OS X El Capitan: 5 ways Notes just got useful

Apple’s Notes application has become way more useful with OS X El Capitan, now it’s a truly useful tool for Mac and iOS users.

Apple, Notes, OS X, OS X El Capitan, iOS, Macintosh
Credit: Apple

Note different

It wasn’t too long ago that Apple’s Notes app was relegated to the ‘never really use it’ stack by most Mac users, but this changes in OS X El Capitan, as Notes has become far more powerful.


You may need to upgrade your iCloud Notes to use these new features. You can see this is the case if you see an ‘Upgrade’ button besides your iCloud account in the Notes sidebar. Once you upgrade your notes you’ll be able to view and edit them on other devices running iOS 9 or El Capitan that are signed into the same iCloud account. However, if you don’t upgrade all your Macs and devices then new version notes won’t be available to devices running the older OS’s, while notes created on devices running older OS’s won’t appear on your updated devices. Once everything is upgraded, your notes and associated data will be available across all your devices.

Also read: OS X El Capitan: 6 great Photos extensions you can use today


Most Apple apps and some future third-party OS X apps boast a Share menu that now offers a Notes option. So, if you are on a website, checking images, reading text in a PDF… you can save links, photos, text and more to a note by tapping the Share button, selecting Notes and choosing the destination. Notes become a valuable research tool that syncs across all your devices wherever you are. It’s also a fast way to share content between Macs and mobile devices.


I make lots of lists – shopping lists, ideas lists, ignored fiscal projections and attempts at psychological self-help. Some of these lists never get completed, others get dumped in some lost document far away on my drive. Now I can make lists in Notes just by selecting the appropriate text and choosing the ‘Make Checklist’ button in the toolbar (a circle with a tick inside it). I can also change font formats, including titles, paragraph headings, and bulleted and numbered lists (Format>Font>Lists).


Of course, as you add attachments to your notes it becomes harder to recall which attachment is attached to which note. Not a problem: all the attachments you’ve added to your notes are organized in the Attachments Browser. Here you can scroll through all your rich media attachments to find the one you need. That’s pretty useful when you consider the new notes lets you add documents, URL’s, photos, map locations, PDFs, videos, and more. The Attachments Browser lets you explore your attached media by type (Photo & Video, Sketches, Map Locations, Websites, Audio and Documents) and date.


While it’s a shame you can’t drag images directly into Notes from Photos (you have to use the Share button), you can at least drag images in from the Finder window. It’s also possible to import images directly from a connected camera by right clicking on the note and choosing Import Image from the menu you’ll find. You can also add links, videos, audio, PDFs, Map locations and more.


You can Swipe left to quickly delete a note. That’s a relatively minor feat, but it does mean any iOS user migrating to the Mac this year will quickly feel familiar with the user interface.


Notes is no Evernote replacement, but it does make it much easier for any Mac/iOS user to stay on top of projects. In future I can only imagine much tighter integration between notes content and context – for example, I imagine that saving a meeting inside a note will automatically schedule a calendar appointment and helpfully get travel directions to the meeting location from wherever you happen to be just before the meeting takes place. Essentially I’m proposing the company will in future connect notes content with Apple’s in development Proactive technology.

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