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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!