Complete: Apple Notes Beginner’s User Guide (iPad)

Apple Notes is a free handwriting note-taking app that is excellent for quick and rough notes. Apple has improved it so much over the years that now it is suitable for serious note-taking. If you want to get more done with Apple Notes, then this is the perfect user guide for you, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned Apple Notes user. You can also watch the video course for Apple Notes, and for more courses on different note-taking apps, we recommend checking out our YouTube channel, Paperless Humans. This user guide focuses on the iPad version of Apple Notes.


Apple Notes is a minimalist app; its homepage is also its workspace. It is divided into three columns. Starting from the left, you have a column for your folders, notebooks, and notes. Tapping the sidebar icon (top left corner above the first column) toggles your folders column. That means it hides or shows it.

Tapping the two-arrow icon toggles the notebooks column, which gives you more room to write your notes. When all three columns are visible, the two-arrow icon can hide all the columns, but it only brings up the notebooks column. Folders in Apple Notes can go to two main locations: iCloud or On My iPad. All the folders (and their notebooks) in iCloud sync across all your Apple devices that are using the same Apple ID. You can therefore see the notes on your iPhone and Mac as well. Notes under On My iPad are local; they don’t sync across devices.

Under each location, you can then have your folders. When you tap a folder, the notebooks it contains show up in the notebooks column in front of the folders column. You can see the name of the opened folder at the top of the notebooks column. To open and see the notes, simply tap on them, and they will appear in the notes section. This is where you write and edit your notes in Apple Notes.

New folders

Before you can take notes, you must first create folders for your notebooks. Tap the new folder icon (bottom left corner) below the folders column and choose the location for your new folder: On My iPad or iCloud. You can then name the folder and tap Done to save it.

New notebooks

Choose the folder you want to add a new notebook to, then tap the new notebook icon (top right corner), and you can start taking notes. To change the paper template for your notebook, go to the three-dots icon (far right corner), then Lines & Grids, and choose the template you want. Apple Notes has three line-spacing options for your lined and squared paper.

Typing notes

Apple Notes can add body text directly to the page. Body text does not mix with any other items in your notes. Structure your notes by tapping the text icon at the top or on the keyboard toolbar. You can add a Title, Heading, or Subheading. You can also convert these back to Body, or Monospaced text. Format your text to make it bold, italic, underline, or strikeout.

Apple Notes supports numbered and unnumbered. You can convert a paragraph to a bulleted list or create a new list from scratch. Levels in your list are easy to create using the indentation tools (under the text tool or the keyboard one). They are also easy to understand because your bullet points change as you add levels to your list. For this, Apple Notes uses three bullet point types. Dash bullets don’t change when you add hierarchies, though. They are, therefore, ideal for taking basic notes. Numbered lists have one type of numbering; they don’t change with levels.

Interactive checklists add simple to-dos to your notes. Like your numbered lists, levels don’t change the checklist icon. As you check off completed tasks, they move to the bottom of the list. You can turn off this animation if you don’t like it (go to your iPad Settings > Notes > Sort Ticked Items > and choose to do it Manually).

To create a table in Apple Notes, tap the table icon on the top toolbar. This adds a 2×2 table to your notes. You can tap the three-dots icons on your rows and columns to add or delete them. The three-dots icon appears on the row or column where your cursor is. Once you have added some information to your table, you can tap the three-dots icon to select a row or column. Then go to Format to make your text bold, italic, underlined, or strikeout for the whole row or column. You can also do this for individual text.

You can select multiple rows or columns; simply drag the dots on the selection. Then you can rearrange them (long-press the three-dots icon until the row or column lifts off the page, then drag it where you want it). The table icon, when editing a table, has options to Copy Table for pasting in other apps or Share Table to other apps. You can also Convert to Text to remove the table but keep the text. You will need to organise the text, though. Lastly, you can just Delete Table.

Writing tools

The toolbar

In Apple Notes, the toolbar with your handwriting tools is mobile. You can move it around the four sides of your screen or minimise it by swiping it to a corner. You can turn on Auto-minimise (under the three-dots icon) if you want it to automatically tuck away when you tap any part of your screen.

Pen tool

Apple Notes has three pen types: one pencil and a watercolour brush. The first two pen tools are both ballpoint pens. Though they look different, they write exactly the same way. The third pen is a calligraphy pen. Customisation options are the same for all the writing tools in the app. They all have five fixed thicknesses and an opacity option that ranges from 0 to 100%. The percentage opacity of each tool is shown as a number on the toolbar.

You can’t change the five default colours on the toolbar. To use custom colours, you must add them to the secondary colour palette. Go to the sixth colour circle (the one with multiple colours) on the toolbar and choose the colour you want from the Grid, Spectrum, Sliders, or colour picker. The colour picker is the easiest to use when the colour you want is already in your notes. Tap the plus icon on your toolbar to add the new colour. On this secondary colour palette, you can add as many colours as you like. Long-press to Delete a colour.

You can then write your notes using the Apple Pencil (for accurate handwriting representation) or use a finger by turning on Draw with Finger (under the three-dots icon). The handwriting experience in Apple Notes is amazing. There is no lag, it feels natural, and palm rejection is perfect. Apple Notes uses raster ink, which loses its resolution when zoomed in if you share the notes out of the app. It means the notes you write in the app best stay in the app.


The highlighter tool in Apple Notes goes behind your ink. Even at 100% opacity or when layered, it does not dim your notes. It also has five sizes and the same colour palette as the pen tool. The Pixel Eraser has five fixed sizes and erases per pixel, while the Object Eraser erases per stroke, no matter how big the stroke is.

Pages in Apple Notes

Pages in Apple Notes are vertically infinite, but with fixed widths. They continue extending downward as you write, without you needing to add any new pages. Your handwritten notes and the typed body text do not mix in Apple Notes.

Adding items to your notes (intermediate)


In Apple Notes, you can freely draw your shapes or use the shapes tool in your handwritten section. For hand-drawn shapes, you can use any writing tool. Once you’ve drawn your shape, keep your Apple Pencil pressed on the screen until it transforms. The app supports only nine regular shapes: circles, ellipses, squares, rectangles, triangles, stars, hearts, pentagons, and speech bubbles. It also supports straight lines, curves, and arrows. Once you have drawn a shape this way, you can’t modify it in any way except move it around the page (using the lasso tool).

Using the shapes tool on the toolbar, you can add the shapes listed under it. You can adjust these shapes once you have added them to your notes. To modify a shape, tap on it to bring up a customisation menu on the toolbar, which allows you to change the following border colour, opacity, and width. You can also add a fill colour and adjust its opacity. Apple Notes can resize and rotate shapes. The shapes added with the shapes tool remain editable after you’ve added them.

The green dot (on some shapes) changes the curves, number of sides, or looks (depending on the shape). On arrows, it can change their curvature. Arrows also have options to modify their line width or where the arrowhead goes. You can remove it and add it to one end or both ends of the line. With all the shapes, you can change the opacity of the whole shape, which includes its border and fill colour. To draw irregular shapes, you must use the ruler tool on the toolbar. Use two fingers to rotate it while drawing the different sides of your shape.

Photos and videos

When adding photos to your notes in Apple Notes, you can either add one from your library (camera icon > Choose Photo or Video), drag and drop from any app, or take it with your iPad camera (camera icon > Take Photo or Video > Use Photo). You can Retake photos you don’t like.

Images have different options depending on where you place them. Body text images go above or below your text in a block of their own that does not mix with the text. Long-pressing the image gives you options to display Small Images or Large Images. This affects all the images in your notes, not just the one you make the changes on. Tapping an image opens a separate window for markup. You can annotate the image with handwriting tools. Or, add Description (under the plus icon on the toolbar), Text, Signature, and shapes. Tap Done to save the changes and exit the markup window.

Apple Notes has a tendency to add photos to body text, blocked away from your handwriting. You can simply drag it to the handwritten section. Long-press to lift the image off the page and move it to your handwritten notes. To ensure your images go to the handwritten section, drag and drop them over some handwritten notes, then move them afterwards. This section supports PNG images (they don’t have a background). You can resize and rotate your images.

For videos, you can record them in the app or add one from your Photos library. They only go to the body text section, and they are blocked as well, meaning they don’t mix with anything else. You can play the video in full screen, rewind or fast-forward 10 seconds, and adjust the Playback Speed (under the circled three-dots icon).

When in full-screen mode, you can stop your video to extract any text or handwriting from the screen using Live Text. Simply tap the Live Text icon (next to the playback speed icon) for the app to highlight all the notes in your video. You can then select some sections to Copy for pasting in your notes, Translate, Look Up the meaning of words, and Search Web to Google the word on the internet.

Text boxes

To mix handwriting with text, you can use text boxes in the app. On the toolbar with your writing tools, tap the plus icon > Add Text. The app adds a text box, and you can start typing. Drag the dots on the text box to rearrange the text in it. You can also move the text box around the page.

Select some text to edit it by either going to the text icon on the far right corner of the keyboard toolbar. You can then change the font, and text boxes in Apple Notes have more text options than body text. They even support custom fonts. The font size ranges from 5 to 300 points. You can align your text left, centre, right, or justify. Formatting makes the text bold, italic, underlined, or strikeout. You can also change the colour and use the two-finger gesture; you can rotate the text box.


Under the plus icon, you can also Add Signature > Add or Remove Signature. Tap the plus icon at the top left corner of the popup window to add a new signature. You can then write your signature with the Apple Pencil or finger.

Go to New Signature (middle top of the popup window) to describe the type of your signature. Clear (below the signature); if you’re not happy with the signature, rewrite it. Tap Done to save it to the app. Once added to your notes, you can change the pen thickness and colour of your signature. You can also resize and rotate it. Apple Notes doesn’t let you edit a signature you’ve already saved; you can only delete it.

Lasso tool

The lasso tool in Apple Notes picks everything on the page so you can move it around to rearrange your notes. Tapping on the selection brings up a popup menu that lets you change the colour of your text, handwriting, and shapes in that selection. You can also Cut, Copy, Delete, and Duplicate.

You can Insert Space Above the selection, adjust it using the tag on the left side of your screen. You can also create space between sections by simply tapping an empty space on your page, then Insert Space. This not only creates space, but it can also remove it (which is helpful when you have too much space). The easiest way to create space in your notes is to just draw a line where you want some space using the lasso tool. You can then drag the line (on the left side of the screen) to create as much space as you need.

When you don’t want to move everything together, simply tap on the items you want to move. You can tap your image, text box, and shapes you have drawn with the shapes tool and signatures. Tapping on hand-drawn shapes doesn’t work, though. For that, you have to use the lasso tool to select the shape and then move it.

You can also use the selection tool on your handwritten notes. When different items are close together, selecting your handwriting alone can be challenging. In such cases, it is better to use smart selection. By long-pressing your handwriting, you can select it as though it were text. This only works on your handwriting and nothing else on the page; it can’t even pick up highlighters.

Each item on your page has some unique functions that pop up when you select them. You can Share (three-dots icon on selection) your shapes, signatures, text boxes, and images out of the app (as images). You can also Straighten (tap selection to bring up the popup menu > forward arrow > Straighten) your handwriting.

Quick notes

On a locked screen

The fastest way to start taking notes on your iPad in Apple Notes without unlocking it is to simply tap on the screen with your Apple Pencil. The app creates a new notebook using the default paper you have set for your notebooks in the app settings. To type notes instead of handwriting them, tap an empty space with your finger to bring up the keyboard. If the gesture is not working, it’s probably turned off. Go to your iPad Settings, look for Notes (on the sidebar), and scroll all the way to the bottom to turn on Access Notes from Lock Screen.

Quick notes from other apps

You can create quick notes while using any app on your iPad. By default, swipe diagonally on the bottom right corner of your screen to open a Quick Note. You can either type or handwrite on it with all the tools you get for creating your notes in Apple Notes. Using the pinching gesture, you can resize the quick note window. You can also move it (touch the empty space on the top toolbar) to any of the four corners of the screen. Tap Done to save your quick notes.

Sometimes you don’t want to create a new quick note but rather continue working on an old one. Simply scroll left or right to look for the notes you want. The three-dots icon gives you the option to Add Screenshot, which automatically takes a screenshot of your screen and adds it to your quick note. You can also Share the quick note or Delete it. The new note icon creates a new notebook, and the four-square icon takes you to your Quick Notes folder in Apple Notes.

Quick notes make it easier to drag and drop items into your notes. They are best used for rough notes, though, unless you’re typing them. That is because the notes you handwrite in a quick note look massive and exaggerated when you open them as a normal notebook in Apple Notes. For that reason, we recommend typing the notes if you want to use them later on. You can minimise your quick notes if you’re not using them (swipe the note to the edge of the screen) and bring them back just as easily (tap the arrow where your quick note is tucked).

In Safari

When browsing in Safari, you can create a New Quick Note by selecting something on a webpage. Go to the forward arrow if you can’t see the option on the popup menu. Apple Notes creates a quick note with a link to the website as well as the information you took from it. When you return to the web page, its quick note appears on the bottom right corner, so you can pick up where you left off. You can also bring it up using the normal gesture and then scroll through to find the quick note you’re looking for. Quick notes make it easy to get notes from webpages. All you have to do is long-press to pick up the information you want, and then drag it to the quick note.

Setting options

Sometimes you don’t want to create a new quick note but prefer to continue your notes on the last quick note you worked on. To change that, go to the iPad Settings, then Notes. Under the QUICK NOTES section, turn on Resume Last Quick Note. Now, each time you bring up the quick note, Apple Notes will open the one you last worked on. You can also change the quick note gesture by going to Corner Gestures and choosing to create a quick note by swiping the left corner instead. To do that, go to Left Corner Swipe and choose Quick Note. You can swipe either corner to bring up the quick note. We don’t recommend this because it is better to use the left corner for taking screenshots. If you want to bring up the quick note using your finger, you can turn on Allow Finger to Swipe From Corner. We also don’t recommend turning this on because it disables the multitasking gesture for bringing up the App Switcher.

OCR/Handwriting conversion

Apple Notes has a unique approach to Optical Character Recognition (OCR), or handwriting recognition. You can search through your handwriting for all your notes in the app. The app is supposed to highlight your results for your handwritten notes. But it’s not working on my iPad at the moment; it is finding the terms, though. It’s probably a bug. We encountered the same issue when searching through images and scans in the app.

OCR in Apple Notes also creates notebook titles from your handwritten notes. The app picks up the first few words you write to use as a title. You can Edit the title of the notebook and tap Done to save the changes. Apple Notes does not convert your handwriting to text. But it can copy and paste it as text in other apps. Using your lasso tool or the long-pressing gesture, select some notes and bring up the popup menu. Go to Copy as Text, and then go paste it where you want. In this case, we’re pasting it in Noteful. You can also translate the selection (forward arrow > Translate).


Collaboration lets you work on notes with your colleagues in real time. To get started, go to the share icon (top right corner) on your top toolbar. Collaborate is the default option for sharing notes out of Apple Notes, so you might not need to change it. You can choose permissions for your notebook to determine who can access your document: Only invited people or Anyone with the link. You can also control who can edit the document: Can make changes allows everyone you invite to make changes to your document. View only will let them view the notes without making any changes to them. Lastly, you can Allow others to invite people to the collaboration. But if you want to control who is invited, then we suggest you turn this off. This option is only available if you’re only sharing with selected people and they can make changes to your documents.

The best way to share a collaboration document is via Messages. It is the only way to share documents you’re working on with invited people. Once you start collaborating, Apple Notes displays a cursor showing who is typing and where. By default, Participant Cursors is turned on, but you can turn it off, by going to the collaboration icon to manage the collaboration. Look for Participant Cursors and turn it off.

The collaboration icon houses some options for your collaboration. Tapping message, starts a conversation on the notes you’re collaborating on. Messages then automatically creates a thread under the document. You can also start a FaceTime video or audio call with everyone you’re collaborating with. Everyone is automatically added to the call. Below your communication options, the app displays a summary of the Latest Updates made to the notes in your absence. You can tap Show Updates, to expand the summary and see all the activity on the document. You will get a list of all the changes that have been made. You can also access it by going to Show All Activity a bit further down. Apple Notes tells you who did what and when they did it. Tapping on the changes highlights them. This, however, only works on typed notes, not on handwritten ones. You can see the participants who are currently online.  Show Highlights displays who made what changes on the left side of the screen. You can bring this up by swiping to the right and hide it by swiping to the left from anywhere on your screen.

Manage Shared Note (at the bottom of the popup window under the collaboration icon) opens a popup window that lists everyone collaborating on your document. Tapping on a person’s name gives you options to control each participant’s permissions. You can choose if they Can make changes or not (View only). You can also decide if they Can add people to the collaboration. When you no longer want to work with them, you can Remove Access to block them from the notes. Back (top left corner) at the main window, you can Share With More People to invite more people to collaborate on your notes. Highlight All Changes if you want any changes to be highlighted. It makes them easier to spot. Turning this off removes the permanent highlighter that tracks all the changes in the document. The app still highlights the changes when you tap on them. When you turn off Hide Alerts, you will not receive any notifications when someone makes changes. Alerts come to Messages and Notification Centre when you’re collaborating. Share Options controls all the permissions for everyone, exactly like you get when you’re first sharing the notes. You can Copy Link to share it with more people, or Stop Sharing with everyone to stop collaborating on your notes.

When someone invites you to collaborate on a document via Messages, tap on the notebook to retrieve its contents, then go to Open to start collaborating on it. When you don’t have permission to make changes, you will only view the document. Tapping on the screen won’t bring up the keyboard, and all the editing tools on the toolbar will be unavailable. So you can’t handwrite or type anything. Your options under the collaboration icon remain the same, regardless of whether or not you can make changes to the notes. As a participant, under Manage Shared Note, you will be able to turn on or off Highlight All Changes and Hide Alerts. You also have the option to Copy Link.

Search tool

Apple Notes searches all your notes in the app. You can access the search bar from the notebooks column. You can search through All Accounts or only the Current Account (where your currently selected folder is located). Accounts in Apple Notes are simply where your notes are located. They can either be in iCloud or On My iPad. The app displays your results in three sections: Top Hits, Notes, and Attachments. Tapping on a notebook opens the notes. The results are highlighted in the notebook if they are text, but for some reason the app is not highlighting handwritten notes in iPadOS 17. The app can also search through PDFs, scans, and images. It’s also not highlighting any text in all of those.

You can fine-tune your search to focus only on Shared Notes, Locked Notes, Notes with Checklists, Notes with Tags, Notes with Drawing, Notes with Scanned Documents, or Notes with Attachments.

You can also choose to search a single notebook by going to the three-dots icon, then Find in Note. This gives better search results for handwritten notes. The app tells you how many terms have been found, and you can navigate through them. The term you’re on is yellow, while all the other terms are white. To fine-tune what you’re searching, tap the search icon on the search bar to focus on Whole Words (which searches complete words only and not part of them). You can also choose to Match Case. For single notebooks, you can Find & Replace text (under the search icon). You can Replace one word at a time or all of them at once (long-press, then go to Replace All). To only search without replacing, switch to Find.

iPadOS support

Apple Notes supports all the features in iPadOS that are essential for boosting your productivity in the app. These include dark mode, scanning documents, data detection, multitasking, and widgets.


Apple Notes organises your notes with folders, smart folders, and tags.


On the folders column, you can create new folders (bottom left corner) that you can store locally on your iPad (on My iPad) or in the cloud (iCloud). You can name your folder and tap Done to save it. To create levels for your folders, drag and drop one folder over another. You can also open a folder, then add a new folder to it by going to the three-dots icon (top right corner of the folder name in the notebooks column) and then Add Folder. Apple Notes supports five levels of folders within folders. The app warns you when you try to create a sixth level.

The notes folder is a default folder where Apple Notes keeps all the notes you don’t save in specific folders. It is available for both your local and cloud folders, but it does not support any levels, so you can’t add any subfolders to it. You can also move subfolders between parent folders by dragging them from one folder and dropping them into another. Alternatively, go to the three-dots icon and Move This Folder, then choose where you want it to go. You can also long-press the folder you want to move and go to Move.

Under the three-dots icon, you can Rename the folder (long-pressing it also works). Select Notes lets you select multiple notebooks so you can Move them to other folders, Tag, or Delete them. All these options appear at the bottom of the notebooks column. You can also sort your notebooks (go to Sort By) by Date Edited, Date Created, or Title; starting with Newest First or Oldest First. You can also Group By Date if you want your notes to be grouped according to dates in the folder. It makes it easier to find what you’re looking for, so we recommend leaving it on. View Attachments shows you all the attachments in the app, not just the ones in the open folder. To delete a folder, long-press it to bring up the popup menu and Delete. This deletes all the notes and subfolders in that folder.

To organise the notebooks in your folder, long-press to bring up a popup menu, then Pin Note at the top of the folder. It makes the notebook easier to find. You can also Lock Note if it does not have any attachments or tags and if you’re not collaborating on it. You can either Use iPad Passcode, which is less secure but also easier to remember. Or Create Password for more security, but there is no way to recover a password if you forget. With both, the app gives you the option to Enable FaceID or TouchID. We recommend you enable it to make it easier to unlock your notes. To lock your notebook, tap the lock icon on the toolbar. Tap it again or go to View Note (middle of the note page) to unlock it. The option you choose for locking your notebook applies to all the notebooks in the app. To remove the lock, long-press your notebook and Remove Lock. You can also Move the notebook to a different folder.


Apple Notes supports universal tags that work in all your notes in the app. They can either be typed or handwritten. Typing # gives you recommendations for tags you can use. To create a new tag, or when you have no tag in the app, simply type the full tag. Tap the space or return keys to save the tag. When handwriting a tag, the app recognises it when you stop using the Apple Pencil by deselecting the pen icon on the toolbar. Apple Notes then underlines the tag so you can interact with it. Simply tap on the tag and Convert to tag. Only then will Apple Notes add the tag to your other tags in the app.

Your tags group under Tags at the bottom of the folders column. Tapping on a tag will display the notebooks using it. You can view notebooks with two or more tags. Next to the Tags title, you can choose to show All Selected if you want notebooks with all the tags you just selected. Any Selected will display all the notebooks with at least one of the selected tags. Long-pressing a tag gives you the option to Rename Tag and the app updates all the tags in the app. You can also Delete Tag. If you don’t like folders, universal tags are a great alternative for organising your notes.

Smart folders

Smart folders automatically organise your notes according to the criteria you set. You can create them from scratch when creating new folders by tapping Make Into Smart Folder. Your smart folder can include notes matching all or any of the filters you add. You have eleven (11) filters that you can use for your smart folder, and each has unique options. A smart folder can group notes with specific tags. It can contain Any Tag or Any Selected Tag in which case you must pick the specific tags you want. All Selected Tags will group only the notebooks containing all the tags you pick. Your smart folder can also not have tags (No Tags).

You can also group notes that were Created or Edited during a certain period of time. The app has a few presets for the time period, but you can customise this by going to Custom, where you have more options to fine-tune the notes you’re grouping in your smart folder. Relative Range can be In The Past Hour(s), Day(s), Week(s), Month(s), or Year(s). Specified Range lets you set a fixed period of time with fixed dates. On a Date groups notes for that one date. You can also group notes you Created or Edited Before/After a Date you set.

Apple Notes also lets you group Shared notebooks that you have shared With Anyone, With Specific People or with no one (Not Shared). Mentions groups notebooks where Anyone, you (labelled Me), or Specific People have been mentioned in a notebook you’re collaborating on. Checklists adds notes to your smart folder according to the criteria you set. You can choose to group Any checklists, or specific ones (Unchecked or Checked). You can also add notes with Any Attachments, or specific ones (Photos & Videos, Scans, Drawings, Maps, Websites, Audio, or Documents). When you want to group two or three different attachments, the only setting for that is to use Any, which will also include other attachments you don’t want. So, the best way is to use other criteria in addition to your Attachments option.

For the Folders criteria, you can Include/Exclude Selected and the app will give you a list of folders in your iCloud account. It does not support folders On My iPad account. You can also Include or Exclude Quick Notes, Pinned Notes, Locked folders, and notes in your smart folder. Your smart folders can have any number of filters you want. When you’re happy with the filters you have chosen, tap Done to save your smart folder.

Toolbar customisation

You can customise the middle toolbar in Apple Notes. To get started, go to the three-dots icon and then Customise Toolbar. You can then drag and drop icons to and from the toolbar. Tap Done to save the changes.

PDF Reading

To add a PDF to your notes in Apple Notes, you must split view your screen to drag and drop the document from its location on your iPad. The app creates a thumbnail of the PDF that can display as Small, Medium, or Large. By default, in iPadOS 17, they display as large. To change the size of the document, go to the down-facing arrow on the document name, go to View As, and choose the size you want. You can also resize the PDF reading window by simply zooming in and out with your fingers. To view the PDF in full screen, in the markup window, go to Quick Look under the down-facing arrow.

For inline PDF-reading, the PDF scrolls horizontally, and you can use the pen tools in Apple Notes to annotate the PDF. For faster navigation, the app recognises and can open hyperlinks. Simply tap on them. You can annotate your PDFs using all the tools you can use for writing notes. That also includes adding stickers, text, signatures, and shapes, but its a hit and miss.

To edit the pages in your PDF, go to Show Thumbnails (top right corner). The app displays all the pages in your PDF that you can quickly scroll through. You can also rearrange the pages in your document by long-pressing to pick up the page, then dragging and dropping where you want it. Tapping on a page brings up a three-dots icon, and when you tap on it, it gives you the option to do several things. You can Copy the page and paste it anywhere you want. You can Rotate Left or Rotate Right. You can Insert Blank Page to add a new, empty page with a plain page template. This is useful when you have a lot of notes you want to add to your PDF. You can also Insert from File to add a PDF to the document. Scan Pages will add scanned PDFs to your document. Lastly, you can Delete Page.

The annotation tools for inline and fullscreen (or markup) PDF reading are the same. However, in markup, you also get autofill for PDF forms in Apple Notes. It recognises text fields that you need to fill out. The feature can also add signatures and create text fields in your forms. The feature is still very basic, as it can’t interact with any other features in PDF forms.


The settings for Apple Notes are in the system settings for your device. Go to your iPad settings and look for Notes on the left sidebar. Go to Language to choose your default language. If you don’t set this, the app will just use the first language listed under Language & Region in your General settings.


Accounts lists all the accounts on your iPad that have access to Apple Notes. Not all accounts support Apple Notes. To see if an account supports Apple Notes, tap on it and turn on Notes. The notes you create under your Gmail account in Apple Notes are sent to your email as a thread.

You can then choose your Default Account from the ones you have signed in. In the event you don’t pick a folder, the notebook you create goes into the default account you choose in the Notes folder. Under Password, you can lock the notes in your iCloud and On My iPad accounts. You can turn on “On My iPad” Account if you want to keep some notes on your device without syncing them.


Turn on Mention Notifications if you want to receive notifications when you’re mentioned in a document you’re collaborating on. Under the VIEWING section, you can Sort Notes By Date Edited, Date Created or Title. We recommend sorting them by Date Edited to make it easier to find the notes you’re currently working on. You can turn on Group Notes By Date if you want them grouped according to the date you are sorting them by. New Notes Start With either a Title, Heading, Subheading or Body. For your checklists in the app, you can Sort Ticked Items Manually or Automatically. We recommend choosing automatically if you want the ticked items to be moved to the bottom of the list when you mark them as complete. Lines & Grids lets you set the default page template for your new notebooks and quick notes.

App links and the rest

For the best experience with links in quick notes, we suggest turning on both Suggest App Link when Composing Quick Note and Suggest Notes with App Links. This will help you get relevant link popups when you’re taking quick notes. You can also turn on Auto Convert to Tag to avoid the extra step of converting your tags in Apple Notes. When turned on, all you have to do is type # to create a new tag. Turn on Save to Photos if you want to save photos you take in Apple Notes to the Photos Library. If you only want to use the photos in the Apple Notes app, then you can turn this off. Lastly, turn on Access Notes from Lock Screen if you want to create quick notes on the locked iPad screen.

iPadOS 17 updates (public beta)

Linking your notes 

Links in iPadOS 17 only work on your body text in Apple Notes. To add a link, tap a blank space as though you want to start typing some notes. Bring up the popup menu on the cursor > Add Link > start typing to search for your notes in the app. You can choose to use the note title for your link by turning on the option (Use Note Title as Name), or you can turn it off to write your own name for it, then tap Done to save your link.

You can also add links to already-existing body text in your notes. Select the text you want to add a link to > Add Link > tap Done to save. With the URL option, you can link to notes outside of Apple Notes. For example, I can link to notes from Goodnotes by simply copying the link for the notes and pasting it into Apple Notes. This can also let you link to websites.

To open the links, simply tap on them to go to your other notes in Apple Notes. With notes from other apps, you’re taken to them directly. For web links, you go to the website you’re linking to. Long-pressing links brings up a popup menu to Open, Copy, or Share the link. To edit a link, select the linked text > Edit Link > make the changes you need, and tap Done to save them. To remove a link, select the linked text and Remove Link.

Toolbar updates

The ruler tool in the app is now darker than before. There is a new writing tool: a crayon (between the pencil tool and calligraphy pen). Like all the other writing tools in Apple Notes, it has five fixed thicknesses and opacity options. The crayon can do everything that other writing tools can, including drawing shapes.

The toolbar now has a plus icon for adding different items to your notes: text boxes, signatures, and shapes. Apple Notes now supports stickers, a system-wide iPadOS 17 feature (that we’ll cover in a different video). To add a sticker, tap the plus icon on the toolbar > Add Sticker > choose a sticker for your collection (tap to add it to your notes). You can then resize or rotate the sticker. The three-dots icon lets you Cut, Copy, Duplicate, or Delete the sticker.

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