I have a confession to make. Despite an Evernote account, and a Catch.com account, being a dedicated Todo and Pocket Informant user … I use Apple’s Notes App more than almost any other piece of software on my devices.
Sometimes, when you’re taking notes, you don’t want lots of bells and whistles, you just want to take notes. There’s a reason the pen and paper have endured, and that’s the simplicity of pen to paper. No sync, no cloud, no tag this and categorize that. Notes is the closest to that sort of simplicity, and I use it for just about everything. There isn’t much to tweak in Notes, but there are a few ways to organize yourself with it that really make it go from simple to indispensable.
One thing that I recommend changing immediately in Notes is the font. That marker-y font is cute, but unfortunately it will carry over if you email those notes to someone else. So if you’re sending your boss minutes on that last meeting, or using your notes as a reference in an email, you don’t want it to look like you purposely made things look childish. So head to the Settings app, and scroll down to Notes. Select the Helvetica font, and your notes will look neatly typed. It’s a small change, but in my mind it makes a difference in appearance. In settings you can also select which email account is the default to be tied to your notes.
Now, organizing Notes can seem impossible. There’s no clear title search, no tags or categories. But like pen and paper notes, it’s up to you to organize it. I use notes to set our meal plans for the week, so that note gets the top line of “Meals Week of: 1/22″, and then I pop my breakdowns below that. Giving notes the proper title also helps if you plan to email the note to someone else, since the top line becomes the subject line, which can save you a step when sending emails and keeps things organized.
If you REALLY want to save yourself a few steps, use Dan’s iOS shortcut tips and create shortcut templates for your most-used note-taking. That way you can literally open notes, enter a shortcut, prefill the note with your template, and off you go typing away. I use this constantly with business meetings, having broken down my business notes into a half-dozen or so categories of what get discussed. This way at the end I can send the notes to myself at the office and include anyone who wasn’t able to be at the meeting, plus by using a set template it makes it far easier for everyone to read the email and determine what’s needed from them.
You can obviously do all of this with Evernote or a more powerful application, but there are a few drawbacks. Maybe you’re waiting for a sync from Evernote to finish, or you don’t have access to certain websites in your office. Plus I have yet to find a note-taking app that is as fast as iOS Notes. Touch the icon, hit the plus sign, and start typing. The biggest bonus, though, is that you can search notes on your device using iOS Universal Search. So with Notes you have a fast, offline-capable, email-ready, searchable app. As I said above, I have tried the more complex apps, but with a few minor tweaks and settings I am faster than ever just using plain old Notes. It may be simple, but it gets the job done right!