The App Store is full of excellent third-party note apps. But if you are like me, you would prefer the inbuilt Apple Notes app on the iPhone and iPad. It has come a long way from being a dumping ground for my random musings to being a go-to for almost everything from formatting the text to sketching and collaborating with other people.
Yes! The Notes app does this and so much more. Are you ready to unlock the lesser-known highlights? Let me start from the basics and show you 26 tips and tricks to use the Notes app on your iPhone and iPad.
Create a new note
Edit the iPhone note
Delete notes on the iPhone
Recover deleted notes
Pin important notes on the iPhone
Use Siri to create a note
Create a note from other apps
Create a checklist
Format text in the Notes app
Use different fonts in the Notes app
Change the paper style in the Notes app
Add media (photos and videos) to the Notes app
Scan documents using the Notes app
See all attachments in one place
Lock confidential notes with a password
Change from the list to thumbnail view
Draw and sketch inside notes
Search inside the Notes app
Sort notes by date or title
Add notes shortcut to Control Center
Add notes to lockscreen
Add the Notes app widget to the iPhone Home Screen
Create folders and sub-folders to organize notes
Add people to a note or notes folder for collaborative work
Sync notes to iCloud, Google, etc.
Save a note as a PDF on the iPhone or iPad
1. Create a new note
Open the Notes app.
Tap the compose button (a square box with a pen).
Pro Tip: Want to jot something quickly? From the Home Screen, long-press the Notes app icon and choose New Note. (see the right image below)
2. Edit the iPhone note
Open the Notes app, locate and tap the note you wish to edit.
Tap anywhere in the open note and start editing.
When finished, tap Done.
3. Delete notes on the iPhone
No longer need an entry?
Open the Notes app and get inside the desired note.
Tap the More icon (three dots inside a circle)
Tip: From the Notes folder, you may also swipe right to left on a note and tap the red trash can icon (left image below). Alternatively, you may also long-press a note and choose Delete (right image below).
Pro Tip: To delete multiple notes from the notes folder, tap the More icon. Next, tap Select Notes, choose the entries you wish to get rid of, and finally tap Delete.
4. Recover deleted notes
We are only human, and sometimes you may accidentally delete a note. Well, worry not! You have 30 days (40 in rare cases) to retrieve it. Learn how to do that here.
5. Pin important notes on the iPhone
I have over a thousand notes. Sure, I can search to find the ones I need. But, pinning the most frequent once to the top is more efficient.
To pin a note, open the Notes app, and from the notes folder, swipe left to right on a note. Finally, tap the pin icon. Follow the same steps to unpin.
6. Use Siri to create a note
Siri, the inbuilt Apple’s voice assistant, lets you effortlessly create notes using your voice.
For this, summon Siri by pressing the Side button/Home button or saying ‘Hey Siri.’ Next, ask it something like ‘Make a note that my train for Delhi will arrive on platform number 6, and my coach will be placed near the escalator.‘
7. Create a note from other apps
Thanks to the Notes’ app icon in the iOS/iPadOS Share Sheet, you can easily create a note straight from other apps on your iPhone or iPad like Photos. Here’s how.
Open some other app. I am using Flipkart.
Tap the Share icon.
Slide the horizontal row of app icons and tap Notes.
Choose if you want to create a new note or save it to an existing one.
Next, add the text as desired.
Finally, tap Save.
Pro Tip: From Safari, you can save the full article link with the article name (above steps). But you may also select text and tap Share. Next, choose Notes to create a note with only the selected text. It is handy if you wish to save parts of an article (say quotes or figures) to the notes app instead of the full article link.
8. Create a checklist
Have a grocery shopping list or a to-do list for the weekend? The Notes app makes it effortless to create checklists. Here’s how.
Easiest way: From the Home Screen, long-press the Notes app icon and choose New Checklist. Now, type the first entry. Tap return on the keyboard to add more.
Alternatively, open the Notes app and tap the compose icon. From the top of the keyboard, tap on the checklist icon (circle with a tick) and start typing.
9. Format text in the Notes app
We can agree that long text without bold, italics, bullet points, etc., is monotonous to read. So here’s how to spice things up and make them easy-to-read.
Open a note and select a word, sentence, or paragraph.
Tap BIU and choose Bold, Italic, Underline.
Want more tools? Tap Aa above the keyboard to use Title, Headings, Strikethrough, Bullet lists, Indents, etc.
You can also insert tables inside the Notes app.
Tip: If you want all your new notes to start with a Title and then Body, open the Settings app → Notes → New Notes Start With → choose the desired option.
10. Use different fonts in the Notes app
You are not limited to the default font while creating notes. Like Pages, Numbers, Twitter, Instagram, and a handful of other apps, the Notes app also supports third-party fonts. You can learn how to install and use them on your iPhone.
11. Change the paper style in the Notes app
By default, the notes app has a plain white background. If you wish, you have the option to use lines and grids. This is particularly helpful when you are using Apple Pencil on an iPad to handwrite something.
Not just text, but you can add photos, videos, maps, hyperlinks, etc., to a note. Here’s how.
Start creating a new note or edit an existing one.
Tap the camera icon.
Tap Choose Photo or Video or Take Photo or Video. For the screenshots below, I have selected the former.
Select one or more files and tap Add.
Finally, tap Done to save the note with the media.
Note: To add maps, open Apple Maps, search for a place, swipe up a bit to reveal the Share button, and tap it. Finally, choose Notes and tap Save. You can do the same via Google Maps by tapping the share icon from the top right.
13. Scan documents using the Notes app
The steps to scan and add documents is similar to the above.
Alternatively, you can also long-press the Notes app icon on the Home Screen and choose Scan Documents. Next, point the camera to a document and capture it. Adjust the corners and once you are satisfied, tap Keep Scan → Save.
14. See all attachments in one place
The Notes app makes it easy to view all the attachments in one place. For this:
Open this app and make sure you are in the notes folder. (It can be iCloud, Notes, etc.)
Tap the ‘three dots inside a circle‘ icon.
Tap View Attachments.
Now, tap a photo or video to view it.
Optional: You may also tap Show in Note to go instantly to the original note of which this attachment is a part.
15. Lock confidential notes with a password
Open a note and tap the three dots icon.
Tap Lock. If this is your first time, you will have to set a password. Do that. You may also choose to use Face ID or Touch ID for ease.
Enter your notes lock password (or biometrics authentication), and tap the open lock icon at the top once you are done. The note will be password protected instantly.
16. Change from the list to thumbnail view
By default, the notes are presented as a list. But if you fancy thumbnail view, tap the three dots icon once you are inside a notes folder. Next, tap View as Gallery.
17. Draw and sketch inside notes
Start a new note or edit an existing one.
Tap the ‘pen inside a circle‘ icon to see the drawing tools.
Use the pen, pencil, thick brush, eraser, lasso, ruler, and different colors to create your sketch.
To scroll while drawing, use two fingers.
18. Search inside the Notes app
Open the Notes app and swipe down to reveal the search bar. Choose an option from under ‘Suggested.’ Or, type your query to find the exact note you are looking for.
19. Sort notes by date or title
Open the Settings app and tap Notes.
Tap Sort Notes By.
Choose one of the desired options.
Tip: You may also do this from inside the Notes app by opening a notes folder and tapping the three dots icon.
20. Add notes shortcut to Control Center
Open the Settings app and tap Control Center.
Tap the green plus icon before Notes.
Now, you will see the Notes app compose icon in the iPhone Control Center. Tap it to begin a new note instantly.
21. Add notes to lockscreen
Have to jot something quickly without unlocking the iPhone? You can add the compose note icon to Control Center (explained above) and then choose to create a new note or resume adding to the last viewed one for a particular time. You can learn how to do this here.
With iOS 14, you can now have the Notes app widgets on your iPhone Home Screen. This makes it instant to get inside your notes or view the initials.
23. Create folders and sub-folders to organize notes
Open the Notes app and make sure you are on the ‘Folders’ screen.
Tap the new folder icon at the bottom left. Choose a location, if asked.
Enter the desired name and tap Save.
Tap Edit or swipe right to left to move or delete the folder.
Pro Tip: To create a subfolder, make two folders, and drag one over the other. (see the image on the right below)
24. Add people to a note or notes folder for collaborative work
It is effortless to add your friends and family to collaborate and work together in Apple Notes. You can learn all about it here.
Similarly, you can also learn how to automatically highlight all changes in a shared note and hide alerts from shared notes.
25. Sync notes to iCloud, Google, etc.
You can choose to sync your notes to iCloud (default), Google, other services, have them offline on the device, or even have multiple accounts! For this:
Go to Settings, scroll down, and tap Notes → Accounts.
Tap iCloud → ensure the toggle for Notes is enabled.
Go back and tap Gmail (if you have added). Now you may enable the toggle for Notes.
Go back to the previous screen, and enable “On My iPhone’ Account. Notes created inside this will stay only on this device and won’t sync with the cloud.
Note: I only use iCloud. But few of my colleagues use both Gmail and iCloud. According to your convenience, you can use whatever you like. Additionally, you can also change the default notes location (like iCloud, Gmail, locally on the device, etc.).
26. Save a note as a PDF on the iPhone or iPad
Open a note inside the Notes app and tap the three dots icon.
Tap Send a Copy.
Place two fingers on the Page 1 thumbnail and pinch out.
Tap the share icon.
Now, you can add it to Books, Save to Files, AirDrop, etc. The note will be saved or sent as a PDF file.
Note: Inside a note, if you tap the three dots icon and tap Save to Files, a text note will be saved as a .txt file, and a sketch/drawing will be saved as a .png image file. If the note has both (text and sketch), they will be saved separately in the Files app as .txt and .png files.
Other Apple Notes app tips
Ready to take notes like a pro!
I believe the tips here helped you master note-taking on the iPhone and iPad. Next, it would be equally exciting to learn about some keyboard shortcuts for the Notes app on Mac.
Finally, if you have any additional tips that you would like to share (and include in this list), please share them in the comments section below!
I have been an Apple user for over seven years now. At iGeeksBlog, I love creating how-tos and troubleshooting guides that help people do more with their iPhone, iPad, Mac, AirPods, and Apple Watch. In my free time, I like to watch stand up comedy videos, tech documentaries, news debates, and political speeches.