How (and why) to switch to Apple Notes

Apple Notes open on macOS

Apple Notes is a feature-rich solution for taking notes and if you are using a Mac, iPhone or iPad, you can use it for free. Switching is relatively simple, but there are a few things to keep in mind especially if you’re using non-Apple devices like your Windows PC or Android smartphone.

Why use Apple Notes?

Aside from using Apple devices like iPhone or Mac, one of the most compelling reasons to use Apple Notes is that it is completely free. Notes are stored in iCloud and synced between Apple devices, and can also be accessed via the web at They’ll charge against your iCloud storage limit, which gets you 5GB for free, but since notes are mostly text, they take up very little space.

This differs from other note-taking services like Evernote or Bear which either limit the number of devices associated with a free account or require a premium subscription to access the feature at all. There are other benefits to paying for these services, but if you just need a simple note-taking solution, Apple Notes might be the best option.

Notes is a simple app but it doesn’t skimp on features that most users would use on a daily basis. There is support for file attachments, media embeds like photos and maps, note sharing and collaboration, and some security features to keep your notes hidden from prying eyes. You can format text, create checklists, draw tables, and scribble or highlight with your finger or stylus.

Apple Notes for Mac

The app breaks with OneNote’s strong user approach (which is also excellent and free to use). It’s also a lot faster and generally more fun to use than Evernote (which still lacked the original Apple Silicon release in November 2021). You get more flexibility and features than you would with a simple solution like Simplenote.

There is also deep integration with Apple Spotlight search on Mac, iOS, and iPadOS devices. If you use the app on an Apple tablet, you can expect full support for handwriting and other scribbling with your Apple Pencil as well. PDF and image attachments include support for OCR (Optical Character Recognition) so you can find text in images by searching as you would any other note. You can also convert your handwriting to text thanks to the OCR engine.

Related: How to copy text from a photo on iPhone

Things to consider before switching

If you need a serious note-taking solution like OneNote or Evernote, Apple Notes may not be enough. There is no dictation feature according to OneNote, and no deep integration with other platforms offered by Evernote. You can only sync via iCloud, and keeping your Apple gadgets updated with the latest version of macOS, iOS, and iPadOS is integral to keeping Notes working as it should.

Apple Notes is also an Apple-centric platform. It is worth considering if you need a note-taking solution for platforms like Windows or Android. There is no native Apple Notes version for these devices, so you’re stuck with using the web version instead (which is usable, but a far cry from the original app).

Access Apple Notes at

Apple Notes also offers quite a few export options, which means it’s a bit tricky to get things out of the ecosystem once you’ve been using it for a while. You can export each note individually to separate PDFs, but that’s tedious. Third-party applications such as source And Notes source Fill in the blank here, but there is no native way to do this in the Apple app.

iCloud is another consideration. If your Notes collection balloons, you’ll need to be prepared to pay for iCloud storage if you haven’t already. 50 GB extra for just $0.99 per month, but it’s worth bearing in mind.

Finally, switching to Apple Notes from an existing platform like Evernote or OneNote is much easier on a Mac. On the iPhone, your options are limited and require exporting your notes to the Files app or emailing and importing files that way. Some apps like Evernote don’t allow you to export more than one note at a time on mobile, so using your Mac will make your life a lot easier.

Transfer your notes to Apple Notes

We recommend using a Mac to do this. The iPhone can be used to import Evernote ENEX files, but other file types will be added to notes as attachments instead of being imported as text.

Apple Notes can import Evernote ENEX (individual notes and notebooks) on both your Mac and iPhone or iPad. On a Mac, you can also import TXT, RTF, RTFD, and HTML files as new notes via the File > Import to Notes option.

Import an ENEX file into Apple Notes

Having support for the Evernote ENEX format is a great tool to have at your disposal. If you want to switch from OneNote to Apple Notes, you can use Evernote to import your notes from OneNote, and then export those notes from Evernote in ENEX format. This allows you to import OneNote data into Apple Notes, using Evernote as the middleware.

The Apple Notes equivalent of Evernote notebooks are folders, so one easy way to maintain the structure of your organization is to export your Evernote notebooks one by one. To do this, launch Evernote for Mac and select the notebook you want to export. Press Command + A or Edit > Select All followed by File > Export Notes.

Choose the ENEX format and save your file (give it a name that you will associate with this notebook). Now go to Apple Notes and click File > Import to Notes. Your notes will be imported and placed in a folder called “Imported Notes” complete with data such as when your note was first created.

Rename the folder in Apple Notes

You can now right-click (or Control + click) the folder, select Rename, and give it a name that reflects your original notebook. Do this as many times as you need for all of your notebooks, making sure to change the name of the Imported Notes folder each time to maintain order.

To import ENEX files on your iPhone or iPad, add the file to iCloud Drive and access it with the files, or email it to an email account you have access to on your iPhone. Tap on the file to open it followed by Share > Notes. Click “Import Notes” to complete the process. You will have an Imported Notes folder that you can now rename.

Organize things with Apple Notes

There are two main ways to organize things in Apple Notes: folders and tags. Folders create lines that are easy to separate different types of notes. For example, you can keep all work-related notes in the Work folder, except for completely personal things.

Tags differ in that they can be used to find things across different folders, and used to set up smart folders based on tags. So, for example, it’s easy to find all your receipts, both personal and work-related, by marking them with #receipt. You can set up a smart folder to filter with the same tag, which would list all matching notes no matter what folder they’re in.

Browse by tag in Apple Notes

Folders and bookmarks are listed on the Home screen of the Notes app for iPhone and iPad, and in the sidebar of the Mac app. You can tap or click on a folder or note to filter the content. You can move a note from one folder to another using the “More” context menu on both systems (accessible via the ellipsis “…” icon on mobile devices, and right-clicking the menu on the Mac).

Tags must be added to the note body using the hashtag format (including the note title). Tags must be one connected word, and if you want multiple words you will need to use dashes or underscores. You can select multiple notes on iPhone (More > Select Notes) and Mac (Command + Click) and then apply existing tags using the Tags button on mobile or right-click menu on Mac.

Create a Smart Folder using the New Folder button, select New Smart Folder, and enter the tag you want to use to filter your notes.

Additional Features You Should Use

Apple Notes comes in handy with some extra features that some note-taking apps don’t have or put behind a paywall. On mobile devices such as the iPhone or iPad, Notes can be used as document scanning. Create a new note, tap the camera icon, then choose the Scan Documents icon. You can draw with the ‘pen’ icon as well.

Scan documents with Apple Notes for iOS

You can invoke these functions from the Mac app by clicking the Image icon, but you will need to complete the procedure on your mobile device.

Insert photos or documents into macOS Notes

Another useful feature is the ability to lock notes. On a mobile device, tap on a note and then use the More > Lock option. You’ll be able to unlock Notes with a password (known as your Notes password, which is set up the first time you lock something) or Touch ID/Face ID if you set it up.

On a Mac, there is a dedicated “Lock” button in the top row of icons while viewing a note. Your password can be set under Notes > Preferences, or you can use Touch ID if your Mac has a fingerprint scanner. The password will be synced via iCloud, and you can’t get it back if you forget it (but you can create a new password, then discard your old locked notes).

Share a note in Apple Notes for Mac

Collaboration features are also present, and you can add others to your note using the Share this note with others button that appears in both versions of the app while editing the note. Anyone you add will receive an invitation to collaborate and can use the mobile, Mac, or web versions of Apple Notes to do so.

You can also share entire folders under Edit > More > Share Folder on a mobile device or simply by right-clicking a folder on a Mac and choosing “Share this folder” to give another party access to any notes inside.

Related: How to collaborate on Notes in macOS

Give Apple Notes a shot

If you can get past the shutdown in another aspect of the Apple ecosystem, there’s a lot to love about Apple Notes. While it doesn’t quite match how everything works in OneNote, it can be said to be more usable for casual users who don’t need the levels of Microsoft Office functionality.

But there is more! On your iPhone or iPad, you can quickly embed and create notes, take notes with handwriting, and draw perfect shapes.

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