By Dan Moren
January 14, 2021 12:18 PM PT
Export your Apple Notes in bulk
I’m an avid user of Apple’s Notes app: it’s where I keep all my random jottings, from ideas for books to thoughts for podcasts I’m recording, and pretty much everything in between. In general, I’m pretty happy with the built-in iCloud syncing that makes sure those notes are available on all my devices in short order, but what if you want to take those notes out of Notes, either to share them with somebody who’s not on iOS, or perhaps to back them up.
Turn out, it’s surprisingly tricky. Yes, you can sort of export a single note using the Share button—though it doesn’t really save it to a file—or, if you’re on a Mac, you can export one as a PDF.1 But if you want to export a bunch of notes as individual files, seems like you’re out of luck!
But there’s a loophole, and it comes courtesy savvy Six Colors reader Ken, who reports that he discovered a way to bulk export your Notes into text files, and all it takes is an iPad and some digital—the finger kind, not the ones and zeroes kind—acumen.
First up, you’ll want to arrange your iPad in Split Screen mode with Notes on one side and the Files app on the other. Make sure that your Files app is viewing iCloud Drive.
Tap the Edit button to select the notes that you want to export.
Now for the magic: using iPad OS’s drag and drop feature, tap and hold on the notes until you see them gathered in a “bundle.”
Drag the bundle over to the Files app until you see the + sign appear on the bundle. Then release.
Your notes will be automatically converted to rich text (RTFD) files inside iCloud Drive, which not only preserves the formatting, but also includes attachments. So, for example, if you’ve drawn something using Notes’s sketching tools, or dropped in an image for a web, or even taken a photo using Notes, they’ll be included in the exported file. (Though, in a test, a document I scanned didn’t make the trip, and embedded images were displayed in the RTFD document at 100 percent, making them a little unwieldy.) Original tipster Ken also notes that this may not work correctly with external file providers, such as Dropbox or Google Drive; I confirmed that in my tests.
As far as I can tell, this feature isn’t available on any other Apple device: the iPhone doesn’t support drag-and-drop, and on the Mac side, you can’t really drag multiple notes. If anything, this seems like more of a side effect of the drag-and-drop feature that Apple added to iPadOS than a concerted effort to build an export option into Notes.
Hence why, if you try to select multiple notes on the Mac, you’ll notice that the Share icon gets grayed out immediately. It’s a little annoying that Apple doesn’t make it easy for you to get your own information out of one of its apps into another format, just in case you want to do so.
Thanks again to Ken for sharing the tip!
- It lets you choose File > Export as PDF even if you have several selected, but only exports the topmost note in the list for…reasons? ↩
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at @firstname.lastname@example.org or reach him by email at email@example.com. His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is now available for pre-order.]