You’ve probably heard of Evernote. Some call it a note-taking service, or an organization tool, or an archiving platform, but none of those terms are enough to convey just how much you can do with it. Evernote is, quite simply, an online spot to store anything and everything you might find of interest, to read or utilize later. The more you add, the more useful it becomes.
You can add to or access info on Evernote from the Web, full desktop programs for Windows (which we give a full five stars in our review) and Mac, or via mobile devices like iPhone, iPad, Android, or Windows Phone. Every single one of those interfaces has earned our Editors’ Choice award. That’s a lot of awards.
However, there is a new wrinkle: as of Aug. 19, if you have the free basic version, you can only sync notes to a max of TWO devices (not counting the Web-based interface). If you want full access on everything, as in the past, you need to pay for Premium Evernote.
There are also Evernote extensions for Web browsers, a handwriting and drawing app for iPads, even hardware that makes it especially helpful to input hard copy info into the service, including a special scanner.
That doesn’t even take into account the ecosystem of third-party software, apps, and services that make it a breeze to add items to your Evernote repository. There is even a version for Business users who want document sharing and collaboration tools in their teams.
Extras are great, but they don’t spell out just how to use Evernote. There are no lack of methods and best practices for getting the most out of the service. From what you can store to how you store it, there’s plenty to try. The competition from Microsoft, the totally free OneNote, is also worth considering as it’s better for taking typed notes—but as an info storehouse, Evernote can’t be beat.
Evernote’s got some issues, business-wise. It was one of the first Silicon Valley “unicorns,” a company valued at a billion dollars before it made a cent. Now, it’s having trouble monetizing its platform: a buzzwordy way of saying it needs to make money, and that’s why it’s killing products like Clearly and charging for things that used to be free. But that’s the price we’ll pay if we want to keep this service around.
So here’s our take on the top tips you need to get the most out of Evernote. If you do it right, it’ll be the database of your entire existence, make your day-to-day life that much simpler, and hopefully keep the company in business for many years of storage to come.
2. Clip the Web
3. Email to Evernote
The subject line will become the name of the note. You can make sure it’s filed right by adding @notebook, !date for a reminder, and/or #tag. Here’s an example:
Lowes Hose Purchase @Receipt !2014/05/05 #household.
You can also add emails to existing notes by using a + at the end of the subject line, adding it to a note with the same title as your subject line.
4. Merge Several Notes into One
Sometimes you have multiple notes that just go better together. It’s easy to merge them in the desktop versions of Evernote (Windows, Mac, and Web). Select multiple notes (hold down the Shift key and click) and you’ll see a graphical version of them in a pile. The options will be to email them, save the attachments in them, move them, or, of course, merge them. They’ll all get one title, based on the first note you picked. (If you have notes installed using discontinued Evernote extra apps like Food or Skitch, you can’t access the notes in those apps after a merge.)
5. Create Stacks and Stacks of Notebooks
Evernote storage is a metaphor, with notes inside notebooks. Well, notebooks can also be grouped together, inside “stacks.” For example, you could make a stack called Travel and then put multiple notebooks for different trips inside. You can share notebooks, but can’t share stacks. On the desktop versions you can drag and drop notebooks together to make a stack; right-click or click the pencil icon to name/rename a stack.
6. Add Reminders
Any note filed in Evernote can get a reminder. Click the alarm clock icon over the note in the Web or desktop interface, and you’ll get a drop-down calendar, with options to set a reminder tomorrow, in a week, or any time you’d like to go back and reference it.
7. Make a Task List
There are lots of online and mobile to-do list apps that kick Evernote’s butt, it’s true. But if you’re throwing your lot in with Evernote completely, it can’t hurt to know how to make one. Create a new note and look on the text toolbar above it (or below on the mobile apps) for the Check Box tool. Insert one and you’ll be on your way to creating a task list.
8. Secure Your Research
9. Track Expenses via Smartphone
There are many third-party apps like CamScanner (free for iOS and Android) that make the process of inputting the images even easier. In fact, Evernote makes one for iOS only, called Scannable—another Evernote product that got our Editors’ Choice award.
10. Create Notes With Apps
11. Auto Detect Post-it Notes
12. Use Moleskine for Better Notes
Optionally, you can get the $199 Moleskine Smart Writing Set ($199.00 at Moleskine)
with a smart pen that works with Evernote and other services—it’s our PCMag Editors’ Choice for smart pen input devices.
13. IFTTT: Save Notes from Everywhere
No app is more powerful in this regard than If This, Then That (IFTTT). Because it ties in with so many other services, you can use it to create recipe after recipe. Among the most popular things you can send to Evernote instantly: tweets, starred Gmail messages, favorited items in Pocket or on Twitter, Instagram photos, Feedly articles, reminders made with Siri, any RSS feed, and Foursquare check-ins. You can even create a diary of Facebook messages. The list is practically infinite, limited only by your creative coupling of services and their triggers. Dump everything in Evernote and search/sort it later.
14. Scanner Time: Go Truly Paperless
If you’re really brave with your paperwork, send it all to Shoeboxed.com via snail mail. They’ll scan them and put them in your Evernote account. After a free trial, the basic service is $9.95 a month for 50 docs per month, up to $49.95 a month for 500 docs per month. You can get five docs scanned per month for free.
15. Integrate with Webmail
16. Blog by Notebook
17. Academic Success Via Evernote
19. Map the Mind of Evernote
20. Encrypt Sensitive Desktop Note Text
On the desktop versions of Evernote, it’s entirely possible to set up encryption for individual notes, or indeed individual text in a note. It’s good for keeping out prying eyes, but not foolproof, nor really all that strong. It only works on text, not images. It used to only works from the desktop version of Evernote; now you can encrypt there and will get asked for the password if you try to access it on a mobile device or the Web. .
21. Make a Local Notebook
Not a notebook about stuff in your location (though that is certainly a fun option for storing menus, brochures, sites, and more about places in your town). I mean a local notebook that only exists in one instance of your Evernote account—like on your Windows computer. A local notebook stays in that one spot and isn’t synced by Evernote with all your other installations of Evernote (phones, tablets, Web). In the Windows version, you make one by going to File > New Notebook > New Local Notebook. Note that this folder can’t ever be turned into a synchronized notebook.
22. Watch a Folder
23. Clip From iPhone to Evernote
Like the Webclipper tool in your desktop browser, you can clip from the Web on your iPhone. First make sure the Evernote app is installed and you’re signed in. Then in a browser like Safari or Chrome, hit the share button—it looks like a box with an arrow shooting out the top. On the first line of apps, you’ll see places to share, like Messages and Mail. Swipe left and click “More.” In the Activities list, turn on Evernote, then click Done. Evernote should now appear on that share menu. Click it and up pops the box where you set the notebook and change the title of the note if desired.
It’s not limited to Web pages. Use it with documents and photos, too.
24. Use iOS Evernote in Notifications
After that, you’ll see Evernote on the screen (use Edit again to place it higher or lower than other notification apps). It gives you instant access to note-creation tools, be it in text, taking a picture, creating a reminder or list, or chatting with someone. Naturally, they’re just quick jumps to the already powerful Evernote app on the phone.
25. Secure Mobile Notes in iOS
Anyone who picks up your iPhone can typically access your Evernote account. You can limit that, of course, by locking your phone with a passcode or using Touch ID fingerprint recognition on the newer iPhones. You can go the extra mile within the Evernote iOS app itself, even with a basic (free) account. In the app’s settings (click the wrench icon at the top of the app screen), go to Settings > General > Passcode Lock. You see an option to set up another passcode here that is only for Evernote; and you have the option to again use Touch ID to unlock Evernote. (Note that this doesn’t do anything to protect your notes from prying eyes on other synced platforms.)
26. Say It, Don’t Type It
It’s hard to tell on the desktop versions of Evernote, but you can create audio notes—create a new one and there’s a little microphone icon at the top that works with your system’s mic. (It’s not an option on the Web app). Naturally, audio is a lot friendlier on the mobile side. Take iOS, for example. When you click the Text button in the Evernote app to create a new note, you get two microphone icons. The icon on the keyboard is built into iOS—it’s for voice-to-text dictation. And the transcription in iOS works remarkably well. The other, above the keyboard, is for direct audio recordings. The sound of your voice is stored in .m4a format on Evernote. Play them back on any version of the program, download them, or share them with others. You can even move it into your pre-created local folder so it becomes available only on the desktop, if desired.
27. Make Table of Contents Note
Click each note you want to include—hold down the Command key on Mac, or Ctrl key on Windows as you click each note. Then click the Create Table of Contents Note button. The note will appear in the same notebook as all the notes you picked, or Evernote just picks a notebook if you selected notes from multiples. If you want the ToC to appear in multiple notebooks, right-click and select Copy to Notebook.
Want to just link a couple of notes together? Right-click a note, select Copy Note Link, and just go to a different note and paste it in.
28. Learn the Search Syntax
For example, use “tag:” (without quotes) followed by a term just to search tags. The “created:” or “updated:” operator, followed by a date in the form YYYYYMMDD can find specific dates; follow it with something like “day-2” and it’ll find everything from the last two days. If you’re looking for your task lists, the “todo:” operator only looks for notes with check boxes. Look just in the title of a note with “intitle:” and in a specific notebook with “notebook:”. The “source:” operator followed by “web.clip” or “mobile” limit searches to those sources. Learn them all. The video above will help.
29. Master the Shortcuts
Ctrl + N = New note
Ctrl + Shift + N = New notebook
Ctrl + Shift+ T = New tag
Ctrl + K = Add a hyperlink
Ctrl + Q = Quit Evernote
There are plenty more to be found in the Essential Evernote Shortcut list.
30. Use Evernote Like PowerPoint
31. File Your Statements Automatically With FileThis
32. Search and Transfer Notes/Files with Otixo
33. Save Syntax Searches
If you’re frequently doing the same kind of searches in Evernote, save them. Do a search, with all the syntax criteria you can think of, then after it’s done, in the Windows version, hover over the search box and click Save Search. You can give it a special name so you never forget it. You access it again in the same search box.
34. Pair Better with Google Drive (Soon)
35. Integrate Evernote with Microsoft
36. Transfer it All…to OneNote
Of course, there are better ways to make the “backup” between the two services a constant thing: use IFTTT or Zapier to connect separate services. It works best for Evernote-to-OneNote transfers, not so much the other direction. However, Evernote’s Greg Chiemingo notes that there are a lot of file types Evernote supports that don’t transfer, such as ink notes, note links, and any item you have encrypted.
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