How to Share Notes Using iPhone’s Notes App (& Why You Should)

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Essentials Week highlights unexpected objects that improve our daily life a little.


As an information-hungry writer and air sign with too many thoughts spinning in my brain, I know the value of writing things down. I took pocket notebooks, used an abundance of Post-It notes, and even bought a refrigerator whiteboard for instant cooking thoughts. But I’ve found that the best way to keep track of my life (and the lives of my friends) is with an underused iOS feature: in real time. shared notes.

Over the years, Apple’s Notes app has been upgraded after upgrade with every drop in iOS. Notes now has drawing tools, photo scanning capabilities, and smart features like beacons. But my favorite part of the app is the share option which lets you collaborate with friends in real time. The possibilities are limitless.

You can share notes from the Notes app using your iPhone, iPad, or other Notes-enabled iOS device. Use them to keep a list of favorite movies with your best friend, start a Pictionary-style drawing contest, or run party playlists with people who don’t use the same streaming services as you. (My apologies to all my Spotify user friends.) Shared Notes is also a great way to make shared grocery shopping, vacations, and general group planning even easier.

When you use shared notes, everyone with access is automatically notified when changes are made, so you can see what’s added or deleted as soon as it happens. You can even watch your friends make changes in real time. (Personally, I love watching my friends type and erase elaborate cocktail ideas over and over again, only to land on “buy beer”.)

I’m the type of person who rushes to type ideas, funny jokes and to-do lists into my Notes app, press a button, and share my Big Brain Moments ™ with my loved ones. So the next time you want to brainstorm, why not skip group chat and collaborate through the Notes app? The convenience factor alone will make your life easier. Shared Notes will reduce the number of iMessage notifications and give you another way to bond with loved ones without leaving your couch.

Want to start sharing notes, but don’t know where to start? Here are four ways I use the feature.

1. Vacation planning

Whether or not you are the designated friend to create a calendar, a shared note for planning your vacation is one of the easiest and least stressful ways to make sure your trip goes smoothly. You can organize your shared note by day and include simple bulleted lists for things like meals and activities. I ask everyone to include their travel plans in the note as well. Plan your arrival times so everyone can plan accordingly without having to follow up repeatedly. Plus, a shared note with everything in it ensures that information won’t be lost, forgotten, or buried deep in emails or text messages.

2. Lists of things to do, watch out for and read

The list feature is one of my favorite visual aspects of the Notes app, and it’s great for shared notes. The checkboxes (in this case the circles) are big – really in your face compared to other design choices – which means I can’t ignore them. A little, smooth animation happens every time you check off an item, and completed tasks will automatically move to the bottom of the list, which is helpful. (If your lists aren’t rearranging, go to your phone’s settings, tap Notes, and make sure “Sort checked items” is set to “Automatically.”)

To-do lists are useful in multiple-person households for keeping track of things like utility payments or grocery lists for dinners at home. I even exchange Christmas lists with my mom using shared notes. Just be sure to tell the recipients of the shared note that you can see when they cross off things, otherwise it might spoil the surprise. (Sorry mom).

Beyond the day-to-day practicality, I use Shared Notes to track and organize lists of ever-changing media that my friends and I want to use. I share playlists to keep track of annual reading goals, much like a Notes app book club. And I have a list to watch with my roommate, sorted by TV shows, movies, and podcasts. While I’ll probably never escape the curse of endless scrolling, referencing our to-watch list often makes it easier to choose a movie or TV show and ensures that I never forget that my roommate doesn’t. still haven’t seen The breakfast club.

3. Like, dislike and all the rest

A little more niche, keeping a running list of personal information with my friends and family is the most effective way to use shared notes. It’s not a good idea to include sensitive information like a social security or credit card number in shared notes, but consider using the feature to track people’s likes, dislikes and all. the rest.

I have two shared notes to this effect. The first is a list of current mailing addresses, so people can make changes as needed. I don’t know about you, but my friends move around a lot. This shared note avoids these embarrassing: “I know I asked you five times, but what is your address? ” the texts.

The second is a note where my friends can add their current interests and preferences. A note like this comes in handy when you want to send someone a surprise gift, but can’t remember their favorite ice cream flavor or current media obsession. Using the Notes app to share personal interests has proven to be useful for almost any Secret Santa congratulatory exchange or gift I have sent to my friends. It might sound a little extra and very Type A, but I’m both of those things, so I love it.

You can also share notes for more personal and practical details like important medical information, emergency contacts, or allergies. Share them with the people you live with, your parents or your partners in an emergency.

4. Be creative

One of my oldest shared notes, worn on phones and iCloud backups over the past three years, is called Creative Thoughts. This is the hotbed of all the weird ideas that come to mind and my friend’s mind. Highlights include a book pitch about a wormhole in our neighbor’s apartment, a live-action version broadcast by fans of The Emperor’s New Routine, and the outline of a jukebox musical featuring the songs of Rascal Flatts. The shared creative thoughts note contains podcast ideas, tweet drafts, future party ideas, and more. Who knows, maybe your shared notes will contain the next great American novel!

For the child at heart, Notes’s drawing feature (combined with live editing) is also a fun way to play impromptu games like Tic Tac Toe or Pictionary. Shared Notes are what you want them to be.

So I convinced you to start sharing notes …

Using Apple’s shared notes feature is a very easy and convenient way to share information in one place – no additional accounts, apps, robust spreadsheets, or calendar skills are needed. required. If you want to try sharing your own notes, here’s how:

1. Make sure your device’s iOS is updated, then open the Notes app.

2. Select the note you want to share or create a new note by pressing the paper & pencil button in the lower right corner of your screen.

3. Once a note is ready to be shared, tap the button with three dots in the upper right corner of your screen.

Credit: APPLE

A screenshot of the Settings menu of a note.

Credit: APPLE

4. Tap “Share note” and select your sharing preferences. You can choose to share your note with others through messages, emails, or even on your social media accounts. You can also copy the link to the note and share it manually. (Be sure to check the “Sharing options” section before sending, which lets you choose who can edit the note and add other people.)

5. Once you’ve shared your note, manage who has access to it by tapping the small circle with someone inside. This management screen shows who is in your note and keeps a history of all changes made.

6. You can also create shared folders for better organization of all your notes. Go to the Folders screen of the app (you’ll probably need to exit your notes list) and add a new folder using the folder icon at the bottom left of the screen. Folder sharing works the same as a single note.

A screenshot of the Share Note screen.

Credit: APPLE

A screenshot of a note with the edit highlights visible.

Credit: APPLE

Push notifications are automatically enabled for all shared notes, but you can turn them off for your personal device in the note management settings. Remember, the Notes app will always alert friends who have their own notifications when you make a change.

Keep in mind that anything you don’t put in a shared Google docs or group chat shouldn’t be in a shared note, and be aware that anyone can see your activity in the note. Notes shared in the Notes app are also added to your iCloud and available on all your devices.

Alternatives to Notes app for friends without iOS

Unfortunately, not everyone has access to the magic of Apple’s Notes app. Don’t be put off by your Android friends, though. They can always join in the fun of sharing notes. For Google and Android users, try Google keep, a free web app that you can download to your phone that syncs with a Google account, has similar list features, and can be shared with your friends and family. Other note sharing alternatives include the popular Evernote, Microsoft OneNote, Where Notebook, all of which allow you to share and edit notes with other users.

Now go ahead and share your notes, dear over-thinkers.

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