Thursday, July 28, 2011

How to get the most out of Evernote

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Image by shainelee via Flickr"]Use Evernote for Hand Written Notes[/caption]

As a preacher of the Evernote, I am often asked how to use it. The answer is a little tricky; most of us use paper differently. Some of us write detailed notes; some of us write broad concepts. What may work for me may not necessarily work for you. So, how can I help you figure out Evernote? The answer is to highlight some of the features of Evernote with some examples of uses, then you can see how the feature may fit into your lifestyle. The important thing to remember is that the more you use it, the more useful it becomes.

What Evernote Does and Doesn't

Evernote saves information and makes it easy to organize and find that information. Many new users expect Evernote to organize information for them. Evernote doesn't work that way. It's up to you to organize information within the Evernote platform. Evernote provides indexing, notebooks, stacks of notebooks, tags, GPS coordinates, and other ways of organizing information. They are amazingly useful if you take advantage of them. They are vital to getting the most out of your experience.


The feature I used the most on Evernote is photo capturing. I use photos for shopping, documentation, capturing notes, capturing store business hours, and the covers of books I would like to buy in the future.

Writing Recognition

Evernote can read text in photographs. The text can be in print or in neat handwriting. This allows you to use Evernote to capture handwritten notes such as:

  • post-its

  • class notes

  • white board notes

  • signs

  • business cards

One major advantage of capturing handwritten notes is that your photos can include drawings.


Evernote indexes PDF files for Premium subscribers. This is extremely handy when running searches for information. If your work is big into documents, having the ability to carry all your documents and search for them can be very useful. More than once, I've been able to find documentation for hardware that I forwarded by email to the person who needed it, from my phone.


One very useful feature of Evernote is the voice note feature. Assuming your phone has enough memory to hold it, Evernote can record up to 90 minutes of voice audio per note.  This is useful for:

  • Voice memos

  • recording lectures

  • recording meetings

What To Do?

Evernote provides To Do check boxes. You can organize To Do lists for every little project you have. This is very useful when you have a ton of projects and are trying to push each one along a little at a time.

Location, Location, Location

One feature that doesn't get too much attention is the GPS feature. When you enable it, all your notes will have a location attached to them. You can remember where you parked your car. You can figure out where you met a person whose business card you photographed; or, the opposite, you may remember where you met but not their name. You can find notes by job site.

Note Links

Have you ever used a Wiki? Evernote added a feature that allows you to cross-link your notes. If done well, you can turn your Evernote into a personal, private wiki.

Universal Access

One of the main selling points of Evernote is that they try to be available on as many devices as possible. This frees you up to use Evernote from your phone, at home on the computer, at the office through the web, from out of town at the hotel computer... just about anywhere. Your notes are always backed up.

Knowing that your notes are always backed up allows you some peace of mind and freedom. You can get rid of countless documents that litter your existence.

Mix and Match

You are not limited to one medium in your notes. You can add audio, text, and photos within a single note. If you are a premium subscriber, you can add other notes such as Excel files, movies, hardware drivers, or whatever. Each note helps you arrange information by context.

Recommended Notebooks

Here are some Notebook or Stack ideas that might help you get started:

  • Rolodex

  • School notes

  • Home records

  • 2011 Accounting

  • Journal

  • Reference

  • Travel

  • Projects

  • Recipes

Most Importantly

The most important thing to remember is that even though the name implies some form of permanence, Evernote does not have to keep your information forever. You can edit your notes and use them as scratchpads. Copy and paste are my best friends in Evernote.

Resist the temptation to be a pack rat. Information sometimes has an expiration date. As you add more notes to Evernote, old information that is no longer relevant can clutter up your search results. Don't hesitate to delete stuff you don't need.

And Finally

After having said all that, the only limitation that Evernote has is you. In my case, I can only accomplish four or five big tasks per day. I need paper to keep me on track. So, while I may keep my lists of things to do in Evernote, I will usually have a paper with the 5 most important things to do today.  I'll write notes in my Moleskine or other notepad.

Being very mobile, tapping away at my phone or tablet to write notes is time-consuming. It's better to write notes by hand and then store them into Evernote later. Your limitation will be how neat your handwriting is. It's also important to title and tag handwritten notes well just in case the handwriting recognition doesn't understand your writing.

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