We used to have a love/hate relationship with sticky notes. They were great for jotting stuff down, but over time the small yellow squares ended up consuming the entire surface of our desks in a slow, ever-expanding Blob-like wave. We could never find the note we needed when we needed it. It always ended in hysterical tears and missed appointments.
Then we downloaded Evernote, and never touched a sticky note again. Plus, we started making it to our appointments on time. Or at least some of them.
Once you create or edit a note in Evernote, the program backs up your data to the Evernote servers and makes it accessible from any device with the software installed. You can get Evernote for Windows, Macs and all the major smartphones, giving you access to your notes from almost anywhere. But there's more to Evernote than simple reminders: we've compiled 10 tips to help you squeeze as much as possible out of the surprisingly powerful application.
The core of Evernote's power lies in its syncing ability. By default, the program uploads all of your new and edited notes to the company's servers every 30 minutes. You can change the frequency by selecting "Tools" > "Options" > "Sync." If you need access to one of your notes on another device, and you need to do it now, click the "Sync" button in Evernote's toolbar to upload your changes to Evernote's servers immediately.
Evernote's Sync button.
As powerful as Evernote is, sometimes you just won't have access to it. If inspiration strikes while you're helping Grandma clean malware off her Mac, just shoot your Evernote account an email. Evernote sends you an email address for your account when you sign up. The subject of the email becomes the note's title, and the body becomes the content of the note. You can even categorize emailed notes by including modifiers in the subject: add @(notebook name) to assign the note to a specific notebook, and add tags with #(tag).
A picture's worth a thousand words, especially if it's a picture of your totally cool case mod. The free version of Evernote lets you add images, audio files and PDFs to your notes simply by dragging and dropping them in. Smartphone users can just snap a pic with their camera, or you can add a supported file to an emailed note by including it as an attachment. Upgrade to the premium version and you can add any kind of file you'd like.
Adding images to your notes can be used for so much more than sending your mom pics of your Pomeranian. Handed a business card? Snap a shot of it and tag it with the person's name and business. Swimming in school notes? Don't want to lose the kick-ass idea spewed all over your whiteboard? Take a pic. Not only do you keep the information forever, but Evernote's awesome optical character recognition software can read your handwriting and turn the pictures of words into searchable text.
Eminem fans doing their best "Eight Mile" impression used to have to resign themselves to the fact that their battle-mic prowess was lost to the aether the second they spit out a hot lyric. No longer. Mobile Evernote apps include the ability to record audio notes, so you'll be able to record those spur-of-the-moment thunderbolts of inspiration while your fingers are otherwise occupied. Additionally, the Voice2Note software by Power2Do can transcribe your audio into text notes if you want a print version of your brainstorm. Voice2Note even maintains a dedicated phone line so that you can call in your notes completely hands-free.
Adding Web content to Evernote in Firefox.
You can always just copy text from a website and paste it into a note, but you'd be losing a lot of the benefits of the Web. The modern Internet is chock full of media, baby, and Evernote's Web Clipper plugin grabs entire chunks of the screen at once, keeping images and formatting intact (for the most part). Simply download the Web Clipper add-on for your browser, then highlight a portion of a Web page. Right-click the excerpt and select "Add to Evernote." Bam! Done. The Chrome plugin adds even more functionality. Its "Simultaneous Search" option adds results from your Evernote tags whenever you search Google, so when you Google "Furry" pics, it conveniently tells you that you already have thirty teddy bear-sporting notes tagged with the term.
The Web Clipper plugin makes it easy to compile multiple research sources into a single note. Rather than bookmarking each and every website you reference in your thesis, just create a new note and clip the appropriate snippets of each page into it. It works great for keeping track of websites and prices while comparison shopping, too. You can still add your own text to notes with clipped Web pages, so jotting down notations and extra details to go with the clips is easy.
Users of Evernote's Mac and Web versions have been swapping notebooks for a while, but the feature only appeared on Windows earlier this year. Spamming Twitter or Facebook with your notes is easier than ever before thanks to the "Share" button in Evernote's toolbar. Just click it and choose how you want to share your grocery list with friends. Sharing whole notebooks is handled via the "Shared" tab in the left-hand navigation panel. Select which notebook you want to share, then choose to show your stuff to the entire world or to selected individuals via email. If you're using the free version, others can only see your notebook; upgrading to a premium account lets others alter shared notebooks, making it an awesome collaboration tool for business or creative types.
Evernote supports several modifiers that can help you unleash some serious Search-Fu. Preface your search with "Tag:" – minus the quotes – to limit your searches to notes with a specific tag. The "notebook:" modifer works the same way, only with notebooks. Add a minus sign to the front of a modifier to exclude compatible results from searches. Asterisks act as wildcards, just like they do in Google searches and DOS commands. Want an example? Search for "-tag:*" to show all your untagged notes. The "created:" modifier sorts by date. There's tons of depth to Evernote modifiers – so much that honestly covering them would take an entire article of its own. Check out this comprehensive post over at Dropping Steps for all the syntax info you'll ever need.
Evernote search modifiers in action.
Are you like Santa, constantly making a list a checking it twice? Evernote's got you covered. Just right-click in the body of a note and select "To-Do" > "Insert Checkbox" to drop a checkable box into the note. It's perfect for creating shopping lists on the run.
A last, quick note for Linux fans: Evernote doesn't offer a Linux version. Sure, you could try to run the program in Wine, or you could just download and install Nevernote, an open source Evernote clone that fully interacts with the Evernote servers. Nevernote gets bonus points for including "Why is it so ugly?" as a topic in its documentation.