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Managing Your Information with the Updated iOS 9 Notes App

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Jason R. Rich, author of iPad and iPhone Tips and Tricks, Fifth Edition, introduces the newly redesigned iOS 9 edition of the Notes app that comes preinstalled on the iPhone and iPad. Learn how to use this app to create, edit, gather, manage, and share notes and information.
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In conjunction with the release of iOS 9, Apple has redesigned the Notes app that comes preinstalled on all iPhones and iPads. The new Notes has greatly enhanced capabilities, particularly for creating and gathering note content. For example, now you can easily import photos into notes, handwrite notes or drawings on your device's screen, and store all that content within individual notes. This feature works particularly well on the iPad Pro when used with the optional Apple Pencil stylus to write or draw on the tablet's screen. App-specific content can also be collected and placed within the Notes app from Safari and other compatible apps (via each app's Share menu). All of this new functionality more closely resembles the capabilities of other popular note-taking apps such as Evernote and Microsoft OneNote.

In addition to making your iPad serve as a virtual notepad that you can use to create, view, edit, manage, print, and share notes, the Notes app is fully compatible with iCloud, so all of the content stored within the app will automatically sync with your online-based iCloud account. Then you can share it with the Notes app running your Mac or other iOS mobile devices linked to the same iCloud account. Thus, all of your Note app-related content is always available when and where you need it. Access your notes from any Internet-connected computer by visiting your iCloud account and launching the online-based version of the Notes app.

The Notes App Sports a New Look

On the iPad, launch the Notes app from the Folders menu to create or access Notes-related folders (your virtual notebooks), and specify whether each folder will be stored on your mobile device, or online within your iCloud account.

Tap on the New Folder option (see Figure 1) to create a new folder from scratch. To rename an existing folder, delete the folder, or move it, tap on the Edit option on the Folders screen (iPhone) or menu (iPad).

Figure 1

Figure 1 From the Folders menu, you can create a new folder, or you can open, edit, move, delete, or reorder existing folders.

From the Folders menu, tap on a listing to open that folder. Within the selected folder, tap on the New Note icon in the lower-right corner of the screen (iPhone) or upper-right corner of the screen (iPad) to create a new note page from scratch. The first line of text you add to the new note becomes its title.

Within a folder, create as many separate note pages as you like. Each page can scroll downward indefinitely; you're not confined to the size of an 8½- by 11-inch sheet of paper, for example.

If the Notes app's toolbar doesn't appear directly above the virtual keyboard when you're typing content into a note (as shown in Figure 2), tap on the plus (+) icon at upper-right just above the keyboard (iPhone), or place your finger near the top-center of the keyboard and swipe upward (iPad).

The Notes app's toolbar in iOS 9 includes new tools for creating and formatting an interactive checklist, formatting the appearance of text, importing photos, or using the app's new drawing/handwriting tools. The iPad version also includes Undo, Redo, and Clipboard tools.

Figure 2

Figure 2 The Notes app's toolbar is displayed directly above the virtual keyboard.

For example, tap on the “Aa” icon to access the text formatting options. You can create bold, italic, or underlined text; use a larger (or smaller) font size; and/or create a bulleted, numbered, or dashed list.

Tap on the Trash icon to delete the currently displayed note. While viewing the list of notes within an open folder, swipe your finger from right to left across a listing and then tap on the Delete button to delete that note. When you delete a note, it will be removed from your iCloud account as well as the Notes app.

Using the Handwriting and Drawing Tools

One of the major new features of the Notes app in iOS 9 is the ability to handwrite or draw directly on the iPhone or iPad screen, and then have that content stored within a note. This feature works best with an optional stylus, but you can use your finger to write or draw on the screen as well.

To take advantage of the Drawing tools, tap on the toolbar's Draw icon. The virtual keyboard will be replaced by virtual drawing tools, including a pen, highlighter, and pencil. You also have access to a virtual ruler and eraser, as well as color icons that allow you to choose an ink color (see Figure 3).

When you activate the Drawing tools, the main area of the Notes app screen becomes a blank canvas on which you can write or draw. Along the top of this screen are icons for undoing/redoing, rotating the page, and sharing your drawing. Tapping on the Share icon shares only the drawn/handwritten content you're viewing on the screen. When you return to the main note within the Notes app, you can share an entire note via the app's main Share menu.

Figure 3

Figure 3 The Notes app now includes virtual drawing and handwriting tools.

As you're writing or drawing, tap on the pen, pencil, or highlighter tool to choose your writing instrument, and then tap on an ink color option. If you tap on the Ruler icon, the Ruler tool appears within the drawing area. Place one finger on this ruler to move it around on the screen, or place two fingers on the ruler to rotate it. Use one of the writing tools together with the ruler to create straight lines on the page.

After tapping on the eraser tool, use your finger to “paint over” drawn or handwritten content on the screen in order to erase it.

When you're done writing or drawing on the screen, tap on the Done option to save your work and return to the main Notes app screen, on the page you were previously composing or editing. The handwritten/drawn content will be added to that page.

Importing Content from Other Apps into Notes

When you're composing or editing a note on the main Notes app screen, tap on the Photo icon (shaped like a camera) to shoot a photo or video using the camera that's built into your mobile device, or select a digital image or video clip that's already stored within your Photo Library (see Figure 4). Once you create or select a photo or video clip, it will be placed within the current note page.

Figure 4

Figure 4 Now you can import photos or video clips directly into your notes from within the Notes app.

Many of the preinstalled apps that come with iOS 9, as well as a growing number of third-party apps, allow you to export content from that app and add it to the Notes app as a new note, or as content within an existing note. From Safari, iCloud Drive, or Twitter, for example, tap on the Share icon to reveal the Share menu. Then tap on the Notes option (see Figure 5).

Figure 5

Figure 5 Export content from supported apps such as Safari, iCloud Drive (shown here), or Twitter directly into the Notes app.

The selected content from that app will be displayed within a window. If you want to add text, tap on the Add Text to Your Note option in this window. Tap on the Choose Note option to select New Note, or add the content to an existing note within the Notes app. Tap on the Save option to export the app-specific content and place it into the Notes app.

Sharing and Syncing Your Notes

As you're viewing any note within the Notes app, tap on the Share icon in the upper-right corner of the screen to access the Share menu. You can then opt to share the selected note with one or more people via text message, email, Facebook, Twitter, or any other compatible app that's listed (when applicable).

It's also possible to set up the Notes app to work automatically with your iCloud account. As you create or edit content within the Notes app, that content will be uploaded to your iCloud account and then synced with the Notes app that's running on your Mac and/or other mobile devices. To set up this feature (which only needs to be done once), on each of your iOS mobile devices, launch Settings, tap on the iCloud option, and then from the iCloud submenu, turn on the virtual switch associated with the Notes app (shown in Figure 6). On a Mac, or when using iCloud for Windows on a PC, access the ICloud Control Panel, and then turn on the virtual switch associated with the Notes app.

Figure 6

Figure 6 Be sure to turn on iCloud functionality on each computer or mobile device where you use the Notes app, in order to ensure that your content will sync automatically.

Also from within Settings, tap on the main Settings menu and then on the Notes listing in order to customize certain app-specific features, such as the default location where your new notes will be stored.

Searching and Viewing Your Notes

Either from the main Spotlight Search screen on your iPhone or iPad, or by using the Search field within the Notes app, type a keyword or search phrase in order to locate content within any note stored within the Notes app.

As you're looking at the listing of notes within a folder (virtual notebook), tap on the Attachments icon in the lower-left corner of the screen to view thumbnails of all photos, drawings, and handwritten content stored within that folder. Tap on any of these thumbnails to open and display that content. If the content was imported from another app, such as Twitter or Safari, the applicable app will launch to display the content appropriately.

Final Thoughts

The Notes app on your iPhone or iPad is a free and easy way to compose and gather information that you want to access later. The iOS 9 edition of the Notes app is chockfull of new features and functions, but it's important to understand that the App Store also offers many other useful note-taking apps (such as Evernote and Microsoft OneNote), each of which has slightly different features and functions.

Based on your note-taking habits and needs, choose an app that allows you to compose and gather the type of information and content that you typically create. You also need to be able to view, organize, print, and share that content in ways that make the most sense for you. For example, make sure that the note-taking app you choose allows you to create as many separate virtual notebooks as you need, giving them custom titles. Within each notebook, you should be able to store individual note pages, each with its own title. Some apps, such as OneNote, allow you to further organize your notes into notebook sections that are then stored within virtual notebooks. Choose the app with the right features for you.

Jason R. Rich (www.jasonrich.com) is the author of Que's iPad and iPhone Tips and Tricks, Fifth Edition, which covers how to use iOS 9 on all of the various iPhone and iPad models, including the iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPad Air 2, iPad mini 4, and iPad Pro. He is also the author of many other Que books, including My Digital Photography for Seniors, My GoPro Hero Camera, and Apple Watch and iPhone Fitness Tips and Tricks. Follow Jason R. Rich on Twitter or Instagram at @JasonRich7.

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