Best ways to share Notes, Calendar, and Contacts

My guess (and that’s all it is) is that you are connected as the primary user to each service or that the services other than Apple allow secondary users to have the same access as primary users. Apple specifically says on the macOS Internet Accounts panel, where a secondary user would connect to the primary user’s iCloud account, “Only your primary account can use iCloud for Notes, Safari, Photos, Documents, Keychain, or Find My Mac.” However, Apple provides a different mechanism to share Notes, albeit one that requires sharing each note individually. (In iOS 13, a primary user can share a Notes folder with another user, but, in my experience, the other user cannot be running Mojave on a Mac.)

We have come up with a workaround. Recall that this whole exercise was started because we bought a second iPhone, and we were trying to set up Medical ID and specifically Emergency Contacts on two different iPhones for two different users. This second iPhone will almost certainly never be used to access Notes or Calendar or iCloud documents. So, that old iPhone will connect to one Apple ID, and all other devices (including Macintosh computers, where any access to Notes or Calendar or iCloud files will actually be needed) will continue to use the Apple ID that they used to use, regardless of who was logged in. Does anyone see a downside to this? Thanks.

The phone (and the remote services) in my case have no concept of secondary users. Each account has a user ID and a password, which are used to log on to their respective accounts.

For iCloud, it sounds as if you are not using that account’s (primary?) user ID and password, but are using the phone’s ID and password, configuring that account to be a secondary for the other account. This is a situation that I never even considered.

Can you create your secondary iCloud account using that account’s own e-mail address and password? It will almost certainly require a 2FA authentication check (which will appear on the other phone’s screen), but you may see different results that way. In the general case, this would be a security hole (since you would effectively be the other person), but if that other person is a trusted family member, I wouldn’t worry about it.

This all assumes Apple even permits iCloud accounts different from the phone’s primary account to be added in this fashion, of course.

1 Like

If I understand, not only is that not what we are doing, I didn’t know it could be done. But let me back up and try to explain what we are doing and how we got here.

Person A has an iCloud account (and a new iPhone). Before we got the new iPhone, all Apple devices (one iPhone, one iPad, and three Macs) logged into Person A’s iCloud account, and we shared files, calendars, notes, and contacts. Then we got a second iPhone and found we couldn’t list Person A as an emergency contact while connected to Person A’s account as primary.

Person B had an iCloud account but did nothing with it prior to the second iPhone. After inheriting the old iPhone, Person B listed Person A in Contacts so that Person A could be the emergency contact on the old iPhone. To do this, Person B needed to connect to Person B’s iCloud account as primary user, which broke all the other sharing of files, calendars, notes, and contacts.

We found how to share Calendar and Contacts (by having Person B log into Person A’s iCloud account as a secondary user). This left Notes and files unavailable. Individual notes could be shared, but we couldn’t figure out how to share access to files in iCloud.

Our current plan is to have Person B use Person B’s iCloud account as primary user on the old iPhone, and list Person A as emergency contact. All other devices will be connected to Person A’s iCloud account, as they had been. Since the old iPhone is an original SE (small screen), there would have been little if any reading files, calendars, notes, contacts on it, so we’re giving up little.

Does that make more sense?

I’m still not 100% certain what you mean as “secondary user”. Is that what you’re referring to an account you added via the “Passwords & Accounts” settings page (instead of the topmost user ID page at the top of the root of the settings app)?

I would expect that you should be able to add any iCloud account via the Passwords & Accounts page using that account’s Apple ID and password (and authenticating using the 2FA code that will pop up on devices where that is the “primary” account). If you’ve done that and Apple is restricting access to Notes anyway, then there’s nothing more I can suggest - you’re seeing a deliberate restriction that Apple created for iCloud.

I suppose you could enable Notes on a GMail (or Yahoo or other IMAP-based) account and share that. That should work, but then you’ll be at the mercy of that provider’s privacy policy, or lack thereof.


Yes, that’s how the second Apple ID was added. I don’t recall what message there was in iOS, but macOS said, “Only your primary account can use iCloud for Notes, Safari, Photos, Documents, Keychain, or Find My Mac.”

I think the simpler solution is to have all devices except the old iPhone use Person A’s Apple ID, since there is little likelihood of anyone using the old iPhone to read files or notes, and Calendar and Contacts will still be available.