Yesterday I re-introduced you to Evernote, one of my absolute favorite organizing and productivity apps. I’ve been using Evernote for nearly a decade, and I’d be hard-pressed to get through a day without it. I’ve written all three of my books in part or entirely inside of Evernote. I loved it enough to become an Evernote Certified Consultant, and it’s rare that I don’t get my clients at least trying it, too. Here’s that long list of features I promised you, along with some pros and cons.
Over the past couple of years, there have been a ton of new note-taking apps come out on the market, and the formerly anemic Notes app on the iPhone has been beefed up to include some snazzy new features in the past few months. But Evernote, well…it just works! Many of my NAPO peers and I just really love what it helps us accomplish. In 2019 Evernote got a new CEO, and there’s been much behind-the-scenes re-engineering of this well-loved app, and we consultants have been watching these improvements that you’ll get to enjoy this year.
What can you do with a notes app? Yesterday I outlined two ways I use Evernote, including planning events like a trip and gathering information for a big project like a book or report. Have you started to think about how it can work for you?
Remember that Evernote is a great place to stash information that you might not be able to file easily. If it exists digitally in text, picture, or recorded sound, you can probably put it in Evernote! It’s a very powerful tool in the fight against paper clutter in your work office or your home office. I showed you how to use note apps to clear your desk in my new book, The Upbeat, Organized Home Office.
Here’s how to start using Evernote today.
- Download the free app onto two devices. Usually, that will be your cell phone and your main computer. It’s cross-platform, so it doesn’t matter what brand you use.
- I always start a client on Evernote by asking them to open a new Note and write a simple list. It could be a to-do list, a shopping list, or a list of anything at all.
- Keep it simple with a flat organizing structure. Notes can be placed into Notebooks. Notebooks can be placed into Stacks, but I don’t even use Stacks. The Notes-in-Notebooks structure/limitation makes it very hard to lose information. It’s the digital equivalent of placing each Note out on your dining room table side-by-side, making it easy to see everything all at a glance.
- Add checkboxes to line items to help you keep information. Check the box, and the app strikes through the accompanying text. It’s a very satisfying way to literally mark things off your list.
- Add a Note by copying and pasting information from a web page.
- Now make that copy/paste even easier. Install the Evernote WebClipper to easily copy entire pages of content from the Internet directly into your Notebooks, which is easier than copying-and-pasting. (Install the Evernote web clipper to your browser by clicking here.)
- Add simple formatting like tables, highlighting, bold and italics right into your text Notes.
- Use a stylus or mobile-compatible pen to write directly onto a Note.
- Add a Note with a picture from your phone’s camera roll.
- Add a picture or video by taking one in real-time, directly from the Evernote camera icon.
- That camera icon inside Evernote has a high-tech feature. Scan a document cleanly! You’ll see the difference between a picture and a scan immediately. Evernote scans only to the edges of a page, and it removes all the background color from a scan, so if you print, it will only print the black ink. It’s a much more professional way to share documents.
- Add a document, like a Word or Excel document to a new or existing Note using copy/paste.
- Add a PDF file to a Note in the same way.
- Work across all of your devices, whether PC, Mac, Apple or Android. All of the Notes you create on one device can be edited on other devices. You just need to download the app on each device. You’ll need a paid subscription to access on three or more devices.
- Now do a search from the Evernote search bar, and you can locate information…even if it’s found inside the Word, Excel, or PDF files you just uploaded (premium version). It can even search for text displayed inside images (free version). You don’t have to worry about adding specific tags or not being able to find something later. It doesn’t matter where in Evernote you did or didn’t put it. The search function will find your search terms. #Sweet
- Move Notes easily between Notebooks just with a couple of clicks. You can either drag and drop or just click the Notebook field and choose a different Notebook. No worries about accidentally filing a Note in the wrong place.
- Save even more time by using available templates. Locate templates at https://evernote.com/templates.
- Set up Templates to help you capture information, in the same way, each time you create a certain type of Note. These are great for client intake forms, recipes. Save your own template to your account to populate often-used forms. You can turn any Note into a template by clicking the three dots and then Save as Template.
- Prefer to talk rather than type? Use the microphone icon on your smartphone keyboard, and Evernote will dictate your thoughts directly into a Note (mobile devices only).
- Need to capture a presentation? Use the microphone icon inside the Evernote top menu from a laptop or desktop, and your device will capture an audio recording with .wav output file right inside your Note.
- Feeling pretty snazzy with all Evernote can do? Each Note can hold any and all of the information types above. Text, attached files, voice recordings, pictures, and web clips on a single topic can all be placed inside the same Note for easy access.
- Sharing individual Notes or entire Notebooks with one or more people is easy, even if they don’t use Evernote.
- You can decide whether people you share with can only view, can edit, or can share your Notes.
- Organize your Notes and Notebooks the way you want to see them, either by name, by most recently edited, or by most recently accessed. Click to change your settings.
- Copy text or any kind of files out of Notes and use in other programs and apps.
- Hate to file? Always forget where you file important stuff? You don’t even have to file…ever! You can load thousands of Notes into a single Notebook. New Notes will always land in your default Notebook unless you choose otherwise. This might actually be the best feature of Evernote…be effortlessly organized.
Most of the features are available on the free plan. Some of the Evernote features are available at the Premium (paid) level. As of 2020, you can find the plan comparison here. Just a few of these features are totally worth the price of admission (currently $7.99/month).
- Save yourself from cutting and pasting from emails. Forward critical emails (like flight confirmations for your trip) directly to your Evernote account and Notebook. Add additional information into that same newly created Note, like pictures and web clips.
- Scan a business card from your smartphone, and Evernote will not only read the fields normally found on a business card, like name, title, address, and phone number, but it will also attempt to import the contact directly into your phone’s contact app.
- Scan a handwritten Note and your handwritten Notes will also become searchable! (Remember, nothing’s perfect, but this is pretty good.)
- Need to mark up a photo or PDF? Annotations using different colored pens, symbols, and arrows make it easy to make your mark.
- Connect with other apps you are already using, like Google Drive, Outlook, MS Teams, and Slack.
- Work offline. Choose the Notebooks you want to have available offline, and you can even work while on an airplane or when you know you can’t connect to a network.
If you are tired of monthly fees like I am, but still love Evernote, their referral program can earn you points to offset the fees. The download links I’ve included in these two posts are linked to my referral code. You can get your own referral code, too.
Are there any downsides to Evernote? There are just a few, even though I believe the benefits far outweigh the negatives.
- It’s a flat structure, meaning that you can only file Notes into Notebooks, and then Notebooks into Stacks (which I never do). You can’t create a sub-folder of a sub-folder of a sub-folder mess like I’ve seen in so many computers. If you absolutely, positively need subfolders, you are going to be disappointed. But so far, I’ve never seen anyone limited by this. If you need that kind of stratification, just create multiple Notebooks with names like this:
- Books- Home
- Books- Kitchen
- Books- Office
- Each Note will also have its own title, and you can add tags for even further classification, but I just prefer to put Notes into Notebooks and rely on the powerful search function rather than add tags. Most of my clients have been relieved that they don’t have to file, rather than being upset that they can’t create elaborate sub-folders. But again, if sub-folders are your jam, then check out other note apps.
- The functionality between the mobile device and the PC or Mac app is pretty similar, but it’s not exactly the same. This might throw some people off. For instance, the “Make Available Offline” feature for Notebooks is available on mobile devices but not on desktop apps as I write this. This makes sense since you are more likely to be using your mobile app offline. Sometimes Evernote changes or introduces features on the Mac before the PC app or vice-versa. Like any app, expect these details to change over time.
- I personally find that a computer is the best place to CREATE new content, and a mobile device is the best place to ACCESS content. If you are frustrated with what you can do on your mobile device, check out how it works on your computer app (not the web version, but the app that you download onto your computer).
- You can get to Evernote account at Evernote.com through any web browser (also known as the web version of Evernote), but the web access isn’t as full-featured as either downloading the desktop app to your PC or Mac nor using the mobile app. Since there are so many ways to get to your Notes, this also can be a bit confusing. My advice is to not use the web access Evernote.com access unless you absolutely have to.
- Although you can share Notes and Notebooks with individuals and teams, it’s not truly a full-featured collaboration environment. Again, let Evernote do what it does best, and use other collaboration tools if needed.
- The intentional lack of structure is intimidating to some people, who have spent years learning how to file into hierarchies, or learning how to fill out other people’s forms. Each new Note opens to a blank page every time, and it’s up to you to fill it in the way that works for you. But you can also save Notes as templates, and start from the same form in order to save time and reduce errors.
- Formatting can get a little wonky over time. Evernote isn’t a very sophisticated word processor. I usually create as much content as I can in Evernote wherever I am, and then drop the content back into Word or Pages back in my office for the final round of formatting. You can also use the “Simplify formatting” command (right-click on a PC) to clean up different formatting caused by importing.
That’s a long list of features! I hope that you’ll download the Evernote app and start playing with it. That’s my referral link. If you find, like me, that Evernote is a useful tool, it’ll be well worth the monthly fee. But you can find your own referral link in your account settings and share it to earn points to offset the monthly fee.
If you want to see Evernote in action, be sure to check out my NAPO colleague Stacy Harmon’s videos on Evernote. She might be one of the few people who loves Evernote more than I do.
Finally ready to clear your desk? Thinking this digital notes tool might help you do it? Pick up my book to help you pull it all together. Lucky you, it’s on sale today only. Don’t delay!