A note in Apple Notes with formatting on iPhone
Khamosh Pathak / How-To Geek

Apple Notes is the fastest way to capture thoughts and take notes on the iPhone, iPad, and Mac. But you can do more than just taking plain text notes. Here’s how to format and organize your notes on your phone, tablet, or computer.

How to Format Apple Notes on iPhone and iPad

When you start a new note in Apple Notes, the app converts the first line into the title of the note You can change this by going to opening the Settings app > Notes > New Notes Starts With. The rest of the note is just plain text.

RELATED: How to Quickly Create a Note on iPhone or iPad

If you’re using Apple Notes to take class notes or for research purposes, you can use formatting tools like headings, lists, indentations, and more. It’s just that these features aren’t exactly obvious for a new user.

After opening a new note, tap on the screen to bring up the keyboard. Here, tap on the “Aa” button right above the keyboard. This is where all the text formatting tools live.

Tap on the Format button in Notes app

The keyboard will be replaced by a new formatting toolbar that’s split into three rows.

Formatting toolbar in Notes app

From the first row, you can switch the text to Title, Heading, Subheading, Body, and Monospaced. Monospaced is a new font style (the only other font available in Notes app).

Text styles in Notes app

From the middle row, you can manipulate selected text using the Bold, Italics, Underline, or Strikethrough formats.

Text formatting in Notes app

The last row is split into two sections. The left section has three different bullet styles (dashes, numbered, and circles). From the right section, you can indent or outdent selected text.

Lists in Notes app

The checklist feature is separate from the formatting toolbar. To add a checklist, tap on the Checklist icon from the toolbar above the keyboard (right next to the “Aa” button).

Now, you can simply start writing your checklist. Hit the Enter key to add a new line. To stop the checklist, just press the Enter key on an empty line.

Checklist in Notes app

To start a simple list, all you have to do is type the “-” symbol and then start typing to create a dashed list. Press Enter to add another entry. To create a numbered list start by typing “1.” and then write the first entry on the list.

How to Format Apple Notes on Mac

Formatting notes on your Mac is even easier, and the styling is the same as the Notes app on the iPhone and iPad. As long as you’re using the same Apple ID account on all devices and you’ve enabled iCloud sync for Notes, you’ll find all your iPhone and iPad notes on your Mac.

Launch the “Notes” app on your Mac, and select a note from the sidebar. You’ll find the “Aa” formatting button right in the top toolbar. The Notes Mac app also has great support for keyboard shortcuts (we’ll talk about them in the next section).

To format some text, select it and then click on the “Aa” button.

Formatting options in Notes app for Mac

From here, you can select the following options: Title, Heading, Subheading, Body, Monpspaced, Bulleted List, Dashed List, and Numbered List. The Notes app on the Mac formats the first line as title text automatically, to change this, go to Preferences > Notes Start With.

Just like the iPhone and iPad, you can start a dashed list with the “-” symbol and a numbered list by typing “1.” before the first entry.

To create a checklist, click on the “Checklist” icon from the toolbar. To end the checklist, press the Enter key on the last empty checklist line.

Checklist option for Notes app for Mac

On the Mac, you can even increase and decrease the font size of the selected text using the Command+(+) and Command+(-) keyboard shortcuts.

Formatting Shortcuts for iPad and Mac

If you’re using the Notes app on your iPad with an external keyboard or if you’re using a Mac, formatting notes becomes much faster with the help of keyboard shortcut:

  • Title: Shift+Command+T
  • Heading: Shift+Command+H
  • Subheading: Shift+Command+J
  • Body: Shift+Command+B
  • Monospaced: Shift+Command+M
  • Checklist: Shift+Command+L
  • Mark as Checked: Shift+Command+U
  • Bold: Command+B
  • Underline: Command+U
  • Italic: Command+I
  • Indent: Command+[
  • Outdent: Command+]

Do you store private information in Apple Notes? Lock it down!

RELATED: How to Lock Apple Notes on Your iPhone, iPad, and Mac

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Khamosh Pathak is a freelance technology writer who specializes in tutorials. His work has also been published on Lifehacker, iPhoneHacks, Zapier's blog, MakeUseOf, and Guiding Tech. Khamosh has nearly a decade of experience writing how-tos, features and technology guides on the internet.
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