I’m starting something new on the blog: Techno Thursday. I’m a geek wanna be, in that I love techie stuff, but couldn’t write code if my life depended on it. But I’m every tech producer’s dream, as I’ll try out pretty much any gizmo or gadget out there. Some I think are cool…but I end up only using them once or twice. And some stick with me forever.
So here’s where I’ll blog about the techno do-dads (both hardware and software) that I find either particularly useful or particularly annoying.
Today I’m blogging about one that is, in my opinion, right up there on the awesomeness scale: Evernote
What? You haven’t heard of Evernote? Tsk-tsk! Check it out, and I think you’ll see how handy it can be. Basically, Evernote is an online, easily searchable database for pretty much whatever you want to put in it.
I use it to organize information about my various books, a family scrapbook, notes regarding ePublishing, business cards of folks I’ve met, homeschooling info, story ideas, documents I exchange with my critique partners, classes I’m taking, recipes, info about my youngest daughter’s cleft palate treatment, travel info (hotel reservation), and so much more.
So how does it work?
Basically, you feed info into Evernote…and there it is for you. It’s like dumping all your stuff into a big box. But instead of having the stuff be lost forever, you can get your fingers on it easily by searching for a particular word, by a tag, by how you organized it into the notebook, by the location where you were when you uploaded the document, and more.
And it’s not just standard text that’s searchable. For information that’s in there as text or as an image or PDF, the information is searchable.
So, for example, if I write a note that says “Call Mom” and take a pic of it with my iPhone and dump it into Evernote, then once it syncs, I can do a search for “Mom” and the note will appear. So will all the PDFs or other documents with the word Mom.
(Caveat-there is both a free and a premium service. I have the premium service which allows for an insane amount of uploads each month—1GB! I’ve been uploading high quality jpgs of my backpacking through Europe trip—and I’ve barely made a dent in the monthly upload allowance. The text recognition is faster for premium, too, and you get offline notebooks (which is something I use regularly). Premium is only $45/year, and I think it’s worth it. By the way, I have no affiliation with Evernote, other than as a huge fan. Of course, if someone at Evernote wants to hire me….
What File Types Can Go Into Evernote?
That’s easy. Pretty much anything.
Clip a webpage (the entire thing, or just certain text). Evernote has a handy “clipper” icon to install on your computer. Zing! You’ve got the page. If you’re like me, you tend to clip and go, then come back later and organize a few days worth of input. If you’re better organized, you add tags and put it into a notebook right then (more on those later).
Send your photos straight into Evernote. I do this with a lot of photos. I created a Notebook called DIARY. I use an iPhone App called FastEver Snap. Every photo I take using FastEverSnap goes to that Notebook (I could change it, but I rarely do). That way, if I take a cute pic of my kids, I know where to find it.
Add a voice note. Say you’re driving and come up with a brilliant solution to the plot problem you’ve been having? Or regarding the expansion of the universe? Or the magic words to make that cute guy fall madly in love with you. Just send an audio note to Evernote. But you’re in the car, and you forgot to title or tag it, and EN doesn’t search words. How will you find it? You recall that you were in Dallas at the time. Do a search by location! (Cool, huh?) (There are also apps that will translate your EN voice notes and send a text; I haven’t used any of those.)
Scan your documents into EN and strive for a paperless office. I recently bought a Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300 and don’t know how I lived without it (though any scanner will work, the SnapScan easily integrates with Evernote and has settings so that with one click you’re scanning simplex or duplex, color or B&W, low res or super high res.)
Send handwritten electronic notes using a program such as EverPaint for your iPhone or iPad
Send a PDF (and know that it’s searchable! And you can open the PDF on your iPad using iAnnotate and make notes on it. IAnnotate isn’t an Evernote application, but I use it all the time with PDFs that I store in EN).
Use the personal email address you have to forward key emails to EN — just to be sure. Also, I have filters set up on my email so that certain emails (monthly passwords for a few message boards, things like the monthly newsletters for organizations) skip my email inbox and go straight to EN. They go into a notebook I’ve named “Inbox” (I wish there were a way to automate forwarding to a notebook; so far, I don’t believe there is. However, for single emails you can use @notebook or #tag and the note will show up where you want it (the Notebook and/or tag need to already exist).
Obviously these suggestions cover a whole range of sub-types that I’ll talk about below, but those are the basic kinds of documents.
Suggestions for Using Evernote
I touched on this a bit earlier. Here are some more specific thoughts:
Recipes – Create a “Recipes” Notebook and then clip from the web, scan your cards, type in your recipes. However you acquire it, EN can store it.
Task lists – Evernote has a checkbox, and if you search for your to-dos, those items will come up. I don’t use EN as a task list, though, because I find it a bit unwieldy, and the check boxes don’t show up on all devices. I do use the check boxes to let me know if, for example, I’ve sent a critique of a project to someone, if I’ve read a lesson in one of my online classes, or if it’s something I see on a webpage that I want to do “sometime”. (So what do I use for task lists? I’ve abandoned just about everything — blog post coming — and now use the “Notes” feature on the Mac products. And the “reminders” that are available w/ the new iphone OS.)
If you’re a writer, a “Story Ideas” file is great.
Story Bibles (so easy to include character images, notes, etc.) (Scrivener is also great for this…that’s another coming blog post, too).
Organize your upcoming Blog posts (I put ideas in EN, but write in Scrivener.)
Teachers can organize lesson plans
Home Decorating (Pinterest is also cool for that kind of stuff)
Home Repair/Maintenance info (we have our AC filter info in EN, and similar information for stuff around the house, like the annoying little numbers on those funny flat batteries, dates we’re supposed to drain the water heater, when to check the carbon monoxide detectors, and stuff like that).
Collaboration (you can Share notebooks; I share the one with household info with my husband).
Conference Planning and Notes – put all the deets for a conference (reservation, receipts, confirmations, notes from panels, business cards of folks you meet) in a notebook. You’ll always be able to find folks!
Your kids schoolwork … or your schoolwork, including syllabus and class notes
Books you want to read
Taxes…save your tax-related documents throughout the year and avoid having to plow through cardboard boxes
Gift lists — best friend mention something she loves? Write it down so that you’ve got a great idea for a gift down the road.
Share a notebook with the world. Yup, you can make one of your notebooks public and let friends and family and the blogosphere see what you think about cool stuff!
The list is, literally, endless. Great ideas at blog.evernote.com and at Ron’s Evernote Tips. Also, if you google Evernote and whatever you want to do (“Evernote lesson plans” or “Evernote gardening” I bet you’ll get some great ideas and tips!)
Getting Info Into Evernote
There are several ways.
Webclipper – A little elephant that lives on your computer. Click him and you have the choice (depending on the browser) to clip an entire webpage or just an article.
Screenshot — on a Mac, you use Control-Command-C and that opens a grid so you can identify the image you want. You can also use the webclipper
Email – to your personal Evernote email address
Scan – pretty self explanatory. Most scan programs can be set up to ScanTo something. Just pick Evernote as your application
Twitter – After you connect, you can simply add @myEN and your tweets will go to your EN account. (I don’t use this that often; generally I want to save a webpage, not a tweet. But it’s a nice option to have!)
Various phone apps such as FastEver Snap, mentioned above.
Drag and drop – take a doc on your computer and drag it to the application icon for EN. Works great!
Do I Need Software?
No, but I recommend it. You can do Evernote completely “in the cloud.” But I find the interface not nearly as nice as on my computers. I have EN on my iPhone, iPad, iMac and MacBook Air (can you tell we’re a mac family?). The nice thing is that they all sync!
**Tip: if you use EN for your phone or iPad, open the app and let it sync frequently. I’ve run into the issue where I’m cooking and using EN on my phone as my recipe book, and I have to wait for the sync to finish.
Early on I read a blog post wherein the writer said to use a minimum number of notebooks and lots and lots of tags. I did…and I hated it. So now, I have notebooks of whatever I would have had a file for in a filing cabinet. (Originally, your document could only be in one notebook, and in those circumstances, few notebooks and multiple tags made sense. Now, however, a document can be copied. So if you want to have it in multiple notebooks, you can. Personally, I like organizing that way!)
But I still use lots and lots of tags. At a minimum, I tag what it is (even if that’s the notebook). I tag who and/or where I got it. So, if it’s a recipe for Paleo banana pudding, my notebook would be Recipes, and my tags would be: Paleo, primal, recipe, banana, pudding, dessert. If I got the recipe from my friend Joe when were talking over dinner at Rudy’s BBQ, I’d also add: Joe, Rudy’s, BBQ simply because that may be the way I remember, three years from now: that I got a recipe from Joe that I wanted to try.
My Favorite Evernote Apps
FastEver (there is also a version for the iPad).
Check out the Evernote Trunk for all sorts of apps. (I have a bunch on my phone; those are the ones I use daily)
That’s enough for a beginning! I’ll probably use another Thursday for additional cool Evernote goodies I think of!
Do you use Evernote? Share how!
Got questions? I’ll try to answer!