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Ian Briggs » evernote

The latest with Evernote

Posted by: Ian Briggs on 9th April 2013 at 7:15 pm

Categories: Computing, Work | Tags: , , | No comments

Those who read the stuff I write will know how much of a fan I am of Evernote.

Recently I have tried to go as paperless as possible. I don't think it will ever be possible to go completely paperless as there will always be documents we need to keep…drivers licence, birth certificate etc…but electricity and phone bills and receipts? No way. In addition to putting most of my home office paperwork into Evernote, I have been trying to get my real office paperless too!

Most of my work involves running computer models and writing down endless pages of results. However, when it came to writing papers, I have found it incredibly difficult to find the particular note I wanted to reference in my log book. So now every result or plot I get from my models goes straight into an Evernote note which is titled with something obvious and relevant to the contents. I don't bother putting a date into the title any more as I have learnt how to make use of Evernote's saved searches, as well as other organisational tips thanks largely to Jamie Todd Rubin's excellent Evernote blog, of which I am a big fan.

I have a notebook in Evernote for every aspect of my PhD project I am working on. This keeps all the work I do in separate areas and consequently, it makes it very easy to find when I need to – writing my current paper has been much easier thanks to having results and plots at hand. Having a timeline of work and results has also highlighted the areas I need to work on, so it is really helping to shape and organise my research. If I do write something in my paper logbook, I can take a photo of it with Evernote's page camera which does a reasonable job of scanning the page.

As part of the PhD, there is also a lot of reading to be done. When I started, nearly three years ago, I would print every paper I found online and put it in a box folder on my desk to be read. When I read it, I would write a short view and print this and file it in another folder!! When it came to writing up this research, I had no idea which review belonged to which paper, or what some papers contained at all.

Now, I have all my papers scanned into PDF format in a research notebook in Evernote and at the top of each note, as I read them, I write a few bullet points on each paper. I also write in the reference for each one so when I come to write about the research, I can just open each paper in Evernote and immediately have a few points showing the highlights of the paper, and copy and paste the reference into my bibliography. I have also tagged each paper so I can see related ones together.

I find my use of Evernote has really developed, even over the last few months, and has made writing much more structured, efficient and enjoyable. Using it on the iPad is also incredibly easy. Recently, I have been using it for everything…my film database, blogging ideas, foursquare checkins (which automatically get put into Evernote thanks to IFTTT), and the list goes on.

Today's conference highlighted how much my use of the iPad and Evernote has come on…no more pen and paper to take rushed notes that I can't read after the day's over, but instead, one note with the name of each presenter and a few bullet points about things that are mentioned, and I can take photos of peope's business cards instead of losing them I my bag or desk when I get back to the office! What's better is that Evernote can search the images for text (I've no idea how), so I can find people's contact details very quickly.

Well that's enough evangelical praise…are you using it yet?

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How I use Evernote at home and work

Posted by: Ian Briggs on 30th June 2012 at 4:24 pm

Categories: Computing, Work | Tags: | No comments

This blog post is a run-through of how I have come to use Evernote as a file-management system and digital repository.

Background Reading

I originally installed Evernote a couple of years ago but didn’t really make use of it apart from storing links to a few webpages. It wasn’t until fairly recently that I began reading of the real benefits to be had from making good use of the programme.

I read a number of easy-to-find websites recently which helped to find some uses for Evernote. They are listed here for reference:

– Ten ways to save time with Evernote: http://goo.gl/ObyjN

– How to email your documents erectly to Evernote: http://mhyatt.us/iEHGw1

– Evernote Case Study: http://goo.gl/pIQwf

– Ten tips on how to use Evernote to its fullest: http://www.thesolopreneurlife.com/?p=6014

These sites, and many others, helped me to decide how I would use Evernote, and how to organise it to suit my needs. The main driver behind all this was the desperate need to reduce the amount of paper we had filed away in our home office. Two filing cabinets full of papers, drawers, folders, boxes all crammed with forms, bills and receipts from years ago. So I set about sorting the stuff to keep, stuff to keep a digital copy of, and stuff to get rid of entirely!

Setting up Evernote

Evernote stacks and notebooks

Evernote stacks and notebooks

In its most basic use, Evernote can obviously save notes. To tidy things up a bit, these notes can then be filed in notebooks, and similar notebooks can be grouped into stacks. You can see this in the image to the right where there is a financial stack, which contains a lot of related notebook for banking, receipts, tax and utilities.Within each of these notebooks is a selection of individual notes containing things like bank statements, utility bills etc.

The main tip I have found to keep things tidy is to keep the stack titles as general as possible (i.e. Financial, Work, Hobbies). Notebook titles should be a bit more specific (Banking, Music, Photography etc.) and the actual note should contain detailed information as to its contents (including title, date if applicable and maybe any people to whom the note relates).

I also have an INBOX notebook (notice the ! to keep it at the top of the list) which contains random stuff. But things only stay here briefly until they are filed somewhere more meaningful.

I also use tags in Evernote mainly to aid in searching for things. For example, within my banking notebook I have notes relating to a couple of different banks, current accounts, and credit cards. This is where tags come in to separate each note into sub-categories within a notebook. This helps to avoid having hundreds of notebooks being over-specific and makes things very easy to find.

Uses for Evernote

So that is how I have set up Evernote, but how to use it every day?

Firstly, I probably do use it every day now and here are some of the things that I use it for:

– Note taking – revision for a recent project management exam proved Evernote’s worth by being able to take revision notes and avoid writing things on reams of paper.

– Film reviews – I like writing reviews for films that I see, and Evernote provides a great place to store and file reviews that I can then send to twitter, google+ or other websites that I write for.

– Blog ideas – any ideas for updating my blog get stuck in a notebook for future development (including this one!)

– Web clippings – one of the main uses for me. This allows me to get rid of bookmarks and instead, store webpages with their full colour, images, formatting and to have them sync between any computer I use. No more losing bookmarks or forgetting which computer they are stored on.

– Financial records – as mentioned above, I have scanned all my bank statements, letters, terms and conditions etc. and got rid of all the useless paper that the banks sent to us. The paper has been shredded and is now being used to feed worms and make compost! I also use the scanner or camera on my phone to scan in any important receipts or utility bills and eliminate more paper. All sensitive data is encrypted either using Evernote’s in-built encryption (for text) or I use an Apple automator script I wrote to encrypt a pdf file before uploading to Evernote.

– Personal records – Optician prescriptions, dentist records etc. are now stored electronically so I know where to find them even if I’m not at home.

– Travel details – All information relating to trips goes into the travel stack, and split into notebooks depending on the journey. The notes in here can include anything like maps, places to go, things to see and bars and restaurants to check out, all in a self-contained notebook for each trip. I also clip webpages for train timetables and forward flight and hotel reservation emails to the same notebook.

– Shopping – Things I want to buy get stored here along with a shared notebook for shopping lists that my wife can edit from her account.

– Work – This is the main reason I upgraded to the premium account. Things like meeting information, book clippings, papers and reports get stored here along with images I might use for any of my own papers. The benefit is that all this information is easy to find and can be searched (in the premium version of Evernote, even handwritten notes can be searched), and there is no limits to the type or size of files you can upload.

So that is how I am using Evernote, and the amount of space we have saved in our office is incredible. I hope this will inspire some others to use Evernote, but at the very least it provides an entertaining insight into my own obsessive compulsive desire for order!

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