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Guide to Use Apple Notes for College Note Taking

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OneClass Blog
11 Feb 2020
10 min read

Yes, you can go paperless in college. Switching to ebooks and digital files is easy enough, but the tricky point for many students is digital class notes. 

Apple Notes was our pick as one of the best note-taking apps of 2020. It’s a great choice for students who are fans of the iOS platform. It’s full-featured, has a clean design, and is easy to use. It avoids the bland user interface that the free version of Microsoft OneNote has. During recent updates, additional features were added without the bloat of Evernote. 

Apple Notes can be used in college classes for typed notes, digital handwriting, math formulas and more. Plus, Apple Notes is free to use. There are no subscriptions, plans or upsells. 

Apple Notes has also become insta-famous as the go-to app for celebrity apologies and statements. It’s been used by everyone from Beiber to Lady Gaga.

Let’s break down what makes Apple Notes great, what your other options are, and how you can get started using Apple Notes in college.

1. Apple Notes Devices, OS and Sync

Apple Notes is a favorite among Mac users. It comes pre-installed on iMacs, iPads, iPhones and any other OS X or iOS devices. That can make it a no-brainer to use. It’s already set up, and you can sync your notes across your devices. 

You can take notes during class on your iPad, review them in your dorm later on your iMac, and also access them on your iPhone. Because Apple Notes is built into your Apple products, some say that it syncs better across devices than non-native apps.

Apple Notes isn’t a good choice if you are an Android or Windows user, or if you think you might be one day. There’s no native app available outside the Apple ecosystem. If you do change up devices, it can be a hassle to export all of your information to a third party note-taking app you’ve downloaded from the app store. 

There’s also the option to access your notes via Web access is an alternative way to gain access if you have a Windows device. Although that widens accessibility, it isn’t the same as a truly cross-platform solution such as Evernote or Zoho Notebook, both of which offer iOS and Android apps.

Note that there isn’t currently a native notes app available for an Apple Watch.

2. What Note Taking Gear Is Best for Apple Notes?

What note taking gear do you need to replace all of your college notebooks and binders? The answer depends on the classes you take and your note-taking style. 

With a MacBook, you’ll have the portability of bringing your laptop to class or the library. You’ll have the full keyboard for typing and the iOS powerhouse to do whatever you need. However, for math formulas, chemistry equations and diagrams, you may be reaching for a pen and paper. 

A slimmer option is the iPad Pro. You’ll have the on-screen keyboards for typing, or there’s also the option to add on a Bluetooth tactile keyboard. The touchscreen also lets you create handwritten notes, draw diagrams or write math formulas. There’s also the option to add an Apple Pencil stylus to make it easier to use the tablet as though it were pen and paper.

You can also take class notes on your iPhone. However, the small screen size can cause your notes to be more like short bullet points than comprehensive descriptors. 

If you’re buying gear, don’t forget your student discount, which is about a 10 percent discount. Apple also runs a major back-to-school sale event each year, and the partnership between Apple and Amazon means you may be able to get hardware deals and Prime shipping.

3. What Can You Add to Apple Notes?

Once you have your gear sorted out, using Apple Notes offers a range of editing and attachment capabilities. 

For text notes, you can use formatting options such as bold, italics, bullet points, indentations and other basics. You can create tables in Apple Notes. You can even create checklists, letting you easily check things off as they’re completed and have drag-and-drop capabilities to reorder your priorities. 

You can also create inline drawings by simply tapping the pencil icon. Handwritten notes can be done the same way. The expanded feature set of iOS11 added a Lines & Grids feature that gives you the digital equivalent of lined notebook paper to write on. 

You can add attachments to your notes, such as a photo of an instructor’s whiteboard, scanned document images or a PDF of a teacher’s class lesson. Plus, you can save web pages by sharing a link from Safari to your Notes app. 

You can also mark up images and annotate PDFs after files are added to notes. 

4. Can you Dictate Notes Using Siri?

Absolutely! Using Siri with Apple Notes is a favorite hack among many students. When you’re on the go, you can dictate a project ideas, homework questions and more. Simply say:

“Hey Siri, create a note called Biology homework questions.”

Then you can dictate your notes rather than typing or hand writing them. You can use Siri to initiate many other Notes functions, including updating your last note or finding notes about a specific class.

If you’re wondering if you can record the audio of an entire class with Apple Notes, unfortunately you can’t. The next best alternative is to record the audio in Voice Memos, and then attach the audio file to Apple Notes. 

Notably, note-taking in Google Keep is miles ahead of Apple Notes for recording audio. There’s integrated audio recording so you’re only one click away. The app even transcribes audio recordings so you can re-read and search them easily. 

5. How Can You Keep Class Notes Organized?

There are a few great organizational tools in Apple Notes that can help you stay on top of your classwork. 

You can use a series of folders and subfolders. This gives you the structure to group each semester’s classes together. 

You can also pin notes so that you have easy access to important things like your to-do list. If you’re a visual learner, you may appreciate Gallery view, which gives you thumbnails instead of a list. 

Our favorite feature is that you can use emojis in your folder names. ?

6. Is It Easy to Search for Information in Apple Notes?

With Apple Notes, you can search your typed notes. The app also can search your handwritten notes. With its handwriting recognition feature, you’ll have just as much search power, even if you prefer longhand.

When it comes to scanned documents and photos, the update last year added optical character recognition (OCR) so that a search will also pull up documents with text in the image, such as a photo of a class’s whiteboard. 

The app also has visual recognition for images. For example, if you search your Biology notes for “frog,” the app will recognize photos of frogs as relevant to your search.

A great college hack is to add hashtags to your notes so you can quickly locate specific topics. 

7. Can Apple Notes Help You Track Due Dates?

There isn’t an option within Apple Notes to flag something for follow-up. However, you can integrate it with Apple Reminders. 

If you have time-sensitive information in a note, click: Share > Reminders. 

With this function, you can track project deadlines, information you want to research further, or study reminders to help reinforce memorization. 

8. Can You Use Apple Notes Collaboratively?

Apple Notes lets you share individual notes and entire folders. Unlike Google Docs or Dropbox Paper, you won’t see realtime typing when someone else is editing a doc. However, everything syncs within minutes.

Keep in mind that Apple Notes is primarily an app for individual note-takers and small group collaborations. There are other apps available for note sharing that can help you to study more efficiently. 

With OneClass, you can access shared class notes and study guides that have been uploaded by paid notetakers. Using these high-quality class notes, you can catch up if you missed a class, get up to speed if you’re struggling with the material, and even free yourself from acting as a secretary during class.

Discover the class notes that are available for your school, and find out why 90 percent of OneClass users have improved by at least one letter grade.

image attribution: Insta_photos -



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