Looks can be deceiving and Apple Notes is a perfect example. Despite its simplistic look, the stock notes app for iOS, iPadOS, and macOS is full of all kinds of features that make it particularly versatile.
If you’re relatively new to the Notes app, here are 21 tips to get started using Apple Notes effectively on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
1. Pin Pin
If you have a note in a folder that you want to get to quickly, try pinning it to the top of the list. To do that, swipe the note to the right and tap Pin Icon. On a Mac, Control-click the note and select Pins instead of. You can pin as many notes this way as you like.
Want to unpin a note? Just swipe it to the right again (or Control-click the note on Mac) and select Unpin or Unpin a note.
2. Switch to Gallery View
Apple Notes’ default list view makes it difficult to distinguish between notes. If you prefer a more visual approach, consider switching to Gallery View.
On iPhone and iPad, tap Than icon (three dots) at the top right of the screen and select View as Gallery. In the MacOS version of Notes, select Exhibition room icon at the top of the application window.
3. Add password protection
When composing a sensitive or confidential note, you should add an extra layer of protection by locking it. To do that, tap Than icon and select Lock up. On Mac, select Lock up instead, the icon at the top right of the Notes window.
The first time you do that, you have to set up a password, which you then have to use to unlock the note and any other notes you lock afterwards. You can also choose to unlock the note via Face ID or Touch ID to speed things up.
4. Use Quick Notes
If you use an iPad or Mac with iPadOS 15 or macOS Monterey installed, you can take advantage of a feature called Quick Note to quickly take notes without opening Notes. It is also capable of capturing links to web pages in browsers like Safari and Chrome.
To activate Quick Note, simply drag your finger (or the tip of the Apple Pencil) from the bottom right of the iPad screen. On a Mac, push the pointer in the lower-right corner of the screen.
Anything you knock down this way will then appear in Quick Notes folder of the Notes app. You can also access this folder on your iPhone.
5. Offline storage notes
By default, the Notes app stores notes in iCloud, which means they sync seamlessly between your iPhone, iPad, and Mac through your Apple ID. However, if you’re running low on iCloud space, you also have the option to store notes locally.
On iPhone and iPad, go to Setting > Note and activate the switch next to “On my iPhone/iPad account”. In the MacOS version of Notes, select Note > Interests on the menu bar and enable the box next to it Enable Accounts On My Mac.
You will then find a new section labeled On my iPhone/iPad/Mac in the Home screen or sidebar of the Notes app. You can choose to create folders and make notes in them later.
6. Create a checklist
While your iPhone, iPad, and Mac have a dedicated Reminders app, you can also use the Notes app as an alternative to-do manager. To create a list that you can quickly bookmark, just tap Category at the top of the virtual keyboard (iPhone and iPad) or the top of the Notes window (Mac).
7. Use Text Format
The Apple Notes app isn’t just for taking simple notes. You can also structure text with headings, bold text, bullets, etc. Just tap Aah on the top of the virtual keyboard (iPhone and iPad) or the top of the Notes window (Mac) to access your formatting options.
8. Shake to undo
Made a mistake while composing a note? Just shake your iPhone or iPad and press Undo to undo it! Here are some other useful gestures you can use on your iOS device.
9. Start dictating
Your iPhone, iPad, and Mac have powerful on-device dictation that you can use to take notes faster. Just touch The checkered microphone icon on the virtual keyboard (iPhone and iPad) or select File > Spell in the menu bar (Mac) and start speaking, and the Notes app transcribes your words into text in real time.
10. Take notes with Siri
If you want to create a new note quickly, just ask Siri. Say “Hey Siri, take a note” or “Hey Siri, make a note,” and whatever you say immediately after becomes the headline. Then say “Newline” and follow the rest of the notes.
11. Use Hashtags
Starting with iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey, you can manage hashtags. Just add a tag or tags anywhere in your notes and they will appear in Card on the Home screen or sidebar of the Notes app. You can then quickly tap them to filter the notes.
12. Create a Smart Folder
Smart folders are basically saved sets of hashtags that you can use to filter notes faster. To create a Smart Folder, select New folder > New Smart Folder in the bottom left corner of the Notes app. Then add a name, enter the tags you want and press Accomplished. You can then access it through the Notes app’s home screen or sidebar.
13. Convert handwriting to text
If you use iPad with Apple Pencil, the Notes app provides the perfect way to handwrite notes. But did you know you can also convert it to actual text? Just touch OneShaped pen tools and Notes will transcribe whatever you write in real time.
14. Draw perfect shapes
The Notes app on iPad also lets you draw perfect shapes with Apple Pencil. Simply touch and hold your Apple Pencil after drawing a shape (circle, square, triangle, etc.) and the built-in Shape Recognition algorithm will automatically activate and adjust it for you.
15. Drag and drop items
If you want to add an attachment (such as an image or PDF) to a note, you can simply drag and drop it into the Notes app on iPhone and iPad. Just touch and hold the item or items (for example, in Photos or Files), switch to the Notes app (you’ll have to use both hands), and release. This is even faster on the iPad with multi-tasking.
16. Scan documents and insert multimedia
You can scan and insert documents directly into the Notes app on iPhone and iPad. While opening a note, tap Camera icon on the bottom or top toolbar. Then, locate the document you want to scan in the camera’s viewfinder and tap Shutter Icon. You can also capture and insert photos and videos, or add items directly from your photo library.
17. Search for your notes
If you don’t like organizing your notes, you can make up for that by using the powerful search function built into the Notes app. Just choose Search and you can filter notes by text and type — attachments, checklists, drawings, etc. Notes are almost smart enough to detect text in scanned documents, so don’t forget to try this there.
18. Using the Notes Widget
You can use the Notes widget on iPhone and iPad to get to your latest notes quickly. Just show the widget gallery (swipe the Home screen and tap More icon), select Note widget, choose a size and press More widgets. You can also add the Notes widget to the Notification Center on your Mac.
19. Accessing Notes via the lock screen
On iPhone, you can access your latest notes directly through the Lock screen. To do that, add the widget to Today View instead of the Home screen. You can then swipe right on the Lock Screen and access the Notes widget in Today View.
20. Share Notes via iCloud
The Notes app makes it possible to share notes (and even collaborate on them in real time) via iCloud. To share a note, tap Than icon and select Share notes. Then, choose a medium to share — for example, Messages, Mail, etc.
21. Recover deleted notes
Did you accidentally delete a note? Don’t worry — you have 30 days to restore it. Just tap or select Recently deleted on the Home screen or the sidebar of the Notes app to display a list of deleted notes that you can recover.
Become an Apple Notes Pro
You only get surface scratches in Apple Notes. Keep taking notes regularly and you’ll discover even more ways to get the most out of it. If you want to explore other note-taking options for Apple devices, check out Evernote, Microsoft OneNote, and Notion.