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How to Switch from Apple Notes

May 6, 2023 — Jim Neumann
Screenshot showing the import menu in DEVONthink.

In a previous blog article, we discussed how to switch from Evernote to DEVONthink. Another popular application people sometimes want to migrate from is Apple Notes. Maybe only individual notes, maybe all of them. While there isn’t a way to sync your notes with DEVONthink, here are a few options for copying your notes into our application.

There are basically two ways to migrate your notes from Apple Notes to DEVONthink. You can either import all your notes at once using a feature of DEVONthink, or you can export individual notes from Apple Notes.

Import in DEVONthink

First of all, please check the checkbox for Enable the On My Mac account in Apple Notes’ preferences. Even if you’re not using local notes, currently this is required to do a successful import. Then, while in your desired database in DEVONthink, select File > Import > Folders & Attachments from Notes. A new group named Notes with the Apple Notes icon will be created at the root of this database. It is then filled with imported notes, while also retaining the folder structure from Notes.

Notes will be imported as formatted notes, with any images embedded, not linked. This will lead to larger file sizes, but also more portable documents. The images will also be imported into a separate Attachments subgroup.

Some things to consider when importing:

  • The notes are copied into your database. There is no connection between the imported notes in DEVONthink and those in Apple Notes. This means changes you make in each application have no effect on the other.
  • You can’t import a selection of notes. This command will import all notes and folders of notes.
  • The time it takes to import all the notes depends on the number and complexity of the notes.
  • Reimporting will not update changes you’ve made in Notes. It will import duplicate notes.

Export from Apple Notes

Due to the underlying technologies employed by Apple, it’s not possible to drag notes or folders of notes from Apple Notes to any application. Apple Notes also doesn’t provide a wide range of export options. But here are the two built-in options:

  • Use File > Export as PDF and save it to the Global Inbox’s alias in the Finder’s sidebar. You’ll now find the PDF in DEVONthink’s Global Inbox.
  • Use File > Share > Add to DEVONthink or choose Share Note from the contextual menu when Control-clicking a note. Make sure you’ve set the drop-down menu to Send Copy. DEVONthink’s Sorter view will open to clip the note. Various file formats are available for selection here. For the closest representation, choose Formatted Note1.

Please be aware, both options cannot be used with a folder nor with multiple selected notes. Also, sharing a note with an image will import the note as a rich text with attachments file (.rtfd).

We hope this helps get your Apple Notes into DEVONthink as smoothly as possible!

1) If another format was set in the Sorter, first switch to the Formatted Note option and close the Sorter. Then share the note again to the now correctly configured Sorter.