Why I Won’t Use Apple Notes

Apple’s Notes app is quite useful. You can store notes on your Macs and iOS devices, and they sync via iCloud. You can view attachments, and you can even lock individual notes, in the latest versions of Apple’s operating systems.

But I won’t use the app.

Apple made a stupid design decision: they don’t allow users to choose a default font and size in the OS X version of the app. In iOS, the Notes app inherits the overall font settings you choose; if you choose to increase the size of the system font, then the font in Notes gets bigger. But on OS X, there is no such system font size setting. So all notes start out in a tiny (to me) font.

You can change the font size of individual notes; go to Format > Font > Show Fonts, and then choose a size from the font picker. Yes, it’s that “simple.” Rather than have a default font size, Apple assumes that everyone uses a tiny font. Yet another example of disdain through simplification.

Notes tiny font

(Actual size. The font may be big enough for some users, but not for me. Also, I’d like to use a fixed-width font. But I don’t want to change the font every time I create a new note.)

There’s also another annoyance: links in notes show up in yellow – the same color as the app’s icon – which doesn’t contrast very well against a white background. Again, users should have a choice, or Apple’s designers should learn the basics of contrast in working with fonts.

Note with links

Update: I was reminded that Command-+ increases the size of a note text, but only if you have selected that text.

24 thoughts on “Why I Won’t Use Apple Notes

  1. > There are no menu items, as in, say, TextEdit, for example, where you can choose Format > Font > Bigger, or Format > Font > Smaller, and see the keyboard shortcuts.

    Uh? have you actually checked that? It is definitely there on my machines.

    Agreed about 1/ default font-size and 2/ link colour, btw. Notes has improved a lot since 10.11 but those little things are plain annoying, or even border-line sadistic.

    • You’re right; they’re dimmed if no text is selected, so I didn’t see them when I looked. But only allowing users to change font size after starting a note is bone-headed. It’s not complicated to have an option for a default font and size.

  2. > There are no menu items, as in, say, TextEdit, for example, where you can choose Format > Font > Bigger, or Format > Font > Smaller, and see the keyboard shortcuts.

    Uh? have you actually checked that? It is definitely there on my machines.

    Agreed about 1/ default font-size and 2/ link colour, btw. Notes has improved a lot since 10.11 but those little things are plain annoying, or even border-line sadistic.

    • You’re right; they’re dimmed if no text is selected, so I didn’t see them when I looked. But only allowing users to change font size after starting a note is bone-headed. It’s not complicated to have an option for a default font and size.

  3. As in TextEdit, you can also create your own styles.
    To do that, you have to select a text, use the contextual menu Fonts > Styles… and you will get the same interface to create a style as in TextEdit. You can create as many styles as you want to.
    The problem is that the personal styles don’t show up in the Style tool, in the Notes tool bar, neither in the menu.To use your own styles, I just find the way to reopen the creation styles interface, then click on the button Favorite Styles then choose a personal style from the list.
    Sorry for my English, I’ m French and use a French version of OS X…

  4. As in TextEdit, you can also create your own styles.
    To do that, you have to select a text, use the contextual menu Fonts > Styles… and you will get the same interface to create a style as in TextEdit. You can create as many styles as you want to.
    The problem is that the personal styles don’t show up in the Style tool, in the Notes tool bar, neither in the menu.To use your own styles, I just find the way to reopen the creation styles interface, then click on the button Favorite Styles then choose a personal style from the list.
    Sorry for my English, I’ m French and use a French version of OS X…

  5. Text sizing is a minor issue for me.

    The “big missing feature” is the ability to annotate inline graphics, especially PDF’s which Notes inherits from iBooks.

    Really? In this day and age the inability to annotate PDF’s is in iBooks and Notes is a %*^%%$ nuisance. It is even more annoying to realize that you can annotate the same graphics while you’re composing an email in Mail!

    I’ll add some more salt to the wounds. Notes on an iPad Pro or iPhone gives you some OK drawing tools (sketches), yet I can’t highlight a sentence from a pdf on the same note.

    Wait a minute, Notes on OS X doesn’t even give you drawing tools!

    If I send the note to myself as an eMail I can annotate it in Mail!

    So much for the Handoff experience in Continuity.

    iBook doesn’t allow you to annotate PDF’s. We really need this now that iBooks finally syncs them via iCloud

    Just so you know, I really do love Notes….

  6. Text sizing is a minor issue for me.

    The “big missing feature” is the ability to annotate inline graphics, especially PDF’s which Notes inherits from iBooks.

    Really? In this day and age the inability to annotate PDF’s is in iBooks and Notes is a %*^%%$ nuisance. It is even more annoying to realize that you can annotate the same graphics while you’re composing an email in Mail!

    I’ll add some more salt to the wounds. Notes on an iPad Pro or iPhone gives you some OK drawing tools (sketches), yet I can’t highlight a sentence from a pdf on the same note.

    Wait a minute, Notes on OS X doesn’t even give you drawing tools!

    If I send the note to myself as an eMail I can annotate it in Mail!

    So much for the Handoff experience in Continuity.

    iBook doesn’t allow you to annotate PDF’s. We really need this now that iBooks finally syncs them via iCloud

    Just so you know, I really do love Notes….

  7. The upgrade to 9.2 with the folder option lost all my notes. Lost my backup notes in the restore process. Sought Apple’s help but have been waiting, waiting for resolution.

    Turns out I am not alone in losing my Notes with that iOS upgrade.

    Another cSe of the declining quality of Apple software and the appalling upgrade process that now causes issues with every new version of iOS. Wish Apple would just forget about new features and get its own software sorted out.

  8. The upgrade to 9.2 with the folder option lost all my notes. Lost my backup notes in the restore process. Sought Apple’s help but have been waiting, waiting for resolution.

    Turns out I am not alone in losing my Notes with that iOS upgrade.

    Another cSe of the declining quality of Apple software and the appalling upgrade process that now causes issues with every new version of iOS. Wish Apple would just forget about new features and get its own software sorted out.

  9. The app is not useable for me because of the issues you’ve mentioned but I’ve been using the iCloud version and it’s ‘workable’.

    (Would love to see pinch-to-zoom as a solution for the app)

  10. The app is not useable for me because of the issues you’ve mentioned but I’ve been using the iCloud version and it’s ‘workable’.

    (Would love to see pinch-to-zoom as a solution for the app)

  11. You can actually press Cmd+ several times at the creation of a new note, at least in the latest version. You don’t have to have text selected.

    I agree that it would be better to have a more sensible default font, though.

    I tried editing the .plist, but it’s flagged as restricted on my MacBook, and not even sudo-ing was able to change it or its file permissions.

    • Yes, I think that’s part of the sandboxing/code signing thing that prevents access to files within apps these days. The days of hacking app package contents is gone, alas.

  12. You can actually press Cmd+ several times at the creation of a new note, at least in the latest version. You don’t have to have text selected.

    I agree that it would be better to have a more sensible default font, though.

    I tried editing the .plist, but it’s flagged as restricted on my MacBook, and not even sudo-ing was able to change it or its file permissions.

    • Yes, I think that’s part of the sandboxing/code signing thing that prevents access to files within apps these days. The days of hacking app package contents is gone, alas.

  13. Can any automator expert propose an action to open a new note and set the font of choice ? This could then be assigned a global shortcut key..

  14. Can any automator expert propose an action to open a new note and set the font of choice ? This could then be assigned a global shortcut key..

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