Which Note-Taking App Should I Use on Apple Devices?

I often write about some pretty serious and escalating technical issues for Lifehacker’s Tech 911 column. It could be … a lot. For a little summer break, I’m going to cheer up this week and focus on an issue that affects everyone, not just the handful of you currently breaking out of your PC, a catastrophic data loss, or a shark that escaped with your iPhone, and you don’t know how to make her float away to you using Find My.

Lifehacker reader ” W_ ” has a question this week and I found myself thinking a lot about it:

Aside from the Evernote app, what other note-taking apps would you personally recommend for iOS 13 that also includes a companion app for Mac?

You get a note-taking app, and you get a note-taking app, and …

All in all, I think the best note taking app for iOS and Mac is … Notes . Yes, the good old Apple Notes. For most people who have fairly regular needs, it covers all the basics, costs nothing, and is already set up to work very well between all of your Apple devices. (Heck, you can even yell at your HomePod to create new notes that sync across all your devices.)

Now that I work at Lifehacker, you are probably wondering why I am not recommending a more trendy third party solution . There is nothing wrong with using Evernote , OneNote , Google Keep , Simplenote , Bear , Standard Notes, or whatever you dig up. In fact, there is no shortage of great note taking apps. I’ve used them a lot myself. And now I use Notes because here’s the big secret: The best note-taking app is the one that makes it silly for you to integrate into your life.

I would install a note-taking application on my iPhone – like Google Keep – and forget to log into it through the browser on my laptop. I would have compiled an extensive list of Google Tasks on my desktop, but then forgot to install the Google Tasks app on my Android and iPhone. And since I didn’t use Google Tasks that often then, I gradually stopped using it to take any notes. I vividly remember the time when I was thinking about entering some new notes in Google Tasks, but realized that it would be easier to quickly jot something down on the adjacent sticky notepad. And since then, it has taken me a while to re-integrate digital recordings into my life.

I recommend that you start with good old notes because it is more important to build your own note-taking routine than get bogged down in the nuances of a more complex application. And I’m guessing your aversion to Evernote means you want something simpler. That’s not to say that Notes lacks functionality – anything as long as you’re running at least iOS 13.

Notes doesn’t launch with tags like other note-taking apps you might find, but you can quickly and easily organize your notes into folders for easy access. (Or do what I do and insert hashtags into a note, which you can then find later, in case your notes might span multiple folders.)

In a separate note, you can paste all the text you want and change the format with different font sizes for the headings. You can indent text or add it to lists; throw a table into your note; and even import photos, videos, or drawings – the latter you create by drawing directly in the note with your finger or the nearby Apple Pencil. My favorite feature is to-do lists, which you can put in your notes (which can also automatically sort your completed tasks downward).

While you can’t send yourself audio messages (use the Voice Memos app on your iPhone), you can scan documents with your phone’s camera and turn them into notes. If you need to collaborate with someone else, you can invite them to join your note, or the entire folder’s notes if you have a larger project that you are working on. If you’re a Google fan, you can even sync Apple Notes with your Google account – the notes you take in iCloud will remain on that domain, but the notes you sync with your Google account will appear there. In other words, you get built-in collaboration in one app.

If you prefer a little extra security, you can even lock your notes with an additional passcode or Face / Touch ID authentication, in addition to the usual methods you’d use to log into your iPhone. And your notes, as mentioned, can sync directly to your iCloud, which means they’ll always be up-to-date on your similarly connected Mac or laptop, iPad, or the web version of iCloud. (You enable two-factor authentication for your Apple ID , right?)

I’m not an Apple supporter, and I’m sure there are other third-party apps (like the ones I mentioned a while ago) that allow you to do even more on your device than even the Apple Notes app. However, Apple Notes is free, requires nothing to install, and is fairly well integrated into the Apple devices you use. I would start with this, and if you find that your needs are not being met, move up if and only if you actually used Apple Notes to keep track of your thoughts and tasks on a regular basis.

Otherwise, you will be like me – in an endless cycle of trying to find the “best” application for my needs, whereas all I really had to do was relax and use the applications that I already had for their intended purpose. … purpose. Of course, you will need to opt for a third party app if you want the app to work well on Apple / Google / Microsoft platforms. However, for most aficionados, Apple Notes is a pretty solid application for most of your tasks.


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