Move a Note to Outlining App

Last month I needed to make an outline so I started with Notes on my iPhone formating it as a numbered list. Eventually, it became too long to work on it on my iPhone, so I used iCloud to synch it to my Mac running Big Sur. I kept working on it in macOS Notes and now it’s huge. When I export it as a PDF, it’s over 100 pages long.

I need to get this content out of Notes and into a real outline processor or at least a word processor with outlining capability like Word.

My content’s formatting is fairly simple using only:

  1. Single numbered list
  2. Italics for some entire points
  3. Default font with no changes in size

The only export feature supported by Notes is to PDF. Supposedly, Word can import a PDF, but when I try to open a PDF exported from my note in Word 16.16 (Office 2016), all I see is gibberish; apparently there’s some sort of encoding mismatch. I posted this problem on Apple Discussions here.

So far, the best export that I’ve come up with is:

  1. Open the note on my iPhone running iOS 15.1.1
  2. Share the note to iOS mail
  3. Tap on Cancel
  4. Save the email draft, which for me puts it into Gmail drafts
  5. Open Gmail in my (Chrome) browser
  6. Open the note draft
  7. Select all the email body text and copy it
  8. Paste into Word ver 16.16 (Office 2016)

The resulting Word document is pretty good. Viewed in Print Layout view, the indenting of each point is a little deeper than I’d like—maybe I can fix it by playing with paragraph tabs—but otherwise the fidelity is excellent, with nesting and italics transferred perfectly into a 70-page document. But, if I change to Outline view, I lose all the nesting and all the content is at the same (top) level so I guess that Word didn’t assign a different outline paragraph style based on the level of indenting. And, all the points are numbered, not alternating between numbers and letters according to nesting depth as a Harvard Outline format.

Unfortunately, this version of Microsoft Word for Mac has been “retired” and I can’t access the help files any more; Word help insists that I upgrade.

Does anyone have any other ideas on transferring a Note consisting of a huge numbered list into another macOS application for outline processing?

Thank you for reading this

UPDATE December 14, 2021

I was able to get my Word text converted into an outline using:

Format → Bullets and Numbering → Customize → (Click dropdown at lower left-hand side to reveal additional options):

For each level of my document, I assigned the appropriate Heading style and magically, I could:

  1. Use Outline view
  2. Create Harvard Outline formatting style

Problems all solved, except, the corresponding paragraphs took on all other aspects of the Heading styles and I lost all my inline formatting such as italics.

And, I did NOT have to update my ancient version of Microsoft Office.

I hope this helps someone else.

Here’s a simple solution:

Select all the text and copy it to the clipboard
Open a new, blank document in your favorite word processor.
Paste the clipboard contents into that document.


You might try Howard Oakley’s (Eclectic Light Co) Tool I have used it for editable text recovery from PDF format files on several occasions. And, it is freeware.

Yes, you’d think that copy/paste would faithfully move my numbered list from Notes to Word. But it didn’t; all the indentation/nesting was lost.

I suspect that I am an edge case due to the length of my list. As I mentioned in my post, when I saved it as a PDF from within Notes, the resulting PDF was over 100 pages long.

As I wrote this Note, I periodically copy/pasted it into Gmail and the indentation was preserved until all of a sudden, it wasn’t. That’s when I tried to convert it to Word and started this thread with my workaround.

See the updated original post for how I converted my resulting Word document and was able to use Word’s outline view.

But is it really lost? I don’t have Word, but I tried that with Pages. The pasted text appeared to have no nesting, but when I played around with the list style to define an indentation amount, the correct nesting appeared.

I updated my original post (at the bottom) to say that I recovered the nested numbered list using Word’s options for bullets, including assigning a style.

So, I think that you and I are making the same observation.