Should you be using Apple Notes as your second brain?
This is exactly what I’m going to answer in this article.
Let’s get started.
No More Boring “What’s a Second Brain?” Introductions
If you’re here, you know what building a second brain is and implies.
So let me skip the boring “what’s a second brain” introduction and jump straight into if yes or no, you should be considering using Apple Notes as your second brain.
✅ Why Use Apple Notes as a Second Brain?
For a simple reason: the low barrier of entry!
Apple Notes ships natively with all Apple devices.
It requires no installation, and you can start writing your first note in just 2 seconds.
Most people love Apple Notes because of one thing: its stupid simplicity.
It’s easy to use, fast, and writing feels good.
One of the little secrets to having a second brain that you actually use is those tiny kinesthetic elements.
You have to enjoy the app.
Personally, I have been using Evernote for a long time. But since the app was so slow and ugly, I gave up taking notes for years.
Advantages of Using Apple Notes as a Second Brain
Apple Notes has some dirty advantages that most note-taking apps can’t compete with. Let’s have a look at them
⚡ Lightning Capture
When picking up a note-taking app, one of the first things I’m always looking at is speed.
When you have an idea, you can’t afford to wait for endless seconds to capture it.
You want to dump it, and you want to dump it fast.
Taking notes should not be painfully slow.
Apple Notes allows you to capture notes quickly. May it be on your Mac or your phone.
And the good news?
You don’t need to go too geeky about it and don’t even need to use iOS Shortcuts.
Examples of quick capture:
• Swipe up from the bottom-right corner anytime, anywhere (iPad)
• Access Quick Notes with the 🌐 globe+Q keyboard shortcut anytime, anywhere. (iPad and macOS)
📎 Multiple Formats and Attachments
You can write your notes in rich text, and add attachments like PDFs or audio files.
You can use handwritten notes (that are searchable if your handwriting is not like mine!)
🔄 Blazing Fast Syncing
Apple sync is blazing fast. And if you’re like me, writing on multiple devices or want to get one piece of information from your mac onto your phone, Apple Notes gots your back.
With iOS 15, Apple introduced tagging and a bunch of other features to Apple Notes. Despite adding new features, unless other note-taking apps, Apple was able to keep their notes apps pretty simple, and fast.
🏷️ Price: The Cheapest Second Brain Out There?
While some second brain apps charge you up to $20 per month, Apple Notes are completely free.
Of course, if you add a lot of attachments that may clutter your iCloud account, you’ll have to upgrade and pay for cloud storage.
But at its core, if you’re mostly using text, you should be good to go and pay zilch.
🕹️ Simple Even With More Features
One of the major issues with other apps, is that the more feature the developers adds, the more cluttered it become. That’s not the case with Apple Notes. The recent additions of features (tags, folders, handwritten notes) do NOT clutter the user experience.
📂 Tags and Folders
Apple Notes support tags and folders to sort your notes.
CMD+Shift+N allows you to create a folder on Mac and iPad.
It also recognizes the hashtag # natively in your notes, which gives you the ability to sort your notes blazing fast on the go.
✍️ Optional Title
When you’re capturing notes, you don’t want necessarily give them a title. Unless other apps, you don’t need to title to any given note.
You can do this later on if you’d like.
🦹♂️ Get More Out of Your Notes With Shortcuts
Apple Shortcuts is a powerful app that allows you to create a customized workflow. Since Apple Notes and Apple Shortcuts are both created by Apple, they integrate in a breeze. You can try and play around with different type of shortcuts like
– Appending or creating a note directly within a folder or with tag by the tap of a single button
If you’re looking to have multiple people work on an apple note simultaneously, You can use @ mentions to tag someone.
You can also view changes easily with tracking and activity logs.
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✋ 4 strong limitations of using apple notes as your second brain
Beyond all the awesomeness I mentioned, there are still heavy limitations when it comes to using Apple Notes as a second brain.
🏄♂️ Accessing your second brain where you want
First, if you want the “native app” experience, you’re locked into Apple’s ecosystem. This means that you can not use your notes on Windows or Android within a “native app”. But, you can still access them using a browser (which is better than nothing.)
🧑🎨 Formatting Your Notes: Markdown on Apple Notes
Apple Notes works on rich text and does not support Markdown.
If you’re a content creator or a coder, you know how handy Markdown is. (In fact, I’m writing this post in Markdown). If you consider using Apple Notes as your second brain and write a lot… then you’ll have to go back to the old-school way of creating headers or quotes. Select, click and choose from the drop-down menu.
Or you can use some of these shortcuts:
• CMD+Shift+H for headlines
• CMD+Shift+9 for numbered lists
Personally, I hate working with rich text because the formatting always gets messy from one app or interface to another. I like working with plain text and Markdown only to ensure 100% compatibility of my work.
🎒 Bulk Exporting Your Notes & Backup
Third drawback: Apple Notes does not have a native bulk export function.
True, you can export every note separately as a pdf or a text file, but you can not bulk export them directly from the app. So if you’re looking to build your second brain, you’re going to amass thousands of notes in the next years. Do you see yourself going through each individual note and saving it manually?
While there is a way to bulk export your notes via the web interface, you’ll end up with one note within a specific folder that you’ll still need to sort later on (or build a script that does this for you.)
By default, if you delete your notes permanently, there gone. There will be no history.
So if you want to be on the safe side, you have to back up your notes manually, often enough to not be smashing your head against the wall in case you make a mistake.
🔗 How to Link Your Notes With Apple Notes
Linking is a more advanced way of taking notes.
It goes all back to the Zettelkasten Method.
I won’t go deeper into this right here (you can take my free course below that will show you how), but the truth is: you can link between notes in Apple Notes, but it’s a PITA.
Here’s how to link notes in Apple Notes:
As an example you could share a note and then copying the link and posting in other notes. This method is not the best because it’s make the linking process tedious and dependent on an internet connection.
Not to mention that there’s no graph view or something else that shows you the relationship and the connection between notes.
This, is for me, one of the the biggest dealbreakers.
🤔 Using Apple Notes as Your Second Brain: The Conclusion
I’m a strong believer that there is no one size fits all solution to creating your second brain and PKM system.
Thus, I won’t say that Building Your Second Brain On Apple Notes is a good or a bad choice.
Apple Notes is a good enough solution if you’re into standard note-taking. But if you’re looking into taking notes in a more robust way, I would encourage you explore other paths.
Especially if you want to build a second brain as a content creator. There are a myriad of other second brain apps out there that are better suited.
While tools are important, what’s even more important is how you take notes.
If you’d like to level up your note-taking skills, feel free to check out my 7-day email course “How to take better notes” below.