I suppose some people haven't heard about Evernote, space travelers, perhaps. Evernote is a database, but without the aggravation. You store notes, pictures, files, audio clips and just about anything else that is digital in Evernote. Years ago these things would have been physical items and you would have put them in manila folders and binders. Why? Just in case you might need them sometime. Of course, you could never find them later.
Evernote is the digital equivalent of folders and binders of your stuff - except that you can find that gem again, usually in less than a minute. AND it is on your phone. You don't have to find the folders and binders first. If lots of your gems are physical, take pictures of them, scan them, and drop them into Evernote.
Besides being great at abetting pack rats, Evernote can be used to help you with more day-to-day real tasks. But before I describe other ways you might use Evernote, let's review the features.
First is cost. It is free. I used Evernote for about three years before I got a Premium account which costs $5/mo or $45/yr. The reason I went Premium was to share stuff that others could edit or add to. The free account allows sharing without editing. The free account has a 60 MB limit on how much stuff you can add per month. I haven't come close to hitting the limit, but I can see how you might. You can see all the limits here. There isn't a total limit! Check out the Premium features, too, while you are there.
After four years I have 3244 Notes, 21 Notebooks, 83 Tags to give you a benchmark. This screenshot of my tags will give you an idea of how I use Evernote.
Another really nice thing about Evernote is that they have continually improved their product. One improvement theme is adding Integrations: Penultimate, Skitch and several others - Post-It Notes, Business Cards/LinkedIn, Moleskine notebooks, clipping webpages with extensions. Each of these make Evernote more powerful and more useful. (Skitch is a markup tool that also lets you crop and re-size.)
Back to uses. I like to use Notebooks for subjects like IFTTT Feed, personal, a journal, Office Receipts, Project Records, Office Records. Some of these choices are driven by integrations and automation. You can upload just about anything by email and using # before the Notebook name and @before the tag name places it right where you want it.
Tags are like categories or folders. Some I use almost like notebooks, because when you select a tag just notes tagged with it are shown. Other tags help find things. Examples: project designations, CEU records, iPhone notes/records, house, PAID, topics and published. You can exclude tags as well as add them. I search my store of 'topics' all the time and it helps to exclude the topics that I have 'published'. Reminders work for me for long range one off tasks. Shortcuts I use for a short list of frequently used notebooks and tags.
One little feature that I really use a lot is the checkbox on the formatting menu. Whenever something is likely to become a task, add a checkbox. This would just be window dressing if it wasn't possible to search your entire database for all the notes containing unchecked checkboxes. Love it.
Searches are very powerful on the desktop app and the iPad, less so on the iPhone. The difference is how you can add multiple search terms. My workaround for the phone is to tag things I expect to need as favorites or to save the search so it can be used. Having all this information available on your mobile devices is really handy.
One of the techniques I picked up is that starting a tag with a special character will cause it to be listed first. It also has the effect of grouping all those with the same initial character. I use a ’/’ to begin a project tag, e.g. /SL-TR, which stands for Stevens Library Toilet Rooms. Searching for ’contract’ and ’/SL-TR’ finds the contract for that job.
I think that as everyone gathers more and more information it becomes increasingly tedious to wade through your file folders to find a document like a contract. Evernote solves that problem. The only shortcoming of a database approach is that a drawing file, for instance, can be shared but managing updates requires a new version to be saved. This isn't automatic like it can be with Dropbox where files in use on your computer are kept in synch with everyone else's computer.
Nevertheless Evernote is a strong collaboration tool for sharing research (screenshots), reference (PDFs), pictures and notes. Unlike files like a dwg, spreadsheet or Word doc which can't be edited in Evernote; a note can be edited and remains up-to-date for everyone sharing the note.
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