I stopped using Notes on my iOS devices very early on. This was partly due to the hilarious Marker Felt fonts of previous iterations of the app, but mainly due to the lack of flexibility. It took a long time for Notes to mature as a modern note-taking app, but that time is here.
To start, there are a few big advantages to using the Notes app. you can create or append to existing notes using Siri. Holding the Home button and saying “note that I watched Pacific Rim and loved it” will create a note saying as much. “Add Spider-Man to my Movies note” will append that text to a note I have specifically for movies I’ve seen. Given the most recent speed upgrades to Siri, this has become a really fast and reliable way to add new notes in a hands-free setting.
Notes are also fully searchable from within the app, and from the Search bar on the homescreen. Search is incredibly important for notetaking systems, and they’re one of the biggest differentiators between digital and handwritten notes. If you’re not keen on organizing notes into various folders, digital notes can be very forgiving by allowing you to search for key words or phrases to increase your chances of recalling that information.
However, these features were around before iOS 9. The real meat of iOS 9 notes improvements comes down to:
Notes can now have pictures, map or web links, and even Pages documents deep linked as tappable attachments within the Notes app. What’s more, a built-in Attachment Browser helps to quickly identify all of the attachments across all of your notes, so it’s much easier to find that picture of the restaurant your friend sent to you.
Not only is Notes capable of capturing more, but it’s also become easier than ever to turn information into a note, without leaving the app you’re currently using. Notes now has a great share extension that can take photos, URLs, and map info. The extension also allows you to add text snippets and choose to create a new note, or append to an existing one. This is an extremely powerful feature if you’re assembling a list on a smaller device like an iPad mini, which can’t do the split-screen multitasking that the iPad Air 2 can.
This is a simple but powerful feature. Sometimes you don’t need a whole Reminders list for something — something a little checklist within a note will do, and that’s now possible on iOS 9. The checkboxes are large, easy to recognize, and satisfying to tick off.
The new Notes app features quite a number of improvements — enough so that I’m actually giving it a shot again, just to see if I could use it instead of something like Drafts or Evernote. Search isn’t working all that well in current versions of the beta, but everything else about Notes is working properly. I can see this app becoming a great tool for things like vacation preparation. A single note can become a one-stop-shop for restaurant links, important addresses, and a packing list. I’ll try using Notes more heavily over the next week and post some impressions soon.