Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Evernote – part 1 – The Basics

I don’t know about you, but when I love a product, I tend to talk about it.  (sometimes a little too much!)  Evernote is one of those products.  I’ve talked it up enough that more than a few people have asked me what it is & how they should use it, which gives me a good reason to write a post about it.

Evernote Basics

What is Evernote?  Well, a screen clip from their website is a great place to start:


That basically says it all.

Capture anything.

  • Sceen Clippings
  • Web Sites
  • Thoughts, notes, ideas
  • Voice notes
  • Photos
  • Emails
  • Digital files - pdf, doc, xls, etc.

Access anywhere.

Everything you put into Evernote is readily available on every device you own, as well as any computer (or any other device) with an internet connection.  It’s totally platform independent.

  • Windows PCs & laptops
  • Netbooks
  • Macs and MacBooks
  • Android phones
  • Android tablets
  • iPhones and iPod Touch
  • iPads
  • Blackberry phones
  • Blackberry PlayBook

This means anything you note, capture, or edit on any of these devices will be automatically sync’d up with all your other devices, ready to be retrieved or edited from wherever you are & whatever device you’re using.

Find things fast.

Evernote offers 3 completely different ways to organize your notes, each of which can be used with or without any of the others:

  • Categorize with notebooks
  • Label with tags
  • World class searching, including searching handwritten & typed text in photos and scanned files.


(image courtesy of Jeffrey Beall)

Notebooks and Notebook Stacks.  Stacks are like file cabinet drawers (or stacks of file folders), and Notebooks are like file folders.  Each note can only be in one notebook, like each piece of paper can only be in one file folder.  You can have multiple notebooks in a stack.  People who are good with filing systems - paper or digital - will probably gravitate towards this system.

For example:

Suppose you had a Notebook Stack called Vacation, which contained Notebooks for San Diego, Colorado, Florida, and New York.

Information for your trip to San Diego would go in your San Diego notebook.

You could find all your San Diego notes by selecting the San Diego notebook, OR by selecting the Vacation notebook stack.  (in which case you would see your San Diego notes mixed in with your notes from Colorado, Florida, and New York.)

Tags. Tags are like labels.  Each note can have an unlimited number of tags.  In addition, Tags can be organized into a file-tree for those who want to organize groups of tags together – this makes it visually easier to find a tag or tag group on the screen.  People who prefer a little less structure, or those who are used to using labels extensively, will most likely gravitate towards tags.

a plain white undecorated gift label on a turquoise backdrop (


Information for your trip to San Diego would be tagged with San Diego and Vacation.  (and possibly Restaurants, Theme Parks, or Hotels.)

Search by Key Words.  Since Evernote's search capabilities are so good, some people just put their notes into a "big digital pile", but they can search for a particular word or phrase to find the note they want.


Information for your trip to San Diego is just put into Evernote.  You could find it by searching for San Diego, or San Diego Restaurant, or Sea World, or whatever makes sense for whatever you are looking for.

How to get started using Evernote

Because it can be a bit overwhelming to think about what goes into Evernote, or making a switch from where you are today to going paperless, or anything drastic like that, I recommend you start with 1 thing, and add other uses as you get comfortable with it.

Recipes.  My wife gave Evernote a try with her recipe collection.  Over the years she had accumulated magazine pages, email & website printouts, and lots of individual recipe-cards.  Years ago I built her a template she could use to type in a recipe & have it print out onto postcard.  The postcards were then kept in a cute little box in the kitchen.  This was ok when it worked, but it had several flaws:

  1. She would get behind & end up with a stack of printouts, then have to stay up late one night to type them all out.
  2. She would get a new computer, and if everything wasn't backed up perfectly, she would lose her digital copy.
  3. She would be at the store, or at her mom's house, and wouldn't have the ingredient list for a particular dish with her.



Using Evernote has solved all 3 problems.

Now she can type them up, clip the web page directly into Evernote, or take a picture of a magazine page with her cell phone, and the recipe is stored – permanently and easily searchable-sharable-readable.

She tags the recipes as needed - chicken, main dish, dessert, appetizer, gfcf, etc., so she can quickly search for whatever type of dish she's looking for.

She also has them wherever she goes - home computer, smart phone, mom's computer, wherever there's an internet connection.

By doing this, she’s become more familiar with Evernote as an application – how to put stuff in, how to find it later, and how it all shows up wherever she needs it to be.  That makes it a lot easier to start using it for other things, too.

Other ideas include:

  • web research – Evernote is awesome here.  Screen clippings save exact images from your screen.  Web clippings copy web pages and include the url they were copied from.  And you can add as many notes about it as you need to.
  • plan a vacation – maps, hotel information, restaurants and entertainment ideas, flight info, contacts in the area.
  • client notes – housing likes and dislikes, neighborhood criteria, photos, notes about homes you’ve shown them, mls search results, alternative contact information, frequently reviewed emails, etc.
  • receipts – take a picture of a receipt with your phone, and Evernote will read the text for searching later.
  • hobbies – Evernote can become a collection of notes, projects, history, ideas.
  • blogging! – Jot down an idea (typed or voicenote) wherever it comes to you.  Write rough draft posts in.  Clip articles and images to be used later.
  • journal – an easy way to write up your daily thoughts throughout the day, from whichever device or wherever you are.
  • add more ideas as you get comfortable with it!

In part 2 I'll write about how I use Evernote - how I organize it and some specific ways I use it to be more efficient.

For those of you who want to know more about it – security, sharing notes, bandwidth limitations, free vs premium, etc., there’s been more written than you have time to read!  Start by reviewing the evernote website, then try one of the 61,400,000 results that returned in my Google search for Evernote.

Anyone out there already using Evernote?  Please chime in on anything I might have missed..

** Update 9/28/11 - Link Here to Evernote Part 2 - How I Organize and My 10 Best Uses.

Your thankful to have an external brain Realtor,

Chris Butterworth