iOS 15’s Quick Notes Could Change How You Use Your iPad

It’s like paper, only better

Key Takeaways

  • Quick Notes lets you permanently highlight text on web pages.
  • Only the Mac and iPad can take Quick Notes—the iPhone can only view them.
  • Quick Notes already works with many third-party apps.
Quick Notes on iPhone and iPad

Apple

Quick Note on iPadOS 15 and macOS Monterey is a major shift in the way we take notes. 

There are almost as many ways to take notes as there are people taking them. Some prefer paper, while others (the monsters) will just keep adding to a single Microsoft Word document. But let’s be honest—most people use the Notes app built into their computer or phone. For Apple users, that app just got a huge power-up in the form of Quick Notes, and it’s possible you’ll never lose a note again.

"Quick Note may be the sleeper feature of iPadOS 15—Apple effectively just added a system-wide "quick capture" system for anything," said Apple-watcher Federico Viticci on Twitter. "It can be invoked via the keyboard, recognizes activity inside apps, [and] can save anything you throw at it."

Quick Notes

The easiest way to explain the power of Quick Notes is with an example. Say you’re reading something in Safari that you want to save for later. In iPadOS 15 and macOS Monterey, you can select that text, and click (or tap) to add it to a new Quick Note. 

The text is clipped to a note, along with a link to the original web page. And the text you initially selected is highlighted in yellow. The magic is that whenever you return to that page (via the Quick Note you just took most likely), that text will still be highlighted. 

Taking a Quick Note while inside the Apple Maps app

Apple

If you’re researching an article, a vacation, some shopping, or whatever, you never need to write a word. You can just clip all the interesting parts into a note. At any time, you can create/access a note by swiping up from the bottom right corner of the screen. 

And because it’s just a regular Notes app note at heart, you can also add images, drawings with the Apple Pencil, and anything else. You can even share a note with somebody else.

Game Changer

It’s this persistent highlighting that really changes things. You’ve always been able to clip a section of a web page, perhaps with the link included. But with these highlights, you can instantly see the clipped text in context. It’s exactly like marking up paper to refer to later, only easier and better. 

Quick Notes can also clip from other apps. In the iPadOS 15 beta, it appears to use the same mechanisms that lets Siri dig into apps.

"Apple is taking advantage of the deep access it has inside the Mac, iPhone, and iPad, and using it to give its Notes app killer features."

For a while now, you’ve been able to say "Hey Siri, remind me about this tomorrow," and Siri will often be able to pull out a deep link to whatever is on your screen. It works with third-party apps, and also with apps like Apple’s Mail, which has no other way to share or link to individual messages.

Quick Notes uses the same mechanism, so many apps already support it, even without the developer adding anything. In these cases, a drop-down list of available apps appears at the top of the Quick note, and you tap to add it to the relevant note. Right now these are just links—currently you can only clip and highlight text in Safari. 

Apple Only

There are limits, of course. One is that while Quick Notes can be viewed on the iPhone, they can only be created on the iPad and Mac. Another is you can’t highlight text in Safari’s Reader View, which is a shame as this would turn it into the ultimate read-later tool. This could be a beta limitation though, because I’ve managed to get it to highlight in Reader View once or twice, but it felt like a bug rather than a feature. 

But the biggest limitation is that this is Apple-only. If you use any other device, you’re out of luck. 

"If people already have a lot of clipped content in OneNote, Evernote, Noteshelf, etc, will they abandon that process in favor of the new OS feature?" AI and knowledge-management consultant Daniel Rasmus told Lifewire via email.

A number of Quick Notes as they appear in iPadOS 15

Apple

Rasmus also wonders if "migration of existing content will be an issue." But as Quick Notes are built into the Notes app, this is less of a problem than it appears. Third-party tools exist to import and export notes to and from standard formats. 

And as we mentioned, many people, maybe even most people, just use the built-in apps. Even if you don’t need the fancy clipping tools, Quick Notes can be useful as a floating window (even on the iPad) that lets you jot down ideas, draw sketches, or drag in links and images.

Apple is taking advantage of the deep access it has inside the Mac, iPhone, and iPad, and using it to give its Notes app killer features. This is fantastic for users, but not so great for third-party app developers.

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