Use Notes App to Have Secret Conversations on Your iPhone

The built-in iOS app is useful for more than just grocery lists.

Nelson Aguilar
Nelson Aguilar is an LA-based tech how-to writer and graduate of UCLA. With more than a decade of experience, he covers Apple and Google and writes on iPhone and Android features, privacy and security settings and more.
Nelson Aguilar
4 min read
iOS Notes app shown on an iPhone

Collaboration features in Notes can be used to communicate secret messages.

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Every time you send and receive text messages on your iPhone, you leave behind a trail, which typically isn't a problem. You want most messages saved and recorded, so you can look back on them whenever needed, but sometimes you just need your conversations to be a little more... private.

That's one reason why apps like Snapchat and Signal are so popular. However, you don't need to download a third-party app to have more secretive conversations on your iPhone. Instead, you can use a built-in Apple app to send temporary, hidden messages to your friends and family -- and it's been around since iOS 10.

The Notes app allows you to collaborate with others on notes, whether they're grocery store lists or collections of dad jokes. Anyone who's part of a collaborative note can edit them in real time -- and this is what you can use to have hidden conversations. You can have an incredibly long, personal conversation -- without any lasting proof that it ever existed.

To learn how to turn a note into a hidden conversation on iOS, here's what you need to know. And while you're at it, check out the hidden trackpad that lives in your iOS keyboard and these 10 hidden iOS 16 features you need to know about.

First, create a note in the Notes app

On your iPhone, launch the Notes app and tap the Compose button on the bottom right to create a new note. Next, type anything into the note to keep it, or else it'll automatically be deleted when you exit from the note. You can also just go into an existing note, but it's better to start fresh with a new one.

Notes app on iPhone

First, create a new note or go into an existing one.

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Adjust your note's share options to add collaborators

Once your note is up and ready to go, you can begin the process of adding another person as collaborator, which means they can read and edit whatever is in the note. To start, tap the More button on the top right, and then hit Share Note.

Now tap Share Options and make sure the Can make changes option is selected under Permission. You should also toggle off Anyone can add people in case you want to be the only person who can add collaborators to your note. Go back to the last page when you're finished configuring these settings.

Notes app on iPhone

Second, manage what your collaborators can do.

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Add friends you want to include and share the link

Next, choose a method to share the note: You can send it via text message, email, social media and more. If you swipe on the share options, you can also select Copy Link, which copies the note link to your clipboard and allows you to paste it wherever you want. 

For this example, I'll choose the Copy Link option to share the note.

At the top of the Copy Link page, enter the email address or phone number of the person you want to access the note. You can also tap the Add icon to search through your contacts. Adding a contact to the note is required -- if you share the link without adding a contact, the other person won't be able to see or edit the note, even with the link.

Lastly, hit Copy Link to copy the note link to your clipboard and share it with your collaborator.

Notes app on iPhone

Next, add your collaborator(s).

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Send secret messages using Notes

The other person, on the receiving end, must now open the note link and accept the invitation. If they accept, they'll be redirected to the Notes app and to the collaborative note you just created.

To communicate, simply type something into the note, which the other person will be able to see in real-time, without you having to hit send. They'll also receive a notification anytime the note is altered. 

Each person in the note will have a corresponding color appear (only for a moment) so that everyone else knows who typed what. You can also swipe right from the middle of the note to see the name of who wrote the message, as well as a timestamp for when the message was written and any corresponding colors. 

Notes app on iPhone

Now you can secretly communicate with your friends or family.

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You can also tap the Share Note button (with the checkmark icon), go to Manage Shared Note and then toggle on Highlight All Changes. That way, all messages will stay permanently highlighted in their corresponding color, making it easier to read the conversation.

And if you want to keep your communications more low-key, delete your message or the other person's message to strike it from the note. That way your conversation is more like it would be on Snapchat, with ephemeral or short-lived messages that outsiders can't see if they snoop through your notes. You can do this with any text in the notes, as well as photos, videos, links, drawings or any other attachments you add to the note.

Permanently delete your secret chat

Not all secret conversations can go on forever, and so it's time now to end it. 

If you're the owner of the note, and want to keep the note intact for everyone but prevent them from editing it, you can easily do so. On the top right, tap the View Participants button and then hit Manage Shared Note. To remove a participant, you can either swipe left on their name and then hit Remove or you can tap on their name and then tap Remove Access.

Notes app on iPhone

To end the notes conversation, remove any collaborators or stop sharing the note.

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Additionally, you can tap the Stop Sharing option, which will not only remove participants from the note, but also delete the note from all of their devices.

If you're not the owner of the note, you can just delete the note from the Notes application.