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Evernote is a data collection, organization, and retrieval tool that is both simple and powerful. I'll take a quick run through its features.

Evernote is one of several applications that I install shortly after setting up the basics of any new machine, or rebuilding an existing one.

In this video created for an Ask Leo! webinar, I'll walk you through some of Evernote's features and functionality.

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Transcript

Hello, everyone! My name's Leo Notenboom for AskLeo.net.

Today from our webinar, we're going to take a quick look at Evernote and have a quick look at some of its features.

Evernote is available from Evernote.com and it's available on a number of different platforms. Now, with that in mind and before I continue, what I want to do is grab my phone (which you can't see, of course) and use Evernote to take a picture. So I've just taken a blurry photograph of the screen of my tablet where I have my notes for this video. We'll see why that's interesting in a moment.

Evernote is available on Windows, on Macintosh, on iPhones, on iPads on Android phones and Android tablets and in fact, one of its major compelling features is its ubiquity.

So here we're looking at Evernote on my actual notebook. I have several different folders into which I have notes stored. What is a note you ask? Well, it's really nothing more than a body into which you can put stuff, most often text, which of course can be formatted text if you're so inclined; a title, a URL which we'll see will be interesting here in a moment and then tags; you can tag this for taking a look at your note by tags and searching your notes by tags.

One of the things that Evernote's ubiquity get us is that in addition to being on all of our devices, it is, of course, on the web. And all of my notes that you saw in the application on my laptop are available here to browse as well. You can access them from any computer from which you feel safe logging in. One side effect of having everything on the web or for that matter, having it replicated across multiple computers is that you end up having a form of backup for everything that's in your Evernote account. And, yes, you can use Evernote on multiple computers. You associate each computer with your account and all of the notes and all of the contents of those notes get replicated automatically across all of your machines. That's done through an automatic syncing process. You'll see here that there's a button labeled 'sync'; that button forces the synchronization to happen immediately.

When you sync in Evernote, what you're doing is syncing the local copy of your Evernote database to the master copy that's kept on the web. So what you would normally do instead of syncing manually is have this configured to sync periodically, perhaps once every half an hour so as mine do. I'm going to force the sync now because one of the things that should show up as part of this sync is the photograph I took a few minutes ago should show up. Where? In the folder labeled 'New Notes' and in fact, there it is. This is the very blurry photograph of my Notepad that I've been keeping the notes on for this video.

Photographs are just one use of Evernote. In this particular case, I've also got some things here that are called 'Notes to self'. What those are are in fact email messages that I've sent to myself. You can add a note to Evernote simply by emailing your own personal address that's assigned to your account when you create it. Subject line of the note will contain the title and also allow you to tag and indicate which of the notebooks you have that note should get placed into.

Evernote is basically a data collection device and it's intended to make it easy to find information on the Web and save it (much like a research tool). To that end, one of the tools that they have and you can see I have the icon here in the upper right of my Firefox window is what they call the Evernote clipper. You can actually copy entire web pages or pieces of web pages For example, if I want to select this particular portion of my web page, if I right-click it, there is in fact an item called 'Add to Evernote'.

What that does is it immediately takes that text; creates a brand new note; offers you the opportunity to give it a title; add your own tags at the time you're doing this clipping and select which notebook you want that to be in. When I say 'Add Note'...now if I go back to Evernote, up in my new notes, I have the text from that web page. And you'll notice in this particular case, it included all of the formatting even including the double-underlined ads.

The other big advantage or interesting use of Evernote is that if you've collected a large number of notes, organizing your notes only goes so far. Much like the Gmail model where they do very little to help you create folders, you can search your notes very powerfully.

If I go to my All Notes folder, which as you might expect is all notes in the notebook and start typing in a keyword, all notes that contain that word are then listed. And that word would be in the title, in a tag or in a body of a note itself. Interestingly, if you upload a note that contains an image, Evernote will attempt to perform OCR on it. Unfortunately, the results of the OCR are not available for you to extract (for example, to use in a copy paste operation) but the results of the OCR are available for search and you'll often find that the search you are doing will highlight areas of the image that you've uploaded that happened to contain OCR-able text.

Finally, you'll notice that this one notebook down here has a slightly different icon. That's because that notebook is actually shared with someone else. In this particular case, it's shared with my wife who has her own Evernote notebook. This notebook allows her to access notes that I place in it so she can do things like update my grocery list while I'm at the store.

I've really only scratched the surface of Evernote's features set and that's actually intentional because I'm in the process myself of figuring out how best and how more I can use Evernote. In my quest to keep my daily digital life organized, I'm finding that Evernote is a useful tool to not only capture information but also store it in a way that's easily retrieved. As a result, Evernote is one of the first utilities I install when I rebuild a computer.

I'm Leo Notenboom for AskLeo.net

Article C4960 - October 22, 2011 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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1 Comment
Michael
October 28, 2011 1:23 PM

As I was reading your comments on Evernote, I was thinking about how I have (for many years) used a Word document simply called Current to keep track of daily tasks/memory joggers/to-do list/etc.
With the help of a handy screen-shot utility that allows partial-screen images, this has served as a good 'forerunner' to Evernote. With the assistance of cloud storage, this page would be available anywhere, any time.
I haven't yet had a chance to test Evernote (just downloaded it today), but it will obviously have to have several efficient features (especially on the paid version) to make it worth the extra "complication and overhead" that a purpose-built program always adds when compared to good ole-fashioned, rudimentary methods.

Michael Scott

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