The Notes app built into Apple devices has long offered people a quick and convenient way to save lists, thoughts, and other random items. And while Apple initially shunned the bells and whistles found in the top note-taking apps, it has slowly beefed up Notes each year.
A 2019 update added a gallery view, checklist options, subfolders, and shared folders. In 2020, Notes got a better search tool, widget support, and Apple Pencil compatibility. This year’s upgrade to iOS 15 or iPadOS 15 adds tabs and smart folders.
Once you’ve installed the latest update (Settings > General > Software Update), here are 20 things you can accomplish with the Notes app.
Switch to Gallery View
When in List view, your notes appear by default in descending order with a title and the first few words visible. Tap the ellipsis icon and select View as Gallery to show each note as a thumbnail image that displays the name, part of the text in the note, and any photos that might be in the note. If the note is locked, you’ll see the name and a lock icon but no text or image preview. Return to List view by tapping the ellipsis icon and selecting View as List.
View All Attachments
You can view all your photos and note attachments in one fell swoop. Tap the ellipsis icon and select View Attachments. Tap Done when finished.
Access Folder and Note Commands
Open a specific folder or subfolder, and the ellipsis icon offers a host of other commands and options, including the ability to share the folder, sort its notes, add a new folder, move the folder, rename the folder, and convert it to a Smart Folder.
Tap on a specific note and then tap the Ellipsis icon. A variety of commands appear allowing you to scan, pin, lock, delete, share, send, search, move, format, and print your note.
Drag and Drop Organization
Notes lets you easily organize your folders and notes. Press down on a note or folder and drag it to a different location in the list. If you drag a folder onto another folder, you’ll turn it into a subfolder. The new subfolder will then be hidden from view until you open the parent folder.
You can also change a folder into a subfolder by swiping the folder to the left and tapping the folder icon. To move a note, swipe it left and tap the folder icon, then choose the new folder.
Sort Notes in a Folder
You can change how notes are sorted within a folder. Open the folder, tap the ellipsis icon, and select the Sort by button. By default, all notes are sorted by the last date edited, but you can sort by date created or title instead and further sort them by oldest to newest or newest to oldest (or by A-Z or Z-A, if you sort them by title).
Share Notes and Folders
You can share notes and folders with other people, giving them permission to view and edit. You can also create a new folder specifically for sharing. Swipe the folder you wish to share to the left and tap the blue Sharing icon. Or, open a note, tap the ellipsis up top, and select Share Note.
Tap Share options to change editing permissions between Can make changes and View only. You can then decide how to share the folder or note: via a text message, email, another app, or by copying a direct link. Select the recipients and a notification will indicate that it’s been shared.
Once a folder is shared, you can go back to the Sharing screen and tap Add People to add more recipients. Tap the name of a person to change their individual permissions or select Remove Access to stop sharing the note with them. You can also tap Stop Sharing at any point to remove everyone’s access at once.
For individual notes, tap the Share icon in the upper right to add more people, change or remove access for existing recipients, highlight any changes made, and manage alerts.
Tag Your Notes
Those who upgrade to iOS 15 or iPadOS 15 will be able to add hashtags to notes anywhere in the text or title in order to better organize their notes. Type # followed by the word you want to use as a tag and select the word as it appears in quotes above the keyboard to create your tag.
The tag can’t contain spaces, but you can include hyphens or underscores. Those running iOS 14, iPadOS 14, or macOS Big Sur will be able to see the tagged words but they won’t appear as actual tags. Those running older operating systems won’t be able to see the note at all.
After you’ve created one tag, you can use that same tag in another note just by typing the # symbol and selecting the tag as it appears above the keyboard. To add an existing tag to multiple notes, tap the ellipsis icon and choose Select Notes. Tap all the notes you want to tag, then choose the tag option at the bottom of the screen and select the tag you want to add.
Once a tag has been created, a Tags section on the main Notes screen will appear. From here, you can tap All Tags to see every note with a tag or select a specific tag to see just those notes.
Create Smart Folders
You can create smart folders based on your tags. Such folders are dynamic in that they change to automatically include any notes to which you add a specific tag. At the main Notes screen, tap the icon to create a folder and select the New Smart Folder option.
Create a name for your folder and then select the tag to use or create a new one. Your new folder then appears with all the notes with that tag. Whenever you create a new note and use that tag, it automatically gets added to this folder.
Send a Copy of a Note
You can send a copy of a note to another person or app. For example, you could send a note to a file service such as Google Drive or Box to store it as a separate text file. To do this, press down on the note and select Send a Copy from the pop-up menu. Select the person or app to which you want to send the copy.
Create a Checklist
To generate a checklist of items, tap the notepad icon in the lower right to create a new note. Type a title for your note at the top and tap the checkmark icon. A circle appears for the first item on your checklist.
Type the entry and tap the Return key to create another circle and repeat the process as needed. Swipe any entry in the list to the right and you can turn it into a sub-item.
After you’ve completed one of the tasks listed in the note, tap its circle to show it as completed. The first time you do this, you’re asked if you want all completed items to move to the bottom of the list. Accept this option, and each item you check then jumps to the bottom.
Change Text Formatting
You can quickly change the style and formatting of text. Select the text you wish to reformat. Press down on the Aa button above the keyboard to choose a style, apply bold, italics, and other attributes, and set up a bulleted or numbered list.
Scan a Document or Photo
You can scan a document or photo to incorporate it into a note. Create a new note or open an existing one and tap the camera icon and select Scan. You can then choose to scan an item, take a photo or video, or upload an existing photo or video. Select the appropriate option to include the item in the note.
Draw Text with an Apple Pencil
Notes works with Apple Pencil in iPadOS 14 or higher to offer a Scribble option that converts your drawn letters into editable text. Compatible iPad models include the iPad Pro, iPad (6th generation and later), iPad mini (5th gen and later), and iPad Air (3rd gen and later).
You can use this feature in a new or existing note. Tap the Drawing icon in the upper-right toolbar and select the Apple Pencil from the palette at the bottom. Draw some alphanumeric characters and then wait to see them converted into editable text.
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