TiPb asks: How do you manage notes on your iPhone?

TiPb asks: How do you take notes on your iPhone?

Last week on our iPhone Live! podcast, Chad and Seth got all nerdy about how they take notes, and manage their workflows, on the iPhone, and we figured it would be great to get even more views on this. So we're asking the TiPb nation!

Do you use the built in iPhone notes app or a special App Store app? If an App Store app, which one? Do you sync your notes with other devices, like your iPad or Windows or Mac PC? If so, how do you sync? The default notes app syncs to Mac Mail. DropBox has become a hugely popular way, but some people like Rene prefer SimpleNote on iOS and Notational Velocity on the desktop. Others, like Chad in the past, have been huge Evernote users, which has its own client on almost every platform. Are universal note apps better, or do you prefer note apps specifically designed for iPhone vs. iPad vs. desktop?

What's your ultimate note taking workflow?


Senior Editor at iMore and a practicing therapist specializing in stress and anxiety. She speaks everywhere from conferences to corporations, hosts the ZEN & TECH podcast, and should be followed on Twitter @Georgia_Prime.

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There are 79 comments. Add yours.

Rene Ritchie says:

Everything goes into SimpleNote on my iPhone and iPad and syncs with Notational Velocity on my Macs.
I use it for notes, short todos, random ideas, etc.
Yeah, the subscription is an additional cost and when it comes time to renew, I might look at a DropBox alternative...

Doug says:

I agree with Simplenote. It is (obviously!) simple, and it syncs wirelessly. Perfect.

Scott says:

I used to use Simplenote/Notational Velocity, but don't like how you can't sync tags between the two apps. I switched back to Evernote (after initially not liking the interface), and was pleasently surprised by the updated interface. Now I use evernote.

Sarah Alawami says:

Evernote is not really tht usable for a visually impaired person, t lrast I don't really have the patience do deal with it. See my post for more info.

mrsFAB says:

I just use the native notes app. I have mobile me so they sync with Mac, iPhone, iPad, pc.

fastlane says:

Me too. I can't be bothered with all the formatting nonsense of other apps when someone on the phone starts blurting out information I need to take down very quickly. Just tap to open and start typing. If I needed more, I'd use an app like QuickOffice instead of a notes app.

slowlane says:

Oh heaven forbid if king fastlane be bothered....

TedP says:

agreed. The native notes app isn't great but its already there and syncs perfectly when used with MobileMe. I hate having redundant apps on my phone and patchwork solutions when something is already staring you in the face.

dloveprod says:

I like the native app since I use mobile me, syncs to my iphone, ipad and mac mail app.

gatortone says:

I use Evernote. Works great, and I can take notes on my work PC laptop, and sync them on my iPhone, iPad, and my home Mac.

Ravi says:

Agreed. I love Evernote :)

Mike Scheerer says:

Agreed...it has to be Evernote all the way 

Kilsey says:

Markdown into Notesy on iOS, TextMate on OSX. Synced to Dropbox so available everywhere.

Colin says:

I don't have mobile me, but I use the native notes app. If I really want a note in the cloud I just email it to myself or throw it on DropBox and I'm all set. I generally take notes on my iPhone as opposed to my iPad, simply because my iPhone is right in my pocket.

GavinCampbell says:

I replaced the native notes app with Evernote. Love how it will sync wirelessly to my PC as well as a web interface so that I can access my notes everywhere else. Love how I can also store images/audio as well.

AndresE says:

I have tried a number of note apps and I have settled into Notes Plus (http://notesplusapp.com/). I use it with a stylus which is where I think it really shines (the close-up writing mode is amazing) . If the notes need to be archived and searched then I email it to my Evernote account straight from the app. I email it as a JPG file so Evernote can do it's text recognition magic.

Comboapp says:

100% agree, the app's functionality is so deep that it is really fits to Guy Kawasaki's DICEE principle.

Joebin says:

Evernote FTW because I have to sync between a Mac and PC. Tagging is a huge plus. If it's a text heavy job, then the native Notes app is easier to type on and still use Mobile Me to sync to email it to my Evernote.

cacdusty says:

Native notes app and also Plaintext which allows you to create documents that are automatically saved to your dropbox folder

AceBoonKoon says:

For quick ideas I use notes and sync them with Gmail. I love it! I also use Springpad!

Michael says:

Amazing Note and OneNote.
aNote syncs with Google so I have access to then everywhere. I use it for quick notes and ideas, lists and the like. OneNote is more long term storage, for projects and other items.

Alex says:

Amazing note is actually Awesome note and that's my note client

SteveW928 says:

I currently use PlainText, but will probably switch to Notesy once the dev fixes an issue with non-multitasking devices (as I have a 2nd gen iPod Touch). But, I love having all my notes synced through Dropbox so they are available on all my devices and computers.
I've used Circus Ponies Notebook on my Mac for years (all my undergrad and grad-school notes, for example are in there), and they now have an iOS version. This is tempting as it can contain all kinds of content types, outline, format the text, organize everything, even include to-dos... but, I'm kind of liking the simplicity of using just simple text. Often I'm not wanting the formatting (I often paste into a TextEdit file on OSX to get rid of any formatting, and use Devon Technologies excellent and free WordServices to clean it).
The other nice thing about simple text files is that they are compatible everywhere with everything. There is no complex app to have bugs and limitations. They are super fast, easy to search, etc. It is just more of coming up with a good folder organization to store them and reasonable naming conventions. It really is a tradeoff, but I'm leaning in that direction.

xTG_IrOnZzZ says:

I normally think of something, write it down using a pen, get my phone out then realise notes existed on my iPhone -_- this still continues to happen I really should use the notes app more.

dandbj13 says:

I don't. Notes are now iPad only for me.

Steve says:

taking notes on the iphone or ipad, i use PlainText with Dropbox sync... easy text note entry and sync between devices. from my desktop, i use Evernote to clip webpages i want to save for reference or just save an RTF to the PlainText folder in Dropbox.

SteveC says:

Native notes app syncing to Outlook via iTunes.

webvex says:

Evernote for personal notes. Dropbox isn't secure enough for personal items. For work, like taking notes in meetings, I prefer Google Docs or, if it isn't sensitive, I can use one of the Dropbox text apps. In either case, it has to be cloud-based. I have too many platforms/computers for emailing or cable syncing to be practical.

SteveW928 says:

There is a cool app called Codebook with excellent encryption which syncs to Dropbox for keeping stuff very secure. However, the devs need to get their acts together and create an iPad native version and OSX version. It currently is only iPhone (or blown-up on the iPad)... but I think it has great potential for notes that need to be private.

Jonathan Seals says:

The notes app lol. Though I do use gmail sync.

SockRolid says:

The built-in Notes app is all I need. When any one note is finished, I copy/paste the text from the MobileMe-synced notes in Mail to a Pages doc on my iDisk. Easy and simple.

Brooke says:

If I'm taking notes notes I use Evernote, but for task lists I use Awesome Note because I like the checkboxes. aNote also syncs with Evernote.

Jesse says:

I use Evernote on my ipod touch 4G because it lets me sync with my computer and my Mytouch 4G.

Avenged110 says:

I just prefer the native notes app. Provides all the functionality I need and looks good doing it. No need to complicate things unnecessarily especially when this one comes built it.

impaler says:

I use the native Notes app, synced to MobileMe. I really wish I could edit notes on the web...kind of ridiculous that functionality doesn't exist.
If I need to share notes, I use Google Docs to store short notes.

Rob says:

Simplenote would let you edit notes on the web. Pretty sure the app is free too, these days.

Rob says:

Count me in the Simplenote / Notational Velocity crowd. I can get to my notes no matter what device I'm on, and I have backups in three places — my Mac, Dropbox, and Simplenote's servers.

Brian says:

Awesome Note. The name says it all. It really does it all and has a nice UI too.

Jonathan says:

I use Evernote to sync my Nexus S with my Mac and iPad

friscosooner says:

Notemaster sync'd with Google Docs.

chicagomatt says:

Notesy is where it's at for me. I use Apple's Notes app for lists that rarely change (like restaurants I like), but for on-going lists that get updated frequently, Notesy is terrific. It integrates with Dropbox, so there's no need to set up an account on yet another server, and best of all it is super focused. I like apps that do their jobs simply and elegantly, without any unnecessarily distracting bells and whistles. (I guess that's one reason why I've stayed away from Evernote.) I was lucky enough to get Notesy during a free promotion, but I would be glad to pay for it if I had to purchase it now. Plus, it is a universal app that works great on both iPhone and iPad.

niko360 says:

I use the native notes app that's synced with google sync then they are synced back to my MBP's mail app

Cintra says:

I use Evernote heavily on my iMacs and MB AIR, but although I have Evernote on the iPhone 4, I use Momento most, entering data with one of those small Apple wifi (bluetooth) keyboards, which makes it really easy to use, so I use it :)

Glenn#IM says:

Evernote. It was the first app I installed. I have bee using it for years, and really needed the iPhone/iPod Touch app so I could have access to the notes, and infromation I already had before getting an iOS device There are some other great note apps out there, but Evernote works for me.

javiwankenobi says:

On my iPhone I use FastEver, I can jot down a note in seconds. Fore more elaborated notes or to-do's I use Evernote on the desktop.

Jay Mobile says:

Um people when u take notes on ur iPhone using the native note it automatically syncs to your iPhone/iPad.
I use Notebooks for iPad it also has a Notebooks app for the iPhone not to be confused with the appigo app. It syncs with dropbox, pc, WebDAV, iTunes, sun docs that's why it's the best!!

Sarah Alawami says:

I usually use plain text found here http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/plaintext-dropbox-text-editing/id39125438... and dropbox. This is true for longer notes or messages I want to take or sent. The reson I do this is i don't have a keyboard for my phone I type the notes or message on my computer, save it to the dropbox/plaintext folder, open plaintext on my IDevice, navigate to the file and do what I want to do with it.

unchew says:

evernote is awesome i clip web pages, and take notes in business meetings am able to tag everything access on my ipad, iPhone, work pc, or home mac and it categorizes everything using tags and folders. the note app wasnt enough for me even with mobile me.

mervb says:

I started using Day One it syncs with Dropbox and the Mac it's s great app. I'm using it like an idea journal to help come up with story ideas for my blog posts

Bob Marley14 says:

I used Evernote all of the time BEFORE iPad came about. Now, I do not use iPhone stall for taking notes and useEvernote and Writepad on iPad for note taking.

Andrea.Richardson says:

AwesomeNote because it syncs with Google Docs.

Seth says:

Awesome Note synched with Evernote.

mikerisner says:

I love SpringPad. Notes, checklists, product tracking, and more.

kh says:

I used to use Evernote, but I find Springpad (http://springpadit.com) works a lot better for me. It is a lot more versatile. Also allows checklist, tasklist, bookmarks, etc, etc. It is totally free and syncs between the web and my iPhone, iPad, Android, etc

xf says:

On the phone? Evernote. I have Notify and a couple of others on the phone too but don't use them.

jvwong96 says:

I use Evernote for work related stuff because I can encrypt it if I need to. For personal stuff I use Springpad, mainly because it syncs everywhere, I like how it can do look ups and other stuff and I can see my stuff offline. I have a free Evernote account so I can't see anything when I'm in a plane which is where I spend a good amount of my time. I still have old notes of mine that I sync to my desktop using Outlook and the native notes app though :)

realistdreamer says:

Mobilenoter. Syncs with MS OneNote at the office. Not perfect, but closest thing to OneNote on PC.

JELorenz says:

For me it's iNote all the way. It's a wonderful little app, with endless file folders and a setup that reminds of my pre-retirement days' PC File Manager. I email my daily notes to myself and sync it into Good Reader as a searchable text file. I want most of my files as text files, so that I can transfer them to any computer and read them without needing any specific app. Long live .txt. Almost forgot, I use an iPod touch.

Miasmi says:

Notesy on iphone & ipad synced with NV Alt on Mac via Dropbox. It just works.

kalbu13 says:

Native Note apps...
Use when do a little speech conveference to about 200 audience using my iPhone :D

RocketmanNY says:

I have a bit different approach from many here as I use Toodledo for note taking. It has a Notebook feature that combined with syncing to my Toodledo account which I then sync to Outlook using a freeware sync tool from Chromatic Dragon. Syncs all my categories keeping everything organized (also use this to sync tasks/to-do's).

t24man says:

I use evernote and also toodledo. It is my task application and the notebook portion of it allows me to have notebooks of items already categorized into my task application folders. It syncs every time I open/close the app between my iphone and pc and available from website as well.

jnjewlz says:

PlainText to Dropbox. Simple clean and easy.

james says:

I have tried many a notes applications. Plaintext, Evernote, and the native notes application are the ones that i still have on my phone. But about a year ago, everything changed. I realized that there are two types of notes I need to take. Quick reference (as in i need to quickly reference the note(s) from my phone), and reminders (aka tasks). For quick reference I have swung between Plaintext and the native notes since they are FAST, Though I do find myself using the natives notes app more and more since it syncs with my mail application.
Which brings me to my A #1 go to notes application. It's called eMail. I check it every day already, and i can access it from anywhere in the world. I even have a folder called reference to store things I want to check later. Nothing else comes close. Once I got over the change of using email for notes, I have never looked back. Why have to check multiple sources when only one will do.

Eric says:

I take a screenshot of whatever I want to remember. And If Its a thought I generally type it in my Safari Google search bar. I never look at the Notes app so I figure the next time I search something I'll see it and do something with it.

ClaudeW says:

After trying and using Evernote, Awesome Note and other simpler applications I now use MobileNoter on my iPhone and iPad. MobileNoter let me sync with MS OneNote and have my full notes with pictures and hand writing everywhere. MobileNoter has also a Quick Note posssibility to add simpler notes.
OneNote on my PC is also sync with SkyDrive so I can access and edit my notes through any web browsers, on my Mac for example.
I just hope that MobileNoter will add some more functionalities on iPhone and iPad and that a OneNote client will be available on Mac (Growly Notes seem not too far, or perhaps a MobileNoter for Mac?).

KekoaLani says:

Noteshelf is great and very easy to use for my weekly meeting notes using my iPad. I like the notebooks, paper styles, and smooth writing with my Boxwave or Acase stylus pens. For quick notes I use my native Notes app on my iPhone because I can search readily for all kinds of quick notes as I always have my phone with me.

Manuel says:

Fast notes from sb settings and Screen shots with home and power.

natefish says:

Springpad. Free and has an awesome online client as well as a great Chrome plugin. Prefer it over Evernote because it does pretty much everything Evernote does and is more lightweight.

Tygger says:

I wanted something to allow me to jot down a quick note, a quick to-do list (with check boxes), or take a photo note. I tried Evernote (slow) and a few others, and much to my surprise - I like the MS One Note app! I don't need to sync my notes to my computer, so I can't vouch for the PC version, but the iOS app is perfect for my needs.

Santa says:

Mind Mapping lets me organize while I take notes. Dropbox sync makes sure they're all backed up and accessible through my desktop mind mapping tools.

Lewzephyr says:

Catch Notes.... does it all, can take notes when your without signal, sync's with the cloud. Can edit from web browser on your PC / MAC. Ability to share via mail with others.

Raquel says:

ScatterBrain; clean, sweet, simple. Has a sync feature and plans are in the works to integrate with DropBox.

Roby says:

This is really a good topic!
I've been using Appigo's Notebook for several years now. It's excellent-- a great interface, with folders, the ability to email notes, it even has rich text formatting (a little clunky-- think insert codes). I brought over several hundred notes from my Palm PDA to it and that worked fine (albeit with some prelim work).
However, you can only sync the notes with a 3rd party server out on the web (Toodledo) which means you've just lost all your privacy for your business memos, diary, love notes, tax info, medical results, etc. Not a good system. The lack of local is really too bad--it's the key missing feature..
I've been looking for an alternative. I played around with SyncBook again today. It syncs locally but, alas, it hasn't been updated in 2 years! The folders are not really folders, but banners put across the page, separating your notes. You end up with a long, very long, list of notes and memos that you have to wade through. That makes it unusable. The synching also did not work with Snow Leopard.
So, what would the ideal notes app have? Four things:
1) Folders
2) Local synching to one's laptop or desktop computer.
3) Font and font size choices.
4) Ability to e-mail notes.
It seems a pretty straightforward, simple set of features, but I'm having a hard time finding a notes app that has all 4!! I'd even settle for the first 3!

Paul says:

I agree with you on #3! It's incredible that so many people have jumped onto the cloud-sync bandwagon that developers basically don't develop for local sync at all anymore. You're not alone in wanting to keep your medical notes and personal memos private. Dropbox, Simplenote, Evernote — these are not private options.