How I Use It: Evernote for Staying Organized – with Andrew Walsh

“How I Use It” is a column where we explore social web tools. With these apps and devices–things like Evernote, Google Drive, Twitter, iPads–there isn’t any “right” way to use them. Our goal instead is to give you a personal perspective and demonstrate some cool things they can do. Let us know your own experience in the comments, and if you’d like to share your take on a favorite tool, get in touch!

evernote_logo_center_4c-smQ: First, a little background: what exactly is Evernote?

Andrew Walsh: Evernote is a personal cloud service for taking notes and archiving webpages, photos, voice memos, and more. You can save and organize these diverse “notes” into different notebooks as well as tag and annotate them (source). You can also sync your account across different platforms and access Evernote via a desktop program for Mac or PC, a web-based interface, or an app for iOS and Android devices.

Q: How do you use Evernote?

At first I didn’t see why everyone was fussing over Evernote. It seemed to be little more than a slightly fancier way to store a bunch of Word documents. But now I take advantage of many features including Evernote’s organization, searchability, and multimedia capabilities.

I personally keep my notebooks pretty broad, including “Work,” “Personal,” “Research,” “Writing,” “Web” (where I save, or “clip,” online articles to read later) and “Notes” (for quick things I just want to remember, such as a grocery list, usually on my phone. Sometimes these are recorded as Audio clips and depending on what they are, I sometimes flesh them out later and save them in a different notebook.) I know others who decide to make their notebooks a lot more specific than I do.

Beyond this, I use tags for different topics, subject areas, as well as individual blogs or websites. I give most of my notes multiple tags so I can access them by broad subject area, narrower topic, and even source (for my favorite sites or types of article).

I regularly use the Evernote Web Clipper for Chrome to save online content so I can read it later. In addition to textual content, this can capture images and even embedded videos. I also use Evernote Clearly for saving webpages, and this add-on goes a step further and strips out everything except the article text for distraction-free reading.

With this Clearly extension, Evernote is a part of my efforts to stay focused online and avoid information overload. In addition to creating a cleaner reading experience, it also helps cut down on the amount of stuff I often feel I “have” to read when I’m browsing.

Instead of opening a million tabs at once or compiling a mammoth list of bookmarks I’ll never get through, I just send articles to my specially-designated Evernote notebook and go back whenever I feel so compelled. (Those articles rarely seem so vital after I let some time pass.)

Evernote is also my to-do list app, which I accomplish with a simple series of checkboxes. I like that I can consult my list and check items off even when I’m on the go.

There are also some other cool things I’d like to try with Evernote. A Lifehacker post mentioned combining Evernote with a Doxie portable scanner to create a digital version of any paper document you might have, taking advantage of Evernote’s OCR for full-text searchability. (Could the long-promised “paperless office” finally be upon us? Spoiler: probably not…)

The same article mentions a couple of other popular uses that interest me: “Meeting notes, Client/project notes, Technical knowledgebase, Recipes.”

Q: Evernote employs a freemium model with an increased usage limit (1 GB) and additional features for paying subscribers. Is it worth the upgrade?

For my current needs, no, and it’s not even close. My uploads this cycle have totaled 4 MB out of the 60 MB available in my free account, and I’ve created many notes on my smartphone (although I haven’t done much that’s media-heavy).

The allure of the other premium features, including PDF searching, related notes, priority image recognition and note history, hasn’t been strong enough to make me want to upgrade.

The one isolated ad I see in the free version isn’t intrusive, although perhaps it has taken a hold of me subconsciously and made me purchase tons of things.

For the readers: Are you an Evernote user? If so, how do you use it?


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  1. I also use the Evernote web clipper in Google Chrome. Recently I set it up on my iPhone as a bookmark. Now when I need to quickly save something from safari, I just tap on the bookmark.

    • Andrew Walsh says:

      That sounds like a great idea, Lorenzo. Glad to hear Evernote is working for you on the go. The various mobile capabilities are among my favorite features!

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