Revisiting Apple Notes

If you were to look at my post history, you’d probably discover I tend to hop between note taking apps.

Usually this “hop” occurs when I lose track of myself, and my organization slips. At this point, I blame the app, and I think a switch will get me back on track with their “better” system. Of course, that never works. I also tend to switch when I one day the perfectly acceptable amount of money I’m spending becomes - “wait, is this REALLY the best tool?”.

I’ve been back on Evernote for a few months and I do enjoy it, but I noticed that when my sub renews next June (I know, that’s a ways off), it’ll be for $99 CAD, not the ~$55 CAD I paid with the promo that was going on at the time I re-subbed.

All this to say, I tried giving Apple Notes another shot this week. I’m close to giving it another honest shot, but there are a few things that I just can’t get past.

The Good

  • It’s built into the system (iOS/Mac)
  • Quick notes are amazingly…quick. Pull from the bottom right – boom.
  • Apple Pencil support is quite good for my minimal needs
  • It’s FAST
  • Sharing with friends and family is super easy
  • It’s simple, there’s no overthinking

The Meh

  • It’s built into the system (iOS/Mac). I’m still not back to the office, but when the day comes I’m back at work without my iPad or Mac nearby, Apple Notes becomes web only. The web version is not great. Brutal, even.
  • Version history is non existent. I know the chain of events that has to occur where “undo” doesn’t work is quite rare, but it does happen. Accidents happen. I wouldn’t want to lose a copy of a note I’m working on without a version history
  • No easy exit strategy. The times I’ve used Apple Notes in the past, I always get about 2 weeks in and think - "all the stuff I’ve added over the past few weeks won’t be easy to get back out – I’m not sure I want to go years into this, I may never get my notes back
  • A few missing Evernote niceties I’ve grown accustomed to. Emailing into EN, Web Clipper, and the Scannable app all seem to outperform and out-do Notes.

How do you all navigate the fact Apple Notes locks you in? That’s a big one for me.


For me it’s a little too simple. I like having colors in my notes and the iOS IPadOS versions don’t allow you to change the color of your text.

There is a tool to export text to Markdown, but for sure Apple don’t make exporting easy.

My biggest gripe is the inability to link to a note. I can use Hook, who have found a workaround, but that doesn’t work on iOS. It seems like such a basic feature that virtually every notetaking application has… I’d have thought it would make it into iOS 16 given every note already has a unique ID. You can share a note to get a URL, but that’s cumbersome and I’ve had issues with it working reliably.

The lack of any backups seems to be a major failing too. Also weird.

It’s very close to ideal for me aside from these issues.

No exit strategy is a dealbreaker for me. While Apple will not fail or abandon it, this also means they are very unlikely to provide any meaningful export tools ever. I have learned my lesson using OneNote for many years — which I still use out of habit for some projects where I think it fits best — but I will always regret using it for my masters as these notes are now next to impossible to export in any meaningful format. Technically it can do PDF exports but in practice this does not work well.

Unfortunately a couple of years ago neither Obsidian nor anything of the sort existed and OneNote was probably the best cross-platform app out there for a mix of typed and written notes and annotated PDFs, it was good on the iPad with the Pencil plus it supports some basic linking between the notes. But it pretty much locks you in. Were I to go for a PhD eventually, I’m in for a lot of copying and pasting and recreating links because I’m going to be needing those notes.

Try UpNote. It’s going for $25 for lifetime license right now. The app’s been there for 3 yrs now and has lately launched so many features. It’s editor is awesome and includes markdown syntax (it’s previews in MD unless you are editing that section), daily automated backups in markdown, note linking, table of contents, and blazing fast sync. Try it out. It can easily import everything from evernote. I moved out of EN 2 months ago and haven’t been happy with it and the dev is supper fast pushing features and fixes if reported.

I also use Apple Notes for quick capture, like people use Drafts (but drafts doesn’t have image support :frowning: ). Notes and UpNote fulfill my note taking and PKM needs with all the features I ever needed

I think you can export notes using iMazing (paid app). It can also export many other iOS items.

This does look like a good solution. Thanks.

This is by no means a certainty IMO.

I came back to #evernote after a really hard effort to use #craft. The features missed is really what brought me back: email, clipper, and scannable are super awesome.

That said, #craft does do a type of version history that may work for you.

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I’m sticking with Evernote for the time being. It just inhaled anything I throw at it. Just this morning I needed a map of a nearby lake I had saved into EN and within 30 seconds it was found and printed.

When I try to get by without Evernote my system becomes fragmented. Emails stay in Gmail, scans go to one place, files to another. Evernote is the best at funnelling multiple sources and documents into a single place.


It is a hard call as both Apple Notes and Evernote are nice apps and can work well, depending on your requirements.

I think Apple Notes looks better and is well integrated in Apple’s ecosystem. If you use Reminders, being able to link a Note to a Reminder is nice. Evernote is the easiest (of any note app?) at capturing information. Web Clipper is the best. When you “share” a web page to Notes you only get a link - if you want an actual page you either have to copy/paste or print to Notes. Email to EN works very well and some email apps have even better integration (Spark is one). By contrast, the best way I have found to get a an email into Notes is to print (a pdf) to Notes and sometimes even this looses format and/or information. Evernote has integrated tasks - I haven’t given the task function a legitimate try since Evernote introduced recurring tasks, but found the task function a little lacking when I last used it. Linking notes in Evernote has become very easy while impossible (??) in Apple Notes. Search is either a tie or a nod to Evernote.

I guess it boils down to personal preference and which of the apps strengths/weaknesses is important to you. Like you, I seem to routinely go back and forth between these two apps and can’t settle on either for more than a couple months (a personal shortcoming?).

A big reason I bailed on Evernote a few years ago was that the next version would not support scripting or automation. (I ended up with DEVONthink which is super friendly to automation, but also super overkill for taking simple notes.)

I also found the formatting options with Apple Notes…underwhelming. I’m liking UpNote a lot. But again…no automation.

I am sticking with UpNote, but there are use cases where I involve Apple Notes. For instance, when I’m out and about I can say “Hey Siri, take a note” and be prompted to dictate text to be appended to an Apple note. When I get back to headquarters Apple Notes will be open and showing what I’ve recorded. Which I often transfer to UpNote. Good luck!

I’ve decided the line I draw is Apple Notes for personal notes, DEVONthink for professional notes, If I lose my favorite pancake recipes, I’ll be sad, but it’s not the end of the world. If I lose the documentation on the latest app I’m building, that’s a problem. I’ve recently split my personal and work computers, so I don’t even have access to my Apple Notes on my work machine.

Also, Notes doesn’t support Markdown, which means no code blocks, which means whenever I tried in the past to put code in there, all my quotes, double-quotes, and dashes were not guaranteed to be the same when I pulled the code out.

How to you compose your notes in DT? The editor in DT for Mac is ok, not great. The editor for DTTG is poor and too small. What do you use for taking notes to be in DT?

I really enjoy Apple Notes and use it extensively, for certain types of things. I agree with most of your analysis.

Quick Notes is such a great feature, I use it extensively. I have to admit that I find Apple Notes really fun to use. It’s the only note taking app I have that does not feel like I’m working when I am taking my notes.

My youngest daughter will sometimes color with my Apple Pencil in Apple Notes. Invariably, she will mistakenly switch to an important note of mine and color over it. If I catch her, it’s not an issue. I just undo until I strike pay dirt. Sometimes she’s switched to another note before I catch her and my undo history is lost. So, I understand and agree with you about this. (Fear not, readers, I’ve moved my daughter to using GoodNotes when she draws, which has eliminated this problem.)

Apple Notes on desktop allows you to export to PDF, which would be mostly “okay” for me in terms of archiving my notes (or extracting them). But if you have embedded documents, they are not included in the export (other than the thumbnail image).

I use Apple Notes for a lot of quick reference material, notes that I share with family members (e.g., dinner party or birthday party planning) for projects, phone call notes, and some other reference material that I want at my finger tips. I have just shy of 2,000 notes, so I do use it a lot.

My real issue with all notes apps, in general, is that some are page focused (like GoodNotes), some have endless scrolling (like Apple Notes), and some are text focused (like Drafts, which I don’t use any more). I sometimes have a hard time making up my mind as to which of those foci I prefer for my note taking needs. Apple Notes would be ideal, if I could annotate a PDF or image the way I can on GoodNotes. GoodNotes let’s me draw right over it. You can use mark-up tools, but it’s not the same, for me, as just writing over the image right there “on the page.”

All these tools are great, but I’d love to have one to rule them all.


I’m curious why a lawyer (I’m not one) would take a do-it-yourself approach to trial work. Aren’t there at least a couple of comprehensive software packages aimed at lawyers that have attracted a large following?

Have to agree with @Bmosbacker about poor quality DEVONthink editor. It’s a POS disgrace editor in my opinion.

This very good question defies a simple response. Trial work is, in some ways, very much, do-it-yourself. The lead trial lawyer almost always has very specific methods he or she has developed over the years to prepare a case for trial. I have written an entire Standard Operating Procedures manual, which I give to every associate, paralegal, and assistant who works with me on my cases. (Well… written may be an overstatement. I’ve written it, in part, and assembled, in part, from good practices that I’ve learned from others.)

While there are some comprehensive software tools available, most lawyers and firms use a collection of discrete pieces of software to solve the problem of case management, trial preparation, and trial presentation. Two of the big ones are calendaring software (a tool that calculates litigation deadlines), and document management tools. Calendaring is critical because of the deadline-centric world of trial practice. For example, in California state court, roughy 500 different deadlines are triggered once the Judge sets a trial date. Document management varies (typically by size of firm). Some smaller firms get away with just using directories and subdirectories. Large firms, like mine, use document management systems (in our case, we use product called iManage). After that the big tools are (1) the calendar, (2) MS Word, (3) e-mail client (outlook in most shops!), (4) web browser, and (5) Zoom or Teams. Then there are some specific tools that trial lawyers will use to solve various problems. (I use the Lit Suite tools, Scrivener, Aeon Timeline, and a variety of other software tools. Sometimes, I use ad hoc databases to manage complex data and build arguments.)

But most of my work gets memorialized in a Word document (finalized as a PDF). The other big component of work is communicating and persuading. Largely, this part of the work is very personality dependent. I have one client who lives in Slack and Zoom. I have others who only want to speak on the phone, etc.

This is obviously a vast simplification of a very complex process, but it’s just to abstract some details away to get an answer to your question.

The tl;dr is that most lawyers (I’m not one of them) like to do everything either in e-mail or in MS Word. (I have enough trouble even getting people to use styles in Word. Let’s not even talk about software that requires SQL and queries… :slight_smile: )


Is it? It doesn’t appear in the Share menu on my iPad and the output with the Shortcuts app is mediocre (perhaps I’m doing something wrong). Bear seems to me more integrated. There clipper does a good job and the app also plays nice with Shortcuts.

I am happy using Upnote. It’s a good recommendation and value for money at its current price point.