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If You Keep Valuable Information in Apple Notes, You Need to Read This « iOS & iPhone :: Gadget Hacks



Apple’s Notes app has an important feature many users overlook, yet it’s arguably the most crucial thing you should use for all your notes synced across iOS, iPadOS, macOS, and iCloud.com. And Apple’s latest updates make it much easier to use than before, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t be using it.

How Apple Protects Your Notes

If you sync the Notes app with iCloud, all your notes are protected behind your devices’ passcodes and passwords, and you can unlock your devices much faster using Face ID or Touch ID. When you access them from iCloud.com, you need your Apple ID password to see them. Pretty secure, right?

Apple’s iOS 16.2, iPadOS 16.2, and macOS Ventura 13.1 updates let you add even more security with Advanced Data Protection for iCloud. With it enabled, all your notes are protected with end-to-end encryption over iCloud, and you can only access your notes on your trusted devices. You can even disable notes access on iCloud.com for more extreme protection, but it’s not required.

Why You Should Add Even More Protection

Even with all that security, people may be able to access your notes. For example, if you’re working on your Mac and have your notes visible, anyone nearby can browse them if you step away for a minute without exiting to the Lock Screen. This could happen at work, school, or even your own home. While it’s less likely that you’ll leave your iPhone lying around, your iPad may be a different story.

To protect your notes in those instances, you should consider locking the Notes app down. While you can technically lock the entire app itself, it’s better to lock every single note behind a password and Face ID or Touch ID if you plan on syncing notes across your iCloud-connected devices.

Password-protecting notes and optional Touch ID unlocking have been available since iOS 9.3 and Mac OS X El Capitan 10.11.4, with Face ID support coming later. If you want the utmost security, you could even choose a different password per note instead of one for all. But either of these makes the possibility of locking yourself out of your own notes much higher unless you have a secure way to record them.

Apple’s iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura 13 make protected notes easier to use by letting you lock your notes behind your device passcode or password instead of a Notes-specific one. If you use a strong password for your devices, they’ll be almost impossible to hack.

Jump to a Section

1. How to Use Your iPhone or iPad Passcode to Lock Notes

Whether or not you’re already using Notes-specific passwords for your iCloud, On My iPhone, or On My iPad accounts, go to Settings –> Notes –> Password on your iPhone or iPad, then choose your iCloud or on-device account.

Option 1: Switching from Notes-Specific Passwords

If you’re already using Notes-specific passwords, you can switch to the new device passcode option. Select “Use Device Passcode,” then enter your current Notes password. You might be prompted to use Face ID or Touch ID instead if enabled. Next, hit “OK” and type in your device’s passcode.

If it’s your iCloud account, you may see a warning that some of your devices won’t be able to see locked notes if they’re not running at least iOS 16, iPadOS 16, or macOS 13. Hit “Continue” if that’s OK with you.

Tap “OK” when it says you’ve updated to your device passcode. To add more convenience to note-unlocking, toggle on the “Use Face ID” or “Use Touch ID” switch if not on already, then enter your device passcode again to confirm.

Option 2: Using Passcode Protection for the First Time

If you’ve never locked a note on your iPhone or iPad, you may see a page about the new feature. If so, tap “Use iPhone Passcode” and enter your device passcode. You can then enable “Use Face ID” or “Use Touch ID” (you’ll need to enter your passcode again) if you want to access notes more easily.

At some point, you may see a warning that some of your devices won’t be able to see locked notes if they’re not running at least iOS 16, iPadOS 16, or macOS 13. Hit “Continue” if that’s OK with you. You won’t see this warning if you’re protecting On My iPhone or On My iPad notes.

Alternatively, you can skip the Settings menu and go straight to a note. Long-press it from a folder view or tap the ellipsis (•••) in the note itself, then tap “Lock Note” or “Lock.” You should see a page about the new feature; Tap “Use iPhone Passcode” on it.

Then, enter your device passcode. After that, it will ask if you want to enable biometrics; Tap “Use Face ID” or “Use Touch ID,” then hit “OK” on the permissions prompt.

You’ll see a quick message about how to close all your locked notes at once. Tap “OK,” and you’ll go back to the folder or note view you were on before with the note unlocked.

2. How to Lock and Unlock Notes on Your iPhone or iPad

To lock notes on your iPhone or iPad, you could long-press one from a folder view or tap the ellipsis (•••) in the note itself, then tap “Lock Note” or “Lock.” You may have to use biometrics or your device passcode to confirm.

You can’t lock multiple notes simultaneously, so it’s one by one for now. And you can’t lock notes with collaborators, notes in third-party accounts, Quick Notes, or notes with PDFs, audio, video, Keynote, Pages, or Numbers documents attached.

To open notes when locked, simply open a note, choose “View Note,” then authenticate with Face ID, Touch ID, or your device’s passcode. Unlocking one note unlocks all notes assigned to your device passcode. However, there still may be some notes that use unique passwords if you locked notes previously using more than one password, and those will stay locked until you open them up manually. You can then switch them to your device passcode if asked.

Note that you can access your locked notes from any device using the device passcodes or login passwords for each. If you can access notes on iCloud.com, you would use your Apple ID password.

To lock all protected notes in the app, you could tap the unlocked icon in an opened note, tap “Lock Now” in the toolbar at the bottom of a folder view, press your Side or Top button to lock your iPhone or iPad, lock your iPhone using a shortcut via Back Tap if you set one up, or force-close Notes. If you have different notes unlocked that use different passcodes or passwords, all of them will be locked.

3. How to Use Your Mac Login to Lock Notes

Whether or not you’re already using Notes-specific passwords for your iCloud or On My Mac accounts, open Notes and go to Notes –> Settings in the menu bar, then find the “Locked notes” section. If On My Mac is enabled, use the top drop-down in the area to pick between your iCloud and On My Mac account.

Option 1: Switching from Notes-Specific Passwords

If you’re already using Notes-specific passwords, you can switch to the new device login password option. Click “Use Custom Password” in the drop-down menu, select “Use Login Password,” then enter your current Notes password. You might be prompted to use Touch ID instead if it was enabled. Hit “OK,” type in your Mac’s login password, and hit “OK.”

If it’s your iCloud account, you may see a warning that some of your devices won’t be able to see locked notes if they’re not running at least iOS 16, iPadOS 16, or macOS 13. Hit “Continue” if that’s OK with you.

You’ll see a note about how to close all your locked notes at once and that it will do it automatically after a period of inactivity. Tap “OK,” then tap “OK” again when it says you’ve updated to using your device login. To add convenience to note-unlocking, check “Use Touch ID” if not on already checked, then enter your login password again to confirm.

Option 2: Using Password Protection for the First Time

If you’ve never locked a note on your Mac, click “Set Password.” You’ll see a page about the new feature; Tap “Use Login Password” and enter your Mac’s login password. Touch ID may be automatically enabled, but if not, check the box next to “Use Touch ID” and confirm with your login password.

At some point, you may see a warning that some of your devices won’t be able to see locked notes if they’re not running at least iOS 16, iPadOS 16, or macOS 13. Hit “Continue” if that’s OK with you. You won’t see this warning if you’re protecting On My Mac notes.

Alternatively, you can skip the Settings menu and go straight to a note. Right-click it from a folder view or open the note and click the lock icon in the toolbar, then choose “Lock Note.”

You should see a page about the new feature; Click on “Use Login Password.”

Then, enter your Mac’s login password and hit “OK.”

After that, it will ask if you want to enable biometrics (unless your Mac doesn’t have it); Click “Enable Touch ID.” You may have to give Notes permission to use Touch ID.

4. How to Lock and Unlock Notes on Your Mac

To lock notes on your Mac, you could right-click one from a folder view, open a note and click the lock icon in the toolbar, or open a note and click “File” in the menu bar. Either way, choose “Lock Note.” You may have to use biometrics or your login password to confirm.

You can’t lock multiple notes simultaneously, so it’s one by one for now. And you can’t lock notes with collaborators, notes in third-party accounts, Quick Notes, or notes with PDFs, audio, video, Keynote, Pages, or Numbers documents attached.

To open notes when locked, simply open a note, then enter your Mac’s login password or use Touch ID. Unlocking one note unlocks all notes assigned to your device passcode. However, there still may be some notes that use unique passwords if you locked notes previously using more than one password, and those will stay locked until you open them up manually. You can then switch them to your device passcode if asked.

Note that you can access your locked notes from any device using the device passcodes or login passwords for each. If you can access notes on iCloud.com, you would use your Apple ID password.

To lock all protected notes in the app, you could click the unlocked icon in an opened note and then “Close All Locked Notes,” go to “Notes” in the menu bar and click “Close All Locked Notes,” or lock your Mac. If you have different notes unlocked that use different passcodes or passwords, all of them will be locked.




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Cover photo and screenshots by Justin Meyers/Gadget Hacks



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