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Stikkit: Magic words, functional emails, and a handy cheat sheet

(Disclosure: I’m a proud member of Stikkit’s advisory board)

As promised, I wanted to start sharing some of the reasons I’ve been digging Stikkit, so I thought I’d begin at the beginning: Stikkit’s use of “magic words” to do stuff based on your typing natural (albeit geeky) language into a blank note. There's a lot more to Stikkit than magic words, but this is a great place to start. (And, yeah, future posts will be more about how to implement stuff with Stikkit, but it's worthwhile to start with the mechanics.)

[Note: this is one of those posts that you might want to print out]

So let’s say I want to schedule lunch with my old roommate, Jake, during a notional trip to Sarasota later this week. I might create a new blank stikkit then add the following contents:

Lunch with Jake at The French Hearth
on Friday at 11:30
directions: http://map.example.com/76868/
We talked about this on the phone !1/30 @ !12:50pm (see: {123456})
Jake Short 850-555-1212
share jake@example.com myadmin@example.com
remind us all
@appointments travel Sarasota JakeShort p:social

Ok, first — and as usual with my infamously over-the-top demos — there’s a lot more going on here than is strictly necessary (e.g., I could have just typed “Lunch with Jake on Friday at 11:30” and been done with it). But, since this is partly about showing the flexibility of multiple magic words in action, I wanted to demonstrate to you how that crapload of text up there turns into this finished and functional Stikkit:

Stikkit Example - Full

After the cut are a couple more detailed pics, followed by an explanation of what’s happening in my example, as well as an Unofficial Stikkit Cheat Sheet.

Stikkit Example - Detail 1

Stikkit Example - Detail 2

So where ’s the magic here? Well, roughly in order of appearance...

  1. Stikkit gets that this contains a calendar event (“…Friday at 11:30”); so, it generates a new calendar entry for me
    • I could put all of that info on one line, but I think this way looks a bit tidier; note that Stikkit doesn't care either way
    • Your calendar can be subscribed to in iCal, GCal, or 30 Boxes
  2. Stikkit gets that those directions are a URL, so it hotlinks it
  3. Stikkit gets that I want to reference another stikkit ("123456" is the Stikkit ID for a note about having called Jake), so it hotlinks to that stikkit inline.
  4. Thanks to those handy “!”s I added in front of words I want not to be magical ("!1/30 @ !12:50pm"), Stikkit understands that the date and time in that line shouldn't be understood as a new event (so it skips over parsing them).
  5. Owing to the familiar pattern of two consecutive title-cased words, Stikkit gets that “Jake Short” is probably a person (or, what Stikkit calls a Peep); it creates a new peep entry for Jake in the address book and adds what it gets is his phone number
  6. Stikkit gets that I want to share this particular stikkit with someone who probably doesn’t have an account on the site yet (but whose email I know); Stikkit sends the person an email and gives them access. (more on the functional contents of that email in a minute)
  7. Stikkit gets that I want to be reminded of this event via email and SMS (and that I have asked that all other shared users be reminded as well)
  8. Stikkit gets that I have my own squirrely personal taxonomy for organizing my stikkits so, recognizing that “@” symbol (or “tag as”) it files this stikkit under my tags for “appointments,” “travel,” and so on. (This lets me later view all stikkits under a given tag at once.)

So Stikkit seems pretty smart in its own way. Once you and Stikkit get good at talking with each other, it's generally smooth sailing.

Now let's go back and have a look at the email that my pal, Jake, will get out of this:

Merlin has passed you a stikkit named “Lunch with Jake at The French Hearth” [...]

You’ll find this stikkit on the web at http://www.stikkit.com/stikkits/REDACTED

Lunch with Jake at The French Hearth
on Friday at 11:30
directions: http://map.example.com/76868/
We talked about this on the phone !1/30 @ !12:50pm (see: {123456})
Jake Short 850-555-1212
share jake@example.com myadmin@example.com
remind us all
@appointments travel Sarasota JakeShort p:social

[x] send me email when anyone updates or comments on this stikkit (delete the x in the box to turn this off)

See you there!

A few things to note.

  • The email Jake receives attaches a .ics version of the appointment, which lets him easily add this event to his own iCal, Gcal, or (I'm told by my wife) even Outlook.
  • Jake can reply to this email and change anything that appears between the 2 STIKKIT tags. Those changes are then automagically made to the web version of the stikkit. Anyone with whom this stikkit is shared can do the same thing, allowing us to collaborate almost exclusively through email. (I admit that, in practice, this email editing feature still kind of blows my mind)
  • In that reply, Jake can uncheck the [x] to stop receiving email updates whenever the stikkit changes
  • Anything in the reply that Jake types above the quoted text will be added to the Stikkit as an external comment (so we don’t start polluting our actual shared note with meta-chatter)

I realize this is a lot to digest, and you may want to just jump in and play with this for yourself. If so, it helps a lot to have a copy of the basic "magic words" in Stikkit (provided below). I also highly recommend visiting the Stikkit forums, where Michael Buffington maintains a terrific collection of tutorials and screencasts, and where many like-minded Stikkiteers participate actively in discussions, sharing hacks, and so on.

# Stikkit Cheat Sheet

Boosted directly from the Stikkit Help window.

Stikkit Events

  • today or tomorrow or next tuesday
  • michael's birthday is on dec 30th
  • today at 4pm or tomorrow before 12p
  • party on dec 30th at 5pm
  • ski trip between 12/25 and 12/30

Stikkit To-Dos

  • get a dog
  • buy eggs
  • make an appointment
  • + sweep floor
  • - mop floor

Stikkit Bookmarks

  • This is the name of my bookmark
  • http://theurl.com/


  • tag as one, two, three
  • @something, "something else"


  • share with nickname
  • share with someone@somewhere.com


  • remind me
  • remind us all

Stop Stikkit Thinking

  • !! turns off thinking for the entire stikkit
  • ! turns off thinking for a paragraph
  • place an exclamation mark in front of any otherwise magical word like !tomorrow to hide it from Stikkit

Start Stikkit Thinking

  • stikkit, or stikkit: or s, or s: turns on thinking for a single paragraph

As you can see, there's a lot going on in Stikkit, so this will most likely evolve into a regular feature here. I'm planning posts that'll show you how to use Stikkit as your calendar and appointment maker, as a meeting notes app + light project management tool, as well as how you can set Stikkit up as a basic GTD-like personal producivity system.

N.B.: Comments for the post are open, but I have to warn you in advance that I'm not exactly a Level 3 support stud (and, believe me, you will have a lot of questions about how Stikkit works). The forums are much better staffed for troubleshooting, getting help, and hosting clever remarks on server uptime. Still, I'm happy to talk about the example above and field any questions that I'm qualified to answer.

(Disclosure reminder: I’m a proud member of Stikkit’s advisory board)

About Merlin

Merlin's picture


Merlin Mann is an independent writer, speaker, and broadcaster. He’s best known for being the guy who created the website you’re reading right now. He lives in San Francisco, does lots of public speaking, and helps make cool things like You Look Nice Today, Back to Work, and Kung Fu Grippe. Also? He’s writing this book, he lives with this face, he suffers from this hair, he answers these questions, and he’s had this life. So far.

Merlin’s favorite thing he’s written in the past few years is an essay entitled, “Cranking.”




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