My single most useful application

There are so many applications we rely upon as web designers and website owners. However, one stands head and shoulders above the rest and it won’t be what you expect.

If I could have only one application to do my job, it would be Evernote.

You may find this thought surprising. Many look at Evernote and dismiss it, while others use it but fail to grasp its full potential. If you fall into either of the above categories I would encourage you to read on.

What is Evernote

In case you are one of the few people yet to encounter this application, let me introduce you. The Evernote website summarises it as follows:

Capture Anything. Access anywhere. Find things fast.

Although this is an accurate description, it fails to capture just want can be done with this tool. This is why I believe so many people dismiss it as a scrapbook or note taking app. In reality it is so much more.

Whether you are a website owner, web designer or freelancer, evernote offers vast possibilities. The trick is working out how best to use it in your situation. To do that you need to know what it is capable of.

What evernote can do

If you have tried evernote you are probably already aware of its basic functionality. This includes:

  • The ability to add, edit and delete notes.
  • The ability to organise those notes by tags or into notebooks.
  • The ability to ‘clip’ content from webpages and add that content to evernote.
  • Access your notes on mac, windows, iPhone, android or the web.

Unfortunately a lot of users stop there. In fact evernote has many other excellent features. These fall into three categories:

  • Capture
  • Find
  • Share

Let’s start with capture.

Capture

Most people use evernote as a scrapbook or notepad. However, direct entry and clipping are not the only way to get content into evernote.

You can also:

Evernote Trunk

Find

Finding content in evernote is incredibly powerful. Most people realise they can search for documents by title and tag. However, there are also other powerful search features that are easily overlooked.

You can also:

  • Search inside of images that have been added to evernote using its OCR functionality. This includes imagery and PDF.
  • Search handwritten documents.
  • Search evernote from within spotlight on the mac.
  • Search evernote alongside your google results.
  • Use the evernote API to search using third party tools such as the excellent Greplin.
  • Keep saved searches for quick reference to particular subjects.
  • Access the version history of a document to search within previous versions.

Google Integration

Share

Evernote’s sharing facilities are often overlooked. They are great for collaboration, but also for keeping organised yourself.

A few of the sharing features worth noting are:

  • The ability to share entire notebooks with colleagues or family. This allows you to collaboratively work on projects.
  • The ability to generate a public URL to any of your notes. This makes sharing content with others a breeze and removes the need for unnecessary attachments.
  • The ability to create a link to the local copy of any note. This is useful when wanting a quick link to a specific note from a task list for example.
  • The ability to share a link quickly with Facebook or twitter.

Evernote Notebook Sharing

You may already have been aware of most of the above functionality. However, that does not mean you are getting the most from evernote.

Ways to use evernote

Because evernote is so flexible everybody will use the app in different ways. For example I know a lot of people who use it as a task manager. However, personally I am too in love with Omnifocus to do that.

You really need to explore the app for yourself. Nevertheless, I thought it might be useful if I shared with you a few of the ways I use evernote. Here are my favourites:

Inspiration

As a web designer I like to keep a collection of material to inspire my designs. Whether I am snapping a photo of a piece of architecture on my iPhone or using Skitch to grab a screenshot of a website, it all ultimately ends up in evernote.

When I next work on a project I can search this inspiration library based on keyword or even colour.

Colorstache

Collecting quotable material

When working with clients I often find it useful to quote other web experts, research papers or stats to reinforce my arguments. Evernote makes a great tool for collecting these quotable nuggets and quickly finding them.

Web Clipper

I can use the web clipper functionality to grab the content from a website or simply email the quote to Evernote. I even send the occasional tweet to Evernote using their twitter functionality.

Managing receipts and licenses

I tend to buy a lot of gadgets and software. These all come with warranties, receipts and software codes. Evernote makes a great place to keep all of this stuff together so that next time my printer breaks the receipt is immediately on hand to prove its still in warranty.

A collection of receipts in Evernote

Creating a paperless office

Evernote can do more than collect receipts. It can actually be used to create a completely paperless office. I recently bought a Scansnap scanner which imports directly into Evernote.

This means every letter from a client, manual for a gadget or invoice from a supplier are all completely secure (both on my devices and in the cloud) and instantly searchable.

Writing

I also use Evernote as the primary store for any writing I am working on. Whether a blog post or an entire book it all sits in Evernote.

Admittedly Evernote is not the best writing environment so I use a small piece of software called Quick Cursor to move content back and forth between Evernote and my preferred writing tool; ByWord.

Byword

Having blog posts on evernote means I can work on them from anywhere and they can be quickly shared with others who have to review them.

Keeping code snippets

Whether it is jQuery plugins or commonly used functions, we all keep code snippets. Keeping them in Evernote means they are searchable alongside everything else I want to remember.

You can even add code syntax to your snippets by using an online syntax highlighter and the web clipper.

Example of a code snippet in evernote

Researching projects

Whether planning a holiday or researching your client’s competition, Evernote is a superb research tool. By using its web clipper you can quickly add content from a website to Evernote with the majority of formatting still in-tacked.

Evernote research on Maldives holiday

Keeping lists

Evernote is superb for keeping lists. You can even associate checkboxes if you are one of those strange people who gets a perverse satisfaction for checking things off :)

I use Evernote to keep lists for everything from blog posts ideas to things I want to buy.

The tip of the iceberg

My uses for Evernote really are the tip of the iceberg. I am already considering more ways to use the application from bookmarking to journal writing. With the new Evernote Clearly I might even use it as a replacement for my beloved Instapaper.

Evernote Clearly

For more inspiration on uses I would recommend checking out the excellent Evernote blog and their vibrant forum which is full of ways to get the most out of this deceptively simple app.

  • http://8gramgorilla.com/ Gordon McLachlan

    Quite impressed by Evernote’s ability to save highlighted text of web sites – really like the idea of being able to easily store quotes. Might have to finally get round to checking the darn thing out properly :)

  • http://www.vitamincm.com VitaminCM

    Paul,
    This is a great list of ways to use Evernote. I have been using it for years and it is one of my most valuable tools.
    Nice job,
    Chris

  • Ronald Toledo

    Hello Paul. This is Ron from Evernote. Thanks so much for putting together this blog post. Glad to hear you are finding more and more ways to use Evernote. We really appreciate you sharing your workflow with your readers. Let me know if you have any feedback or questions.

    -ron

    • Anonymous

      Hey Ron,
      thanks for the kind words. Evernote is a brilliant product and long may it grow! I am particularly looking forward to how you integrate Skitch into the fold.

  • http://twitter.com/khrome666 Mário Almeida

    I heard about Evernote once. Didn’t try it until now. Great app! I can think of a few ways to use this on a daily basis.

    Thanks, Paul. Keep it up.

  • Anonymous

    Fantastic article, Paul. I haven’t had the chance to fully absorb all of this yet, but it has at least made me think I should have another look at Evernote. I created an account many years ago, but I’ve almost never used it. It’s just seemed like a bit of a bloated note-taking tool.

    I do like the idea of keeping all my bills and receipts in Evernote, this will certatinly make my life easier. However not having a normal folder system will take some getting used to (I assume it’s all a tag-based system)

    I’m a massive fan of Pinboard which I used to bookmark all my sites. I’ve got an archive account which archives all the pages. This means that I’ll always have a copy even if the site goes down or is removed. It also has a fab search facility. I’d love it if they had a ReaditLater/Instapaper/Clearly-type functionality that saved a non-clutter version. I use the amazing ifttt.com to sync Pinboard to Delicious and Diigo. I also use ifttt to add any starred items in Google Reader to Pinboard so it’s really quick and easy.

    I’m assuming Clearly doesn’t save the non-clutter version to Evernote?

    Anyway, it definitely gives me food for thought- thanks Paul!

  • http://twitter.com/TwoLittleFishes Nick Bramwell

    Just thought I should mention a couple of issues I’ve had with Evernote. Several times my notes have been corrupted or not saved properly (the iOS version doesn’t seem to automatically save when you switch Apps, unlike most other Apps) and I’ve lost stuff.

    My wife also lost a note full of baby information, but Evernote gave her a week of premium so she could recover it from the backup.

    Which leads to my point. Although you can use Evernote for free, if you use it enough to make it important you really should use the paid version.

    • Anonymous

      I have never had any problems Nick but I totally agree, the premium account is definitely worthwhile if you are using it for anything more serious than a bit of note taking.

  • http://twitter.com/khrome666 Mário Almeida

    I heard about Evernote once. Didn’t try it until now. Great app! I can think of a few ways to use this on a daily basis.

    Thanks, Paul. Keep it up.

Headscape

Boagworld