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Cluttered iPhone Notes? Clean Them Up With This Simple Trick

You're probably familiar with hashtags from social media. You can employ a similar strategy on your iPhone's Notes app using a feature called tags.

Sareena Dayaram Senior Editor
Sareena is a senior editor for CNET covering the mobile beat including device reviews. She is a seasoned multimedia journalist with more than a decade's worth of experience producing stories for television and digital publications across Asia's financial capitals including Singapore, Hong Kong, and Mumbai. Prior to CNET, Sareena worked at CNN as a news writer and Reuters as a producer.
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Sareena Dayaram
3 min read
notes app on iphone and ipad

Use tags to quickly categorize your notes so you can easily find them later. 

Sareena Dayaram/CNET

Apple's Notes app is one of the most powerful note-taking tools in the mobile world (and it could get even more savvy with iOS 18). You can use it for shopping lists, on-the-fly reminders and jotting down any other important tidbits you can think of. 

It's clear there are an abundance of ways to use the Notes app to track everything in your life. But if you've been using it for a long time, there's a good chance you've built up a large collection of notes, which can make it tricky to track down the notes you actually need on a regular basis. 

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One of the handiest solutions came in the form of tags, which were added to iOS 15 in 2021. 

Tags, which are similar to the hashtags used on social media sites such as Instagram or TikTok, can be added anywhere on a note, including the title. You can add them at any time, even retroactively. You can also organize your notes into regular folders, but that requires a bit of forward planning and thought work.

Read more: Best iPhone for 2024

To add a tag to a note, type # then enter a new tag name and press the space bar. You can also choose an existing tag by typing # and selecting the tag you want. The suggestions will appear above your keyboard, where autocorrections usually are.   

Three tags I regularly use are the #recipe, #grocerylist and #receipt tags. When I tap on the #recipe tag, Notes will pull up a collection of recipes I've tagged irrespective of the folder they're stored in. I'll hit up my #grocerylist tag, which will serve up all my previous grocery lists, when it's time for me to restock. And I'll refer to my #receipt tag, which brings up tagged receipts, when I'm reconciling expenses against my credit card statement. 

Tags don't need to be one continuous word, but they can't contain spaces. You can use hyphens, numbers and underscores -- for example #receipts-feb2023 or #grocerylist-vegan. You can also add multiple tags to a single note or use tags to create smart folders, which is essentially a collection of notes assembled by tag regardless of which folder they're stored in. 

iphone notes app

Using tags, like the travel one in this image, is a great way to organize your iPhone notes and avoid losing them. 

Apple/Screenshot by CNET

Don't worry if you've never used tags before, and want to start organizing your notes. You can tag multiple notes retroactively -- here's how.

1. Go to the folder with the list of notes.
2. Tap the More button (three dots), then select Notes.
3. Select the notes you want tagged, then tap Tags at the bottom of the screen. If you already have a collection of tags, the iPhone will pull up the ones you already have for you to choose from. (So when selecting notes, its more efficient to choose the ones that have similar topics if possible so you can tag them in one fell swoop.) If you don't have any pre-existing tags, the iPhone will serve up tag suggestions for you to choose from.
4. Select the tags you want to add to the notes, then tap Done

smart folder on iphone

The smart folder act like a filter and collects all notes with specific hashtags.

Apple/Screenshot by CNET

If you want to collect your tagged notes into a folder, use the Smart Folder feature (introduced alongside tags in iOS 15) like so:

1. Tap the New Folder button.
2. Enter a name and tap Make Into Smart Folder.
3. Choose which filters you want -- certain tags, when notes were created, when they were last edited and more -- those notes will automatically be included in the folder.
4. Tap Done, and your Smart Folder is created.

You can also convert a regular folder into a Smart Folder by tapping the More button and choosing the "convert" option.

If you enjoyed this iPhone productivity tip, make sure to check out these hidden settings that'll change how you use your iPhone, as well as our iOS 17 cheat sheet to help you make the most of your mobile. If you're curious about what could lie ahead, check out our round-up of the most credible iOS 18 rumors.

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