Notes is the default note-taking app on iPhones and iPads. It lets you jot down your thoughts or ideas, compose handwritten notes, create checklists, and scan documents, among other things. In addition, you can sync your notes across all your devices to access them anywhere.

apple notes tips and tricks
IMAGE: Omar Al-Ghosson (Unsplash)

Although the App Store has several note-taking apps that can do most of these tasks well, we feel Notes is a better note-taking app for most users. For one, it’s got a clean and easy-to-use interface, and two, it includes some handy features that go beyond simple note-taking.

So if you’re starting with Notes or have been using it for a while but haven’t explored it much, here are some of the best Notes tips and tricks you must check out to get the most out of the app on your iPhone and iPad.

1. Take a Quick Note on the iPad

Quick Note is a nifty feature on iPadOS 15 that lets you quickly capture notes from anywhere on your iPad. All your quick notes are stored under the Quick Notes folder and synced across all your Apple devices using the same Apple ID.

To take a quick note, you have four ways. The easiest of these is to swipe diagonally inward from the bottom-right corner of the screen to bring up the Quick Note window and start entering your text in it.

quick note using apple pencil
IMAGE: Apple

We’ve covered this and the other three methods in detail in our Quick Notes guide, which you can follow to learn more.

2. Scan a Document with Apple Notes

Not many users know this, but Apple has a document scanner built into the Notes app that allows you to scan documents and save or attach them to your notes. That way, you don’t have to rely on third-party document scanners.

Scanning a document in Notes is pretty straightforward:

  1. Create a new note or open an existing one.
  2. Tap on the camera icon and select Scan Documents from the context menu.
  3. Point the camera to the document and position the document inside the view.
    scanning documents in notes app
    IMAGE: Apple
  4. Once the document is aligned, click the shutter button to scan it.

If you want to cancel a scan, click the Cancel button on the top-left corner. Check out our document scanning guide on iPhone and iPad to learn more.

3. Use Siri to Create a Note

While Apple’s built-in voice assistant—Siri—may not be perfect for many system operations, it sure can do some tasks really well. Adding a note is one of these, which makes it easier to note down something while you’re on the go.

To create a note using Siri, press the Home or Side button on your device to summon Siri. Then, say something like “Make a note or take a note”, and start dictating your note.

4. Make a Note of Something From Another App

For all those times when you use an app and come across something worth making a note of, Notes has got you covered. It’s made possible thanks to the share extension, and you can use it like this:

  1. With the content/media you want to make a note of/save to Notes open in its app, hit the Share button. In some apps, like Twitter, you may need to hit the Share via... button after hitting Share to open the Share menu.
  2. Find the Notes app icon in the Share menu. You may need to scroll along the apps section horizontally to get to Notes. If it’s not there, hit the More button, and on the following screen, hit Edit and add Notes.
  3. Click on the Notes app.
    creating a note from another app
  4. Add text to your note and select the folder where you want to save the note.
  5. Hit Create New Note to save it.

5. Add Media to Your Notes

Much like scanning a document, Notes also lets you add media (photos and videos) to your notes. So if you’re writing a note that requires visual representation of some sort to add more information or context, this feature can come in quite handy.

Follow these steps to add media to your notes:

  1. Open an existing note or create a new one.
  2. Click the camera icon.
  3. Select Choose Photo or Video to add media from local storage or select Take Photo or Video to capture a photo or video.
  4. With the former, select the photo or video from the Photos app and click Add, whereas in the case of the latter, capture a photo or video and hit Use Photo or Use Video accordingly to add it to the note.

6. View All Attachments

As you add media to your notes, you’ll eventually end up with lots of attachments at some point. Apple makes it easy to access these attachments, so you can delete the ones you no longer need from your notes.

Here’s how you can access your attachments:

  1. Go to the notes folder whose attachments you want to view.
  2. Tap on the ellipsis (More) button on the top-right hand.
  3. Select View Attachments from the options to view all the attachments you’ve used in your notes.
  4. Click on an attachment and hit Show in Note at the top to open the note with this media.
  5. Delete the media from the note to clear it from the Attachments list.

7. Change Text Formatting

Changing the style and formatting of text allows you to enhance the presentation of information and draw attention to important details in your notes. Like many note-taking apps, Notes also gives you the ability to format your notes, albeit in a limited capacity.

To format a note properly:

  1. Open the note you want to modify.
  2. Click on the Aa button to bring up the Format card. Here, you’ll see multiple options for the title and heading, with styling options like bold, italics, underline, and strike-through right below it. In addition, there will also be options for lists and indentations.
    changing text formatting on notes
  3. Select the text you want to format, and depending on your requirement, click on a style or formatting option in the Format card to see it in action.
  4. When done, hit Done to save your changes.

8. Sort Notes in a Folder

By default, Apple sorts all your notes inside a folder by Date Edited, i.e., last modified date. While some may find this sorting option helpful, others may prefer to sort their notes by other criteria, such as title or date of creation. That way, when you edit an old note, it won’t appear on top of your list.

If you, too, wish to change the sort order, click on the ellipsis button and select Sort Notes By. When this brings up a list of sorting options, choose one (based on your preference) to sort your notes accordingly.

9. Tag Your Notes

Although sorting lets you systematically arrange notes inside a folder, it isn’t a reliable solution for keeping your notes organized. Using tags is a far better way of doing this instead, as it helps you quickly access similar kinds of notes in one place.

Follow these steps to tag your notes:

  1. Open an existing note or create a new one.
  2. Type # (hash) and append it with some text. For instance, if you want to organize all your notes about the iPhone in one place, you can add #iPhone to all of those notes (in their title or body).
    taging notes in notes app

Notes saves all your tags on its home page. Once you’re here, scroll down to the Tags section and click on a tag name to view all your notes with the same tag.

10. Use Smart Folders to Organize Similar Notes

Using folders is one way to keep similar kinds of notes organized on the Notes app. But to take things up a notch, Apple also offers smart folders, which let you gather your tagged notes in one place. So it’s kind of an extension to tagging notes and makes it easier to organize your tagged notes.

Say, for instance, if you need to refer to a few particular notes from time to time, you can tag them and place them inside a smart folder to find them easily.

You can create a smart folder using these steps:

  1. Tap on the New Folder button on the bottom-left of the screen.
  2. Select New Smart Folder from the options.
  3. Give a name to this folder.
  4. Select a tag or add a new one to filter your notes.
  5. Hit Done to save the folder.

11. Create Nested Folders

Creating nested folders is a neat little trick to store a bunch of similar kinds of folders inside one huge folder structure. To put a folder inside another as a sub-folder, click and drag it on top of the other folder. When you want to access the sub-folder, click on its parent folder, and you’ll find the folder under it.

12. Restore Deleted Notes

Sometimes, while clearing up the Notes app, you may accidentally delete an important note, or it may happen that you delete a note you didn’t need initially only to realize that you might need it later.

Apple has your back when this happens, and it gives you a buffer of 30 days to recover your deleted notes inside Notes. Here’s how you can recover a deleted note:

  1. Go to Notes’ home page.
  2. Scroll down to the bottom and click on Recently Deleted.
  3. Swipe left on the note you want to restore and click on the purple folder icon.
    restoring deleted note
  4. Select the folder where the note originally lived to move it there. Or, click on New Folder to restore the note to a new folder.

13. Share a Note With Someone

At times you may find the need to share a note with someone, perhaps to get their feedback or to have them collaborate on it. Apple gives you the option to share your notes with others using any app.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Open the note you want to share.
  2. Hit the More button at the top and select Share Note.
    sharing a note in notes
  3. Tap on Share Options and set the permissions for the note on the following screen.
  4. Go back to the Share Note page.
  5. Choose an app through which you’d like to share the note, add the recipient, and send it.

14. Search For a Note

If you want to find a note in a long list of notes inside one of your folders, you can use the quick search functionality to find a note. To do this, click on the Search box at the top and enter your query. When it pulls up the results, click on the most relevant result to open it.

15. Search Inside a Note

Much like searching for a note, you can also find something inside a note. This is useful when you want to find a piece of information inside a long note.

To search within a note, open the note. Then, tap on the ellipsis button and select Find in Note. Enter your search term, and if it matches the text in your note, you’ll see it highlighted in the note.

16. Pin A Note

Although the search functionality in Notes is quick and works well, if you need to access a note more frequently, it’s better to pin it to the top of the folder instead so that it’s more accessible. In case you’ve got more than one important note, Notes let you pin multiple notes inside a folder.

Here’s how to pin a note:

  1. Open the note you want to pin.
  2. Hit the More button and click on Pin.
    pinning a note

Notes will not pin your note to the top under the Pinned tab.

17. Lock a Note

For all your notes that contain valuable personal information, you can lock them inside Notes to prevent unauthorized access. This is useful if you share your device with someone at home or simply don’t want to risk your notes from being accessed even when your device gets stolen.

We’ve covered all the nuances of locking a note in our guide here. But to give you a quick rundown of steps, here’s how you lock a note:

  1. Open the note you want to lock.
  2. Click on the ellipsis button and select Lock.
  3. Enter a password against the Password field. Re-enter it in the Verify field, and also set a hint for the password in case you forget it.
  4. Toggle Use Face ID option if you wish to lock notes with Face ID.
  5. Hit Done.
  6. Tap on the lock icon on the top to lock the note.

18. Sketch or Handwrite a Note

Besides typing notes, the Notes app also allows you to sketch or take handwritten notes. So for all those times when you feel creative, you can either handwrite the information or sketch a graphic to add a visual flair to your notes. Of course, if you’ve got an iPad and an Apple Pencil, this combo makes for a better note-taking and sketching experience.

To draw or handwrite a note, open a note and hit the pen (Markup) icon. Pick a tool from the available selection and start writing or drawing on the screen using your fingers or Apple Pencil. Hit Done to save your note.

19. Save a Note as a PDF

Notes offers the ability to export notes as PDF, which is a handy feature that gives you the freedom to access your notes on non-Apple devices too.

To save a note as a PDF, follow these steps:

  1. Open the note you want to save as a PDF.
  2. Click on the ellipsis button at the top and select Send a Copy from the list.
  3. Select Markup to generate a PDF. If you wish to edit something in the PDF, you can do it on the markup page.
  4. Tap Done, and when prompted to take action, select Save File To and choose a folder on your device.
    saving note as a pdf
  5. Hit Save to save the PDF.

20. Sync Your Notes

Last but not least, if you own multiple Apple devices and you use Notes on all of them, you can turn on sync to keep all your notes in sync.

Here’s how to enable sync:

  1. Open Settings on your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Scroll down and select Notes.
  3. Click on Accounts.
  4. Select iCloud and tap on iCloud. To save your notes to your Google account, click on Gmail.
  5. Toggle on the button beside Notes.

Mastering Apple Notes to Improve Your Note-Taking Experience

Knowing the best features and tricks of any notes app allows you to use the app to its full potential and perform operations on it efficiently. Of course, this extends to the built-in notes app on iPhones and iPads—Notes—too, which includes a bunch of useful features to improve the overall note-taking experience. We hope this guide helps you get familiar with most of these features and tricks, so you can take better notes on the Notes app and better manage them effectively on your iPhone or iPad.

FAQs About Using Apple Notes on iPhone and iPad

Unfortunately, no. You can, however, create a template yourself and copy-paste it into a new note that requires the same template.

To use Apple Notes effectively, you must take full advantage of its feature set. As such, these are some of the features you must start using in Notes on your iPhone or iPad:

  • Quick Note
  • Built-in document scanner
  • Quick note sharing
  • Tags and smart folders
  • Note locking
  • Sketching and handwriting notes
  • Save as a PDF

Apple offers a bunch of ways to help you organize your notes list in the Notes app. These include:

  • Using tags and smart folders
  • Using sub-folders
  • Changing view
  • Sorting notes
  • Pinning important notes
  • Deleting old notes
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