What are the tips and tricks that will make you an Evernote master? We’ve got them here for you.
You’ve probably heard of Evernote. Some call it a note-taking service, or an organization tool, or an archiving platform, but none of those terms are enough to convey just how much you can do with it. Evernote is, quite simply, an online spot to store anything and everything you might find of interest, to read or utilize later. The more you add, the more useful it becomes.
You can add to or access info on Evernote from the Web, full desktop programs for Windows (which we give a full five stars in our review) and Mac, or via mobile devices like iPhone, iPad, Android, or Windows Phone. Every single one of those interfaces has earned our Editors’ Choice award. That’s a lot of awards.
However, there is a new wrinkle: as of Aug. 19, if you have the free basic version, you can only sync notes to a max of TWO devices (not counting the Web-based interface). If you want full access on everything, as in the past, you need to pay for Premium Evernote.
There are also Evernote extensions for Web browsers, a handwriting and drawing app for iPads, even hardware that makes it especially helpful to input hard copy info into the service, including a special scanner.
That doesn’t even take into account the ecosystem of third-party software, apps, and services that make it a breeze to add items to your Evernote repository. There is even a version for Business users who want document sharing and collaboration tools in their teams.
Extras are great, but they don’t spell out just how to use Evernote. There are no lack of methods and best practices for getting the most out of the service. From what you can store to how you store it, there’s plenty to try. The competition from Microsoft, the totally free OneNote, is also worth considering as it’s better for taking typed notes—but as an info storehouse, Evernote can’t be beat.
Evernote’s got some issues, business-wise. It was one of the first Silicon Valley “unicorns,” a company valued at a billion dollars before it made a cent. Now, it’s having trouble monetizing its platform: a buzzwordy way of saying it needs to make money, and that’s why it’s killing products like Clearly and charging for things that used to be free. But that’s the price we’ll pay if we want to keep this service around.
So here’s our take on the top tips you need to get the most out of Evernote. If you do it right, it’ll be the database of your entire existence, make your day-to-day life that much simpler, and hopefully keep the company in business for many years of storage to come.
1. Premium Evernote
Once you’ve got a few items saved, it pays to switch to a paid Evernote account. Otherwise you can only upload so much—60 megabytes worth of files per month, at a 25MB per note maximum. Worse, without upgrading, you can only sync your notes with 2 devices (as of August 2016 for current users)—note that Evernote Web does NOT count as one of those devices. The limit only pertains to the mobile apps and desktop programs.
The Plus tier includes unlimited devices, offline access, 1GB of uploads per month, larger individual note sizes, and syncing with mobile apps—you can even save your emails into Evernote with Plus. That costs $34.99 per year (an increase of 10 dollars since 2015).
The Premium tier was $50, but has jumped up to $69.99 a year. For that, you get it all: 10GB of uploads, turns notes into presentations, PDF annotation, and searches inside attachments (even MS Office docs).
Business, of course, costs a lot more: $12 per month per user (so $144 per year) on the team. But that comes with all of the above plus more, which you can read about in our review.
2. Clip the Web
The most important part of your Evernote arsenal is the Evernote Webclipper. It’s a browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari, and becomes part of IE when you install Evernote for Windows. With it, you can capture everything you see online, from an entire page to just one little section or picture. A menu will fly out from the right and provide several options, from changing the notebook (all notes go in a notebook on Evernote) to inserting arrows or highlights or annotations (all the things Skitch used to do for Windows and mobile users). All it takes is a click on the Evernote elephant-head icon.
3. Email to Evernote
You probably get a lot of email. It’s still the killer app for sharing information. When you get something worth storing—jokes, documents, code snippets, medical records, travel reservations, pictures from home, etc.—Evernote (now in Plus or Premium only!) provides you a private email address to make that happen with a simple forward of the message. To find your special address, check Account Info in the apps. Give that address out to other people and they can send things to your Evernote account as well. Put the address in your address book on every platform. Use it. Abuse it. (Basic users can email into Evernote a total of five times, then it stops working until an upgrade. Which sucks, but Evernote needs the cash.)
The subject line will become the name of the note. You can make sure it’s filed right by adding @notebook, !date for a reminder, and/or #tag. Here’s an example:
Lowes Hose Purchase @Receipt !2014/05/05 #household.
You can also add emails to existing notes by using a + at the end of the subject line, adding it to a note with the same title as your subject line.
4. Merge Several Notes into One
Sometimes you have multiple notes that just go better together. It’s easy to merge them in the desktop versions of Evernote (Windows, Mac, and Web). Select multiple notes (hold down the Shift key and click) and you’ll see a graphical version of them in a pile. The options will be to email them, save the attachments in them, move them, or, of course, merge them. They’ll all get one title, based on the first note you picked. (If you have notes installed using discontinued Evernote extra apps like Food or Skitch, you can’t access the notes in those apps after a merge.)
5. Create Stacks and Stacks of Notebooks
Evernote storage is a metaphor, with notes inside notebooks. Well, notebooks can also be grouped together, inside “stacks.” For example, you could make a stack called Travel and then put multiple notebooks for different trips inside. You can share notebooks, but can’t share stacks. On the desktop versions you can drag and drop notebooks together to make a stack; right-click or click the pencil icon to name/rename a stack.
6. Add Reminders
Any note filed in Evernote can get a reminder. Click the alarm clock icon over the note in the Web or desktop interface, and you’ll get a drop-down calendar, with options to set a reminder tomorrow, in a week, or any time you’d like to go back and reference it.
7. Make a Task List
There are lots of online and mobile to-do list apps that kick Evernote’s butt, it’s true. But if you’re throwing your lot in with Evernote completely, it can’t hurt to know how to make one. Create a new note and look on the text toolbar above it (or below on the mobile apps) for the Check Box tool. Insert one and you’ll be on your way to creating a task list.
8. Secure Your Research
This isn’t so much about better use of Evernote as it is just a good idea: Turn on the Two-Step Verification feature. You’ll find it in the Account Settings. Enable it and a warning pops up—just continue, it’s worth it for the peace of mind that comes from the extra step. When enabled, you’ll require either a phone capable of receiving texts, or a smartphone running an authenticator app like Authy or Google Authenticator. Either method can provide the code you must enter in addition to your password. For more on this kind of security, read Two-Factor Authentication: Who Has It and How to Set It Up.
9. Track Expenses via Smartphone
We live in a credit card world. That means getting receipts. Lots and lots of them, for every purchase. Some people like to keep them—it’s handy to double check receipts against your statement or online account activity to prevent fraud. But that means a wallet or purse filled with stray papers. Instead, take a quick snapshot of your receipts with Evernote on your smartphone. Slap them all into a notebook called “Receipts,” take the extra time to tag them by retailer if you like, and then you’ve got a storehouse of your purchasing history. What’s more, you can search them because Evernote turns words inside pictures into searchable text. Note, this also works great for take-out menus, store hours listings, posters, magazine articles you can’t finish reading at the doctor’s office, you name it.
There are many third-party apps like CamScanner (free for iOS and Android) that make the process of inputting the images even easier. In fact, Evernote makes one for iOS only, called Scannable—another Evernote product that got our Editors’ Choice award.
10. Create Notes With Apps
Evernote’s own apps on smartphones make it relatively easy to create new notes—actual text you write to yourself! Plus they can add pictures and audio pretty simply. But there are specialty third-party apps just for notes—like Drafts ($3.99 )—that take writing on your phone to a new level, and integrate directly with Evernote.
11. Auto Detect Post-it Notes
The camera mode in the Evernote app on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone does something special: Put a brightly colored Post-it Note on a contrasting background, hold the camera phone up to the note, and it’ll auto-scan into Evernote. You can assign a Post-it color to a notebook, to automatically file them—you don’t need to enter a notebook name. So for example, all yellow Post-Its could shunt directly into a “reminders” notebook. It works with yellow, neon pink, electric blue, and limeade colors. (Evernote used to sell Post-its itself, but killed its online marketplace. However the feature is still available in the apps—go to Settings > Camera > Post-it Notes.)
12. Use Moleskine for Better Notes
You can purchase Moleskine notebooks, sketchbooks, and journals of almost any size, priced at $11.95 up to $32.95 with paper inside that is “Evernote Camera-Enabled.” The Moleskines have special dotted lines that optimize the image, plus “smart stickers” to help assign the page to a notebook. And while you’d probably be fine with regular, cheaper Mokeskine noteboooks, they come with three months of Evernote Premium for free (one month with the Post-It Notes). If a page has a “Smart Sticker” on it (they’re included with the notebook), the mobile app can automatically file it in an Evernote notebook you pre-choose.
Optionally, you can get the $199 Moleskine Smart Writing Set ($199.00 at Moleskine) with a smart pen that works with Evernote and other services—it’s our PCMag Editors’ Choice for smart pen input devices.
13. IFTTT: Save Notes from Everywhere
Evernote has become such a big part of people’s online storage needs that it’s integrated with just about every service out there. If you don’t believe that, visit the Evernote App Center for a listing of featured Web apps, iOS apps, and Android apps that can send info to Evernote.
No app is more powerful in this regard than If This, Then That (IFTTT). Because it ties in with so many other services, you can use it to create recipe after recipe. Among the most popular things you can send to Evernote instantly: tweets, starred Gmail messages, favorited items in Pocket or on Twitter, Instagram photos, Feedly articles, reminders made with Siri, any RSS feed, and Foursquare check-ins. You can even create a diary of Facebook messages. The list is practically infinite, limited only by your creative coupling of services and their triggers. Dump everything in Evernote and search/sort it later.
14. Scanner Time: Go Truly Paperless
Scanners are Evernote’s best friend. Because, as with pictures or handwritten notes, every word in a scanned document is searchable within Evernote. You can go paperless in just hours (or days, you packrat). Evernote sells a Wi-Fi-enabled scanner made by Fujitsu , the ScanSnap, for $495; pricey, but it scans everything directly into your digital depot of docs. Other small sheet-fed scanners with software that supports Evernote direct uploads include Doxie.
If you’re really brave with your paperwork, send it all to Shoeboxed.com via snail mail. They’ll scan them and put them in your Evernote account. After a free trial, the basic service is $9.95 a month for 50 docs per month, up to $49.95 a month for 500 docs per month. You can get five docs scanned per month for free.
15. Integrate with Webmail
Powerbot is a $1.99-a-month service coupled with a browser extension (for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari) that turns your Web-based email account on Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, even Google Calendar, into an Evernote feeding powerhouse. Rather than just forwarding a message, you can click a button in your mail to send a message, an attachment, even an entire thread of emails to Evernote (or to Dropbox or OneNote). Better yet, Powerbot also can access Evernote so you can attach an existing note to an outgoing message.
16. Blog by Notebook
You can publicly share an Evernote notebook as a blog. To do it, you sign up (via your Evernote credentials) at Postach.io. It’s a breeze to create, and Postach.io supports RSS feeds, tags for Facebook and Twitter simultaneous posts, domain names (you have to buy one elsewhere), Disqus comments, Google Analytics, and more. Postach.io can’t delete notes or notebooks or get to your account info. You designate exactly what notebook it should pull from, and any note inside—from images to text to audio to documents—will become visible on the blog once it’s tagged as “published.” It costs $9 a month or $90 a year.
17. Academic Success Via Evernote
Evernote’s a must for any student—especially those prone to losing things. Scan in every handout and syllabus. Take pictures of the notes on the whiteboard and record audio of lectures right in the Evernote app. Forward emails from classmates and the teacher/professor to a notebook named after the class. Type class notes right into the Evernote app directly. Use an Evernote Moleskine notebook for hand-written notes to scan later. Set up a shared notebook with friends in class to ensure no one misses out on notes or research materials. And of course, every bit of research on a project or paper should go in for searching. Take advantage of mobile apps like RefME that scan barcodes of books and then formats info about them to cite in papers.
18. Sharing is Caring
We’ve mentioned this a couple of times: you can share a notebook in Evernote with other Evernote users—or the world (this requires having a paid account). It’s as simple as right-clicking the folder on the Windows, Mac, or Web desktop interfaces and selecting “Share this notebook.” You’ll get two choices: “Share with individuals” (those who already use Evernote; you’ll need their email addresses) and “Create a Public Link.” The latter provides a URL you can put out there via email, social media, blog post, etc. This isn’t like social network sharing, where you send a note out—this is more like making a publicly accessible open door from the Web to a notebook. So be sure you mean it. If you do create a link and later regret it, you can modify the sharing permissions.
19. Map the Mind of Evernote
If you’re the type of visual thinker who likes to see representations of files flying about in pseudo-3D—a mindmap—well, Evernote’s probably not for you. Luckily, there are options. Mohiomap can link to Evernote and Dropbox and give you a way to node-navigate that you wouldn’t normally—and it is a great way to find long-lost notes that could inspire you. You can even drag and drop tags, creating linkage you may not have seen before in the data.
20. Encrypt Sensitive Desktop Note Text
On the desktop versions of Evernote, it’s entirely possible to set up encryption for individual notes, or indeed individual text in a note. It’s good for keeping out prying eyes, but not foolproof, nor really all that strong. It only works on text, not images. It used to only works from the desktop version of Evernote; now you can encrypt there and will get asked for the password if you try to access it on a mobile device or the Web. .
21. Make a Local Notebook
Not a notebook about stuff in your location (though that is certainly a fun option for storing menus, brochures, sites, and more about places in your town). I mean a local notebook that only exists in one instance of your Evernote account—like on your Windows computer. A local notebook stays in that one spot and isn’t synced by Evernote with all your other installations of Evernote (phones, tablets, Web). In the Windows version, you make one by going to File > New Notebook > New Local Notebook. Note that this folder can’t ever be turned into a synchronized notebook.
22. Watch a Folder
You might enjoy a lot of ways to get documents or images or whatever into Evernote, but nothing beats desktop drag and drop. Windows users can create a “watch folder” that the Evernote software monitors, and then sucks the contents into your account. In Windows, create a folder anywhere, then in the program, go to Tools > Import Folder, and find the folder in question. Any file placed in that folder in the future gets put into your account. Sub-folders can be one level deep and still pulled in. (Mac users can try this workaround to get the same function.)
23. Clip From iPhone to Evernote
Like the Webclipper tool in your desktop browser, you can clip from the Web on your iPhone. First make sure the Evernote app is installed and you’re signed in. Then in a browser like Safari or Chrome, hit the share button—it looks like a box with an arrow shooting out the top. On the first line of apps, you’ll see places to share, like Messages and Mail. Swipe left and click “More.” In the Activities list, turn on Evernote, then click Done. Evernote should now appear on that share menu. Click it and up pops the box where you set the notebook and change the title of the note if desired. It’s not limited to Web pages. Use it with documents and photos, too.
24. Use iOS Evernote in Notifications
The Notification Center screen on an iPhone has become very powerful. You don’t even have to fully unlock the phone, just swipe down and click the “Today” button to see some apps—and access tools like Evernote. To set it up, go to that screen, scroll to bottom, and select Edit. Click the green + next to Evernote to make it a permanent part of the notfications screen.
After that, you’ll see Evernote on the screen (use Edit again to place it higher or lower than other notification apps). It gives you instant access to note-creation tools, be it in text, taking a picture, creating a reminder or list, or chatting with someone. Naturally, they’re just quick jumps to the already powerful Evernote app on the phone.
25. Secure Mobile Notes in iOS
Anyone who picks up your iPhone can typically access your Evernote account. You can limit that, of course, by locking your phone with a passcode or using Touch ID fingerprint recognition on the newer iPhones. You can go the extra mile within the Evernote iOS app itself, even with a basic (free) account. In the app’s settings (click the wrench icon at the top of the app screen), go to Settings > General > Passcode Lock. You see an option to set up another passcode here that is only for Evernote; and you have the option to again use Touch ID to unlock Evernote. (Note that this doesn’t do anything to protect your notes from prying eyes on other synced platforms.)
26. Say It, Don’t Type It
It’s hard to tell on the desktop versions of Evernote, but you can create audio notes—create a new one and there’s a little microphone icon at the top that works with your system’s mic. (It’s not an option on the Web app). Naturally, audio is a lot friendlier on the mobile side. Take iOS, for example. When you click the Text button in the Evernote app to create a new note, you get two microphone icons. The icon on the keyboard is built into iOS—it’s for voice-to-text dictation. And the transcription in iOS works remarkably well. The other, above the keyboard, is for direct audio recordings. The sound of your voice is stored in .m4a format on Evernote. Play them back on any version of the program, download them, or share them with others. You can even move it into your pre-created local folder so it becomes available only on the desktop, if desired.
27. Make Table of Contents Note
If you want a quick way to access a bunch of notes without search or browsing, create a table of contents (ToC) with quick links to each. This only works in Evernote for Mac and Windows.
Click each note you want to include—hold down the Command key on Mac, or Ctrl key on Windows as you click each note. Then click the Create Table of Contents Note button. The note will appear in the same notebook as all the notes you picked, or Evernote just picks a notebook if you selected notes from multiples. If you want the ToC to appear in multiple notebooks, right-click and select Copy to Notebook.
Want to just link a couple of notes together? Right-click a note, select Copy Note Link, and just go to a different note and paste it in.
28. Learn the Search Syntax
Searching through Evernote is the next best thing to storing things there—after all, you store it to find later. Just throwing terms in a search box isn’t the right way to go about it. Learn the syntax that makes searches powerful. They’re spelled out on Evernote’s advanced search syntax help page.
For example, use “tag:” (without quotes) followed by a term just to search tags. The “created:” or “updated:” operator, followed by a date in the form YYYYYMMDD can find specific dates; follow it with something like “day-2” and it’ll find everything from the last two days. If you’re looking for your task lists, the “todo:” operator only looks for notes with check boxes. Look just in the title of a note with “intitle:” and in a specific notebook with “notebook:”. The “source:” operator followed by “web.clip” or “mobile” limit searches to those sources. Learn them all. The video above will help.
29. Master the Shortcuts
Like any good desktop program, Evernote for Mac and Windows each have a lot of keyboard shortcuts that make life easier. Here’s a short list for Windows; note that when it says Ctrl, the equivalent on the Mac is the Command key.
Ctrl + N = New note
Ctrl + Shift + N = New notebook
Ctrl + Shift+ T = New tag
Ctrl + K = Add a hyperlink
Ctrl + Q = Quit Evernote
There are plenty more to be found in the Essential Evernote Shortcut list.
30. Use Evernote Like PowerPoint
Evernote believes all your notes can work as slides. That’s what Presentation Mode is for—making presentations where your notes are the content of the talk. It’s part of the Windows, Mac, iPad, and iPhone versions of Evernote—if you’ve got the Premium version. Here’s a full tutorial, with the video preview above.
31. File Your Statements Automatically With FileThis
Another add-on service that will toss docs into Evernote for you so you don’t have to scan them, FileThis links with major providers and banks so you can get statements and receipts that auto-file. Link it with up to six services for free, or pay $20 or $50 a year to get a lot more, depending on your needs. Later, when you need to find that one credit card statement with that one charge on it, it’s just an Evernote search away.
32. Search and Transfer Notes/Files with Otixo
If you use a lot of online storage services beyond Evernote, like Dropbox and Google Drive and OneDrive, you should consider using Otixo cloud manager to search them. You’ll have to pay to join it up with multiple services, but when you do you get one search for all your online notes and documents—and the ability to drag and drop them between services.
33. Save Syntax Searches
If you’re frequently doing the same kind of searches in Evernote, save them. Do a search, with all the syntax criteria you can think of, then after it’s done, in the Windows version, hover over the search box and click Save Search. You can give it a special name so you never forget it. You access it again in the same search box.
34. Pair Better with Google Drive (Soon)
Evernote claims at least half its users also have a Google Drive account, so it’s made it a little easier to access all Google Drive files while using Evernote, like making them embeddable links in a note. Go into your Evernote setting to Connected Services, and connect your Google account to the service; the integration itself is still in beta testing on Android and on the desktop with the Chrome browser only (though as of this writing it seems like you can’t get into the desktop beta test, so look for it down the road).
35. Integrate Evernote with Microsoft
Microsoft’s Outlook.com is PCMag’s favorite Web-based email service. And it’s got complete support for Evernote, not just Microsoft’s own OneNote. It does more than work with email however—it also integrates with Outlook.com’s calendar functions. Set a reminder on a note in Evernote, and now the reminder will pop up in Outlook’s calendar. Of course, it also makes it a one-click thing to store important emails in Evernote as well as share notes stored there.
36. Transfer it All…to OneNote
Much as Microsoft plays nice with Evernote, it still favors its own OneNote. And in the war between the note-taking apps, Microsoft has a new weapon: OneNote Importer will suck everything in your Evernote account into OneNote so you lose nothing if you decide to switch over. (Or, maybe, just use it as a backup of your Evernote account. Just saying.)
Of course, there are better ways to make the “backup” between the two services a constant thing: use IFTTT or Zapier to connect separate services. It works best for Evernote-to-OneNote transfers, not so much the other direction. However, Evernote’s Greg Chiemingo notes that there are a lot of file types Evernote supports that don’t transfer, such as ink notes, note links, and any item you have encrypted.
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