Understanding Note Types

When you create the Notes app on a Mac or iOS device, you can usually use advanced features like tables, checklists, font styles and images. But sometimes you may notice that you can't use any of these features. This is because the Notes app lets you access notes on various services, like iCloud and Google. Those advanced features are only available on iCloud notes. If you are also using Google to store notes, then any notes you create on Google's service won't allow those options.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Understanding Note Types.

If you use the Notes app you may run into a situation like this. You got a note and you decide you want to use one of the nice advanced features you've heard about in Notes. Like the ability to add a checklist, change the font, put tables, and even lock the note. But you see those options are grayed out here. You can't do it. What is wrong? Why won't Notes let you use these features?

Well, the reason is because there are different types of notes. You see Notes are stored on a cloud account. So you can have your Notes stored in iCloud but you can also have your Notes stored in a different cloud service. Several cloud services offer Notes including Goggle. So in this case this note is actually a note saved in Goggle's cloud service and doesn't have these options. They are only available for the iCloud stored Notes.

So how do you know? Well here you only see the list of notes on the left. But if I go to View, Show Folders, and you may already have this turned on, you'll see the folders here on the left. The folders are organized as a few folders here under iCloud including All iCloud showing all my iCloud notes. Then you can see, sure enough, I do have another account here, a Goggle account, and I've got two folders there under Goggle and an All Goggle selection I can do as well. This note, you can see here, is stored in Goggle which is why those things are not available.

If I were to go to iCloud and say go to a new note here you can see all this stuff is available here. I can do a checklist. I can do a table. I can select some text and change the style. I can lock it. Everything. It's all available on iCloud. As you can imagine iCloud is very compatible with the Notes app on your Mac and also on iOS because, of course, they're both created by Apple so they're going to make them very compatible between them.

But Goggle is a separate company and basically it's nice that the Notes app allows you to add Goggle as an account here. But you can only use the features supported by Goggle which means that this note doesn't have all those special iCloud features.

If you go to Notes and Accounts it actually takes you to System Preferences and it jumps right to Internet Accounts there. I can see there I've got my iCloud account and I have Notes selected as one of the options. In my Goggle account you can see I've got Notes selected as one of the options there. In fact it's the only one I'm using in this test account here. That's why I have both of those showing up as accounts in Notes.

You can also go to Notes, Preferences and here you can set a default account. So if you have it set to something that's not iCloud then you're going to be running into this problem a lot. So set it to the default account iCloud so the new notes are created using iCloud and you have all those features.

You can also enable the On My Mac account. When you do that it looks like you have another account here but this one is different because it's the opposite of the iCloud account. These notes are only stored on this one machine. So they won't sync to all your other devices. If you create a new note here notice all these features are available. So you can still use these if you've got the note to just be stored locally on your Mac then it allows it. You can use them if they're iCloud notes. But you can't use them with other cloud services. This may change in the future but right now this is a problem that a lot of people run into and I see a lot of questions why can't I use all these things here. That's almost certainly because that note is being stored in a place other than iCloud or On My Mac.

Comments: 5 Responses to “Understanding Note Types”

    Richard Fuhr
    1 month ago

    Can Notes users move Notes from the Google folder to the iCloud folder?

    1 month ago

    Richard: Yes. Try it. You can just drag and drop the Google note in the second column to the Notes folder under iCloud in the first column. If you try to do the opposite and drag an iCloud note to Google you get a warning if you are using special iCloud-only features.

    1 month ago

    Thanks for the heads up! Nw I know.

    4 weeks ago

    It would seem that there is no way to strike through or highlight items in notes: I use a note to keep a running list of books I want to read, and I want to indicate that I have read them, and if so, whether I liked them. So far, all I can use is an asterisk. Any thoughts?

    4 weeks ago

    Carol: Using iCloud notes, at least, you can. Select the text, choose Format, Font, Strikethough. You can do it on iOS by selecting the text, then choosing the B/I/U button on the context menu, then Strikethrough.

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