building with shortcuts like Option-dragging from a shape to create a new line; and more.

Clip and Annotate

The return of Clip and Annotate

The Clip and Annotate panel is back, so you can edit selections before you clip them to a page, or shoot a quick note into one of your Notebooks.

And much more!

Read the complete change list below.

How to upgrade

  • If you purchased NoteBook 3 for Mac through the Circus Ponies Online Store or through a retailer, you can upgrade to NoteBook 4 for Mac for just $19.95. This introductory price is available for a limited time at the Circus Ponies Online Store and will increase at some point in the future. If you made your purchase within the past 12 months your upgrade is free – please see the FAQ page for information on obtaining your NoteBook 4 license key.

  • If you purchased NoteBook 3 through the Mac App Store, please see the FAQ page for information on upgrading your software.

  • If you own NoteBook for iPad you will also need a copy of NoteBook 4 for iPad to continue syncing your Notebooks between your Mac and iPad (in order to read the new NoteBook 4 file format). NoteBook 4 for iPad is $4.99, available at the Apple App Store.

NoteBook 4 change list

User Interface Updates and Improvements

  • The notebook interface has been refined and updated. As part of the update, the metal backing style and rings along the side of the Notebook are no longer options.
  • NoteBook now supports the OS X “fullscreen” document mode which allows a document’s window to expand to fill the entire screen and reside in its own “space.” Pressing Escape in fullscreen mode, if you’re not editing text, exists fullscreen mode. Previously Escape toggled showing full text in an outline item – that keyboard shortcut is now Shift Escape.
  • The tab strip now overlaps tabs when there is not enough space to display them all, instead of truncating them. You can use the standard scroll gesture to flick the tabs up and down until the tab you want is fully visible and clickable.
  • Tabs now draw over a white background to improve readability. Any transparency value is ignored in a tab’s background color.
  • The View → Word Count (and View → Character Count, which appears when you press the Option key) command toggles the display of the page’s word or character count in the bottom bar. Clicking the word/character count control in the bottom bar toggles between word and character counts.
  • NoteBook now supports the pinch gesture to change the zoom level of the a Notebook window. There’s also a slider in the View → Zoom menu that lets you set an arbitrary zoom level.
  • NoteBook now fully supports the Retina display on the Mac.
  • NoteBook’s Find panel has been replaced within an in-window Find strip.
  • Notebook windows now use native OS X toolbars.
  • When an outline item has multiple keywords, moving the mouse over the item’s Keyword area shows the different Keywords assigned to the item.
  • The Keywords drop down list is now wider than the keywords column.
  • When you type a bullet, asterisk, 1., A., a., I., or i., at the start of an outline item and end editing, NoteBook removes that string and any following spaces, and sets the outline item’s numbering mode. With this change, for example, if you type “1.” and some text and press Return, the outline item will be placed in Arabic numeral numbering mode and the next item will automatically be numbered with “2.” Note that if you begin an outline item with “1” (i.e. the number 1 not followed by a period), the numbering mode is set to Legal (1, 1.1, 1.1.1, etc.). The numbering mode is applied after the editing changes, so if numbering is auto-set and you don’t want it, undo will undo the numbering change but leave the text as you typed it. To get Harvard, you have to start an item with “A.”, then create a new item, indent, and start that item with “1.” Numbering applies until you turn it off. A fast way to do that from the keyboard is the shortcut Control-Cmd-N (Outline → Numbering → (None)).


  • NoteBook is now a 64-bit app, which means that it takes full advantage of the processing power available on modern Macs, and can easily handle large data sets.

XML-based File Format

  • NoteBook documents are actually folders that look like documents in the Finder. NoteBook stores each page’s information in separate data files within the Notebook “folder.” Previously NoteBook stored each data file in Apple’s “binary plist” file format, which has as a downside lack of portability between platforms. NoteBook now stores data in a native XML file format (and additionally compresses these XML files using gzip). XML files are, in general, human readable, and less “brittle” than binary files. NoteBook’s gzip’ed XML files are also 80% smaller on average than their binary plist counterparts.
  • When you open an existing NoteBook document in NoteBook 4, that document will be marked “dirty” (i.e. it needs to be saved). When you save, NoteBook will convert all of its plist files to xml files. NoteBook 4 notebooks cannot be opened in older versions of NoteBook.


  • NoteBook now uses the “Sparkle” updater. With the Sparkle updater, updates are easy and as simple as Mac App Store updates.

Contents Card

  • Improved the way the Contents Card indicates the current page.
  • You can now set the Contents Card to not display page numbers, though a command in the Contents Card’s contextual menu. Whatever you choose becomes the default setting for all new Notebooks.
  • You can now expand/collapse all in the Contents Card, through a command in the Contents Card’s contextual menu.


  • There is a new “Symbols” page that displays symbols (i.e. text that does not appear to be a word) such as “H1N1” or “#trend”. You can also search for symbols using Super-Find.
  • The Multidex Text pages now show the number of occurrences of a word within the Notebook. Previously the occurrence count was the number of notes that contained the word, so if a note contained the text, “hello hello,” the occurrence count for “hello” in the Text page would be reported as 1. NoteBook now correctly reports the count as 2.
  • Pages in the Multidex now display more information about the location of items that appear there. For example, when you expand a word in the Text page you’ll see an entry for each page that contains the word (including its page number and the number of occurrences), followed by the items on that page.
  • If you expand a word on the Text page, NoteBook now highlights only the places where the actual word appears in the outline items and shapes that contain it. Previously NoteBook would highlight the string wherever it occurred, so if you expanded “the,” NoteBook would highlight “the” wherever it appeared such as in the first part of the word “there.”
  • When you have French words that are preceded by an article abbreviation (e.g. d’alcool), the Multidex would previously only contain d’alcool even though what you really cared about might be the alcool portion. Now, the Multidex includes both d’alcool and alcool.
  • When running NoteBook in German, the Multidex preserves case when presenting words on the Text page. The Text page is designed to be case insensitive, and reduces every word to lowercase when showing the list of words in the Notebook. This behavior doesn’t make a lot of sense in German because all German nouns are capitalized. NoteBook determines if you’re running NoteBook in German by looking at the localization you’re currently using, so if you are a German user running NoteBook in English the Text page will follow its default behavior. Also note that this behavior is set when you create or re-index a Notebook, so if a German user sends their Notebook to an English user, the Text page will continue to be case sensitive.
  • Fixed a problem where Multidex searches would sometimes erase highlighting that you had assigned to text.
  • Previously, if you had a URL like, the Internet Addresses page would present the URL as, but in some cases the web server is case sensitive and will reject the URL. NoteBook continues to convert the domain portion of the URL to lower case, but preserves the original URL’s case which means they will work correctly when clicked.
  • Fixed the presentation of URLs like in the Internet Addresses page.
  • Fixed a bug where attachments in shapes (including the page background) did not appear in the Multidex.
  • Fixed a bug where if a shape was visible on a text Multidex page, expanding other items on the page would cause the shape to shift position.
  • Fixed a bug where it was possible to use the arrow keys to move selected shapes on text Multidex pages.
  • Fixed a bug where the show first line only option in Multidex pages did not work.

Voice Recording

  • NoteBook on the Mac now uses the AVAudioRecorder to record voice annotation audio. This same object exists on the iPad, which means voice recordings made on the iPad are playable on the Mac and vice versa. AVAudioRecorder is only available on OS X Lion and higher. The only option for recording audio on Snow Leopard is the QuickTime Kit. Unfortunately there are bugs in the QTKit when run in 64-bit mode – for this reason, voice recording is not supported in NoteBook on Snow Leopard.
  • Because of limitations placed on submissions to the Mac App Store, voice annotation is not supported in copies of NoteBook purchased from the Mac App Store.
  • During voice recording, if you press Return to create a new outline item, then pause to listen to the speaker, and then start typing, NoteBook now tags the outline item with the time that you created it. Previously NoteBook tagged it with the time when you actually began typing. With this change, playback will start at the point in the recording when you paused to listen to the speaker, rather than when you started typing their remarks.
  • Fixed a bug where if you started a voice recording in a Notebook with no changes, if you quit NoteBook the app would quit without asking you to save the voice recording.

Shapes and Lines

  • Pressing Tab/Shift-Tab with a shape selected now selects the next/previous non-line shape.
  • Typing with a shape selected appends the typing to the shape’s text.
  • Pressing Return in a shape, text note, or sticky note adds a new line to their text. Pressing Enter ends editing.
  • Option-Cmd-clicking and dragging shapes creates duplicates of the selected shapes.
  • Option-clicking and dragging from a shape creates a new line.
  • There is now a “one-to-many” line ending option, useful for building data models with NoteBook’s shapes and lines.
  • There is now a “tee” line ending option, useful for building data models with NoteBook’s shapes and lines.
  • Control-clicking a line end presents a menu to set the line ending style.
  • Control-clicking a line elsewhere presents a menu to change the mid-point and curved settings.
  • You can now use the stepper (or type a number) in the stroke width section of the Shape inspector to set the width of shapes to less than 1 pt.
  • NoteBook now recognizes URLs within shapes.
  • Locked shapes can no longer be modified using the inspector.
  • Locked shapes can no longer be deleted.
  • Locked shapes can no longer be moved using the arrow keys.
  • Fixed a bug where clicking a shape (to select it, for example), updated the shape’s change date.
  • Fixed a bug where the Delete command was not active when you had a shape selected.
  • Fixed several bugs with how NoteBook drew connection arrows when a line was connected to a shape.
  • Fixed a bug where it wasn’t possible to change the stroke color of scribble and ink shapes in the Shape inspector.
  • If a shape has lines connected to it, and those lines are connected to other shapes, moving the shape now also moves the lines even if the lines are not selected.
  • Paste and Match Style now works with both outline items and shapes.
  • Fixed a bug with highlighting changes not sticking when they were the only changes you made to a shape’s text.
  • You can now highlight shapes, using the menu commands or clicking them while in highlighter mode.
  • Fixed a bug where the text insertion point would not flash when editing a text shape or sticky note.
  • Fixed a bug where shape drags from the toolbar would sometimes result in the shape drag image remaining stationary over the toolbar.
  • Fixed a bug where you could sometimes drag shapes and lines from the toolbar and deposit them behind the toolbar.

Calendars and Action Items

  • Action item syncing to Calendar is no longer a page-wide setting. Instead, any item with a checkbox can be individually synced to Reminders, or to Calendar (as long as the item has a due date). If you’re running NoteBook on Lion or Snow Leopard, your publishing options are iCal calendar and iCal to do list. Items published to Calendar/Reminders get a corresponding sticker containing options to unsync it or to make the item an all-day event.
  • Fixed a problem where modifying an action item’s start or end date in Calendar would cause it to appear with an Alarm sticker in NoteBook, even though it had no alarm set.
  • Fixed a problem where moving events that appeared on your calendar did not update the event’s due date in NoteBook.


  • The Add and Remove highlighting menu items have been combined into one item that toggles highlighting for the current selection.
  • There are now eight user highlighting settings (up from 6). Note: the commands in the Edit → Highlight menu let you set the current highlighter, and those commands have keyboard equivalents except for the item for the 8th highlighter. That’s because the keyboard shortcut it should have (Control-Option-Cmd 8) is already taken by the Universal Access command that toggles “Switch to white on black display.” You can remove this shortcut from Universal Access and assign Control-Option-Cmd 8 to the 8th highlighter command.


  • “Clip and Annotate,” which no longer worked after the Snow Leopard release, has been restored. With Clip and Annotate, NoteBook presents the current selection in a panel and lets you edit it before clipping it.
  • If you ever need to quickly type a note and save it into a Notebook, pressing Control-Option-Cmd and ‘-’ (dash key) brings up the Clip and Annotate panel. Just type your note and send it to one of your Clipping Services.
  • Clipping menu items are now properly localized.
  • The format of clipping menu item titles has changed to allow for better sorting in OS X’s Services menu.
  • NoteBook now creates SnapBack links for selections clipped from Google Chrome.
  • Fixed a problem with activating Notebooks that were opened offscreen for clipping.

Native Tables

  • You can now export a native table to CSV using the contextual menu you get when you control-click a table’s header row (the command appears in the submenu named after the table’s name).
  • When you have a cell within a table selected and start typing, NoteBook now replaces the cell’s contents with your typing. Previously the new typing was appended to the table cell’s contents, which is how it still works with outline items.
  • Fixed a problem where it wasn’t possible to change the font style of a table cell if it contained a number.
  • Fixed a bug that prevented Option-dragging rearrange the columns.

Page Bundles

  • While turned to any Divider page, pressing Option and dragging the page bundle icon from the window title bar creates a page bundle with just the pages you’ve selected on the Divider page (or all pages if there’s no selection).
  • Fixed a problem where page bundles created from encrypted Notebooks were unreadable. Note that a page bundle created from an encrypted Notebook is not itself encrypted.
  • Fixed problems with saving and indexing caused by transferring Spotlight comments of attachments when copy/pasting pages between Notebooks.
  • Fixed a bug where if a page bundle contained an attachment aligned left or right, and you added the page bundle to a Notebook that contained a different attachment of the same name, the page bundle’s attachment would be copied into the Notebook under a different name, but the left-/right-aligned attachment from the page bundle would display the attachment that already existed within the Notebook.


  • Reworked NoteBook’s import/export of OPML, and included a fix for a problem where NoteBook would sometimes import an OPML file as a table. (When importing, if an item includes a _note attribute, NoteBook appends the text of that note to the outline item’s main text, along with a new line, and places the item in single-line mode. The result is an outline item that includes the original text, plus its note, and the note remains hidden unless you toggle multi-line mode.)
  • You can now set NoteBook to expand all items before exporting a page, so that items that are not visible (because they are collapsed within their parent item) will appear in the export. This applies to plain and rich text exports.
  • When exporting to txt, rtf, and doc, NoteBook now includes any inter-item spacing that’s been set for the level.
  • You can now set NoteBook to export only selected items (which includes their descendants). This applies to plain and rich text exports.
  • iPod note syncing has been removed.


  • With NoteBook 4 you can install and run your copy of NoteBook on up to 5 machines simultaneously. NoteBook assumes you will be logged into accounts with the same short account name (if you’re not, you will receive a message that all licenses are in use).

Mac App Store

  • Because of Apple’s “sandboxing” requirements, clipping is not supported in copies of NoteBook purchased from the Mac App Store.
  • Because of limitations placed on submissions to the Mac App Store, movie and audio playback is not supported in copies of NoteBook purchased from the Mac App Store.
  • If you purchased a copy of NoteBook from the Mac App Store and are impacted by these limitations, please contact us through our support page:

Other Feature Additions and Bug Fixes

  • NoteBook now has a per-window “typewriter scrolling” option (View menu). Typewriter scrolling keeps the outline item you’re working with from dipping below the center of the Notebook page, so you never end up typing text down against the bottom of the page. If you’re working with an item that’s one of the last ones on the page, NoteBook makes the page taller so that it can scroll that item to the middle of the page.
  • Writing pages have been removed. You can achieve the same result by creating a Note page with a single outline item and activating Paragraph Mode.
  • Cornell Note Taking pages have been removed. With Cornell pages the paper is divided into two sides, one for notes and the other for review questions. NoteBook needs to support outlining in at least the notes side, which has been the major problem with Cornell support. This may happen in a future update.
  • Removed the To Do page type. The To Do page was just an outline page with to do items already in it, but users have found all the different types of pages confusing (they don’t know which one to choose and wonder why they can’t switch between them).
  • List mode, where pressing Return ends editing in the current outline item and also creates a new outline item, has been moved to NoteBook preferences and is now a global rather than per-page setting.
  • Changed the keyboard shortcut for Edit → Insert → Line Break from Cmd-Return to Option-Return (Option-Return is the standard shortcut for adding a new line when editing text on the Mac). Changed the keyboard shortcut for Outline → New Item from Option-Return to Cmd-Return when editing text.
  • Added View → Completion Dates.
  • The Cover command now lives in the View menu (previously it could be found in the File menu).
  • Added Format → Fonts → Double Underline.
  • There is no longer a start-up pane in NoteBook preferences. If you have Notebooks you want to open automatically at launch time, choose NoteBook’s preference setting to restore Notebooks that were open when you quit.
  • Holding down the Shift key while launching NoteBook now prevents Notebooks set to open at startup from opening.
  • Changed the keyboard shortcuts for the Page → Go→ Contents Page and Page → Go → Multidex menu items so that they no longer require the extended keyboard to invoke (previously they used the Home and End keys).
  • NoteBook now accepts messages dragged in from Mail, by creating a link to that message.
  • Pressing the Left Arrow or Right Arrow keys while not editing text has always by default turned to the previous or next page in the Notebook. There was a preference setting that let you change this behavior so that pressing the left or right arrow keys began editing the currently-selected outline item at the end of start of its text. This preference setting has been removed – you can restore this behavior by choosing a different keyboard shortcut for NoteBook’s Next Page and Previous Page commands in the Keyboard pane of System Preferences.
  • Untitled Notebooks now autosave, regardless of your autosave setting in NoteBook preferences. If something happens such as your machine crashes before you’ve saved any changes, when you next open NoteBook it locates the autosaved untitled Notebooks and opens them, labeling each one as “recovered.”
  • NoteBook now uses AES-256-bit encryption to encrypt Notebook contents.
  • Pressing the space bar with an attachment selected QuickLooks the attachment.
  • When pasting URLs with single quote characters, NoteBook now no longer converts the single quotes to smart quotes.
  • You can no longer drag Contact entries into an outline item you’re editing and have the contact added as a link.
  • When printing a page that resides in a separate window, and you’ve selected the option to wrap the text as it appears onscreen, NoteBook now uses the width of the separate-page window instead of the main Notebook window.
  • Fixed a bug where you could edit a page’s name or delete it on a Divider page even if the page was not editable.
  • Fixed a bug where Notebook windows would grow slightly on each reopen on Lion and above.
  • Worked around a bug in OS X where a three-finger tap (or selecting a word and typing Control-Cmd-D) would define the last word in the outline item instead of the word under the mouse/selected word.
  • Fixed a bug where Divider pages set to auto-sort their items would not get updated if you added a page somewhere other than on that Divider page.
  • Fixed a bug where annotation pages would not always redisplay their background properly after a window resize.
  • Fixed a bug where the E-mail Page as PDF option in the E-mail toolbar item would e-mail the current page the first time you used it but the entire Notebook after that.
  • Fixed a bug where NoteBook sometimes would not detect that a drag operation from Safari contained just an image that could be placed in the shape layer.
  • Fixed a bug in the Sort Inspector where it was not possible to sort by text by last word ascending, only descending.
  • Fixed a bug where it was not possible to save a Notebook while editing a sticky note.
  • Fixed issues with copy/pasting link stickers. Specifically, sometimes if you copied or cut an outline item with a SnapBack link, when you pasted that outline item the SnapBack link would not appear.
  • If you create outline items A and B, and create an item link between them (so that A has a Link Sticker and B has a SnapBack Sticker), if you copy A and B and then paste creating A-Copy and B-Copy, A-Copy and B-Copy will have Link Stickers and those Stickers will link A-Copy to B-Copy. Previously the copies would link to the original outline items.
  • If you create outline items A and B, and create an item link between them (so that A has a Link Sticker and B has a SnapBack Sticker), if you copy A and then paste creating A-Copy, A-Copy will have a Link Sticker that’s linked to B. Similarly, if you copy/paste B, B-copy will be linked to A. This happens whether you paste into A and B’s Notebook or into a different Notebook.
  • Fixed a problem where after dragging outline items into and out of another Notebook, the dragging “well” would still appear in the other Notebook.
  • Fixed a bug where if you dragged an outline item into a new Notebook and then undid the addition of the item to the Notebook, the item would be removed but the page would appear to be unchanged.

Follow us