Notes syncing

Dear Lazyweb, how do I get my notes to sync on MacOS 10.7.1 and iOS 5?

Back on 10.6.8 and iOS 4, I was able to sync my notes among my iPhone, iPad and desktop by just plugging them in. I could edit the notes in Mail.app on my desktop, or on either mobile device, and as long as I didn't edit on two different devices without syncing between, everything was fine.

Apparently to do "over the air" syncing of notes, Apple demands that I set up an email account on me.com, which is stupid. (What, storing my notes is beyond the capabilities of iCloud?) So I'm trying to do normal, tethered syncing like before, and while it seems possible to sync between iPhone and iPad -- but maybe only if I plug them in to my Mac in the right order? -- it never syncs into or out of the notes-editor inside Mail.app.

Is this Apple's way of telling me, "We would prefer that you use some other note-taking application than the one we ship with both our operating systems?"

My note-taking needs are extremely simple -- I don't need reminders or checkboxes or searching or images or even multiple fonts. Just a couple of pages that I can type text on, and be able to edit it from my desktop or mobile devices.


Update: Ok, it's possible to store your notes on any IMAP server, but apparently Mail.app now gets confused if you have moved your IMAP notes out of your inbox and into another folder on that same IMAP server, and starts treating them as "On My Mac" notes even though they still appear to be "IMAP" notes. Or something.

This seemed to work:

  1. iPhone: Settings / Mail / Account / Notes [ On ]
  2. iPhone: Settings / Notes / Default Account [ your IMAP acct ]
  3. Mail.app: Select pseudo-folder REMINDERS / Notes / IMAP server.
  4. Mail.app: File / New Note, and re-create all of your old notes there, cutting-and-pasting the text.
  5. Don't move them, ever.

After that, all three of my devices seem to be syncing with each other with somewhere around 2 minute latency.

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19 Responses:

  1. Juri Pakaste says:

    I'm not quite answering your question because I never wanted my notes mixed up with my emails, but if I may point you at another option, Simplenote has been very good, simple and reliable for me. It works really well with Notational Velocity on Mac.

    • jwz says:

      I don't particularly want my notes mixed up with my emails, but that's just where it puts them. You can drag them to a folder and get them out of your Inbox, so it's just a weird quirk that this "Notes" folder is where you go to edit them. Doesn't matter to me one way or another.

    • Jeremy Wilson says:

      Another vote for Simplenote and Notational Velocity. I use them daily. I find the built-in utilities of OSX mostly broken and shitty.

      Sure would be awesome if NV allowed me to include images though, so I'd never have to use Evernote.

      • Jon Anhold says:

        +1 for Notational Velocity on the Mac, I use Elements on iOS (sync with Dropbox).

      • Catherine says:

        I always hate to be that "see, what you really ought to do is..." commenter, but I cannot agree enough with "I find the built-in utilities of OSX mostly broken and shitty.". Yes. This.

        (Go Simplenote and Notational Velocity.)

        • Different Jamie says:

          (ditto.)

          Although my choices are NVAlt and Nebulous. But you can't go wrong getting away from the Apple apps.

      • Elusis says:

        Not sure why you don't like Evernote - I have been using it about a year now and find it incredibly handy, particularly the fact that it auto-syncs to my iPhone. Damned useful for carrying around to-do lists, recipes to make elsewhere (even just to the kitchen), travel iteneraries and confirmation numbers, that sort of thing. I was coming in to make that suggestion, anyway.

        • Jeremy Wilson says:

          Evernote is a bit bloated in terms of features and the resources it uses. Notational Velocity is pure notes - type a title, press enter, start typing, auto saved. Works perfectly.

        • Jon Anhold says:

          Evernote is awesome as a place to dump "clippings" for later. I use it all the time to clip web pages, code snippets, pictures of whiteboards snapped on my phone and other things I might want to find again, but I find it horrid for "notes".

          Notational Velocity (specifically Brett's fork nvALT) is just so much better, especially when I can assign a global hotkey and have it pop up at will from anywhere.

          Syncing it with SimpleText (or Dropbox) so notes are available in iOS-app-du-jour makes it that much easier.

          So I use both, but for different things.

  2. David Glover says:

    Notes can sync with any IMAP account.

    Settings -> Mail -> Account -> Notes [ On ]

    And then:
    Settings -> Notes -> Default Account [ Account ]

    In the Notes app, press "Accounts" in the top left to see Notes from different sources.

    • Jon Konrath says:

      This. I use gmail for IMAP, but I've got it synced between two iOS5 devices and a 10.7.2 Mac,

      I don't know if it matters, but I shut off Notes in Settings > iCloud.

      And in Mail.app, if you shut off showing notes in your inbox, there's still a link to them in the shortcut bar below the main buttons.

    • This is a correct answer, but I found that I didn't want to fuck with my IMAP server enough to make that behave properly in Mutt.

      I opt to use Evernote instead. I like it. Not everyone does. (I've been told that it's "hard" to extract data out of it. Which, I mean, I guess XML is "hard" for some people?)

    • jwz says:

      Ok, I had already done that, but apparently Mail.app loses its mind in a new and exciting way if you've moved the notes around. Post updated. Thanks for the reminder about those settings, though...

  3. Olly says:

    When my notes weren't being synced, it was because the Default Account (in Settings → Notes on the iOS device) was set to On My iPod Touch, rather than the account I was using to sync them (GMail I think). No idea if this is your issue or it's something else entirely...

  4. DFB says:

    Ever since Connect IQ moved to the cloud, the enterprise keylogging accessibility keeps getting slowed down because the cloud doesn't have enough bandwidth for foreign intel agencies, so they had to take file synch out, sorry.

  5. Tape says:

    For at least a year, maybe more now, I've been using the app Plaintext for my notes, which auto-syncs to Dropbox whenever you close a note or the app.

    Notes.app languishes in my "useless Apple Apps" folder.

  6. Marco says:

    NoteMaster has a bit more luxury than the DropBox sync apps without the insanity of Everbloat. Syncs with Google Docs which is now a quite writing space, images, undo button, super-stable, passlock folders. Uhhhh also has a Terminal theme.

  7. LogEx says:

    I use a similar setup: Mac OS X 10.7.2 & iOS 5.0.1. My Notes are local-only on my Mac (in the Reminders section of Mail) as I do not want my personal data synced through email or through a cloud service. I use USB-wired (or occasionally wi-fi syncing) to sync between my Mac and iPhone or iPad. But I'm not seeing (or perhaps not understanding) the problem you are seeing.

    As a quick test, I just added a new note in the default Notes app on my iPhone, turned on wi-fi and performed wi-fi sync, and the new note appeared in desktop Mail. Then I turned off wi-fi, added a new note in desktop Mail, and did a USB-wired sync, and the new note appeared in the Notes app in my iPhone.

    Now, if we could only get iCal reminders to work with the Reminders iOS app...

  8. Chris D says:

    When I got my iPhone I didn't really want to fuck with anything, so I started using Evernote. Some people hate it, I don't know why, but I have all my notes on my iPhone, iPad, and desktop, no hassles, end of story. You can't edit rich text notes on iOS, but it doesn't sound like you care.