How to Format Text & Insert Pictures Into Notes in iOS

Nov 20, 2014 - 20 Comments

Text formatting in Notes app for iOS

The Notes app in modern versions of iOS includes support for text formatting and media insertion. This is a welcome change for many reasons, as it not only improves the functionality of Notes app to serve as a scratchpad, but it also makes the Notes app and it’s iCloud syncing abilities between iOS devices and Macs with Mac OS X an even more useful feature.

Formatting text and inserting pictures into Notes on the iOS side of things is really quite easy, and as long as you have iCloud on your iPhone or iPad the formatting changes and images will sync to other Mac OS X and iOS devices too.

How to Apply Text Formatting to Notes in iOS

Formatting of text in Notes app requires iOS 8 or newer on the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. The rest is basically the same as formatting text elsewhere in iOS:

  1. Open any existing note or create a new one in Notes app
  2. Tap and hold on the text you wish to apply formatting to and use the slider bars to modify the selection as appropriate
  3. Tap on the “B I U” button (that stands for Bold, Italics, Underline)
  4. Choose the desired formatting and it applies instantly, tap away from the selected text to end the highlighting and formatting
  5. Tap “Done” when satisfied to set the change

Applying text formatting to Notes app

The text within the note will change formatting as requested, and, as mentioned, the formatting adjustments will then carry over to other devices as well, as long as they use the same iCloud ID.

That iCloud syncing support makes this an especially handy trick if you have one of those notes pinned to your Mac desktop, since it will update as changes are made from iOS.

How to Insert Photos & Pictures Into Notes in iOS

If you’ve ever inserted an image into an email within iOS, you’ll find that placing a picture into a note is much the same. Again, you’ll need a modern version of iOS to support this feature:

  • From anywhere in Notes, tap and hold to summon the text modifier popup
  • Choose “Insert Photo” to select a photo from your Camera Roll and Photos app library
  • OR: If the image is in your iOS clipboard, simply choose “Paste” to place the photo within the notes
  • Tap on “Done” to set the insertion

Insert an image into Notes in iOS

Combined with iCloud, you can use the Notes app as a cross Mac to iOS clipboard of sorts, and it will carry the images over between devices as well.

The Mac version of Notes app has supported text formatting and images for quite some time, and you can edit the notes from the OS X side once they sync over. And though Siri can’t change the formatting or take pictures directly, Siri can modify or create notes, which offers some hands-free functionality to the excellent Notes app as well.


Related articles:

Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, iPhone, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Doesn’t work under 10.7.5 (Lion) on Mac desktop. Image won’t paste into open note.

    • Paul says:

      A modern version of iOS and OS X is required for picture insertion of Notes app, anything newer than 9.0 for iOS or EL Capitan for Mac

  2. Jazz Bass says:

    Sorry to gripe but I can’t change the size of the text in the note body and the text is too small to select to reformat to BIU.

    This is in 8.4.

    The font size in settings only affects the menu on the left not the body of the note.

    BIU? That’s all we get? Are we actually excited about this? Apple – the cutting edge in gee-wizmos?

    I can’t believe the paring down of features on these things. I think I will have to jailbreak this Ipad because Apple software is way too pedestrian.

    Is there a note app that can fully take the place of this one and works with Icloud or Google?


  3. Frau Katze says:

    How do I DELETE a photo from Notes?

    I often use Notes as an intermediate storage area.

    Today, I copied some text that included a tiny thumbnail. “select” wouldn’t let me pick the text alone.

    Now I can’t rid of the photo.

    There is something to be said for a feature that will strip out extraneous stuff and give nice plain text.

    If I warn formatted text, I can use Word. So far, it’s a pain in the neck.

    • bt says:

      Swipe right on a Note then tap on the big red “DELETE” button to delete a note.

      To delete a picture or part of a note, select in front of it and hit the delete key on the keyboard. Like deleting anything else really.

  4. Keith G says:

    This is not really answering the question though; it’s not just about BIU formatting, it’s about for example removing formatting from text pasted in from a PDF or website. That seems to require another application altogether, where there used to be a trick to doing it here.

    • Frau Katze says:

      Exactly! I have Word if I want formatting. Sometimes one wants REMOVE the formatting.

      • Keith G says:

        So funny… I was just about to post virtually the same comment just now, not realizing I’d previously done so. Your comment is very true – I used to use this as an app to get rid of unwanted formatting, now it seems impossible. I find myself sometimes entering text in the subject line of an email message, or in the URL line of a Safari page, and then re-copying it to get just the text without the formatting. It’s limited and it’s frustrating, but sometimes it does what I need.

  5. Shelb says:

    These are great features, but I need to know how to erase a photo from my notes after I have inserted it. Can anyone tell me how? I’ve tried just back spacing, holding down on the picture to bring up options, and highlighting the picture. Nothing has worked. I cannot delete the whole Note because it is for a class and has too much other info in it.

    • Frau Katze says:

      I’m having the same problem. The people who run this site seem to ignore anything but comments entered when they first posted it.

  6. Bets says:

    Thanks–I was wondering why the IBU option wasn’t coming up….

  7. Benjamin D. says:

    the insert photo ability is nice for those of us with Macs not capable of airdrop & full continuity w/ios (even with Yosemite)!

  8. ICEBOX, what OSXDAILY hasn’t told us is that the BIU button only appears after the keyboard pops up.
    * to make the keyboard pop up, tap to place cursor on your Note;
    * Select the word/s to be formatted;
    * That’s when the IBU option appears.

    No keyboard, no IBU! Don’t ask me why. Also I do wish they’d provided Text Size, Text Colour, and even a few Fonts to select from. It is almost 2015 after all.

  9. Icebox says:

    For some reason I don’t get BIU option in Notes on my iPhone 5S. Am I missing something?

  10. Rafagon says:

    I know what you mean, Helveticker. I used to do it too. And you’re right, it has disappeared now in Yosemite. I actually think it’s a good thing that it disappeared. Although Mavericks would let us italicize (or make bold, or make larger, or underline) text, the person you sent the text to never received it with formatting intact; therefore, it may have been misleading to people aren’t tech-savvy and who would automatically know that the formatting would be stripped when the text was sent.

  11. Rafagon says:

    @Helveticker, I remember that. But, I think it’s better now that it has been removed. You could use italics in Messages on your Mac till you were blue in the fact, but when you hit send, the recipient would not have received them as italics.

    The fact that it would let you italicize (or make bold, or make larger) text on Messages was very misleading—some users may have assumed that that formatted text was being received by the person on the other end with the formatting intact.

    • Helveticker says:

      I didn’t realize it wasn’t being received as formatted on the other end. That explains some conversation mis-cues I had when using them!

  12. Helveticker says:

    Prior to Yosemite, I was able to use italics, etc., in Messages on my Mac. This seems to have disappeared.

    Or is there an arcane function that I enabled at some point in Mavericks that I’ve forgotten about…?

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