Fixed but How? 🤷🏼‍♂️ Jan 16 '23 Needing Serious Advice re: Losing Faith in Apple Notes

Over the last five years or so I have encountered three significant problems with Apple Notes syncing. Today, I ran into another major problem. The short version is that I spent an hour or so reorganizing notes and cleaning others up. That is all I did: renaming a few folders, changing their position on the side bar, and cleaning up some notes and deleting ~10. That’s it. For some inexplicable reason the changes made on my Mac would not upload to iCloud. In fact, each device showed a different number of total total notes. Not only that, but none of the folders match on any of the devices and not on iCloud. So, I decided to disconnect syncing Notes in iCloud on my iPhone to “reset” and redownload the notes to the phone. After trying and waiting for three hours, Apple Notes shows 0 notes on the phone. I’ve rebooted, restarted, and turned iCloud syncing for Note on and off. Nothing.

Iphone:

Mac:

I’m trying hard not to overreact but I’m seriously considering moving all my notes to a different note app (I hate even writing that!).

I’ve been committed to using only default apps whenever possible but when should one just give up? :person_shrugging:

I’m open to suggestions. Stick it out with Notes and erase my phone and reinstall everything, hoping this fixes the problem? Do the same on my Mac? That all feels like a “nuclear” option. :bomb:

Use a different app? I use a note app almost exclusively for meeting and projects notes, from which I send follow-up tasks to a task manager.

I’m open to suggestions.

Needless to say, I’m frustrated but I’m trying to keep my cool and respond to the problem rather than over-reacting to it.

This post may be a sign of overreacting. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Are all the notes still on iCloud.com? If so, I think you’re okay. Just turn off Note synching on your phone and turn the phone off for a few mins. Then fire the phone up again and turn on iCloud sync.

I encountered some similar issues before with this. Usually things just resolve on their own after a huge delay.

I’ve tried restoring notes via Time Machine before. While it was successful at first, they’d eventually (over the span of 20 mins or so) revert to their broken status. I think this has to do with syncing on iCloud. So you have to turn sync off everything, restore, and then turn sync back on. It’s finicky.

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Let me start with some throat clearing….

I went through something like this several years ago. I spent weeks with tech support, escalated tech support, double escalated tech support, super duper tech support, okay I might be embellishing just a little.

I agree with @AppleGuy that if your notes are in iCloud, you will ultimately be okay. Also, you can restore from the iCloud backup if something tragic happens.

Now, let me say what I observed happened in my case and what may be happening in yours.

iCloud seems to take time propagating “significant changes” (that is my terminology) and I believe structural changes, like re-arranging folders can be one of those significant changes. I think part of the reason is in the way iCloud sync works. It appears to prioritize certain activities and de-prioritize others. There is no way to tell iCloud that you want your notes’ syncing to be prioritized. So, that’s why you sometimes have to wait these out a bit.

Forgive all the “seems,” “I believes,” and “appears” types of qualifiers. I’m have no inside information on how the system works but this seems to be the case.

I can say that in my case, an Apple engineer had to fix something for me on the backend of iCloud. After it was fixed, it has been years since i experienced anything like it and i use Notes extensively.

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Thank you, this is helpful and encouraging. I’ll try again as you suggest. I’ll leave the phone off a little longer and then give iCloud more time to sync when I turn iCloud back on. I’ll report back…

It’s often useful to check iCloud Notes status. I know yesterday there were some outages.

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While you are keeping your cool, I suggest you think about what you can do to protect your data (export a copy, etc).

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If this kind of behaviour does send you running… be sure to choose an alternate that does not use iCloud at all. DropBox has its detractors but it generally doesn’t have these existential crises, that I’ve experienced, or heard from others.

Some may recall my 842 day drama with iCloud that spanned multiple years, multiple OS versions, and multiple laptops. It broke for me during the Catalina betas, and was not fixed until Monterey 12.3. In my dealings with Apple support staff (senior advisers) I learned that even Apple doesn’t know how it works. Not even “engineering”, who were caught off guard by what I thought were simple questions, before throwing up their hands and accepting they did not know the answers.

A thousand times this. At least with Notes it’s relatively straightforward to grab the info and store it elsewhere.

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This is consistent with my own experience with Apple Notes, although the use case was during my initial import of Evernote stuff (~20k notes). For a stock Apple application, syncing batch changes in Notes is absurdly impredictable, worse than Photos or Music --which are not stellar anyway. The only thing I can suggest is that, for all I know, Notes does not sync in the background, you need to leave the Notes application open and it will try its thing. But depending on how many devices you have this is impractical.

Edit: just for the record, my current setup is a couple iCloud Drive folders storing all my notes, PDFs, and stuff. They are located on the default Obsidian vault locations. But my regular usage (I’m not doing much note linking) is just opening a Finder window with the folder I want to work with: I have some BTT macros to launch my favourite folders with a keyboard shortcut), and for less used folders I use something like Raycast or Alfred to do a fuzzy search. I basically use Obsidian as a glorified Markdown editor, although I can use Notebooks if I prefer a more Mac-assed interface. But Obsidian+Finder is a good enough combo.

It’s been my experience that iCloud’s problem appear to be capacity related. I don’t recall ever having trouble when I stored contacts and calendars, etc. on iCloud. And syncing Drafts and Reminders, etc. still works well. But each time I’ve stored a significant amount of data in Apple Notes (1000+ notes, many with PDF attachments) it became “worrisome”.

It’s likely that none of my iCloud data was ever stored on Apple servers but was actually on Amazon, Google or Microsoft. (I’ve never had a problem with any of them) Today, regardless of the number or size of the files I add to Google Drive it will start uploading immediately and as quickly as my Comcast :face_with_symbols_over_mouth: circuit allows.

My guess is iCloud’s problems occur between Apple and AWS and/or Google. That’s too bad because I really like some of Apple’s default apps.


“Apple spends more than $30 million on Amazon’s cloud every month, making it one of the biggest AWS customers” CNBC, APR 22 2019

“Apple relies heavily on Google Cloud Storage and is the largest corporate customer with 8 exabytes of storage” IndiaToday, Jun 30, 2021

I had something like that but with all apps that use iCloud. It took me several calls with support before a senior engineer told me it was a maintance issue. After that call it was fixed within a day, but I’m not confident that the engineer told me the truth.

Maybe you are just expecting too much from this free software!?

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@Bmosbacker is our Vitticci. He’s going to keep using the stock apps while half of us here are going to scream at our monitors every time he posts: “Just pay money and get a good reliable app!” :wink:

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Am I the only one hoping @Bmosbacker starts a completely new app so I can see how his workflow changes before I do it myself?

All kidding aside I really love Apple notes for simplicity and started using it again but will probably end up with DT only or obsidian on mobile and then just move the files DT. I have intermittently had sync issues, shortcuts quit working, and tags don’t always seem to sync (making the smart lists not all that useful).

Having everything in one place (DT) makes more sense. It’s to the point that the hassle of DTs mobile shortcomings might be less waste of time than using Apple notes or obsidian in addition to AN.

Addendum:
I really do love reading all the back and forth @Bmosbacker does with apps and the way he takes the good natured ribbing, since I do the same thing with apps. (I think it might be 99% of MPU users so the same, but I appreciate his well written and thought out workflows and I have learned quite a bit by what works and doesn’t for him).

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I’m still working to resolve the issue. After hours on the phone with a senior engineer and reinstalling Ventura on the MBP and not installing any third party apps, Notes is still not syncing from the MBP to iCloud. Notes on the iOS devices sync fine.

Eventually, this will get fixed.

Even when fixed, the questions I’m confronted with are, “how much more time and how often do I want to contend with this in the future? Is it time to seriously and ‘once and for all’ abandon Apple Notes and move to plain text or an app using the Json file format?”

I’ll always be subconsciously leery that syncing will stop working again in the future. This is at least the third time in five years that I’ve spent hours dealing with Apple Note syncing issues.

I need to have my notes and task manager linked (though I’m willing to use a modified system where tasks without dates could reside in project or meeting notes. I’d have to learn a new workflow and habits. I’m willing if it would work for me.

For context, I have ~35 projects in Reminders with corresponding notes in Apple Notes. Most of these projects have 5-12 tasks associated with them; some have more.

An example of my typical workflow is to be in a meeting (usually related to a project of some sort), taking notes that contain follow-up tasks for me or for those to whom I will delegate them. In Notes, I share the note to Reminders and then add the task details so I know what I need to follow-up on. When experimenting with Craft+OF, I could “transfer” the note from Craft to OF and the tasks and their subtasks would be sent to OF with a callback link to the corresponding Craft note. This also works with Craft+Things.

I often have a PDF or other document(s) embedded in the meeting note for reference, for example, a PDF of an Excel spreadsheet with five year projections from my CFO.

If I were you reading the above, I’d ask, “then why not just use Craft and OF?” Answer, I certainly can. It is just an expensive option over the long-term, but perhaps less costly than the time I’m losing and dealing with the frustration. :grinning:

My earnest question is based on the above workflow description and your expertise and experience.

If you were in thy shoes, what would you do? Stick it out with AN and Reminders hoping syncing is fixed and stays fixed? Move on to other apps? If the latter, what combination of note app and task manager would you use?

Though I don’t like the idea, I’m willing to pay a subscription. My time and peace of mind are worth something and right now I’ve been paying a high price for an app that is not consistently reliable.

If I’m going to change, now is a good time while I’m on holiday.

Addendum: Based on my experience and reading this forum, my most likely note taking + task manager contenders are, in no particular order (I’m ruling out Evernote and OneNote0:

Craft
NotePlan
Obsidian
DevonTHINK
Agenda
Reminders
Things
OmniFocus

The key for me is efficiently connecting my notes and tasks and being able to seamlessly get emails into a my task manager.

Advice?

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I do, I use Exporter. :slight_smile:

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I’d like to think that will be my experience but so far, two calls with senior engineers, nuke and pave and reinstall Ventura and the problem persists. :frowning:

I appreciate the advice but given how embedded I am in the Apple Ecosystem, will not a a great solution for me. I don’t typically have any iCloud syncing issue except for Apple Notes.

It’s conceivable I’ll end up with something like this but I sure hate to give up on the benefits of a program like Notes.

@jmanko16 This is also a possibility for me, though I’d probably index my files in DT so I can open and edit with something other than DT’s mobile app–I could use iA writer or Obsidian.

Thank you for the very kind words. You made a day full of frustration much better, thanks! :grinning: :pray:t2:

FYI I have files “imported” to DEVONthink which of course I sync to DEVINthink ToGo and while i do not have iA Writer to test, I routinely edit in Pages, Excel, Numbers, and ByWord on my iOS devices. The files do not have to be indexed (external) to enable using the DEVONthink ToGo app.

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