Apple Notes doesn't find certain substrings - Mac AND iOS

gnirkatto

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I'm struggling with Apple Notes under Monterey 12.0.1 and iOS 15.1.
Assuming there is a note titled 'String1string2string3 String4'

A search for:

String1 : found
string2 : NOT found
string3 : found
ing2string3: NOT found
String4: found
string3 String4 : not found
etc.

It's hard to reproduce, because it does not in ALL cases behave as described here. It sometimes finds all kinds of strings or substrings.
I also tested for potential problematic special foreign language characters, like ö, ä etc. This is NOT the problem, it often finds these instantly.

I moved some of these problematic Apple notes to Evernote, and all (sub)strings were found instantly with no problems.

A notes app that does not reliably find all (sub)strings makes me nervous.

Anyone here experiencing a similar problem?
 

Annie_M

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I’m not sure I’ve had this issue to the same extreme but I have at times had problems finding a specific note. So I started using folders and that has made searches much more productive and successful.
 

gnirkatto

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I too have folders but refuse to see that as a workaround for a notes app not functioning properly.

I spent almost 3 hours of my Sunday afternoon today, first in a support chat with Apple, where I first had to educate them what strings and substrings were. He could reproduce the problem eventually. Arranged a call with another support person (not sr., same level, wanted to ask the same questions again, log in to my computer, create a new user etc.). Refused to understand that his workmate could recreate the problem on his computer, so the hassle of creating another user on my computer was pointless. I ended the call and requested another more sr. person to call me tomorrow. This was the most nightmare-ish support experience that I ever had.

Later, just to prove to myself that I'm right, I did in fact create a new user and guess what, there was the same problem.
 

Wotchered

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I have always had trouble finding stuff in Notes, it’s all right if you have plenty of time, but I always seem to want to find something in a hurry….
 

gnirkatto

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Had a very constructive chat over the phone with a more sr Apple support lady. I could demonstrate the issue via screen sharing, and she could reproduce it on her computer.
On her advice, I rebuilt the spotlight index. It did not help.
Next step will be to produce a video of the issue and to forward to Apple R&D.
 

doogald

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I have to say that I tried to recreate this on my Mac running Monterey. At first (e.g. just after note creation), I couldn't search for any of the strings. But, after testing a while later (a few hours later), I could successfully search for any of the substrings, and they were also case-independent (so "String3" returned the same way as "string3").
 

gnirkatto

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I have to say that I tried to recreate this on my Mac running Monterey. At first (e.g. just after note creation), I couldn't search for any of the strings. But, after testing a while later (a few hours later), I could successfully search for any of the substrings, and they were also case-independent (so "String3" returned the same way as "string3").
well - this is the problem, and explains why not many people immediately run into this issue.
It seems to be particular combinations of characters & words, that work, or not.
Normally, when starting to work with such an app, nobody will do extensive testing - nor is it possible - to figure out if EVERY combination works. This happens mainly by accident, like in my case.
All of the not working strings have been in my notes app since forever, AND I rebuilt the search index according to Apples advice, with no success.

In the meanwhile, 3 Apple people, independent from each other, could recreate the problem on their computers (and on mine). Yesterday we recorded a demo on my computer, to be sent to Apple R & D.

I did not want to bother you with the original string-combination that made problems, because it contains language specific special characters. But I found another note titled "Question for the Avengers Endgame specialist", making the same problems:

Avengers : found
venger : not found
vengers : found
avenger : found
endgame : not found (nor any substring version)
specialist : found
cialist : not found
pecialist : found

It might also be that the same strings that don't work on mine, do work on other computers, due to problems in the indexing process, but this is a thing only R&D people will be able to clarify, imho.
 

doogald

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Yes, I just tried to replicate, and endgame worked for me, but vengers did not, pecialist did not. (spe did work. Generally the first few characters of any word always worked.)

Please update this if you hear back from Apple with any resolution!
 

Annie_M

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I really appreciate your diligence and sharing of your information. This will be beneficial to all of us! Thank you!
 

gnirkatto

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Brief update call with Apple, questions from R&D:

same effect(s) on icloud.com? : yes
same effects on other devices? : yes, Mac, iPad, 2 iPhones (as mentioned already)
they noticed a firewall was on, maybe causing problems? : turned off, same problems. AND there is no firewall when using icloud.com (in browser). AND other users and Apple personnel could recreate.

Next call in 3 days from now.
 

gnirkatto

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Update after today's support call w Apple:

apparently, the R&D guy could reproduce the problem.
As a flawed search function affects multiple Apple systems (Mac, iOS, Notes, Spotlight etc.), he will have to cooperate with other groups to determine the cause and how to fix.

Next call scheduled for 11/29. Will update here afterwards.
 

Annie_M

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Update after today's support call w Apple:

apparently, the R&D guy could reproduce the problem.
As a flawed search function affects multiple Apple systems (Mac, iOS, Notes, Spotlight etc.), he will have to cooperate with other groups to determine the cause and how to fix.

Next call scheduled for 11/29. Will update here afterwards.

Making progress!
 

gnirkatto

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quick update:

11/29: no news during support call
12/02: confirmation that all information that was needed got submitted. The issue got escalated to the iCloud-team for further research (makes sense imho, as the problem is identical on all platforms, and all notes are synced via iCloud).

This might now take a little longer. Next call scheduled for 12/16.
In the meanwhile, I will check from time to time if the problem persists. They might do something with the search algorithms/indexing in the (iCloud-)background (so said Apple support. I don't expect this to happen very soon, but who knows).
 

gnirkatto

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'iCloud engineering is working on it - as this is related to iCloud, not the OSs'
No further news.
I stated that when working offline, with no iCloud connection, the problem still exists.
I also stated that I will have to consider moving back to Evernote, as this problem gets increasingly annoying, and apparently no progress is being made (actually, I'm still running E in parallel, and whenever looking for something important, I cross-check in E, just in case there is information that Apple Notes search does not show me).

Apple Notes offers superior search speed, compared to Evernote. However, the difference is not huge, and I'll rather sacrifice a little speed, than not getting all information I'm looking for. On top of all that, E is WAY more feature rich than Apple notes (but also more complex to navigate). Yes it costs extra money, but it delivers on its main purpose in life, and Apple Notes does not (yet).

Next support call on Jan 6.
 

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