Monday, June 29, 2009

A Few Things I've Learned about Evernote

I first signed up for Evernote back in July of 2008--Evernote still has my lone "My First Note" to remind me of the date.

In April I discovered the most recent Windows client. I love the cloud and web based apps, but for some things, a local client makes a huge difference.

Since then, I've become a rabid new convert. This program has revolutionized the way I do fundamental things. It replaced a program I wrote myself to meet similar needs. I willingly threw away hundreds of hours of hobbyist development work when I realized Evernote was tens of thousands of hours of effort ahead of me.

In these last two months, I have found new ways to use Evernote almost every day. I thought I'd share a few things I've discovered useful about Evernote. Maybe one or two you will find new and helpful to you.


I've discovered it's best to have a Notebook named "Inbox" and make it your default Notebook. All notes coming in via email, or Web Clipper go there first.

Every morning, I check out my Inbox, and tag the items there and move them to the correct Notebook.

I read this somewhere early in my Evernote life but failed to record who's ideas this was.

Folder Watch

You can have Evernote watch a folder, and automatically suck in any file saved there.

That basically gives me a "Copy to Evernote" and a "Print to Evernote" ability. If I download a photo from my phone, I just save it to that folder and it is absorbed into Evernote. If I'm working in a document, I print to PDF into that folder and voila, it is in Evernote.

Mostly I use this with my Neat Company scanner. I scan to PDF, placing the PDF file into the watched folder, and it goes right into Evernote. (other posts about Neat)

Update August 6, 2009: Lifehacker just had a great idea related to this. Create shortcut to this Evernote folder and place it in your SendTo folder. That way, in Windows Explorer you can select a file, right click and send it into Evernote.

New notes via SMS

There are alot of ways to add notes to Evernote. One way they don't actively support is via text messages. But I fiound a way to do it.

My phone, indeed many phones, let you send a SMS text message to an email address. So I can easily send short notes to my Evernote email address. they are there waiting for me in my Inbox Notebook when I next get into Evernote. This works best for quick reminders from myself or small bits of knowledge I want to keep.

Search Terms

Digging around in Evernote's API (a programming interface), I found a few tips on using search.

You can search for a given tag by typing in "tag:"the tag name". Of course you can simply click on that tag too.

You can search for an entire notebook by typing "notebook:"notebook's name", for example notebook:"inbox"

This comes in handy if your you use a mobile device without its own Evernote client. There is not an application for my Samsung Instinct, and probably never will be. The mobile Evernote site does not have a way to choose to see all the notes in a notebook, or by tag.

To see items in my Inbox, I have created a Saved Search with the syntax of notebook:"inbox". Then in the mobile web page, I just click on the Saved Search I've named "Inbox".

And it never hurts to re-read manuals. Looking it over for this post, I had failed to remember that when you click on a tag, you can then control-click another tag and see notes that are tagged with both tags; their intersection.

Print Screen

When the Evernote client is running on your desktop, you can press the Print Screen button twice to capture all or part of the screen. I recently needed to setup a complex piece of software on a new PC that I already had running on another PC. I first screen captured into Evernote all the settings on one computer, and then had them to refer to when I configured the new computer. It's the fastest way yet I've found to do screen caps.

And the fastest way too to share them. I move screen caps to a Public Notebook and can then reference them in emails reporting bugs etc. as i recently did for an odd behavior in Chrome when using Google Voice.

Keyboard Shortcuts

I'm not a big user of keyboard shortcuts. I demonstrate software for a living, so I try to make all actions understandable by choosing from menus so my audience can follow what I'm doing.

For Evernote, I've adopted a few shortcut keys too useful not to use. These work in any application, while you also have the Evernote Windows client running.

Control-Alt-N will bring up a new note

Control-Alt-V will take whatever I have copied to the clipboard, and paste it into a new note

Print Screen - to capture a screen to a new note

Control - semicolon - inserts date & time into your current note - great for logging actions

Public Notebooks

When I started using Evernote, I have been able to create a new notebook and designate it as a public notebook. That is great for quickly sharing things. Just move them into the public folder, and the next time you sync, they are available at a website. You can email the URL to people you want to have access it.

Evernote last week augmented this ability greatly. Read about it at their blog.

Here is both a good example of a public Evernote page, Evernote's own FAQ; a great source of tips.

Client on Multiple Computers

For some reason I thought at first you could only have a client running on one PC, and if you used another PC (like at work) you had to use the web client. Not true. I have now installed Evernote Windows client on two additional machines. All the local databases are synchronized with my public folders. Of course, any local non-sync folders I create on a PC remain there.

Backup / Redundancy

Anything you put into Evernote is synchronized to their servers, unless it is a local Notebook. That gives you an automatic backup of your data.

There is also a local database. You can find out its location in the Windows Client by going to the Tools Menu, Account Properties, Database tab, and noting the path to your .exb file.

If you backup that .exb file, you will have a backup of your database, I believe.

And of course, if you synchronize to other Clients, you'll have redundant copies of your synchronized data on each of those PC's.

I haven't ordered the Premium service yet, but I believe it lets you copy any kind of file into Evernote. Then you could copy key files into Evernote whenever you make major changes into them. That gives you sort of a low tech, poor man's version control, and backup. Just be mindful of your upload limit.

New Windows Version Coming

Evernote has admitted in one or more of their recent podcasts (entertaining and informative-recommended) that a new complete re-write of their Windows client is coming. No word on when other then to say "soon".

If you go to their Forum, there is a link to an Alpha version of their Windows 3.5. This apparently is a first look at the new version. I'll have to post about it more later after I've looked it in some detail.

Google Voice and Evernote

Covered this before.

And here's Evernote own tips page :

This is the best things I've learned in two months. Remember, share yours in comments.

1 comment:

  1. Mark, thanks for the heads up on the Alpha version! I am a dangerous early adopter, so this will be right up my alley.

    Great Post by the way, great tips.