4 features in Notes for iOS 11 that take note-taking to the next level

Learn how to take advantage of impressive new features in the Notes app in iOS 11. The features include document scanning, instant notes, improved formatting options, and more.

Video: Install Apple's iOS 11 beta on iPad and iPhone

When iOS 9 was released, the Notes app was revamped and added a huge list of new features, making it a compelling alternative to popular third-party note-taking apps such as Evernote. Notes has remained largely untouched since then, adding Apple Pencil support with the iPad Pro. However, iOS 11, takes Notes to a totally new level.

Notes for iOS 11 offers a lot of new features, including users have more control over their formatting; they can scan in documents from the camera; and they have the ability to make in-line drawings with the Apple Pencil.

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We'll delve into some of what's new with Notes for iOS 11, and present step-by-step instructions on how to take advantage of these features.

Cory Bohon / TechRepublic

1: Instant notes

Taking advantage of the Apple Pencil support, the iPad now features the ability to instantly start taking a note simply by waking your iPad, and then tapping the Apple Pencil to the lock screen. This action will automatically open a new note in drawing mode and will save the completed note when you're done.

This is a great feature when you're taking notes or doing a drawing with the Apple Pencil inside of the Notes app.

SEE: The Complete iOS 11 Developer Course (TechRepublic Academy)

2: Document scanner

One of the most significant features added to the new Notes app is the ability to capture a "scan" of a document using the camera on the iOS device. This feature works surprisingly well and is far more advanced than most third-party document scanning apps.

To use the document scanning features in the new Notes app, follow these steps.

  1. Create or open an existing note.
  2. In the toolbar above the keyboard (or if the keyboard is not visible, at the bottom of the new or existing note), you'll see a plus sign (+) inside of a circle. Tap the plus sign.
  3. In the sheet that appears, select Scan Documents (Figure A).

Figure A


Scan Documents has been added to the capture sheet, along with Take Photo Or Video, Photo Library import, and the Add Sketch options.

By default, you're entered into Auto mode (you can tap Auto at the top of the screen to move to Manual and vice versa). In Auto mode, holding the device above a piece of paper you wish to scan will automatically snap a photo of the paper when the scanner determines it has a good enough photo (Figure B). With Manual mode, you'll have to manually tap the shutter button to capture the photo.

Figure B


The capture tool is how you will scan documents. It's really hard to scan and capture a screenshot without getting a blurry screenshot.

The capture editor will try to correct for off-angle photos and will attempt to determine the paper's edges; if the edges cannot be determined, you will be prompted to drag a box around the edges.

You can capture as many images as you wish, and it will be stitched together into the same PDF document, which can easily be shared via email or using the collaborative note-editing feature.

After tapping Save in the bottom toolbar of the capture editor, you will be returned to the note with the captures saved. Tapping on the capture will open an editor that lets you apply various filters and corrections to the scanned document (Figure C).

Figure C


After you capture the scanned documents, you can easily crop, rotate, apply filters, and even add more pages to the document by tapping on the document inside of the note.

3: Improved formatting options

Last year, Notes added a feature that allowed users to add drawings to notes, but they weren't previewed in line as you might expect--that changed with this new release of the Notes app. Now when you create a new drawing, the drawing will appear in line with the text (Figure D).

Figure D


Dragging on the line separating the drawing from the other note items will increase or decrease the spacing between the drawing and the text or other note elements.

There are also many new formatting options. When entering text, the toolbar above the keyboard will display a Table button that allows you to insert a table into the note's body, which is great for entering small bits of tabular data. For advanced calculations, you still need to use Numbers or Excel.

Tapping on the text formatting button ("Aa") will present you with many new formatting options as well: There's new options for the Monospaced paragraph style, the ability to do Underline or Strikethrough formatting, and the ability to increase or decrease the indention (Figure E).

Figure E


The new formatting options are easily accessible from the text formatting button in the toolbar atop the keyboard or at the bottom of the note entry screen.

4: Note pinning

Notes can now be pinned to the top of the Notes list. This feature is great for a note that needs to be accessed frequently, such as instructions, a list of phone numbers, or a shopping list.

To pin a note in the Notes listing, swipe on the note title from left to right, and continue swiping or tap on the pin icon. This will create a new section in the notes listing for Pinned Notes, and the swiped note and any future notes will appear in this section.

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By Cory Bohon

Cory Bohon is an indie developer specializing in iOS and OS X development. He runs a software company called Cocoa App and is also a developer at MartianCraft. He was introduced to technology at an early age and has been writing about his favorite te...