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  1. Computer Skills
  2. El Capitan
Computers

How to Make Use of Notes in OS X El Capitan

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Difficulty:BeginnerLength:MediumLanguages:

Apple Notes application comes pre-installed on Apple's Mac and iOS devices. 

On Mac, it has been bundled with OS X since 10.8 Mountain Lion. It functions as a service for making short text notes which can be synchronised, between devices, using iCloud service. Until 2013, both OS X and iOS applications shared a common skeuomorphic interface. 

The skeuomorphic design was completely stripped from the interface in OS X 10.9 Mavericks. With the launch of OS X 10.10 Yosemite, Apple completely re-designed the interface to make it look more modern.

In spite of this visual makeover, the feature set of the Notes application was quite limited. Things changed with the launch of OS X El Capitan. 

The new version lands somewhere in between a heavier note-taking suite like OneNote or Evernote and the spartan simplicity of the old version. It uses iCloud Drive for storage and syncing, which is faster and more reliable than the IMAP-based method of syncing notes.

In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to use Notes application to

  • Keep travel related information organised
  • Keep recipe related information organised
  • Search notes, photos, videos, links, and more easily

Plan Travel With Notes

With so many places to go and things to do, tracking everything can be overwhelming unless you organise and plan your holiday in advance. Notes application can help you do the research and create comparison notes to help you decide where you want to go. 

You can clip pages that tell you the opening times for theme parks, hotels, restaurants, or anywhere else you might want to go. 

You can add all your travel plans for airplanes, trains, and automobiles, with tickets of reservations and restaurant reviews for good measure.

Click the New Folder button on the lower left of the folders list, or use Shift-Command-N and enter a name for the folder. Then create a new note for each segment of your trip. To create a new note, click the New Note button on the toolbar or press Command-N

When you create a new note, it will go into the folder you’ve selected, if any, otherwise it will go in the default Notes section. As of now you can only create a flat list of folders, with no option for creating sub-folders.

create-new-folder-in-notes-application
You can create any number of folders in Notes application but as of now you cannot create sub-folders within main folders

If you don’t choose to create new folders anymore, click View > Hide Folders from the toolbar to hide the folders column. After you create a new note, a blank page appears on the notepad. In the middle of the page is the time and date. What you type into the very first line at the top of the notepad becomes that note’s name. 

The new Notes application can now start with a proper Title section. Click the Format menu and choose New notes start with to set the default option. You can also select any text and change it quickly to either a

  • Title—Press Command-Shift-T to create a title
  • Heading—Press Command-Shift-H to create a heading
  • Body—Press Command-Shift-B to create a body text
set-title-to-notes-application
This is a new feature in notes application. Whenever you start a new note it will always begin with a Title

Choreographing all you want to get done in a single trip, can be a massive challenge. You can make it easier by creating a checklist of everything you want to see or do, and arrange them according to the priority. The new Notes lets you easily make a checklist.

Click the Format menu and select Checklist option, or alternatively choose the Checklist button from the Notes toolbar. 

If you are making multiple checklist, then select Command-Shift-L to make a new checklist anywhere within a note, or by highlighting existing text which converts that into a checklist. Press the circle to mark, or unmark, the item as checked.

create-checklist-in-notes-application
This is also a new feature in Notes application. A relatively simple feature can let you accomplish many things. Use checklist wisely 

While a checklist can certainly help you in setting up the priorities, you may have to create extra notes for things such as—how long an activity will take, how long it will take to get the destination, festival events, opening and closing hours, and more. 

Select text style button, shown as Aa, from the Notes toolbar and choose any one from the old style bulleted, numbered, or dashed list. 

All the old formatting options are still available and work as expected, such as Command-B to make bold text, or Command-I to switch to italics. There’s still a font browser, Command-T, that lets you choose various fonts and set their type and size.

When it comes to making hotel reservations, there are certain things you need to know in order to make the whole process run more smoothly. After all, you want your reservation to be done correctly, and you don’t want to spend more money than you need to. 

Before you go to make a hotel reservation, do your research ahead of the time—compare hotels online, make a checklist of hotel and their room rates, make a note of check-in and check-out times, make a note of location, attach necessary documents, phone number and distance from the airport or railway station. A link to blog posts and guidebook at the end of notes will be also helpful.

Notes in OS X El Capitan is integrated into the system-wide share sheet menu. You can send a link to URL to a note straight from Safari, or a location from within Apple Maps.

Choose Notes from the Share menu within Maps. In the popover menu that appears, add some additional text and choose whether you want to create a new note or add to an existing one. 

The item you insert shows up as an outlined box containing some information and a thumbnail image. Double-click the link from your note, and you’ll be redirected to Maps. You can also use Spacebar to preview the map directly within notes.

embed-maps-into-notes-application
Now you can directly embed maps into notes application. Don't forget to hit the save button

The process to add a link is exactly the same as adding a map from Apple Maps.

Choose Notes from the Share menu within Safari. In the popover menu that appears, add some additional text and choose whether you want to create a new note or add to an existing one. 

The item you insert shows up as an outlined box containing some information and a thumbnail image. Double-click the link from your note, and you’ll be redirected to Safari. You can also use Spacebar to preview the map directly within notes.

embed-link-into-notes-application
Now you can embed links directly into notes application. Simple to use and retrieve

It is also possible just to drag any item from the Finder into the note, where it will appear inline. In the screenshot below, I’ve added a PDF file just by dragging in. Add a note to the document and allow it to sync with your iOS device. 

If your tickets are stored in the Mail Application then right-click the attachment, choose Share and select Notes. In the popover menu that appears, add some additional text and choose whether you want to create a new note or add to an existing one.

embed-documents-into-notes-application
You can actually see the live preview of document in notes application. This was a major feature improvement

Collecting Recipes With Notes

Anyone who likes to cook will have a drawer full of recipes scribbled down on scraps of paper. Notes application can help you to manage scribbled notes, cooking tips, and their methods easily. It can collate your most precious recipes into your own recipe book, just print your notes as a PDF document and bind them into a book. 

Your recipe require three main important things—photos, checklist of ingredients, and detailed instructions. A link to blog posts at the end of notes might be helpful too.

To insert a photo, click the Photos Browser from the Window menu. The button opens a small window from which you can drag an image or a video directly into a note. Video and audio files play right from where they are embedded in your note.

add-photo-and-video-into-notes-application
Adding photos and videos to notes application is really easy. The best part os you can play the video and audio file. 

To add a checklist, click the Format menu and select Checklist option, or alternatively choose checklist button from the Notes toolbar. If you are making multiple checklist, then select Command-Shift-L to make a new checklist anywhere within a note, or by highlighting existing text which converts that into a checklist. 

Write the detail instructions and format them as bulleted or numbered list. Choose the numbered list if the order of the recipe needs to follow a specific sequence.

At the last you can embed link to blog posts for additional tips and methods for that recipe. Choose Notes from the Share menu within Safari. In the popover menu that appears, add some additional text and choose whether you want to create a new note or add to an existing one.

Search Notes Easily

Notes lets you perform a simple full-text search easily though there are no filters available. It will return all notes that matches your search term. There is a problem with this kind of search. 

It might happen that you don’t remember its name, this might prevent you from finding it in search. There’s a great way to view all these various types of documents in a simple tabular list—Photos and Videos, Sketches, Map Locations, Websites, Audio, and Documents.

Click the Browse Attachments button, and as you choose different tabs it switches to a separate view with sections for each of the document type. If you right-click any item in the list, there are several more options presented. For example, you can open the attachment, quick look, copy it, save, share, or just go to the note.

browse-attachment-in-notes-application
This is a new feature in notes application. It lets you browse your attachment from single place. Huge time saver if you have many notes

Conclusion

With the latest version of OS X, Apple has thankfully brought Notes up-to-date and added features that were sorely needed. While it’s not perhaps quite as full-featured as some of the third party applications such as Evernote and OneNote, they are quite complicated to use and you may have to give extra time to learn the application to get your work done.

In this tutorial, I have shown you how you can use Notes to plan your holiday, keep your recipe information organised, and locate information when in need. 

The tutorial demonstrated the capabilities of this application, through some case examples. I hope you’ve found the tutorial useful. If you have any problems with the step or tutorial, be sure to let me know in the comments below.

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