This may sound crazy but from all the note-taking apps available the default, Apple Notes is the best out there. Like many people, I often overlook the default applications from Apple deciding they are basic before really giving them the time to shine. That was the case for Apple Notes for so long.
This changed when I started looking for an app that could take documents, typed notes and handwritten notes with an Apple Pencil and treat them all as first-class citizens.
I have been using Evernote for years and paying for its premium service to have multiple devices but not really using any of its other premium features with monthly uploads well below the free limit. Evernote continues to be great for scanned documents and its OCR search is amazing. However, I don’t know about you but I am recovering less and less information in printed form and for me, this makes Evernote’s less useful.
Apple Notes is free and doesn’t have any upload restrictions, as long as you have the available iCloud storage you can upload as much as you want to Apple Notes. Not only that but the app has a consistent look and feature set across all my devices and sync is rock solid.
Where Apple Notes really shines in on an iPad with Apple Pencil. Its integration with iPadOS can’t be beaten. Like other Apple, apps Notes is a first-class citizen with features other apps simply can’t do.
Let’s start with tapping the lock screen with your Apple Pencil. This will open a new note for you to write with the pencil without having to unlock your iPad, open your note-taking app and tap new note. This feature is then taken a step further with a few simple options.
In settings, you can choose how often you want this action to create a new note vs open the last note. You have options from every time, 1 minute, 1 hour or 1 day.
I personally like the one day option. This gives me a digital blotter page for scribbles throughout the day and this note is automatically saved away every day. So when I need to recall that reference number I was given last week it will be there.
Not only will it be there but everything you write with the pencil is searchable and can be copied as text to paste into another email or app.
Control Centre New Note
Again something else other apps can’t provide and is exclusive to Apple’s own apps. In the control centre, you have an option to add a new note button. This puts a new note a swipe and tap away from anywhere you see on your phone, even the Lock Screen and again without the need to unlock your phone.
Yet another feature included by Apple that you would not expect is a document scanner. In much the same way as Evernote, you can hold your phone's camera above a document or receipt and the notes app will find the edge, crop, straighten and enhance the photo to give you a clean scan.
Once you have the scan OCR is carried out and your new scanned document is searchable.
Now this one is something you would expect a privacy-focused company to include. Apple Notes gives you the option to encrypt your most private notes with a password only you know.
This is real encryption so don’t forget your password or you will not be able to recover the content of your private notes.
The downside here is you can only have 1 password for all your notes and unlocking one to view it unlocks them all.
The formatting options in Apple Notes received a massive update in iOS 12 and finally moved away from plain text. You can not only do bold italics and the standard lists but you can now have headings, checklists and tables.
Tables are also among the best implementation of tables I have seen in a note-taking application with simple controls to add new columns and rows without feeling clunky — even on mobile.
Notes on iCloud.com
Everything in Apple Notes syncs across your devices with iCloud so it makes sense yours are available on iCloud.com. This is the biggest downfall of the Apple Notes system and like the rest of iCloud.com, the online experience sucks.
While you can view and edit notes as well as create new notes your formatting options are limited, you can’t view encrypted notes and your scanned documents and handwritten notes will be missing from search results.
If you don’t need access to your notes on a device that isn’t yours then Apple Notes is the best noting application around.