Why I Can't Imagine My Life Without Evernote

Preamble: A whole bunch of people have asked me for this post when they've heard me go on about Evernote. I was going to break it up into chunks, but I thought I would just give it all to you at once.

Evernote logo
I love Evernote. There, I said it.

In my experience, I've found that if people use note-taking apps, they generally have a single favourite and they stick to it religiously. It might be Instapaper, Google Docs, VoodooPad, ToodleDo, etc. All the other ones (save Instapaper) usually lack in some functionality that I need: they back up files, but you can't really take notes; or they back up notes, but they can't capture web pages. Me? I have high standards.

Enter Evernote. Ok, and Instapaper. But I like the Evernote UI and the apps for desktop and mobile better. I think once your choice is down to either Instapaper or Evernote, it comes down to personal preference and UI.

What's it for?

Right now, I have Evernote installed on my Droid, my Blackberry, my laptop and I also use the web app. I use it multiple times a day to bookmark sites, jot ideas, capture tweets that inspire blog posts, journal when I travel, log book recommendations from friends, and save copies of web articles for reading later. You can also add photos, checklists, etc.

It's like an extra brain. Case in point, currently, my Evernote contains:
  • 111 blog post ideas
  • 21 book recommendations
  • 53 articles to read
  • 6 tasks, and
  • 7 videos to watch
And even with their capacity restrictions, I am only using a fraction of the space available to me on the free plan (60MB per month). They have an upgraded option for $5 a month, but I don't currently bookmark 1GB worth of content (I often clip the URLs instead of the full articles). If you have more than 5 people interested in using Evernote, you can sign up for a group plan where everyone would pay $3.75/month.

If I'm getting behind on my reading, I've been known to print some of the notes to PDF and transfer them to my Kobo. I even tested bringing my unread Google reader items into Evernote via a custom RSS set up in Feedburner, and then generating PDFs to read them on my e-reader during my bus commute. It did work and just required me to download once a day to my Kobo. Buuuut it chewed right through my data allowance, so I quickly put an end to that practice.

Maximizing Evernote

Now to really get the most out of Evernote, the Chrome plugin is an absolute necessity. Clip to Evernote adds a convenient little Evernote icon in your Chrome browser. When you're on a page you want to clip, click the button and choose whether to clip the article, the page or just the URL. Pick the notebook you want to store it in and/or add some tags and you're done. My default setting is my "Reading" folder, so for the majority of content I just click the Evernote button, select URL or article and I'm done. The content syncs to everything: the cloud, my desktop app and my phone. That content is immediately available to me from anywhere. The Evernote extension is what enables me to have so many draft blog post ideas as well.

You can also email to your account in order to upload notes. These go directly into your default folder, so you have to move them later. You can also import any existing notes from your Google Notebook and add them to your folders. And like with Google Docs, you can make some notes public and share them by email or via social networks. Users don't have to log in to see them.

Now, the major strength of Evernote is that you don't have to be online to make a note. That means if I have my data turned off (like I did in Europe), I can write notes all day long and they will sync when I am connected. That was a really convenient feature: we took notes of things we wanted to remember, funny stories, etc on my phone as they happened. When we returned to our condo in the evening, the notes would sync to the cloud over the wifi. I've been back from that trip for 2 months, and am writing it out in long form when I have time. The written journal is the goal, but those notes are mighty convenient to jog our memories.

Untapped Potential

The sync functionality is also very convenient for tapping into the blog post ideas notebook and drafting blog posts when I'm away from my laptop. With the local app on my phone or laptop, I can tap into those drafts any time and write. My goal is to use it more and more for drafting other types of content too. Right now, I tend to file most of the info related to my non-work projects in my Gmail, since that's where most of the interaction with other people happens. But I'm starting to explore the idea of using Evernote for this type of work too.

The other area I have not used Evernote is to replace my paper notebook at work. I do still love paper and pen, and I'm not entirely convinced that I will do away with writing things down until the day when I start using a tablet for work.

Meantime, Evernote still gives me a very powerful place to stage content and capture ideas. And I know I would be a much less organized person without it.

Will you like it?

If you know nothing about the tool, you can do a bit of research online. For example, there are tons of sites dedicated to tapping into the secret potential of Evernote.

Want to know if it will work for you? Check out this short video for an intro:

Are you using a note-taking app? Which one? What do you use it for? As I said, I'm looking for ideas.