Evernote is a great online service for storing notes, web-articles, photos and other types of information. On the one hand it’s like a useful online storage space that you can both upload and download from your computer, tablet or smartphone, on the other hand it’s so much more than that.
I see Evernote as a magical, intelligent box which you can throw all your information into but also find it easily again when you need to. Most of us these days are suffering from information overload, and the old ways of storing our info are no longer good enough. Firstly, we need to access our information wherever we are, and secondly we need a system that can handle all kinds of information, webpages, images, notes etc.
The good news is that whilst technology has deluged us with information, it’s also given us the power to deal with it. There are a lot of good websites, apps and software packages out there for helping you deal with information overload but my favourite is Evernote (www.evernote.com). It’s free to use, but there is also a paid-for premium version.
One of the secrets, I think, to why Evernote is so great is that because storage space (computer memory) is now so cheap, there’s no need to throw any information away. Just store it all, but don’t worry because Evernote has great search features, so as long as the bit of info is ‘tagged’ in a way to let you search for it, you’ve no need to worry about constantly putting everything in to the right folder (and then remember which folder it went in!), although you can do if you wish. Also bare in mind that storage space is only going to grow and grow, and the search capabilities of software is only going to get better and better! Just keep it all, and become good at searching.
Here are the top three ways I use Evernote to help keep track of information.
Search for words in photos
One of the most impressive features of Evernote is that it can read words contained in photos. For example, if you uploaded a photo of a restaurant menu, then in the future if you search for any of the words that were on that menu, Evernote would find the photo! This is an incredibly useful feature. One of the ways I use it is everytime someone gives me a business card, I take a quick photo of it with my phone and upload it to Evernote. Then I can easily find that person’s contact info by just doing a quick search for their name or company name. Then I just throw the card away and don’t have to worry about losing business cards.
Another way I use it is to keep track of a large number of books that I have boxed up in storage. Before I put the pile of books into each books, I took a quick photo of those books, alongside the box they were going into, with the boxes labelled ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ etc. Now if I want to find any of these hundreds of books all I need to do is search for the name or author and Evernote will show me which box that particular book went into!
Of course, most of these features could have been achieved the old fashioned way – i.e. by typing up business card details into a database, or by typing up lists of the contents of each box – but its way faster to just take a photo and upload it.
Automatically store articles
Another thing I use Evernote for is to store interesting articles I find online. When you have signed up to Evernote, you can get a little icon to put on your web-browser called the Evernote web clipper. All you need to do is click this button once and whatever webpage you’re on will be saved to your Evernote account.
Also, I use another service, called IFTT (which stands for ‘if this then that’, and can be found at www.IFTTT.com) which links the RSS reader I use – Google reader – to my Evernote account, and then whenever I mark an article on Google Reader, it automatically saves that article to my Evernote account.
To be honest, I haven’t yet used this archive of articles much, but it’s nice to know I have them saved there for future reference.
Lastly, the same kind of photo-word-reading ability can be used to save notes that I’ve made on paper. This allows me to have the best of both worlds: the ease of use and convenience of making notes with pencil and paper, plus the ability to easily store and search these notes from wherever I am (without having to worry about losing any particular notebook). Usually when I start a new notebook and keep it with me through the week, the notes are not neatly organised. I just jot things down as I need to. If I were just storing the notebooks, it could take me hours of searching for a particular note, as I wouldn’t have a way to find it easily. However, I only need to take a quick photo of each page of notes on my phone, upload to Evernote and then I can search for any word across almost limitless numbers of pages. There’s even now a special Evernote moleskin notepad that comes with special coloured stickers that Evernote can recognise. You just place different stickers next to different types of notes as you make them in order to categorise them in Evernote.
If you need to keep track of loads of information and its particularly valuable to you to be able to then access that information wherever you are, consider using Evernote.