How to lock Notes in iOS 9.3 and OS X El Capitan 10.11.4

With the iOS 9.3 and OS X 10.11.4 updates on Monday, a new feature showed up in the Notes app — the ability to create a lock that keeps prying eyes from viewing notes that you want to keep secret. In this post, I’ll show you how easy it is to set up a lock in Notes either in OS X or iOS.

OS X 10.11.4

When locking notes, you first set up a single password that’s used for iCloud notes (those that are synced with your iOS devices) and the notes stored on your Mac. If you’ve already set up the password on iOS, you’ll use the same password for OS X. Setting the password is easy:

  1. With the Notes app open, select Notes > Set Password
  2. Enter a password in the Password field, then type it again into the Verify field
  3. Enter a password hint in the hint field. This is very important, since if you forget your password, you won’t be able to view those locked notes. The hint appears when you enter the wrong password three times in a row.
  4. Click Set Password

Now that you have a password set up, you can lock individual notes. To do this, just select the note you wish to lock by clicking on it, then select File > Lock This Note from the menu bar. A lock icon appears on the note to indicate that the password must be entered to read it (see image below).

Once a note or several notes have been locked, it’s possible to unlock them all by clicking on one of the notes with a lock icon, then typing the password. To relock all of the notes, either select Notes > Close All Locked Notes from the menu bar or click the lock icon in the Notes toolbar and select Close All Locked Notes. After a period of inactivity, notes will lock themselves (see image below).

To remove a lock from any note, select the note by clicking on it, then choose File > Remove Lock from the menu bar or click the lock icon in the Notes toolbar and select Remove Lock (see image below). If you’ve already entered the password to view the note the lock will be removed; if not, you’ll be asked to enter your password before the lock can be removed.

iOS 9.3

Now let’s take a look at how this is done in iOS 9.3.

From a note that you wish to lock, tap the share icon (circled in red below) and select Lock Note. If you’ve never locked a Note before in iOS, iCloud or on OS X, you’ll be asked to enter and verify a password, then enter a hint. You can also choose to use Touch ID to unlock your notes.

Now when you try to view a note that is locked, you’ll see a message telling you that the note is locked (see top image below). Tap “View Note”, and a prompt appears asking for your password or for Touch ID verification (lower image below). Once that’s done, your note is visible.

To relock the note, simply tap the lock icon (circled in red below) in the Notes toolbar and it is hidden from view until the next time the password is entered.

With the addition of note locking and encryption in the Notes app, Apple has added a way for Mac, iPhone and iPad owners to secure even more of their personal information. It’s a welcome update, and one that has been needed for a long time.