How to Make Apple Notes More Useful

• 6 min read

How to use Apple Notes to capture photos, documents, and sketches, 2 things I learned from James Eaton, and how Halide made their iPad trailer video.

How to Make Apple Notes More Useful

Usually Thursdays are meant for Premium subscribers only, but because I made a video for the first time in forever I decided to send this one out to everyone.

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How to capture Documents, Photos, and Sketches with Apple Notes

This week I wanted to utilize the Apple Notes app, and how you can use the synergy with the Mac and your iPad or iPhone to up your note-taking game.

I made a quick video showing how you can use your Mac and iPhone or iPad to capture photos, documents, or sketches like magic. Let me know if you like these videos, if a lot of you do I might make some more down the line.

Have you ever been in a meeting or something and see a document, visual aid, or something else you want to capture in your notes? Well, thanks to the Notes app you can grab a quick photo, scan, or sketch out what you wanted to save. It all starts with a simple icon in the Mac Apple Notes app.

Once you click on this icon in the upper right-hand area of the Notes app, a world of options comes up. Depending on what devices you own, you may see multiple things show up. For me, it shows my iPhone and my iPad. Both of these devices have the same options available, here's what each does.

Take Photo

This is pretty self-explanatory, under the device you wish to use, for me it is my iPhone, click on "Take Photo" and then your device opens up the camera for you to snap a photo. Take a photo, decide if it works for you and once done it will show up in your note on the Mac.

Scan Document

Like the photo option, once selected your device's camera opens up but instead of it being a standard camera, it is now looking for documents to scan and once it finds one it will cover it with a blue UI and automatically scan it for you. You can scan multiple pages and edit the pages you want to keep by tapping the bottom left ahnd corner. When everything is the way you want it select Done and press Save. Once saved, the documents show up in the note on your Mac.


Sketch is the most interesting one for me, as it is using PencilKit to allow you to draw, color, and sketch something on your iPad or iPhone. Just select "Sketch" in the options, draw out what you want on your iPhone or iPad. Once you're all set tap "Done" and it will pop up in the note.


This is one feature I never knew about, but now that I do know about it Apple Notes seems like a killer app for when you want to take notes quick and want to capture reference material as well.

2 Lessons Learned from James Eaton

In the latest episode of my podcast A Slab of Glass, I interviewed James Eaton who had a fantastic perspective on his notes system, writing workflow, and how to use Craft. If you haven't listened to the episode, you can find it here.

I learned two very important things from James in our interview that I thought I'd share in this issue as I reflect on our conversation.

1. Remove as much friction as you can

James has worked on his systems, cutting the fat everywhere he can to make it lean and mean. If there is even an ounce of friction for James, he will make the time to rectify the issue and improve.

A lot of what he does to accomplish this is keeping things simple. Sure he hooks note together with backlinks in Craft, but he is only doing this when it's warranted. The rest of his system stays as simple and easy as possible. Simplicity doesn't mean it's useless, but rather it keeps what works and gets rid of everything else.

If you find yourself hitting a lot of sticking points in your system(s) maybe it is time to keep it simple and reduce the friction you're creating.

2. Don't make a tool something it's not

As I said in my last issue of Tablet Habit, James said it best when he talked about how he started using the note-taking app Craft.

I basically let go of any other structure that I had. Because I am always bringing a structure from an old thing in. ‘I used to it this this way. Well how do I Evernote in Craft? How do I do Notion in Craft?’ I kind of just said ‘How do I do use Craft? What would it look like if I didn’t have all of this?

This hit me really hard. For too many times than I would like to admit I have found myself using an app trying to have it replace a similar app. This isn't inherently bad, but when I kept trying to mold Todoist to be OmniFocus it was destined to fail. I needed to go in with fresh eyes and zero expectations.

This is something that is obviously easier said than done, but even being cognizant of this phenomenon has been helpful for me to assess these kinds of situations that arise.

If you haven't check out James Eaton on YouTube, you are missing out on some of the best Craft notes videos out there. Seriously, if you are interested in Craft James is a terrific starting point.

An astonishing video on how Jackson Hayes made the Halide iPad update trailer. It was a lot of fun to watch this, and I plan to watch it again this weekend.

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