Evernote: Change Formatting on the iPad

I prefer to work with plain text whenever possible, and we are fortunate that Evernote on the iPad not only has this option, but two others as well: regular rich text and simplified. What distinguishes the different formats from one another? Let’s take a look.

STEP #1: Open the Notebooks Page

STEP #2: Open a Notebook

STEP #3: Open a Note

STEP #4: Open to Full Screen

You don’t have to do this, but I find it helpful to take advantage of the entire screen when editing a note. Technically speaking, everything in a note is contained within a kind of .xhtml file called .enex (similar to the coding used for websites), and so everything is “rich text” by default. Notice that the note contains internal note links (green), bold formatting, colors, and so forth.

Ever wonder what is going on behind the scenes? The code used to produce the note looks like this. Tags like “font” tell Evernote how to display text in the note.

STEP #5: Tap the Three Dots in the Upper Right-Hand Corner

Tapping the three dots will open up a menu with additional options. Why is it hidden here? I think the developers are moving less commonly used editing options into this location. It is a little confusing, because the three dots icon in other apps means “open in.” I think this is one of many cases in which Apple’s “intuitive” interface is actually a fancy way of saying “mystery-meat navigation that you have gotten used to” — you “intuitively” learn that you need to tap on stuff to open up hidden menus. Any frustration you have with Apple (or Evernote) at this point is entirely understandable, and you need not feel incompetent because you don’t “get it.” It takes some time to acclimate to the interface.

When you have uncovered the menu, Choose the “Simplify Formatting” option. You might recognize this from the main formatting bar, where it used to be in earlier iterations of the app.

STEP #6a: Choose “Make plain text”

Your note will now render in monospace font and it appears exactly like a plain text note, which can be quite useful if you copy/paste content into a note from a website and you don’t want odd fonts and font sizes in your note.

If we take a look at the code, we can see that it is not actually plain text, because it still has a bunch of code in the background telling Evernote how to display the note. The file type never changes in Evernote (always .enex and never .txt), so the next time you copy/paste into a note, you will need to make everything plain text again in order to strip out the undesired formatting.

In contrast, a true plain text note is in .txt format, will display with no coding at all, and anything pasted into the note will automatically be converted to plain text. In practice, this distinction likely won’t matter to most users.

STEP #6b: Choose “Simplify formatting”

Yes. It is a little confusing that you choose “Simplify Formatting” once to open the menu and another time to actually do it. Besides the fact that “Formatting” is inexplicably capitalized in the main menu and it is lower-case in the sub-menu, I don’t see a difference. If I had my druthers, I’d rather have the main menu say “modify” or “customize” formatting (no need to email me etymologists, I just said that to get a rise out of you). However, This is quibbling, because I ought to just be happy we have so many options, and I guess it doesn’t matter what words they use as long as I can find it somewhere.

It looks quite similar to the plain text version, but bold formatting, bullet points, note links, etc. have been preserved.

Here is what the code looks like when you simplify the formatting. It is similar to the “plain text” version, but has tags like “strong” to indicate bold text.