Apple’s Notes app might not be the first option to come to mind when you want to keep a conversation hidden from others. But by using its collaboration features to invite others into a “conversation” — and then deleting the messages when you’re done — you can erase all evidence of your chat. Sure, it’s nowhere near as safe as using an encrypted messaging app with disappearing messages (and it’s pretty easy to take screenshots of your shared notes or copy your chats to another app), but the Notes app is a quick and easy option for secret messaging in a pinch.
How to use Notes as a secret messaging app
To get started, open Notes and create a new note. Type something in the note, then tap the three-dots icon in the top-right corner of the page, and tap Share note. You can now tap Share options and disable Anyone can add people. Under Permission, make sure you’ve selected Can make changes.
Go back one page and select how you’d like to share the note with someone else. As long as they have an Apple ID, they will be able to access your note. We went with iMessage to share the note. Once the other person has joined, you can start typing a message and they’ll be able to see it pretty much in realtime.
To make it easy to differentiate between your messages and those by your contact, tap the three-dots icon in the top-right corner and select Manage Shared Note. Select Highlight All Changes and go back to your note. When they’ve replied to your message, Notes will highlight it in a different colour.
When you’re done with the conversation, delete everything you’ve typed first. Then tap the three-dots icon in the top-right corner, go to Share Options, and change the document permission to View only.
Return the previous page, swipe left on the name of your contact, and select Remove. This will stop them from accessing the note further. You can now delete the note from Apple Notes, and with it, all traces of your conversation will be gone.
More private ways to chat
While Apple Notes (or for that matter, Google Docs) allows you to have collaborative chats, these aren’t really the apps you want to turn to for true privacy. Ideally, you’d want to use encrypted messaging apps like Signal for these conversations.
In Signal, every chat is encrypted by default and the app doesn’t save information it doesn’t need. Once you’ve started a chat in Signal, tap the contact’s name at the top of the page and select Disappearing Messages. You can set a custom time for these messages and each message in the conversation will automatically disappear after that.
You don’t need to manually delete anything or use an unencrypted platform for secret messages. When you upload images to Signal, it has a handy option to automatically blur all faces. Features like these make it far more suitable for private conversations. And if you don’t want to use Signal, we’ve got a list of alternatives for you.