Apple Notes is a basic but powerful note-taking app for writers, journalists, and bloggers. It comes pre-installed on all Apple devices—iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, and desktop Macs—and rivals other more premium note-taking apps.
Apple Notes is free to use and store notes locally on your devices. It automatically backs up notes and syncs them across devices using the iCloud servers. With any Apple device, you receive free 5 GB of storage. While the free account should be sufficient for most people starting out, keep in mind that your iCloud storage gets shared with everything your devices back up: contacts, documents, photos, videos, etc.
Apple Notes basics
Apple Notes is simple, which is a good thing. The last thing you want is to be fiddling around with complicated or confusing apps while you’re on the road.
When you open the app, simply press the yellow “new note” icon and begin typing. When typing a note, pressing the camera icon will let you embed photos.
Pressing the “add folder” icon at the bottom will let you create a new folder. You can create sub-folders in the Apple Notes desktop version, which will sync to your mobile device, but creating sub-folders in the mobile app is not yet possible.
Consider using Apple Notes with your phone’s speech-to-text function to dictate and transcribe your notes. You can talk faster than you can type; and dictating frees your eyes from looking down at the phone.
To do this, you need to first ensure that the speech-to-text function is enabled in your phone’s settings. Then, simply press the microphone symbol that appears somewhere on your keyboard (usually on the bottom right, below the return key on the keyboard).
Using Apple Notes for research and writing
If you also own an Apple computer, it will include a desktop/laptop version of Apple Notes. It works like the mobile version and syncs your notes, but you get the added benefit of working on a larger screen. Your notes sync across all your Apple devices using iCloud. And, the desktop/laptop version of Apple Notes has a few additional features.
It allows you to insert photos from your mobile device into a note.
You can also “scan” documents into the Apple Notes desktop/laptop app using your mobile device. This could be helpful if you are, say, fleshing out your notes and have reference material you’d like to save.
You can password protect a note or invite viewers or collaborators.
Apple also makes it easy to save information from the web to a note. If you’re on a laptop doing research, you can highlight text on a website, right click, and share it to a note. The only drawback is that if you share a highlight to a note, it doesn’t automatically save the reference information (URL, date of access, etc.). That said, you can share URLs to a note using Apple’s sharing shortcuts; wherever you see the share icon on an Apple device (phone, laptop, etc.), you can share, save, or send that information to a note.
How to organize your notes
It is easy to organize notes into folders. The desktop Apple Notes version can organize into sub folders, which appear in the mobile version of Apple Notes. How you organize your notes depends on what makes sense for you. But here are some ideas to get you started:
- Create a folder for each trip. For example: France 2022 or Paris Autumn 2022.
- Create distinct notes for locations or segments. Consider keeping a note for each city, day, location, or highlight within a folder. For example, create descriptive notes within your trip’s folder: Paris Day 1, Paris Day 2, Musée d’Orsay, Conversation with Pierre, Le Marais, etc. If you’re on a specific assignment, consider creating one note on the project you’re working. For example: Bordeaux’s Underground Music Scene.
- Remember your locations. Apple Notes doesn’t geotag locations. To remember precise location data is to take a photo in a location you want to remember using your iPhone’s stock camera app. It will automatically geotag the photo. You must use your phone’s stock camera app as using Apple Notes’ built-in camera function doesn’t geotag the photos, which is a common limitation on all note-taking apps for some reason. Using the stock camera app over then inserting the image into a note is an extra step, but it is a critical one if precise location data is important. Alternatively, you can append location information to a note using the Apple Shortcuts app with one click of a button.
Apple Notes Alternatives for Writers
Be sure to check out our note-taking guide for travel writers and our overview of the differences between several popular note-taking apps. Or, jump directly to our Evernote guide.
Are you a writer who uses Apple Notes? How do you use it? Any tips? Let us know in the comments below.