Every once in a while, a technology comes along that can change the way you work in significant ways. Evernote is just such a technology. In its simplest usage, Evernote is a cross-platform repository for notes and information. Used to its full potential, Evernote is a database capable of helping people go paperless, collect and organize every facet of their life, and be a constant companion and source of relevant information. Begun in 2008 as a web service, Evernote has grown across virtually all platforms, raised over $200 million in funding and is used by over 10 million users worldwide. And best of all, it’s free! For heavy users, there is a premium version for a nominal fee.
The basic unit of information in Evernote is a note. A note can be anything from plain text typed directly into Evernote, to an email, a clipped web page, a photograph, a voice memo and most recently, a handwritten note. These notes can be put into Evernote by typing in a note, clipping a web page from the extensions available for the major browsers, by emailing it to your Evernote account, by scanning a document into your sync folder, or by taking a picture with the built in smartphone functionality. Once entered, this note is available to you on any device on which you have installed Evernote and logged into to your account, or from anywhere using the web interface. The possibilities are endless.
To get started, you first need to understand a few basic concepts. As stated earlier, a note is any single entity stored in Evernote, regardless of format. A notebook, is, as you might guess, a place where you store your notes. You can have as many or few notebooks as you want. A tag is a keyword that you can use to further organize and find your notes. Syncing is the process of keeping all of your notes in sync across all platforms.
There are two ways to get started with Evernote. You can create an account at Evernote.com, or you can download the software and get started by registering that software. Unless you are always going to just use the web service, you may as well begin by downloading and installing the software. For ease of use and getting acclimated, it would be best to start with a laptop or computer and then move to the smartphone and tablet versions as you become more accustomed to using it.
Go to Evernote.com and click on the link to download the client to your computer. Once you download it and follow the prompts to install it, you will need to create your account. Again, you could have created the account directly at Evernote.com, but if not, click on the link in the dialog box to go there and create one. If you already have, simply log in using the username and password you created. To create the account, you need to give the system your name, email address, username, and password. Although you will have an Evernote email address, the one you give here will be used to communicate with you from Evernote. You should create a strong and secure password here as you should any time you create an online account, but since Evernote will probably come to contain all manner of information, treat it as you would a password to your bank or financial accounts.
As soon as you register, you will be logged in and your Evernote software will load on your computer. Before going any further, create an icon or icons in easy to access locations. You will be using this a lot. You are now faced with an empty Evernote interface. This varies slightly by operating system, but basically, you will have a notebook on the left and an empty area on the right where notes are created and viewed. Click on the new note icon at the top to create a blank note. Once you begin using it a lot, you will want to learn the shortcut for this. In Windows, it’s Ctrl-N. Now just start typing. Although there is a sync button you can use to sync manually, Evernote saves and syncs automatically quite often. To see this in action, click sync and when that finishes, log into your account on Evernote.com and you will see your new note there.
This is where part of the power of Evernote becomes apparent. Whatever you put into a note becomes available on your laptop, your smartphone, your tablet, and on the web. Anything and everything you need to know is available and at your fingertips at all times, from a grocery list to all of your financial records and anything in between.
At this point, spend some time becoming accustomed to the interface by creating a few notes and going through the very simple menu system. Once you have a handle on that, you will want to create some notebooks. One of these notebooks will become your main input notebook. This means that anything that you send to Evernote by any means other than directly typing will be sent to this notebook. You can then drag and drop all notes to the appropriate notebook. Create a notebook for this purpose or rename the one already there. You will want to give it a useful name such as input or main. It is also a good idea to prefix the name with punctuation so that alphabetically, it will always be at the top. ‘!!Input’ is a good example. To rename a notebook, simply right click on it and choose the rename command. To make it your default notebook, right-click, select properties and check the box labeled “Make this my default notebook.”
You can create as many notebooks as you need to keep your notes organized. You can also “nest” notebooks. To do this, drag one notebook inside another. The outer notebook becomes the container and can contain any number of nested notebooks. This is where there is a large debate among Evernote users. You can organize your notes by using as many notebooks as you want, or you can use tags, or any combination. To tag a note, open it and click where it says, “Click to add tag.” Anything you type there becomes a tag by which the notes can be organized and searched. Evernote has a very good and strong search engine which will search not only by tags, but any text in a note, as well as text inside PDF documents and even pictures, using its Optical Character Recognition (OCR) algorithms. You should spend some time getting used to the concepts of notes, notebooks and tags at this point and develop your own style of organization. You can, and probably should, rethink this at any time, but it’s much easier to have a basic organizational hierarchy in place early on.
That, in its simplest form, is how to begin using Evernote, but as you grow to use it more and depend on it, you will discover the myriad of other ways to make it more useful.
· Download the software to your smartphones and tablets. Once synced up, you have all your data with you on the go.
· Create a sync folder on your computer or laptop. Any file of any type placed in this folder will be placed in your default input folder in Evernote. If you have a scanner, make this folder the destination for all scanned documents. This will be an easy way to go paperless.
· Look in your account info section under the tools menu and get your Evernote email address. Anything emailed to that address is placed in your default folder. Always have those important emails handy. Or use ti when registering for blogs or other information portals to have them sent directly to Evernote.
· Make sure you have the Evernote extension turned on in your email client and browsers. This should happen when you install the software. In this way, it is easy to clip emails and web pages into your default folder. The web clients have many options on what and how to clip. You never have to remember on what web page you saw that great piece of information again.
· On your smartphone, learn how to use the camera on the main Evernote page. Take a picture of anything you need to remember wherever you are and it’s in your Evernote default folder.
· Also on your smartphones, learn how to use the voice recorder function. This can make direct recordings that will be saved in your default folder, or have it use the very good voice to text conversion to make notes on the go.
Evernote is one of those applications that is a bit hard to describe, but once you begin using it, will become an indispensable tool.