Apple Notes has Grown Up

I’ve written about my digital shoebox strategy based on the free Evernote app and service for Macs and iDevices. The free plan was limited to 60MB of online storage per month, could only sync data on two devices, and didn’t let you search the contents of PDF files.

So, after a while, I upgraded to Evernote Premium (now known as Evernote Personal), which increased my online storage, synced data to an unlimited number of devices, and included searching PDFs. At the time, I felt the $7.99/month cost ($69.99 a year) was reasonable, but as Apple Notes has matured, it now offers many (if not most) of the Evernote Premium features I needed for free.

Notes is my new Digital Shoebox

I’m happy to report that Notes has fulfilled my digital shoebox needs nicely since I ended my Evernote Premium subscription a couple of years ago.

The Evernote feature I used most was the Safari extension called Web Clipper, which let me capture the contents of any web page instantly. But since Notes is available as a destination in the Share menu — the little rectangle with an arrow on top — I can save (share) a page to Notes quickly and easily.

I can also use the Share menu to add photos, videos, PDFs, URLs, maps, and more to Notes with one click (or tap).

And, since I have 2TB of iCloud storage (included with my Apple One subscription), my notes are available on all my devices at no additional cost.

But wait, there’s more! Other Notes features I use regularly include shared notes, which are great for grocery lists, trip planning, and more. And I find myself using Notes built-in checklists and tables more often than I would have expected.

Of course, Notes lets you create folders to organize your notes, and I’ve made a few. But I mostly use Notes Tags and Smart Folders to categorize and filter my notes. I add one or more tags — like #peripherals, #tips, #buy_me, #family, and so on — to most notes, making it easy to find them via search or smart folders.

But Wait… There’s Even More!

Another nice touch is that addresses, phone numbers, dates, and other data are underlined in yellow to indicate that instant actions are available. Just tap an underlined item to display an address in Maps, compose an email to a person, add a calendar event, or open a URL.

The best feature in Notes, at least for me, is its built-in document scanner, which automatically captures printed pages with your iDevice camera, then straightens and saves it as a searchable PDF. It’s not as high quality as the flatbed/sheet feed scanner built into my Epson multifunction printer, but it is so good I rarely use my “real” scanner anymore.

If you haven’t tried Notes (or scanning with your iDevice) lately, you’re missing out on a handy (and free) tool that’s built into all your Apple devices.

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W. Abdullah Brooks, MD

Bob: Great tip. I long ago abandoned my Evernote account for much the same reason and pretty much convinced my son to lose his once he completed university (his school apparently was a client).  Although I hear about various note taking apps online, Notes does everything I need, and because it’s part of the Apple ecosystem, whatever I store there (with a single tap as I did this morning on my WHO call), is automatically available across all my devices. And all contact information is automatically formatted for instant access (websites, phone numbers). I use this feature several times a… Read more »