NotePlan for iPhone and iPad: Walkthrough

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What’s The Purpose of NotePlan?

NotePlan resembles the way people plan in the “real world”: Using a calendar, bullet points and notes. It is designed to make your life easier in the moments when you have to deal with incoming information and planning things ahead. It helps you to sketch out what you want to achieve on a given day and capture details quickly which you might otherwise forget. Events from other registered calendars and scheduled reminders from the Reminders app are also synced into NotePlan. This way you have everything on one page.

(Following screenshots and videos are taken from the iPhone app. The iPad app works exactly the same.)


The Calendar – A Hub For Your Notes

The calendar is the first thing you see when you open NotePlan. Every day represents one dedicated note. The calendar processes each note and displays each bullet point as a colored dot. The color depends on how you have marked the points:

Following colors are used:

  • Orange = open (* todo),
  • Green = done (* [x] todo),
  • Blue = scheduled (* [>] todo),
  • Purple = synced event (from another registered calendar),
  • Red = synced reminder (from Apple’s Reminder app)

(Alternatively, you can also use a dash: - todo.)

Open Points

If a day in the past has still some open points (orange dots), the whole day will be colored red to remind you to close those points. This is useful if you “overplan” your days or make multiple extra notes. A good habit is to review and close all open days at the end of the week for example. This way you can build a process-driven note system, which you can trust.

Synced Events

These are events, which are pulled from Apple’s Calendar app. If you have registered your Gmail account or other providers with your iPhone or iPad, they will also appear inside NotePlan’s calendar and notes. Additionally, Reminders are also pulled in by NotePlan. Just add a date to the reminder and it will show up in NotePlan.

Summary View

If you want to see a summary of the day without having to leave the calendar, hit the detail icon top right beside the search icon. It will open an additional view below (or beside) the calendar and show the formatted notes of the selected day.

Formatted means here the Markdown is converted into rich-text. Tap into the summary view to open the editor. This view is also supported in landscape mode, both on iPhone and iPad. It’s especially useful on iPad due to the bigger screen size.

Use it to skim through planned days in your calendar or when reviewing past days.

Search and Month Navigation

With the search icon top right you can look for individual tasks, events and reminders in a single search.

Change the month by swiping horizontally. You can jump back to the current month by tapping the month name.

Calendar Preferences

You can modify what the calendar will display using the preferences. Tap the menu button top left, then the preferences icon:

  • Show Comments: show a gray dot for text blocks which are not todos.
  • Show Subtasks: show also dots for indented (tabbed) bullet points.
  • Show Calendar Weeks: shows the week numbers on the left side.
  • Calendars: choose which calendars should be synced (that’s a list pulled from iCal).
  • First day of the week: choose Sunday, Monday or Saturday

Markdown Supported Daily Notes

If you select a date inside the calendar, you will open a daily note associated with this date. Here you can sketch your daily plan with todo points, make notes for upcoming events or capture ideas during the day. Usually in form of bullet points. Like following:

  • Asterisk: * Point, or
  • Dash: - Point, or
  • in GFM style:  - [ ] Point, or
  • numbered 1. Point

A bullet point, as shown above, will count as an orange dot in your calendar. If you prefer GFM style (GitHub flavored Markdown), you can adjust that in the preferences. Then normal bullet points are not counted as open points (therefore you don’t need to check them off).

Use markdown to structure different “Projects” (or specific areas in your life like “work” and “home”). Markdown is a simple way to format text. For example, use it to create titles, make words bold or italic, etc. Usually, you would use titles to segment your todos into topics like in the following screenshot:

You can format text as bold by wrapping it with double asterisks: **bold** or use single asterisks for italic: *italic*. Make titles by typing the hash character followed by a space and then the title name: # title, you can add more hashes for subtitles: ## subtitle.

Use indentation (tabs) to create subtasks. This helps to split bigger tasks in multiple smaller ones and keeps your note easy to read. You can add tabs/indents from the keyboard toolbar (later more about the toolbar).

Text Gestures

Working with text on an iPhone or iPad is not always easy. NotePlan has a few gestures to work with text without having to use the text cursor. Before going into the other features, here are two tricks you can edit text:

How to Check Off Points

Additionally to the normal basic Markdown, a special syntax was added to mark points as done, scheduled or canceled:

  • * [x] done
  • * [>] scheduled
  • * [-] cancelled

You don’t need to type this yourself. A toolbar will pop up above the keyboard and you can tap the symbols to insert above Markdown automatically.

Marking todos like above will change the dot colors in the calendar like described in the beginning. Inside the note, the marked text-block will turn gray so it doesn’t distract you from the open points. Cancelled tasks will be hidden in the calendar and in the search. Not everything you note down has to be done or deferred. Cancel tasks, if they became irrelevant. This is like removing it completely from the note, but this way you still have it documented.

Scheduling

Use this for example if you couldn’t finish a task on a given day or if you need to remind yourself to check in on something again. Alternatively, if you keep action lists in the general notes, you can schedule action points from there into the calendar.

Select one or multiple points and tap on the clock icon. A date picker will appear. In this view, you can choose the date where the selected points should be copied to. Todos, which are already marked will be ignored. If you include a title into the selection, it will be copied too. Here is a quick video:

In the preferences, you can enable to add a link to the scheduled date. This way you always know where the point was scheduled to.

Note Links

It is possible to link notes to each other like in a wiki. This way you can have for example master lists pointing to specific daily notes or child notes. Normal notes can be linked by title using square brackets: [[title of the note]] and daily notes work the same, but instead of the title use the date in following format: [[YYYY-MM-DD]] (for example [[2017-11-03]]). Alternatively, use @YYYY-MM-DD for dates. Once the link is typed they turn orange and you can tap on it when the keyboard is closed in order to jump to the linked note.

Phone Numbers and Web-Links

Normal phone numbers are detected and turned into a link. If you tap on them a call prompt will be opened. You can cancel or initiate the call from there. Similarly, web-links like noteplan.co are also detected and tappable.

Navigating Between Days

Switch between days by swiping horizontally. Release the swipe, if the black bar turns brownish. You can jump back to “today” from any note by tapping the date at the top of the note. Alternatively, add links to other notes to jump between them.

Keyboard Toolbar

The toolbar appears if you tap some text and the keyboard opens. The icons on the toolbar adapt to the selected content. If you select normal text (or an empty line), it will show icons for creating a bullet point or title:

 

If you select one or more bullet points, the icons for checking them off will appear and the list and title icons disappear:

 

“Mark as redundant” makes the calendar ignore this point as described earlier and “Schedule” will open a date picker.

Quick Actions

The tools under this menu are basically shortcuts and other options to speed up processing tasks, so you don’t have to do it manually:

  • Share: will open the share extension, so you can export the current note text into another app.
  • Archive Processed Tasks: will go through all the bullet points you made so far in the opened note and collect all the marked points. Then it creates up to two new titles ## done and ## scheduled and moves the collected points there. This is meant to clean up your list, so it’s easier to see what’s left.
  • Schedule All Open Tasks: will select and schedule all bullet points, except the ones which are already marked. It will also include titles, so you don’t have to copy them manually.
  • Copy Note Link: will copy the link to the currently opened note into your clipboard. You can paste it into any other note to link it.

Time Tags

NotePlan understands time through simple time tags in the following format: @HH:mm in 24-hour format and @HH:mm AM/PM in 12-hour format. For example @14:00 or @02:00 PM. Both formats are will be detected. If the time tag is correct, it will turn green and show up in the calendar summary view. On Mac it will show up in the calendar itself beside the text.


General Notes

Besides the calendar notes, you can also keep notes which are not related to a specific date. Such as checklists, backlogs or references material for a project. You can switch to the general notes using the menu icon top left:

General Notes in NotePlan for iOS

This view will show all your general notes. You can filter them by using hashtags. Add a tag to a note by writing the hashtag anywhere into the note like this: #tag (hash followed by the tag name, without space). When you added a tag, you can press the “All Notes” button at the top to select a filter:

Filter notes by tags

Tap & hold on a general note to open the context menu. Here you can copy the note link or delete the note.


 

Become more organized

NotePlan for iPhone and iPad will launch on Wednesday, June 14th. And the normal price will be $14.99. There will be a 20% USD early bird discount for the first 48 hours. That’s just $11.99 USD. As a bonus, the Mac version will be also discounted during the launch time at 15% ($16.99 total). Thanks a lot for your support!