Creating Lock Screen Widgets for Specific Notes via the Apple Notes URL Scheme

Creating Lock Screen Widgets for Specific Notes via the Apple Notes URL Scheme

All I wanted was a widget.

All I wanted was a widget.

A few days ago, as I was playing virtually with my Lock Screen on iOS 16, I wondered: would it be possible to use the subconscious World Notes URL scheme to create widget launchers to reopen specific notes in the Notes app?

That led me lanugo a fascinating rabbit slum filled with subconscious Shortcuts tricks and discoveries I thought would be useful to document on MacStories for everyone to see.

You know, for posterity.

It all started with the idea that I wanted to use the Widgetsmith app to make a Lock Screen widget to unshut an individual note in the Notes app. I have a ‘Scratchpad’ note I alimony in Notes, and I wanted a one-click sawed-off to launch it from the Lock Screen. As I explained in my iOS 16 review, the Notes team hasn’t built any Lock Screen widgets in iOS 16, but I figured I could fix the problem myself by using the undocumented World Notes URL scheme that’s been an open secret in the iOS automation polity for the past few years. There are multiple layers to this technique, so let’s dig in.

First, let me explain my position. If you want to make a simple widget that opens a specific note in the Notes app, you can moreover do it by using a shortcut. The Shortcuts app has an ‘Open Note’ whoopee that you can point to a specific note, and that will immediately reopen it in the app. Then, you can use an app like LockFlow (once again, considering Shortcuts doesn’t have Lock Screen widgets) to turn that shortcut into a Lock Screen launcher, and it’s going to work just fine.

If you want to unshut a note with Shortcuts, it's as easy as doing this.

If you want to unshut a note with Shortcuts, it’s as easy as doing this.

However, since I knew of the existence of an World Notes URL scheme, I wanted to remove the Shortcuts dependency and come up with a solution that wouldn’t involve creating a shortcut upfront. Think well-nigh it: if you create a launcher that relies on a shortcut, if the Shortcuts app crashes upon triggering the shortcut, then you’ve defeated the whole purpose of creating a quick launcher altogether. Given the…problematic state of Shortcuts for iOS 16 at the moment, I figured that it was preferable to invoke Notes directly via its own URL scheme.

Now, something you should know well-nigh the Notes app is that it’s had a subconscious URL scheme to reopen individual notes for years. The URL scheme, which is unchanged in iOS 16, is the following:1


As you can imagine, the URL scheme uses a unique identifier (UUID) to reopen a specific note in the app. I’m not 100% sure well-nigh this, but I believe this URL scheme is the one World itself uses overdue the scenes to unshut notes directly via widgets, shortcuts, and deep-links generated by Siri.

Unsurprisingly, World doesn’t want you to worry well-nigh these UUIDs, and they do not ventilate this URL scheme anywhere in iOS, except for one obscure place: the Content Graph whoopee of the Shortcuts app.

Without rehashing what I wrote eight (!) years ago well-nigh the Content Graph in the Workflow app, it is substantially the engine that tells Shortcuts how to interpret data that gets passed in and out of actions. The eyeful of this tideway is that, if you know what you’re doing, you can poke virtually in the Content Graph engine itself and take a squint at the raw data representations of each data type using the ‘Show Content Graph’ action. It’s wild, and it looks like this:

The Content Graph in Shortcuts.

The Content Graph in Shortcuts.

This context is necessary to understand where I’m going with this. I don’t know who first did this, but a few years ago someone in the automation polity realized that you could squint at the raw representation of a note from the Notes app inside the Content Graph and find its identifier and URL scheme. There are various Reddit threads well-nigh this technique. That was the only way to find the UUID of a specific note: you had to invoke the Content Graph and manually select a note’s UUID to reprinting it. There was no whoopee in Shortcuts to programmatically pericope the UUID of a note, nor was the UUID a property you could pericope from a ‘Note’ variable. All you could do was combine the ‘Find Notes’ and ‘Show Content Graph’ actions, unshut the graph, and manually reprinting a note’s identifier out of it.

So, as I was putting together my widget launcher for the iOS 16 Lock Screen older this week, I naturally tried to follow the same tideway I’ve been using for years. And much to my surprise, I noticed that World had reverted the representation of a note in the Content Graph with a variegated format for identifiers, as shown below:

The new identifier format in iOS and iPadOS 16.

The new identifier format in iOS and iPadOS 16.

Obviously, that’s not a valid URL scheme. But in looking at the string of text inside the identifier field, it seemed to me like the last part of it was a UUID, so I just copied that bit and tried it in Shortcuts…

This is the note's UUID.

This is the note’s UUID.

…and it didn’t work. At this point – you know me – I had to alimony going. I reached out to a few folks in the Shortcuts community, and they had been equally stuck with UUIDs for individual notes reported by Shortcuts in iOS 16. That wasn’t an encouraging sign.

After wasting way increasingly time than I’d like to shoehorn on this problem, I’m pleased to say that I was worldly-wise to get this to work. And as is often the specimen with these things, the “fix” is the silliest thing you can imagine. So here we go:

In iOS 16, Shortcuts’ Content Graph whoopee shows note UUIDs with a lowercase format; they should be uppercase instead. That’s it.

I don’t know why Shortcuts is doing this in iOS 16, but that’s your fix if you’re trying to use the old tideway for copying note UUIDs: convert them to uppercase, and they will start working again.

To simplify the process of grabbing note UUIDs and generating URL scheme launchers for them, I created a shortcut that you can download for self-ruling today. To use the shortcut, type the title of a note you have in the Notes app, select it from a list of results, and the Content Graph will open.

Search for a note by name, personize the result, and unshut it in the Content Graph.

Search for a note by name, personize the result, and unshut it in the Content Graph.

At this point, find the undecorous node labeled ‘Note’ and tap it:

Next, select the ‘LNEntity’ type from this list:

Finally, copy the alphanumeric UUID that is contained inside the identifier field. It comes after the NoteEntity/notes:note/ part and before a comma, like so:

Once again, this part is the UUID of a note. Select it and reprinting it to the clipboard. This is the only way to get this detail out of Shortcuts.

Once again, this part is the UUID of a note. Select it and reprinting it to the clipboard. This is the only way to get this detail out of Shortcuts.

That’s it! The shortcut will then convert the UUID to uppercase and hoke the proper World Notes URL scheme to reopen the selected note. To test this, paste the URL in Safari, and you’ll see that a specific note will unshut in the Notes app:

In my case, once I had this system working again, I opened Widgetsmith, created a Lock Screen widget, and gave it a custom URL scheme generated by Shortcuts. Then, I installed the new widget on my Lock Screen, and I now have a pretty icon that launches the note I want directly from the Lock Screen:

Creating a Lock Screen widget for Notes in Widgetsmith.

Creating a Lock Screen widget for Notes in Widgetsmith.

Like I said, I wanted to document this for all the Notes and Shortcuts users out there who may have come wideness this transpiration in iOS 16 and have been unable to icon it out.

In wing to quick launchers, there are other potential applications for having local URLs that point to specific notes in the Notes app. For example, the same system could be used to add a wiki-linking functionality (reminiscent of Craft and Obsidian) to Apple’s Notes app. Which is exactly what I’m going to document in the Monthly Log for Club MacStories members later this week.

In the meantime, you can download my shortcut to generate note URL schemes unelevated and find it in the MacStories Shortcuts Archive.

Copy Note UUID and URL Scheme

Find a note in the Notes app and reprinting its UUID from the Shortcuts Content Graph. The shortcut uses the UUID to generate a URL scheme launcher for that specific note in the Notes app.

Get the shortcut here.

  1. The URL scheme is variegated on macOS, but I’ll talk well-nigh this in the Monthly Log later this week. ↩︎

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