iPhone and iPad Mac

Should You Be Using Apple’s Notes for iOS and OS X?

Bryan Wolfe 24-02-2016

Are you looking for a note-taking solution for your Mac, iPhone, or iPad? For the first time since its release, Apple Notes for both OS X and iOS may be worth considering.


But can it tempt you away from Evernote or OneNote? Let’s take a look.

What is Apple Notes?

When it comes to digital note-taking, Evernote has long reigned supreme How to Use Evernote: The Unofficial Manual Learning how to use Evernote on your own takes a long time. This is why we've put together this guide to show you how to take full advantage of the most important Evernote features. Read More . A true cross-platform solution, Evernote makes it easy to organize and archive formatted text, a full webpage or excerpt, photographs, and more. Apple is finally making a play for Evernote’s audience with the introduction of a powerful new version of the Apple Notes application for both iOS and OS X.


First introduced in iOS, Apple Notes didn’t arrive on the Mac until 2012 with the release of OS X Mountain Lion. Before this, Mail on OS X supported a mailbox with notes, which used the IMAP mailbox synchronization protocol to link information across multiple devices.

Reasons to Use Apple Notes

For much of its existence, the free Apple Notes served as little more than a simple, note-taking tool. With the release of OS X El Capitan and iOS 9 in 2015, things changed considerably. The OS updates added some new features, including to-do lists, inline webpage previews, photos and videos, digital sketches, map locations, and much more. Additionally, syncing is now done through iCloud, not IMAP, which makes it more secure.


Better Organization and Improved Views

Imagine one piece of paper with hundreds of little notes written on it. That gives you an idea how previous versions of Apple Notes handled information. In the current version, order has arrived. Now, notes are organized into folders, which you can create on the fly. Moving notes from one folder to the next is done in just a few steps.

For added flexibility, you can store folders on iCloud, thereby syncing them across multiple devices, or just on your device.


Writing things down digitally is a great idea, but if you can’t find what you’re looking for, what’s the point? In Apple Notes, you can now view thumbnails of notes that contain sketches or images/videos. There is also an Attachments button where you can find photos and videos, drawings, maps, websites, audio, and documents. By clicking on an attachment, you’ll be taken directly to that note.


Also worth noting are the new text formatting tools in Apple Notes. You can create titles, heading styles, numbered or bulleted lists, and more. Previously, the only text formats available were bold, italicized, and underlined.

It’s About the Sketching

Sometimes you need more that text to express a thought or concept. Here is where the application’s sketch tool plays a role in iOS. Using your finger, you can draw anything you like and add it to a note. Better still, Apple Notes feature different multiple-colored drawing tools like a pen, pencil, felt tip marker, and eraser. It also contains a ruler. Have an iPad Pro? The Apple Pencil works beautifully in Apple Notes.


Although you can’t sketch on a Mac, doodles created on an iPhone or iPad are viewable on OS X.


Web Linking Done Right

When you want to remember and find an outstanding website, bookmarking in your Web browser is probably best. However, if you rather keep a list of sites, consider using Apple Notes.


Within Safari, you can add any website to an Apple Notes folder. When added, each is listed inside a box with its title, description, and a thumbnail. By clicking on the box, you can launch the link directly in Safari.

Find it on the Map

Mapping is another useful new feature in Apple Notes. Like with Web links, you can embed locations into a note from Apple Maps — simply select Maps from the Share menu. You can add the address to an existing folder, or you can save it to a new one. By clicking the link inside Apple Notes, you’ll be redirected to Maps.



This is a great tool when you’re visiting a new city and want to make sure you know where key events are located. You can add the locations to Apple Notes on your Mac and then take them with you on your iPhone — handy!

Added Security Coming Soon

This spring, added security is coming to Apple Notes. Beginning with iOS 9.3, mobile users can secure data such as financial details and medical information with a password, or with a fingerprint with Touch ID.


On the Mac in OS X 10.11.4, notes are secured with a password, with the lock note tool accessible from the application’s Share screen.

Also Coming: Evernote Importing

In the upcoming OS X 10.11.4 release, Apple Notes is also gaining the ability to import Evernote files. You’ll first need to export from Evernote on a Mac or PC by heading to File > Export Note, or right-click on a notebook to just export notes stored within.


Now open Apple Notes and head to File > Import Notes. There is currently no way to import Evernote files into Apple Notes in iOS.

Is Apple Notes as Good as Evernote or Microsoft OneNote?

Evernote remains the most feature-rich note-taking application around. Apple Notes, despite making huge advances in iOS 9 10 Hidden iOS 9 Features You Might Not Have Noticed From saving your battery life to guarding your privacy, here are 10 iOS 9 additions that definitely deserve their 15 minutes of fame. Read More and OS X El Capitan What's New In OS X 10.11 "El Capitan"? (And How to Try it Yourself) While the changes don't seem that big on the surface, there's a lot going on under the hood that could make this incremental upgrade one of the most significant to date. Read More , still cannot match Evernote in terms of the number of features it provides.

For example, Evernote allows you to save entire articles from the Web Evernote's New Web Clipper Is The Ultimate Content Saving Tool Evernote's Web Clipper isn't new. But if you haven't heard, or perhaps didn't like the Evernote clipper in the past, this is the right time to look into it again. Read More not just headlines, links, and snippets of text. It also does a better job of sharing notes. With Apple Notes, you can share information that’s in a note, but not in any collaborative sense. Also, it’s important to know that Evernote, unlike Apple Notes, is available across multiple platforms, including Android and Windows.

Until Apple Notes was updated, Microsoft OneNote was a suitable, free alternative to Evernote. Since last year’s update, it’s harder to say this. If you’re a heavy Mac and iOS user, you might be very comfortable remaining within the Apple ecosystem.

Apple Notes provides more than enough for most users, especially for those who only use Apple products. And we would expect the product to get even better in the future as more updates are released. Among the features we’d like to see: collaboration, Apple Reminders integration, and more website clipping capabilities.

Still not sold on Apple Notes and want to ditch Evernote? You should consider Letterspace and Fetch Time To Ditch Evernote? Letterspace & Fetch Are Compelling Alternatives If you're looking for a supplement or an alternative to Evernote, let me — a notebook junkie — suggest Letterspace or Fetchnotes for pure simplicity and ease of use. Read More . You should also take a look at our recent guide on OneNote for Mac The Essential OneNote for Mac Guide Microsoft OneNote is a free note-taking app for Mac, iPad, and iPhone. Here's everything you need to become more productive. Read More .

Which note-taking application to you use?

Related topics: Evernote, Microsoft OneNote, Note-Taking Apps, Organization Software.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Gizmo
    May 24, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    Features, features, blah blah.. Just wait until you want to switch from Apple Notes to something else. I've been trying to move my notes from iPhone to Android just as an experiment and have been Googling that one for 2 weeks to no avail. Once you're in Apple Notes, "you can check out any time, but you can never leave." Unless you think that lame answers like "email each note individually to yourself" is an answer when you have several hundred notes. Apple thinks they've got me, but this only stiffens my resolve to dump their schtick.

  2. RyanP
    February 26, 2016 at 5:27 pm

    One interesting thing I've noticed about using Apple Notes on my iPhone 5S is that there is a limit on the amount of images that I could put in. I'm wondering if this is due to the limitations of the app or it it's because of the limitations in the "hard drive" space available on my phone.

    I have not run into this limitation with Evernote.
    Although I will admit that the at a glance look and feel of Evernote is still a bit clunky and it certainly has not felt like a simple "plug and play" app over the years I've used it.

    More Detail on the above comments in case it's a help to anybody:
    Because I own a home, one of the things that I do with a note taking app is take pictures of windows or doors or appliances or areas that need repair and I make notes such as measurements, colors, or repair needs. Then when I'm at a store or shopping a month down the road and see something that might work, I can access the note with detailed information that can help me determine if the purchase will work / fit in that space or help me to solve the problem.

    Within my first test run with Apple Notes in this type of note taking, I was not able to take pictures of everything but received a prompt from the app that told me something to the effect of "This note is full."

  3. Robyn
    February 26, 2016 at 12:49 am

    It's not only Notes they have done this to and it really makes me mad. Pages which is one of the major apple apps... they have done the same thing. You open it up and it is Helvetia 11pt - I use 18pt and I have to change it every time I create a new document. They need to think of ALL the users of their products. I use this size font for a specific reason and I find that now I wish I could go back to Mavericks which was good.

  4. Paul
    February 25, 2016 at 10:34 pm

    Well I have a iMac and a Lenovo idea center pc, and a iPad and a Samsung tablet and phone, so Evernote works great on all my devices.
    So I will stick with Evernote.

  5. Robyn
    February 25, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    The main reason NOT TO USE APPLE NOTES: They have taken away the one thing that is soooo important int this stupid App and that is you can't change the default Font Size. Whoever changed this app stuffed it up completely by taking this away from us. I have hundreds of Notes I have created before but use another App now as I can't stand this App...I hate this app. Fancy taking away a basic feature like this and WHY!

    • Bryan Wolfe
      February 26, 2016 at 12:42 am

      I would agree with this. It doesn't make much sense to remove things from Notes. Hopefully, Apple adds all fonts to the next release.

    • LH
      March 3, 2017 at 4:16 am

      The wouldn't be Apple if they weren't taking good features away from you after you spent years building an elaborate system that will now be rendered useless. More cases in point: Can't use custom icons in the Sidebar, so that you have to actually bother READING every line to find what you want in a long list instead of being able to just glance down at that red square or the clown face or the big blue checkmark. Another example: after spending years organizing things often based on a FULLY COLORED FILENAME, again because of the ease of spotting things and the ease of visual organization, they now took that away and replaced it with those silly tiny little color dots WAY out at the end of the file name. For Pete's sake, they could have retained the ability to color the file name and still implemented those little dots which, when you have only one long file name in a list, ALL the tiny dots will be way out in right field, hard enough to see even if they were right at the end or the beginning of the filename. Hey Apple, we could still have a primary color designating a full color filename. Let me not go on....

  6. noxtos
    February 24, 2016 at 8:35 pm

    I really like the new Notes app. Used Evernote since its inception (with intermittent premium memberships), but it was an on and off relationship and it never really grew on me. I have created more content in Apple Notes in the last six months than I did in Evernote during more than seven years. Maybe it's just me, but I think look and feel are as important as features. Apple's notes is reduced to a degree that lets me focus on the content. With Evernote I have the constant feeling of being slapped in the face with its noisy, clumsy and overloaded interface.

    • Bryan Wolfe
      February 24, 2016 at 9:00 pm

      Enjoyed your comment.

    • Stuart
      January 4, 2017 at 9:07 pm

      I agree. I was a hardcore, premium Evernote user for years. Last year I switched to Notes and I felt much calmer when using the platform. Maybe that sounds a little strange, but the Evernote clunky interface really gave me a strange level of anxiety. I'm not a terribly anxious person, rather, there's just so much "noise" associates with that platform.

      I've been happy-ish with Notes. I miss the amazing search function of Evernote and the OCR on jpegs. I've been continuing to use Evernote as a filing cabinet for my scans, but sticking with Notes for my day to day productive stuff. I think I'll keep doing that, though I truly with there was one platform that I could just marry myself to and be done with it.