Take notes in the menu bar on Apple Mac with Tot notes app

The Apple Mac has a very good notes app, so why would you want another one? Tot is different and has features not in macOS Notes that make it useful in ways Notes is not. It’s free too.

Sometimes simple apps are in some ways better than feature-packed ones. Microsoft OneNote takes up 1.08 GB of disk space on an Apple Mac, but Tot is less than 7 MB. Even the Apple Notes app needs tens of megabytes of code to do its job.

Apple Notes and Microsoft OneNote are excellent for storing copious notes for large projects including text and various types of media in them. Tot is a tiny app that has a fraction of the number of features, but for some tasks it is better.

It just does one thing and it does it well. Install Tot and you will find it useful for quick notes, saving bits of information, and so on. Notes are synced through iCloud and there is no need to save them, it just works.

Install and configure Tot notes

Open the Mac App Store and search for Tot. It is free, so go ahead and install it, it takes just seconds.

Configuration settings for Tot notes app on the Apple Mac
Tot notes settings and options

Run Tot notes and click the gear icon in the top right corner of the window to open the settings. There are some useful settings you might want to customize.

One is to start the app on login so that it is always there. Another useful setting is Control with and setting it to Menu Bar Icon instead of Dock Icon makes it available from the Mac’s menu bar and prevents it from being buried beneath app windows on the desktop.

There are dark and light appearance themes, or it can match whatever macOS is set to.

Store notes with Tot

You don’t actually create notes because all the notes the app can handle are already created. There are seven. Yes, you read that right, Tot has a maximum of seven notes. Also, a minimum, because you cannot delete notes either. Talk about a minimalist app!

Tot notes apps running in the menu bar on an Apple Mac
Rich text notes in Tot notes app

Click the circle icon in the menu bar and the Tot app window appears. The last accessed note is displayed. The colored circles at the top of the window are the seven notes available in Tot. Each one is a different color. Click a circle and the note is displayed.

The first three notes contain help and tips and since notes cannot be deleted or created, you simply delete the contents to make space for new notes. You re-use the same seven notes over and over. Apple Notes, Microsoft OneNote and other notes apps are still useful for storing large numbers of notes, but when you just want to remember a telephone number, an address, URL or other snippet of information, it is useful to store it on a Tot note.

The status bar at the bottom of the window displayed the number of lines, words and characters in the note. Select some text and it shows these statistics for the selection. This can be useful when you need to keep an eye on these things.

For example, headings on web pages are best under 60 characters, met descriptions are 160 characters, the first paragraph is around 185 characters. I can type title ideas into Tot and see how many characters they are and tweak them as necessary.

You may need to do similar things in your work or personal projects, like write a certain number of words, lines or characters. It makes Tot a sort of scratchpad where you can jot down ideas.

Markdown, formatting and more

Support for both markdown and formatting in this simple notes app are limited, but sufficient to make the notes app useful.

Tot notes app showing plain text markdown on the Apple Mac
Plain text view showing markdown

Click the A button in the bottom right corner of the window and the note is shown in a sort of mixture of plain text, markdown and rich text. It is a bit odd, but you get used to it. If you want to work in this mode, it is easy enough and basic markdown like bold and italic text, links and maybe a few other things work.

You cannot style headings, but Ctrl+clicking shows a menu with some formatting options, like bold, italic, font selection, text size, tab and line spacing.

Bullet lists are available and there are also what it calls Smart Bullets. These are empty circles and they can be toggled to filled with a keypress. This makes them useful for checklists.

Need more notes?

There are only seven notes, one on each circle in the title bar. What if you need more, but don’t want to lose what you have?

The Share button (up arrow) at the right side of the status bar shows the usual Mac share options menu. Apple Notes is one of the items on this menu and when selected, the whole Tot note, or whatever part you have selected, is copied into a new Apple Notes note. You can then clear the Tot note and write something new and the previous contents is saved in Apple Notes.

Summing up

One thing that irritates me a little, is that it uses 3 to 4% CPU even when it is not being used and with no window onscreen. Apple Notes is 0% CPU and Microsoft OneNote, despite its size, uses only 0.3% CPU. So why does Tot use 3-4%? It is important to me because I use a MacBook on battery. Tot’s power usage is tiny on its own, but when you have several apps like this using CPU in the background, they become significant. Maybe an app update will fix it. I hope so.

Overall, Tot is a useful notes app for the Apple Mac and the main reason is its simplicity, it is always there in the menu bar, it shows lines, words and characters counts, and has (some) support for Markdown. It enables you to store notes and style them, and create bullet lists and checklists. Tot is a useful app to keep in the menu bar.

Tot is available for iOS and watchOS too (check out the Tot website), so you can access your notes anywhere.

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