Continuing to Explore the Notes App on iOS 9

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It’s been difficult to write about Notes in iOS 9 because I really want to like the app, but it just hasn’t clicked yet.

It isn’t due to a lack of utility. The share extension is great, the way that pictures, drawings, and links are formatted is very tidy. In fact, the extension is even more flexible than I’d thought. I can share attachments right from Mail or Dropbox and pop them into Notes, which means that, if I had a Mac at work, I could probably Notes in a similar way to Evernote. I tend to make a single note for each project and drop related files into that note, just to keep everything in one place. The key difference is that I have yet to install the public beta of El Capitan on my Mac, so I don’t know how well the OS X version of Notes works.

Organization is decent in Notes. I can create different folders in the app to separate work notes about bloggers completely from my personal notes about bags. I do miss tags, though, and it would be great to be able to add multiple tags to a single note. OS X does this for files in iCloud Drive, so it would make sense to extend that capability to iOS eventually.

Formatting text has been made very easy, especially in comparison to Evernote. There’s a single button to format text as bulleted lists or add emphasis (e.g. bold, italicize, underline) and one more button to turn things into easy checklists. There’s a cleanliness and simplicity to rich text in Notes that’s just lacking in Evernote.

The key aspect for me is that I tend to use my notes app as workspaces. I don’t just use them for quick look-ups, but I’m also used to keeping files in them and then using them as databases. As flexible as the iOS 9 Notes app is, my biggest concern is with its scalability. I have thousands of Evernote notes over the past few years, and if I choose to start using Notes as a primary note-taking app, I’m concerned it might get laggy after just a few hundred files.

I’m also nervous about having limited access to my notes while I’m at my work PC. I won’t always be able to control what kind of machine my workplace provides me, and Evernote’s cross-platform access is a huge selling point for the service.

What the Notes app does feel like is a great preview of what third-party apps could be this fall. Using the Notes app as a Slideover app, or even in split-screen view, is absolutely fantastic. The gesture is easy to activate, and it makes the information on my iPad feel a lot more accessible.

I plan to install the El Capitan beta on my Mac this week, so I’ll have more to report in a few weeks when I’ve had time to play with Notes across all of my devices.

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3 thoughts on “Continuing to Explore the Notes App on iOS 9”

  1. I’ve been looking at Evernote alternatives as well. While I like the Evernote functionality it is starting to feel really bloated and slow at times. The Evernote iPhone UI seems cluttered and difficult to navigate.

    I tested out Quip at a conference this past week and it quickly became my sole note taker via iPhone 6 Plus. I took a combination of notes and image shots of Powerpoint slides. Maybe I could have done the same with Evernote but navigating and setting proper folders in Evernote becomes cumbersome and I’m not sure I would have taken the notes as quickly inside Evernote.

    Hopefully Evernote will continue to strip out the bloat. For now I’m in a similar boat – looking for options but hesitant to leave Evernote which works but seems a little long in the tooth.

    1. Evernote has been solid as a database, but it’s still pretty slow as a day-to-day app on iOS. It’s definitely speedier on PC and Mac. I’d love for them to streamline things more, but they’ve been headed into some different directions for the past few years (adding Context and Work Chat). I’m a little worried they’re missing what made them really special.

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