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Summary:

Any large project I’m working on, general reference notes, or stuff I just might normally bookmark ends up in Evernote. Over time, I’ve formed a few habits to help me get the most out of Evernote and I thought I’d share them with you.

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While I’m a big fan of Instapaper’s “Read It Later” tool, Evernote is my system of record for all my notes and collected information. Simply put, any large project I’m working on, general reference notes, or stuff I just might normally bookmark ends up in Evernote. One thing I love about it is, no matter what platform I’m on, PC, Mac, or iDevice, I can get access to my all my notes.

Over time, I’ve formed a few habits to help me get the most out of Evernote and I thought I’d share them with you.

1. Go Premium

At the risk of sounding like a corporate shill, simply upgrading to Premium helped me get more out of Evernote. At the base level, your storage and bandwidth increases and you gain the ability to dump darn near anything into Evernote with the clipper or by drag-and-dropping. Once I got my iPad, however, going Premium was a no-brainer — with Premium you can store all your notes offline on mobile devices; Standard users can only favorite notes. Unfortunately, you’re limited to how much you can edit a document on an iDevice, so make sure a clipped note is cleaned up as much as possible in a web or desktop client.

2. Tag everything

Absolutely no note should be in your notebook without being tagged. Feel free to overdo it, too. Tagging is the easiest way to find data in your notebooks. Common tags I use are: writing, Apple, iPad, Mac, journalism, etc. Periodically review notebooks to make sure you’ve got everything tagged. This may sound like a no-brainer, but once I got in the habit of tagging everything, it became very easy to find data.

3. Use multiple notebooks

I use notebooks as a type of root-level tagging. For technical subjects, I have two notebooks (“technical – Apple” and “technical”) to separate out Apple-related notes since that’s obviously a big topic for me. Each of my classes at school get their own notebook, and I’ll also tag all notes with the subject of the class. So, my Critical Thinking for Research class will get its own notebook, and all my notes in there will be tagged with the class number and “biology.” This way, future searches on Biology will also pull those notes. I’m working on a fiction book based in Boston in the 70s, and that book has its own notebook.

4. Use saved searches

Because of my often-anal approach to tagging, I’ve got a ton of them. However, there are some search terms I end up using frequently and scrolling through the list of tags isn’t effective. So, for common terms like “iPad” I’ll create a saved search for ALL NOTEBOOKS, with TAGGED: iPad. By command-clicking on multiple tags, I can create a search based on all of them, so if I want to find something I’ve clipped that Merlin Mann wrote about writing, I’ll end up with a search based on TAGGED: MANN TAGGED: WRITING.

Now, it’s possible to think that saved searches might be a replacement for multiple notebooks, but don’t fall for that. Multiple notebooks are an ideal way to segregate information.

5. Use Safari’s Reader view to email articles to Evernote

I’m falling in love with the new Safari Reader view — so much so that I’m thinking of using Safari on the PC more. The new Reader view has two great features: it’ll grab multi-page articles into one view, and it strips out the extraneous crap I end up needing to delete when I clip a page via the web view.

However, the money shot in Reader view is that you email right from it. So, you’ll get a nicely formated note in your notebook. You can also specify the notebook and tags right in the subject line. For instance, “Test Notebook @technical-apple #ipad” to send to my Apple notebook with an iPad tag. Note: this only works for existing tags and notebooks; you can’t create notebooks and tags via email.

Evernote is a very powerful tool that’s replaced almost every note app I’ve used on my iPad (with the exception of Notes, which I use like a scrap of paper). I’d love to hear how you use Evernote!

  1. I’ve just started using it to keep a daily journal for work. When I started, what I did, what problems I ran into, what the solutions were, etc. The note title is the date, the rest goes into the body.

    I haven’t tagged very much, but it sounds like I should. I can see tagging the journal entries with the names of the projects I worked on, etc.

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  2. Like Evernote ….but I think Springpad has already surpassed it in options…functionality.
    It’s search function is so accurate …tags are unnecessary…..just one example.

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    1. One thing I like about tagging is it decreases the false positives on search. Take my iPad tag, for example. If I tag it iPad, I know the note is iPad related. When I search on it, I won’t get a note that contains the word iPad, but isn’t about it (like a note that might have a link to an iPad article by the author).

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  3. Good advice here. Thanks…

    I’ve been a casual user of Evernote for about a year, but lately I’ve been depending on it heavily and I’m seeing long-term use. I just upgraded to Premium, and would agree with you that it’s a no-brainer on the iPad.

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  4. For clipping web pages I use a bookmarklet called “Readable EverClip” (http://lifehacker.com/5301077/convert-and-clip-web-text-to-evernote-with-one-click) which does a good job of just showing the article. Then I can clean it up later.

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  5. Glad I saw this tweet.
    So I’ve been migrating from my Palm/Treo Windows world to an Android/Mac world starting w/ an iPad, then MacBook & lastly HTC EVO. I’ve been using Memo on Palm since I can remember and got introduced to Evernote from an iPad friend. I have been waiting to upgrade to Premium and am just waiting until I have to as I’m constantly online via wifi & mifi.

    I actually originate most of my Evernote notes from Notes on my iPad. In a meeting I take notes/keep minutes from the meeting, star to-do’s and then email all attendees my notes & BCC my Evernote account which saves the Note in my Inbox Notebook to review, tag & file later. This tactic is also a dream with my bluetooth Apple wireless keyboard.

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  6. Also, at risk of sounding naive, I was pleased to pay the premium subscription (c $30) simply to reflect the excellent work and ideas of the development team. As others have said, having all my notes available on my iPhone offline is really good too.

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  7. Good list! I agree that Safari reader mode is awesome but never thought to send it to Evernote. Thanks, Mark!

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  8. Prashant Agrawal Thursday, June 17, 2010

    Try chrome extension ‘Readability Redux’ along with ‘Evernote’ extension on Chrome. It will add the filtered text to evernote. No need to email the content.

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  9. Evernote: Ugly UI, clunky, slow.

    But thanks for the evernote tips. Just don’t see them very much!

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  10. Great article, Mark. Another tip is to use the Evernote bookmarklet. It works great in Safari on the iPad, so I have one-tap (it’s on my bookmark bar) access to add web pages.

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  11. Insane Reindeer Friday, June 18, 2010

    All good points, and can see how some of these might help me in my use of evernote, but I really wanted to say that forget Safari for that reader thing. I have been using the original companies version on firefox for ages. Just have a look here: http://lab.arc90.com/experiments/readability/ :-) And yes, this is where Apple lifted most of the code for their Safari add-on from.

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  12. I always hear about Evernote, and I keep trying it, but it just doesn’t seem like a useful application to me. I either just use Dashboard Stickies Widgets for short-term ‘notes I jot down’ (much faster than opening an entirely new app or going to the website) or OmniFocus for ‘things I need to do’.

    I really want to somehow find something it’s invaluable for, but it just seems like a somewhat limited app that other things do so much better.

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    1. The problem is that most people try to think too globally at first. Try using it for just one thing first and get good with it (and consistent). For me this was using it to store all product manuals for my home and serial/model numbers. For my wife it was recipes (all recipes clipped or scanned or photo). I train people on implementing Evernote almost daily through my work and this is the biggest issue.

      It can be used for nearly everything BUT that’s a big concept to tackle all at once.

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  13. I use Evernote everyday. Is the most useful app on my iPhone and is just invaluable or the benefits I get from using it.

    For those still using sticks I recommend you try Evernote you wont go back.

    Disclaimer: I don’t work for Evernote I am just a huge Fan.

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  14. I have two folders and don’t tag anything. I scan every document that comes across my desk and forward lots of emails to Evernote. I never had any trouble finding a document that I needed. You are wasting your time doing all that organizing. The amount if time spent tagging and moving into folders will far exceed and time savings you get when you are looking for something.

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  15. HI
    I love evernote and as I new user I can see how great it will be for me. I’m a business person and also a recording artist. I thought evernote would be a brilliant way to record song ideas and riffs etc. Bummer though is that the sound quality is appalling!! Why I wonder as other iphone recording apps are great quality. The other apps sadly though dont organise for you like evernote and take time to get the stuff off onto the laptop.

    my chilled singer songwriter music is at adrianheath.bandcamp.com
    twitter – adrianheath

    Love Ya!
    Adrian

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  16. I’m half way between moving from Mindmeister to Evernote, it’s painful but will be worth it in the end!

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  17. Jeffrey Herr Tuesday, July 13, 2010

    I used to use tags prolifically. Now, I only use them sparingly and when needed, and still seem to get great retrieval accuracy. How did I do it? I tag in-line. I add text, description, notes, tags, related-words, etc, right into the document. Why? I had a BAZILLION tags with one or two notes each. That didn’t make sense at all. Worse, when I use apps like EgretList (and you should too!), it made part of the application functionality completely unusable.
    Now, I use only relevant tags that further categorize my note, and leave keywording to the note content itself. I’m much happier and my tag cloud is much, MUCH smaller now…

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