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Tech Matters: How to get more out of notes on your iPhone

By Leslie Meredith - Special to the Standard-Examiner | May 8, 2024

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Leslie Meredith

If you use the Notes app on your iPhone, you know how easy it is to jot down ideas, agendas, lists for an upcoming project and more. Notes is included with your phone, it’s free to use and may have more to offer than you know — it’s like having a handy notebook and pen with you at all times with digital features that turn it into a tiny powerhouse.

Notes, like Camera, is designed to work seamlessly with other Apple devices. Update a note on your phone and the changes will be simultaneously accessible on the Notes app on your Mac or iPad. While there is no Windows Note app, PC users (Windows 10 and 11) can still access Notes on their computers through their iCloud accounts. To set up syncing between Notes on your iPhone and Notes Web app on iCloud.com, go to icloud.com/notes and sign in with your Apple ID. Once connected, you’ll access your notes at that web address from your browser instead of through an app.

You will get the most out of Notes if you set up an organized filing system, designating a folder for similar types of notes. From the Notes list, tap the back arrow icon to see your Folders list. New notes are automatically put in the Notes folder but you can easily add a new folder by tapping the folder with a plus sign in the lower right corner. You could set up your folders all at once or add new ones whenever you want to add a new topic.

If you already have notes you want to sort into folders, go to the Notes list, swipe right, tap the folder icon and your list of folders will appear where you can choose the correct folder. If you have many notes to assign to folders, tap the “More” button (three dots in a circle) at the top of the screen and choose “Select Notes.” Your note list will turn into a checklist to make bulk assignments.

To make notes easier to find within folders, you can view as a list or as a gallery. I find a list works best, but if you include images in your notes, you may find gallery more useful. You can also choose the order in which your notes are shown — by date edited is the default but you can change it to by date created or alphabetically by title.

There is also an impressive search function. To search for a specific note, tap the “Search” field, then enter what you’re looking for. You can search for typed and handwritten notes. Search can also recognize what’s in the images inside of your notes and find specific text inside scanned documents or images.

Now that your notes are organized, let’s look at some of the lesser-known things you can do with an individual note.

Notes are great for making checklists. When you start a new note, look for the checkmark icon along the bottom with the other tools. Tap and each line you type will have a circle you can check off once you’ve completed the task. By default, that’s it, but if you’d like the completed items to move to the bottom of your list, you can select that option. Go to your iPhone Settings from the Home Screen (not in the Notes app), scroll down to find Notes in the list of apps and open the menu. Find the Viewing options, tap “Sort Checked Items” and then “Automatically,” which will move your checked items to the bottom of the list.

You can also insert tables into your notes. In an open note, tap the screen where you’d like a table to appear. This will bring up the keyboard and the tool bar strip that includes a grid icon. Tap in a cell to type. You can also tap the three dots beside a row and above a column to select it. Double tap to bring up the options to delete or add rows and columns.

You may want to add a PDF to a note. With a PDF open from your email or another source, choose “Share” and look for the Notes app. Tap Notes and you will be presented with a list of your notes to select from, or you can create a new note. You can use the same process to select photos from your camera roll. You can also scan a document — tap the “More” button — right from a note and the photo will be embedded into that note.

For extra security, you can lock notes by tapping the “More” button and then the lock icon. By default, the same password or face recognition you use to unlock your phone will be used to open secured notes. However, you have the option to create a separate password.

Leslie Meredith has been writing about technology for more than a decade. As a mom of four, value, usefulness and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at asklesliemeredith@gmail.com.


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