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With all the hoopla surrounding Google Drive, and everyone going nuts over Dropbox, I think one other service is being sorely neglected – Evernote. Our Evernote coverage has been rather sketchy of late, and I think that’s a shame because in my opinion, Evernote is one of the best services out there on the Internet. It deserves to be appreciated more.
So to get our coverage going again (and as a buildup to an Evernote manual which I am about to begin writing for MakeUseOf Guides), here are some handy tips that I have picked up over the past 6 months or so, as I have become more and more addicted to the service. Especially because of its desktop software and web clipper which allows you to construct your own private scrapbook of links, images and files, all searchable and taggable. I don’t normally pay for premium services but I opened my wallet and upgraded my Evernote account (which is a big deal for a tight Scotsman like me). The moths hiding inside my wallet were startled to see daylight.
Email Everything To Your Evernote Email Address
As we start to own multiple devices, things like maintaining an orderly list of articles you want to read or maintaining an organised set of bookmarks or photos you want to keep, becomes a bit more of a challenge. Sure, you could use Instapaper for your article list (which I also do. I am also a huge Instapaper fan) and you can use bookmark syncing services such as Xmarks for the bookmarks, but I am finding these days that it is just as easy to send it all directly to the Evernote account, tagged and categorised in its own notebook. I have never been a big fan of Xmarks, especially when browser synchronising involves installing plugins. Like Erez, I prefer bookmarklets over plugins.
If you own a smartphone or a tablet, a lot of apps offer you the chance to send their files and photos directly to your email. But instead of having it sent to your normal email, have it sent directly to your Evernote email instead. Have email newsletters sent to your Evernote account too. When someone emails you photos, automatically forward them to Evernote.
When emailing something to your Evernote account, the subject line is where you specify the title of the note, the notebook the note should go to, as well as any tags you want to apply (in that order). Just put the notebook name in front of a @ (so @makeuseof for anything to go into the MakeUseOf notebook, for example) and all tags need to have the hashtag before it (so #makeuseof ). Note that the notebook needs to already exist in your Evernote account. Evernote won’t create it for you automatically when the email arrives.
You will find your Evernote email address in the account settings, under usage. If you start getting spam with it, you can click a “reset” button in your account, and you will get a new email address instantly. Obviously, to minimise the amount of potential spam you might get, don’t broadcast your Evernote email address far and wide. Keep it to yourself as much as possible.
Simultaneous Search – Improve Your Google Search
When you are searching for that elusive weblink on Google, the one you last saw several months previously, you may not be aware that the link is actually buried deep inside your Evernote account, because you put it there for safekeeping. With Simultaneous Search, when searching Google for something, your Evernote account will also be searched, with the results shown at the top.
For this feature to be enabled, you need to have the Evernote Web Clipper installed for either Firefox or Chrome (one of the very few browser plugins I am willing to tolerate). Then go into the extension’s preferences and enable “simultaneous search“. A browser restart will probably then be required.
Let Evernote Guide You To A Paperless Life
The fact is that these days, we get too much paper, and there’s really no need for it. If only companies would solely embrace email and PDF files, and drastically cut back on paper correspondence to customers, we would all be better off – environmentally, financially and from a productivity point of view. One classic example is my bank which charges me 3 Euros a month to have my bank statements printed out and posted to me – even though those same statements are available online as PDF files.
Until companies finally learn, you can use Evernote to have all of your important printed correspondence filed, indexed and searchable, to cut down on the mountain of paper threatening to topple down on top of you. If you have a smartphone, use a scanning app (iPhone users can use the excellent TurboScan, which was recently profiled by Tim) to take a picture of the document and then send it directly to Evernote via email.
But the best part is that Evernote has OCR scanning capabilities which means that every word on the scanned document is identified and made searchable. So when finding that important tax document in the future, just enter relevant keywords into the Evernote search engine and up the letter pops.
You can also use the scanning principle to scan business cards and important receipts. Then shred the originals. Again, the OCR technology kicks into play here and indexes every word on these scans for later easy searching.
Create Note Links For Easy Access Later
As well as the search engine and the OCR capabilities, there is another easy way to ensure that important notes can be easily found later. In fact there are two ways to do it. The first is to drag the note with your mouse up to the desktop software’s bar like so :
The second is to create a “table of contents” in a new note. To do this, right-click on the note you want to link to and choose “copy note link“. Then go to a new note and do CTRL-V (or right-click and “paste”). The hyperlink to the note will then appear.
Here is a little MakeUseOf table of contents I made with some editorial notes I need for my job every day, which are stored in my Evernote account.
What is great about note links is that they are not confined to Evernote. Paste them into sticky notes and Microsoft Word for example, and when clicked, the note in your Evernote account will pop up. Note links are perfect for projects where lots of research materials need to be used and you need some way to organise it all. Just drag it all into Evernote and then make a clickable table of contents.
Index Your Innermost Thoughts With Audio Notes
I hate hearing my voice as a recorded message but even so, I am gradually starting to like the idea of leaving audio notes. Often when I am out and about, ideas strike but I don’t have pen and paper. So the Evernote smartphone app (iOS | Android) is great because I can use the audio function to record a note with my phone and it will be sent straight to my Evernote account for indexing. Since I am speaking it into a phone, I can also make it look like a phone call and people don’t look at me all weird because I am talking to myself.
When the audio message arrives in your Evernote account, there is a small integrated audio player which enables you to listen to your message without having to download it to your computer first. It’s a basic player (stop and start) but it gets the job done.
So these are 5 features off the top of my head which I think makes Evernote stand out from the rest of the pack. Obviously there are a lot more but I will be saving those for the Evernote manual that I will begin writing anytime now (schedule permitting!). Let us know in the comments if you use Evernote, and if so, which features you love (or hate, if any).