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11 Incredibly Useful Features Hiding In The Notes App

images showing various iPhone notes app features

The Notes App Features You Need To Know About

Like many people, I depend on my smartphone to keep track of all sorts of important information. Without the Calendar and Notes applications on my iPhone, I’m sure I would regularly forget appointments, due dates, to-do list items, and more!

I’ve been using the Notes app for a long time now, but I’ve recently started exploring some of its less obvious features. It seems as though the more I learn about this seemingly basic note-taking app, the more useful it becomes!

In this post, I’ll be highlighting some of the most useful Notes app ideas, features, and tips for you. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what the Apple Notes app is truly capable of!

Not an iPhone user? See the end of this post for a great Android alternative to the Notes app!

11 Useful Things You Can Do In The Notes App

iphone note with a drawing of the word

1. Draw In Your Notes

Express yourself with drawings right in the Notes app! In an open note, tap the pen icon above the keyboard to reveal the drawing options, including:

  • Tools – Choose from a pen, highlighter, eraser, and more
  • Color – Tap the black dot to change the line color
  • Undo & Redo – To undo a change or redo something you undid, tap the curved arrows near the top of the screen

I like that I can import my Notes drawings into the new iPhone Journal app, because Journal currently doesn’t have drawing options.

iphone note showing pictures of a couch

2. Attach Photos & Videos

In addition to adding handwritten additions or sketches to notes, you can also attach files to them! This feature makes it easy to quickly reference relevant documents, photos, or videos.

To add a photo or video, open a note and place the cursor in the body. Tap the camera icon, then select either Take Photo or Video or Photo Library to select an existing file.

To attach information from another app to a note, open the item (like a webpage, a PDF, etc.) in that app, then tap Share and select Notes. Save the item to an existing note, or save it in a new note.

iphone showing the notes app folders

3. Organize With Folders

The more notes you have in your Notes app, the trickier it can be to find what you’re looking for. In addition to searching by keyword, you can also use folders to organize your notes however you like!

To make a folder, open the Notes app and hit the back button to view your folders. Select New Folder, give it a name, then hit save to create it.

To move notes into a new folder, go to your list of notes and tap the ellipsis icon near the top of the screen. Select the notes you want to move, then select Move To… to select a new folder.

photos showing how to scan documents in your iPhone notes app

4. Scan Documents

Move over bulky scanner, because the Notes app offers a surprisingly powerful document scanner! Scan things like recipes, owners manuals, forms, and more to keep a digital copy of them at your fingertips.

To do it, create a new note, then select the camera icon above the keyboard. Select Scan Documents, then position whatever you want to scan within the frame shown on screen. It usually does a good job of cropping and adjusting the image on its own, but you can adjust it if necessary. When you’re happy with the selection, hit Keep Scan, then Save to finish up!

iphone showing how to add a link in your iPhone notes app

5. Add A Link

Found a webpage in Safari or Chrome that you want to check out later? Save the link in a Note! Just hit Share, select the Notes app, then choose the folder or note you want to save the link to.

iphone showing a locked note

6. Make Notes Password-Protected

If you’re keeping sensitive information like account numbers, passwords, or gift ideas in a note, you can keep it safe by password-protecting it. Open the note, tap Share, then select Lock Note to add an unlocked note icon.

When you’re finished writing the note, tap the lock icon to protect it. The next time you (or anyone else) try to access it, it will show This Note Is Locked until you enter your password or use TouchID or FaceID to access it.

screenshot showing how to share a note in your iPhone notes app

7. Share Notes

The Notes app is a great way to keep track of information for yourself, but it also makes it easy to share information with others (like your grocery list with your husband!) Open a note you want to share and tap Share. Options include:

  • AirDrop – Use WiFi and Bluetooth to share the note wirelessly with other iOS and macOS devices
  • Message – Send the contents of a note to someone via iMessage or text message
  • Mail – Send the contents of a note in an email via the Mail app

You can also add other iOS users to your notes, providing them access to them within their own Notes app. Any changes you make will update on their end automatically! Just hit the person-shaped icon in a note to add someone to it.

iphone showing a grocery list in the iPhone notes app

8. Make A List

Who doesn’t love the satisfying feeling of checking something off a long to-do list? You can get the same gratification in Notes by using the built-in checkmark icons, which are perfect for to-do lists, shopping lists, packing lists, and more!

With your cursor in the body of a note, select the checkmark button to add an empty circle to the note. Then you can simply tap the circle to check that item off your to-do list!

screenshot showing how to use Siri to create a notes in the iPhone notes app

9. Use Siri

You can create and populate notes in the Notes app without lifting a finger! Just activate Siri and say “Take a note” or “Start a new note.” Dictate what you want in the note, and Siri will transcribe it for you.

screenshots of the gallery view in the iPhone notes app

10. See Notes In Gallery View

The iOS 13 update brought a few new features to the Notes app, including Gallery View. When viewing your list of notes, tap the icon with four squares to switch to Gallery View to display your notes as thumbnails.

These thumbnails contain a mini preview of what the note looks like, which can come in handy depending on what you’re looking for. Super helpful for recipes!

screenshots showing how to sync the iPhone notes app with icloud

11. Sync With iCloud

With the help of iCloud, you can also access and edit your notes from your iPad, MacBook, or any other Apple device. To set it up, go to Settings and select your name from the top of the screen.

From there, select iCloud, then slide the toggle next to Notes to the on position. Then you’ll be able to access your notes from any device associated with your Apple ID!

Do You Prefer Pen And Paper?

I don’t blame you! There are times when I prefer to have a quick hand-written list as well. But you know me — I’m always on the lookout for the best, fastest, or easiest way to do things. You can get all my best to-do list tips here!

Not An iPhone User?

If you don’t have an iPhone, never fear! Android users should check out the Google Keep app, which offers many of the same useful features as Notes. You can download it for free in the Google Play Store!

Want Even More Smartphone Hacks?

How often do you use the Notes app?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.
I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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Bright Ideas

  • I use Android QuickMemos, which has a password protected Locked Memos. The most important thing in the world to me is to have the list of all OTC and RX Medications so that I hand the phone to the nurse or Dr so that they know at a glance exactly what I’m taking each day. No trying to pronounce the unreadable or unpronounceable and exactly correct MG’s. You could even take pictures of each as well, but typing works as well.

  • I use the Pin Note often. The 6 more important things I save in Notes are pinned at the top, like our medical information/meds, a grocery list I update when going next time, and a few things that really make me happy – links straight into YouTube music, photos, the recipe I’m making right now, etc. You can unpin and pin all the time but you know you’ve got the more timely right there at top.

  • Rather than scanning and using the notes app I just take a screen shot when doing research or shopping when I find things I want to remember or email to someone else.

  • I have the Dinosaur of All iphones! There is a note app, but you can only place a note for yourself in there, nothing else. You cannot scribble in it or scan something in it, nothing, only post! I guess you have to have a newer iphone to do anything with. I cannot even do a screenshot of my screen for someone. BUT, it can STILL make a call and text!!

  • Thank you for this information, Jillee! I am a new iPhone user (3months) and had no idea Notes could be so incredibly useful! I will definitely be using the tips you provided.

  • Hello all. I’ve looked high and low on my iPhone and cannot locate a Notes app. There is a Reminders app? but it is pretty useless. Where exactly is Notes App?

  • I love having Notes on my iPhone, as well as on my MAC laptop, because they are sync’d. I can easily use my laptop to edit my notes. Thanks for a couple things I did not know!

  • Thank you, Jillee!!! I use Notes all the time but I did not know about the scan feature. I may be able to discontinue the separate scanner app that I have to pay for.

  • Is there a certain iOS or particular iPhone that allows some of these “tricks”? I tried the scanning from notes; however, I do not have a camera icon when I start a new note. I have an iPhone XR and run iOS 13.3.1

    • I have the XR as well but I have the camera icon above the keyboard. But if you have no icons above your keyboard, hit the plus sign above the keyboard and it will show all the icons available to use.

  • I had been looking for an app for Android that will sync with my computer so I can actually type in notes (with a real keyboard!) and have them appear on my phone. I had given up and quit looking. Thank you so much for pointing me to Google Keep. It looks exactly like what I’ve been looking for! I have used a PalmPilot ever since it first came out over 20 years ago, and syncing it with my computer. But lately I have had trouble syncing it with the latest Windows upgrades. Now all I have to do is copy my notes from the Palm Desktop, paste them into Google Keep, and continue as before, with some very nice added features. Again, thank you, thank you!

    • Oh, and to give you suggestions for using a notes app, everything I have to remember is in there, and I mean everything: the sizes of my family’s clothing, the sizes of light bulbs in our fixtures for replacement, the size of our A/C filter, the meds my husband and I take, other medical lists like the dates of past surgeries and procedures, model numbers of my appliances so I don’t have to go looking for them when they need repairs, recipes, info I might need to write my resume, and on and on. These are all edited as necessary, so that I always have the latest info. My family all know this so they will have the info if anything happens to me.

  • I’m not familiar with the Notes app, but I use and love Notepad on my Android phone (Editor’s Choice on Google Play). More functionality available in the Notes app it seems, but I love that I NEVER have to write another list on paper. Thanks for the tips, Jillee!

    • Oops – I meant to write (above) that I use the ColorNote Notepad app on Android, rather than Notepad. At any rate, good to know about the Notes app. I assume the Notes app is the one by developer Mike Schulz.

  • I use Notes to keep track of my sons medical info. He has several specialists and medications. So I keep it all in a note along with how to contact each dr. Anytime there is an adjustment to his meds that goes in there. I keep it shared with my son and my husband so that if I cannot make the appointment the two of them will have all the info they need!

  • good info, however, i could not do some of the items on my iphone 8…do some of the options need a newer phone? i could not protect passwords, or use the scanner…;9(

  • I have a Pixel (Android) and use my Keep app for grocery lists mainly, but also any sort of list that I need to change or add to frequently. I can have multiple lists for different stores or add any title I want when creating them (e.g., supplements for the dog). I used to write out grocery lists by hand – and then forget them when I left for the store! Now the list is always with me and I can tick off items as I go through the store, or even look at my “checked-off” items to see if I need a refill on anything. I hadn’t much explored the other features, but this makes me want to take a second look!

    Btw my husband recently read “Beneath a Scarlet Sky” and enjoyed it very much. Happy reading! :)

    • I have a grocery list I on my Iphone 6 I use the same way. I mark some things for the local grocery, hardware store, etc.

      Good thing it was a free app. now that I see I could have used notes…..

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