Going Deeper with Apple Notes

Apple Notes continues to get its hooks in me. When I showed up at WWDC last year, Apple Notes was nothing more than a target for my derision. When they announced during the keynote that they had an “all-new” Apple Notes I chortled and rolled my eyes.

Then I started using Apple Notes and the strangest thing happened. I liked it. Not only is Apple Notes a contender, Apple has continued to refine the product. Just last week we got a new beta of an upcoming Mac OS X release that includes additional Apple Notes features. One of those new features is the ability to import Evernote and plain text files. It seemed to me like a perfect excuse to slurp in the rest of my nvALT database so I could really push the application’s limits. Now I’ve got 787 notes in my Apple Notes database. It’s growing daily.

So first this was all a big experiment to see what was wrong with Apple Notes and then I just started using the application. I didn’t admit to myself, or anyone else, that I become an Apple Notes user but apparently I have.

I’ve already written at some length about Apple Notes and a few useful tips. That post resulted in a lot of questions about how I’m organizing my notes. Below is a list of all of my folders.


As you can see I’ve got basically three areas of my life: the geek, the lawyer, and the dude. For years I’ve been collecting bits of text relevant to every phase of life. On the legal side, I keep text files on most matters I work on. I split these between the active and closed matters. These include simple things like the name of a court or opposing counsel’s name in addition to any other bits of information I want to have quick access to. As an example, many of these notes have a communications log where I I have a running text list with the date, time, and content of any significant communications for later reference. I also keep bits of research and any other information I may find handy. On the legal side I also sometimes do a bit of research that I know I’m going to want to use again and I keep that is a text note. Finally, I have 286 separate notes including snippets of text I’ve written in the past but may want to use again.

On the MacSparky side I have notebooks related to field guides and everything else. A while ago I started keeping notes on Mac Power Users ad spots. When I come across something interesting with an advertiser’s product, I record it in the text file so I can remember to talk about it in the future episode.

Finally, the personal folder is the catchall. That one runs the gamut of notes I took when reading a book to useful Latin quotes … Sit vis nobiscum.

My 787 notes seem to be synchronizing just fine. When I add something on the iPad and iPhone, the new text makes its way to my MacBook faster than I can open the lid and go looking for it. I’m not aware of losing any data. One of the nice things about my active matters notes is that I can now add a picture. When I’m sitting down with the client and they start explaining something to me I can visually diagram it right in front of them and then keep it digitally. (This is just one more reason why the iPad Pro is increasingly becoming essential to me.

I also find myself frequently using the bullets, checkmarks, and other text features. I gave this tip my prior post but it’s worth repeating: Learn the Mac and iPad keyboard shortcuts.

That doesn’t mean Apple Notes is without fault. I wrote before, and it still remains true, that the text size on the Mac version is just too small. They keep adding new features with the betas and it keeps amazing me that they don’t address this problem.

The search also needs work. Searching in Apple Notes only searches all of your notes. You cannot search inside an individual notebook. I would think that the more appropriate behavior would be that if you are currently in a notebook, search remains inside that notebook. The library of nearly 800 notes, sometimes I just want to search inside an individual notebook.

Apple Notes also only really makes sense if you are on the Apple platform. It doesn’t synchromize across devices like a plaintext system, Evernote, or solutions will.

All that said, I’m on board now with Apple Notes. I’m going to be continuing to use it for the foreseeable future until either Apple stops giving it love and attention or something else new and shiny comes along. You know I like new and shiny things, right?