Write notes in a new tab and save them locally with the TextNotes extension for Firefox

Feb 1, 2021
Firefox, Firefox add-ons

Found something interesting and want to save it for future reference? You could save the web page, or copy the content and save it in Notepad, or a cloud-based note taking service. But if you would like to save the note directly in Firefox, you'll probably like the TextNotes extension.

Write notes in a new tab and save them locally with the TextNotes extension for Firefox

Before you get your hopes up and think this is an add-on that saves notes to specific tabs, let me tell you that it doesn't.

Click on the extension's button on the toolbar and a new tab opens. This is TextNotes' interface, and the page is divided into two panes. The one on the left is the tree panel which lists the notes that you have added, select a note and its contents will appear on the right pane.

TextNotes extension for Firefox

Well, there is no note available to begin with, so let's add one. Click the + button above the tree and a new blank note is created. Place the cursor in the right pane and type away. TextNotes will automatically save the note. Where does it save it? The extension does not rely on cloud services, as I hinted earlier it is an offline add-on. Your notes are saved directly in your browser's storage (in your current profile).

TextNotes context menu

There  is another way that you can create new notes. Select some text on a web page, access the right-click menu, and choose the option that says "Add Selected Text to TextNotes". This creates a new note which contains the text, but it doesn't include the title or the URL of the tab/page that the content was saved from.

You can open TextNotes with a hotkey; Ctrl + Alt + O. Don't want to open it in a new tab? Use Ctrl + Alt + P, or click the toolbar button while holding the Ctrl key, to open the interface in a new window.

TextNotes new window

The hotkeys can be changed from Firefox's add-ons page: Add-ons > Manage Extension Shortcuts > TextNotes.

TextNotes keyboard shortcuts

You can trash notes, and the deleted notes are stored in the add-on's built-in trash bin, from where they can be recovered instantly if required. Drag and drop notes to rearrange their order. Right-click on the sidebar to create a new note, add a separator to manage a collection of notes or to delete a note.

TextNotes has a feature called hyperclicks, which are clickable hyperlinks or URLS, paste the link in a note, and you're good to go. To use a saved link, hold the Ctrl key and the left mouse button for a few seconds, that's a Ctrl + long-click. This action opens the link in a new tab in the foreground. To open it in a background tab, make sure that Caps Lock is enabled while you Ctrl + long-click.

Since TextNotes does not support cloud-based synchronization of its own, you will have to rely on Firefox sync. But, in order to prevent loss of data, you may want to save your notes manually. Click on the three-dot icon in the top right corner of the add-on's interface. Select Preferences and a pop-up window appears with 3 options. Hit the Save button to store your notes as a TN (compressed document) file. Or you can save the content directly to a plain-text file, which you can open with Notepad or any text editor of your choice.

The TN document is useful if you want to Load (import) it back to TextNotes. If you want cloud-support, you can save this file to your online storage account, as a backup. The add-on's menu also has a Help file which explains how TextNotes works.

TextNotes is an open source extension.

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  1. I. Realize said on February 3, 2021 at 11:57 pm

    Nice find Ashwin. My initial impression of TextNotes is quite positive. Typically, I would use Notepad++ for this purpose, moving between it and Firefox via Alt+Tab. Although TextNotes requires moving between tabs, I do find it’s integration and simplicity handy for basic notetaking. I like it’s organizational structure. It’s Import and Backup functionality work well. It appears that Cloud syncing is on the near horizon as well. From the developer, “Syncing to cloud/somewhere is on the feature task queue and maybe it will come in 2021/Q2”. A welcome addition. TextNotes makes good use of hotkeys, as documented in the onboard help, which is very well done. TextNotes supports Ctrl+z for Undo, and Ctrl+y for Redo, however there is a bug that causes the Tab key to disable Undo. The developer is aware of, and has documented the issue. Although I like TextNote’s full page (tab) approach, I would also like to see an option to switch to a sidebar structure with a hotkey. There are instances where that would be a welcome convenience. Source code is available for review on Github.

    The developer seems to be very open to suggested tweaks, and new features. I will be emailing him a few of my own thoughts after I live with TextNotes for a few days, but I like the extension, and for me, it’s a keeper.

    As always, thanks for your open source software, and extension reviews Ashwin. Although Windows remains (barely) my OS of choice still, I also appreciate the fact that so many of your reviews are for cross-platform applications.

  2. MR MUSTASHE said on February 3, 2021 at 5:26 pm

    NO!… follow Prof. Richard Stallman’s advice!… and stop playing in the, “cloudy”! This is like scripting a personal note on a chalkboard at the local mall… but, WORSE!… and then being granted the techn(ic) privilege to transfer your “personal note” to your text editor? Seriously? Are you nutz? WAKE UP!… just script your stuff in your text editor, THEN transfer it to your CLOUDLESS destination!

  3. piomiq said on February 2, 2021 at 2:56 pm

    IMHO what is missing in this addon:
    – dark theme
    – naming of notes instead of taking first row from notes. It is minor issue, due to we can put proper title in top row.

  4. Anonymous said on February 2, 2021 at 9:19 am

    To joe: You should be able to save that as a bookmark.

  5. LogicDaemon said on February 2, 2021 at 7:23 am

    When it gets encryption capabilities, it might become reasonable alternative to Tombo. If it still opens fast, that is. Not until then though.

  6. Ray said on February 2, 2021 at 2:46 am

    The problem with the html contenteditable URL is the data doesn’t persist.

    I’ve been looking for an extension like Opera Notes on Firefox forever. TextNotes comes close, but the interface takes place in a separate tab rather than the sidebar. I’m used to the the tab workflow now though.

    1. Ken S said on February 5, 2021 at 12:51 pm

      “Notes by Firefox
      by Mozilla Firefox”


    2. Ray said on February 2, 2021 at 7:05 pm

      I know about Vivaldi, but it’s still a little RAM-hungry for my liking.

      The good news is Vivaldi is integrating a built-in mail component soon. Would probably give that a test drive when it is released.

    3. LogicDaemon said on February 2, 2021 at 7:34 am

      I mean, it has notes, it has sync, it has vast customization, including status bar buttons (and address bar at bottom with tabs at left). It can show cached/all/hide images on hotkey. It has bookmarks with descriptions. It has opera-like Speed Dial. And for mail, I’ve added webapp to the sidebar.
      It even has “rocker gestures” (hold LMB+click RMB, and hold RMB+click LMB for forward/backward).
      So for me it’s complete replacement of Opera.

      Well… I still miss Opera Mail (integrated first, separate app later), but it never got stable unfortunately: occasional db corruptions (1-2 per year) ruined it.

      1. piomiq said on February 2, 2021 at 1:29 pm

        Nice, but is there present option to hide top tabs bar when I would like to you for example ‘Tree tabs’ extension?
        I know the trick with modifying/prepare one file which needs to have commands hiding top tabs bar. I use it in Firefox, but it also should work in Chrome based. Actually it is solution coming from Chrome based browsers.

    4. LogicDaemon said on February 2, 2021 at 7:24 am

      I’ve switched to Vivaldi about a year ago and not coming back.

  7. joe said on February 1, 2021 at 10:23 pm

    @ Anonymous
    Nice simple solution, thks!

    Is there any bookmarklet
    to quickly open a new Tab w/such a Canvas blank page?

    (using Chrome browser here…)

  8. Anonymous said on February 1, 2021 at 4:38 pm

    Comments board eating the characters. data:text/html,<html contenteditable>

  9. Anonymous said on February 1, 2021 at 4:04 pm

    Rather: data:text/html,<html contenteditable>

  10. Anonymous said on February 1, 2021 at 3:58 pm

    Or you could use this URI to give you a blank, editable, saveable canvas: data:text/html,

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