Apple's New Quick Notes Could Change the Way We Organize Information

Never lose that note, ever again

Key Takeaways

  • Quick Notes brings ‘contextual computing’ to the Mac, iPhone, and iPad.
  • The Quick Notes pop-over panel is a window. A window! On iOS!
  • So far, Quick Notes works with Safari, Mail, Messages, Photos, Books, and Maps.
Quick Notes open on top of Apple Podcasts on a MacBook Pro.

Apple

Did you ever want to highlight some text on a web page, and have it still highlighted when you come back any time in the future? Then iPadOS 15’s Quick Notes is for you.

Quick Notes is a system-wide way to quickly take a note in iPadOS 15 and macOS Monterey. On the iPad, you swipe up from the bottom-right corner of the screen and the new panel appears, floating over the rest of the screen like a window. You can add anything to a Quick Note, but the really neat part is that if you select text in a web page, you can clip it to the note. Once done, that text on that web page will stay highlighted, whenever you visit. 

Quick Notes are just regular notes, and they live in the Notes app. But because they can float over what you’re doing, and because they appear automatically whenever you revisit an original source, they’re way more useful than normal notes. 

"What Quick Notes brings is the notion of context. Notes appear when you need them, not the other way around."

Persistent

Quick Notes are sticky. Whenever you return to the scene of the crime, as it were, a thumbnail pops up in the corner of the screen to allow access to any notes you made earlier. You also can just tap on clipped text inside a note and it will open the original web page, with the highlighted text intact. The Quick Notes panel also can be summoned using the new Globe+Q keyboard shortcut.

This works in other apps. If you clip a message in the Mail app, then you can return to that email later, and however you get there, a little Quick Notes thumbnail will appear next to the email itself, right there in the Mail app. Quick Notes can be created on the Mac and iPad, but only viewed and edited on the iPhone. 

But enough of the mechanics—this is the first beta, still rough around the edges, and the specifics are likely to change. 

Why Are Quick Notes Useful?

For most people, taking a note, or saving a link, is a statement of intent. You might plan to access that note later, but it’s likely that you’ll never find it. Or, if that note contains information form the internet, it’s probably easier to just Google it again.

Creating a Quick Note on a MacBook Pro.

Apple

What Quick Notes brings is the notion of context. Notes appear when you need them, not the other way around. For example, if you clipped text from this web page into a Quick Note, then whenever you come back to this page, that text will show up as highlighted, theoretically forever. You never have to dig out the note, because your Mac, iPad, or iPhone does it for you.

Equally, if you start from the Quick Note in the Notes app, you can tap the links to emails, web pages, iMessages, even photos, and you’ll jump right to them—with the Quick Note floating above like a friendly, helpful ghost. This combines with another new Notes feature—tags—to make organizing and finding stuff easy. These tags even show up in the global Spotlight search.

You can pull up a Quick Note anywhere, and type into it, but only Apple’s apps—Safari, Mail, Messages, Photos, Books, and Maps are the ones I've found so far—support clipping a link directly into the note. Apple’s own information on Quick Notes says that it works in "supported apps," which hopefully means that third-party developers can add support. Imagine this in read-later apps, or your PDF app, or in an e-reader app. 

Rough Edges

As befits a beta feature, Quick Notes is still a little rough around the edges. For instance, there’s no way to use the same quick note across different sources. Here’s an example. Say you clip some text from a web page about a holiday rental apartment. This creates a Quick Note.

QuickNotes activity

Apple

Then, you discuss the apartment in a Messages thread and check it out in the Maps app. This creates two new Quick Notes. You can manually copy and paste info between them, but right now, there’s no easy way to use the same Quick Note across apps. 

Support is also spotty. You can link a Quick Note to an e-book in the Books app, but it doesn’t remember the exact page.

Still, Quick Notes might radically change the way we organize information. Instead of locking away notes in an app, these notes are permanently tied to their sources, making it easy to navigate them. If Apple polishes it well before the fall launch, it could be the most significant feature of iPadOS 15 and macOS Monterey.

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