Don’t Forget: Use Evernote

We all forget stuff; it’s a fact of life. Unless you’re like my brother, who hasn’t forgotten anything yet (“You know what we did a year ago today?”), you know that it’s usually the important stuff that doesn’t show up on time. Evernote is out to change that, by being an external extension to your brain.

The best way to describe Evernote? Via their description, “Evernote makes it easy to remember things big and small from your notable life using your computer, phone, and the web.” Read on for our quick review of this great web app.

What it Does

Evernote makes it easy to capture almost any information you don’t want to lose. Anywhere on your computer, and even out in the real world, you can grab what you want to remember and throw it (proverbially) into Evernote. But how does this help you remember stuff?

Evernote does have a web app, but it is primarily a web service: it uses true cloud computing through native applications. Name your platform; Evernote probably has a presence on it. You can use Evernote in the following places:

  • Windows
  • Mac
  • iPhone / iPod touch
  • Blackberry
  • Palm Pre / Pixi
  • Windows Mobile
  • Android
  • Nokia N97 (very beta)

And of course, there’s the web interface. Therefore, armed with only a computer and a smartphone, you can use Evernote as your external brain. Let’s look at how you put stuff into Evernote and how to call it up when you need to.

The Evernote Web Interface

Overview

Capturing Data

Collect

Capturing Data

If you’re at your computer, your main source of stuff-to-remember is probably the web. Evernote has browser extensions for IE, Safari (on Mac), Firefox, and Chrome. If you’re on another browser, you can take advantage of the bookmarklet.

If you’re not on the web, you can set up keyboard shortcuts for screen or text captures. You can also drag files into your desktop client. And on a Mac, you can add an iSight photo note.

What about away from the computer? With almost all the major mobile clients, you can easily add text-, voice-, or image-notes. There’s a mobile web app that allows you to add text notes. And of course, every desktop client (and the web app), allow you to type away as well. With all these options, you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting that receipt or news article safely tucked away.

Premium users can store any type of file in Evernote. Free users can only store images, audio, and PDFs.

Organizing Data

Organizing Data

Organizing Data

So once all that stuff is into Evernote, what do you do? Firstly, Evernote has already done a lot for you. If you’ve clipped an article from the web, it keeps the source URL. If you’ve add a note on the go with a mobile device, Evernote will use the device’s GPS to geotag the note. It does more, but you can add your own level of organization on top of the meta data.

Evernote has two sorting systems: notebooks and tags. A notebook is similar to a folder: notes can live inside it. And a tag is exactly like a tag in any other web app. The obvious difference is that a note can have multiple tags but can only be in one notebook, so you have to find the happy-medium that works for you.

Personally, I have 8 notebooks and about ~200 tags (for 1,430+ notes). Do what works for you!

When I started using Evernote, I thought it would be better to have only one notebook and organize everything with tags. Now that I have almost 1500 notes, I’m leaning more towards segregating notes with notebooks. It seems to help managing and manipulating my large collection.

Finding Your Information

Search

Search

Search Attributes

Search Attributes

How does storing your memorables in Evernote help you remember? Really, it doesn’t, but it makes them easy to access at any time. So how can you get to the note you want? If you know exactly what you want, you can easily search for it.

The beauty here—and one of the main features of Evernote—is that Evernote processes all the images you give it with their OCR software and indexes the text in them. Of course, those results are easily searchable. Evernote just recently added the premium feature of indexing the images within PDFs.

However, searching isn’t the only way to get to your notes. The sidebar offers filtering by attributes like what the note contains, where it came from, and when it was last modified. And of course, you can click on a tag or notebook to narrow the visible notes.

If you find yourself searching with the same terms often, you can easily save that search.

More Great Features

Sharing Information

Share

Share

For about a year after Evernote went public, the only way you could share your notes with others was by making a public notebook. Recently, however, Evernote expanded on that: you can now share notebooks with only certain individuals, and (if your a premium member) you can allow them to modify the notebook.

Currently, sharing can only be done from the web interface. Once you click “Sharing Setup,” you can share your notebooks however you like: with the world, or with a few friends.

Share Notebooks

Share Notebooks

When viewing a shared notebook, you’ll notice that it’s pretty similar to the regular notebook layout. If you want to keep tabs on a notebook that’s been shared with you, just click “Link to my Account” near the top right corner. Then, the notebook will show up on your sharing settings panel, and in your sidebar.

Linked Notebooks

Linked Notebooks

Great Community

Besides being a great web app, Evernote has a rather active community; to mingle with other Elephant lovers, you can join the FriendFeed group, follow Ron’s Evernote Tips tumblelog, check out their forums, or listen to the official Evernote Podcast.

The podcast is always a really fun listen to! 🙂

Alternatives

Although Evernote has a great feature set, you might want something more. Springpad offers great templates, as well as “apps” for turning your notes into vacation plans, weekly meal menus, and more. Zoho Notebook is an amazingly powerful online notetaker that integrates perfectly with the Zoho office suite. And if you prefer to keep your notes completely local, OneNote and Yojimbo are leaders.

Final Thoughts

I’ve been using Evernote for over a year and a half now, and I’ve found that the longer I use it, the more I use it! What makes Evernote stand out in the crowd is how they focus on letting you get what you want to remember into the system with absolute ease.

It would be nice if Evernote offered templating for notes; also, the checklist feature is really weak, and it’s something I would use a lot more if improved. Overall, their platform ubiquity, solid organization, and continually growing feature set makes this service indispensable.


Summary

Evernote makes it easy to remember things big and small from your notable life using your computer, phone, and the web.

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