I have a hate-love-hate-hate relationship with Notes. I love that Notes is built into both iOS and OS X and that it automatically syncs between devices and my home computer. I hate that individual notes constantly clone themselves into a dozen nearly identical versions of the same information. Apple does a terrible job in resolving conflicted edits. It also has a nasty tendency to entirely lose stuff. Life lesson learned: If it’s important, email it, don’t note it.

If I dislike the app so much, you might ask, why do I keep using it? There are plenty of third party alternatives on the market, several of which integrate with Dropbox, my cloud-of-preference. So why Notes?

The answer is simple. Notes integrates beautifully with Siri. I’m constantly using Siri to save a quick thought here or there. It’s ridiculous how much I love Siri and how little I like Notes.

If Siri supported third party cross-platform note apps, I’d have ditched Notes a long time since. But since I haven’t, I’ve created a body of how-to and workarounds for Notes. Here are some things I’ve learned along the way.

  • You control Notes sync from System Preferences > iCloud. There’s a check box there for enabling and disabling iCloud.
  • Your notes are stored in ~/Library/Containers/ in an SQL-based storedata file. You can “view” them using sqlite3 or an SQL browser.  Notes are not normally backed up to Time Machine.
  • WriteApp’s Notes Exporter (freeware) lets you manually back up notes into plain text format. WriteApp develops the Write editor for OS X and iOS. Works great.
  • If you’d rather not lose formatting to text conversion, Pedro Matiello offers an open-source “notes-export” repo that uses AppleScript to export HTML files. Also works great.

Between these, I’ve been able to create a system that allows me to control, store, and back-up my notes outside of Apple’s flawed management. It’s not ideal but it works. Have alternatives? Let me know.

Tip: When using Siri to take notes, you can dictate a little at a time using the add command to keep adding new thoughts to the note you’re creating.


  • Perhaps, you could use Evernote as a core utility, then create automator scripts to move your temporary notes from Notes?

  • Does Notes store its data using CoreData? (my guess is yes, as Apple likes to say at least that it eats it’s own dog-food (comments about the (un-)usability of xCode might suggesting otherwise)).

    If so, since CoreData and iCloud are said to have notorious problems, for things other than whole-file sync. Could that be the problem?

    Where/are they at now in fixing (trying to fix) these problems (or is Apple being its usual legendary secretive self)?

  • Why doesn’t Apple publish a “Siri integration API” or something (perhaps integrating it whatever kind of “Apple Watch Notification” system there is, to let DropBox (or an enterprising open-source person) write it for them? Yeah, Apple *wants* us all to be using iCloud – but given that Apple isn’t charging us for iCloud (yet..), would it really hurt them so much to publish such an API?

    Of course, maybe Apple gets something by data-mining the content of your notes to figure out what kind of coffee you happen to like, and your Apple Pay account to figure out where you shop, and then sending you appropriate coffee coupons, specific to that store. But given what Apple *has* said regarding respecting privacy – and how utterly *useless* such data would probably be (“that’s what the NSA has now – billions of bits of Twitter nonsense”), I doubt that.

    (note: I’m only more or less starting my OS X programming hobby (as opposed to ancient OS 8) programming career with Swift, and haven’t actually looked at an actual i- (ehrm – “Apple”) Watch, WatchKit, or any other APIs for that matter.

    Close Siri integration with DropBox would be seem a very good selling point too. Maybe Apple could just *buy* DropBox. But then they’d probably just screw it up somehow. (Simplify it down to utter nonsense, or try to integrate it with CoreData and fail until version 6)