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How to Get Started with Evernote

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Maybe it's me, but I've tried to use Evernote for many years but just can't grok it. Today I tried again by going to the support/help section of the web site and found the Getting Started with Evernote guide. The introduction video was not very informative. It was supposed to be self-explanatory with only music, but did not resonate with me.


The next section was about the home screen. It shows an example that doesn't look anything like mine. Here's a screenshot with my screen on the left and the guide screen on the right. http://screencast.com/t/nscPHd27 The two screens do not seem to have anything in common.


Maybe Evernote is just not for me. I don't know. I've designed my own much simpler text-only versions and still have those around with old notes. Maybe someone has some suggestions about how they got into Evernote. I'd like a simple workflow with the basic features. I don't need to know the whole system before I start.





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Hi.  Were you aware that you can download Evernote to a desktop computer so you can view a separate application screen rather than the web version?  Evernote have rather muddied the waters recently by launching a 'beta' version of a new design for the web,  which seem to be what you're looking at.  It's not an official release,  and it doesn't do a great deal other than show notes.  If you download the desktop version from Evernote.com you may have a little more luck - you'll certainly have more features.  As to workflows,  what do you want to do with Evernote?  It exists to save,  and help you find,  information which you decide is potentially useful.  So save anything you like,  and search for anything you need.  I find it useful to help me remember serial numbers and purchase dates - I photograph all those little name plates with tiny numbers in inaccessible places so if the freezer goes wrong I know who to call and what model I'm complaining about without have to crawl around the floor.  I also save legal cases and Evernote fixes - I'm a technical writer so that sort of information is useful in my job.  I also digitised a library from a roomful of shelves to an external hard drive.


You can save 60MB of data each month, so don't worry too much about what you're saving or why;  just start scanning / clipping and noting,  and I'm sure your workflow will evolve over time.  You may even be able to throw away most of the paper clutter that most folks hoard unecessarily - just don't forget to keep a regular backup of your hard drive,  just in case.

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Rob, about a month ago another user was having a similar problem -- understanding the Evernote big picture.

Here is my response to him, and maybe it will also help you.  If you have any questions, feel free to post.


Evernote Big Picture


Evernote is what I call a Personal Information Manager that works/syncs on just about all computing devices to enter, collect, and store your information (of all types) for quick and easy retrieval when and where you need it.


The scope of Evernote is as limited or as inclusive as you would like.  Some people restrict their use of Evernote to a specific subject or activity.  Others, like me, pretty much put everything into Evernote, with the exception of sensitive information that is not encrypted.


For me Evernote has replaced the following:

  • Handwritten notes stored in notebooks/journals that I have used since college.
    I used to have a small notebook always on my desk to jot down quick notes about anything that comes up, like phone #s, addresses, reminders, and more serious notes of my daily log of activities
  • Handwritten notes I made in a small spiral notebook that I always kept in my pocket when I was out and about.
  • Research about products and services (mostly from web sites, some from catalogs) that I used to PDF and store on my computer.
  • Storage of receipts, both in paper and in PDFs in my computer
  • Reference information that I used to keep in my PC and in web sites/wikis
  • Pretty much ALL paper that comes my way that previously would have stored in physical file cabinets.  The exception being very important documents of either legal, financial, or historical nature.  Those I store both in Evernote and in my file cabinet.
  • Saving of most web site bookmarks in my Browser.  I now clip selected parts of a web page, that are of interest to me, using the Evernote Clipper.
  • A complete list of all of my personal assets, with supporting photos, documents, insurance, etc.  The uses for this are many, including insurance coverage, and documentation needed in case of a loss (fire, flood, etc).
  • and much more

The key for me is that ALL of the info I put into Evernote is available to me on all of my devices:  Mac, iPad, iPhone, Win PC.  I am really impressed that when I walk out the door with only my iPhone I have my entire personal database (Evernote) with me.  So, if I am at a store or friend's house, I can quickly pull up any supporting info I need.


While there have been PIM apps in the past, none of them offered the sync across all devices, the ease of entry/collection of information, and search that Evernote does.  Evernote not only searches the text in your notes, but also text in images, PDFs, and, if you are a Premium account owner, also searches MS Office docs, and Apple iWork docs.


Hopefully this will help you better understand the big picture of Evernote.


Maybe it's me, but I've tried to use Evernote for many years but just can't grok it. 

. . .





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You've gotten some good response, but it would help me to know what it is you come to Evernote for?


Each uses brings different needs to the product. JMichael has a good list. 


I'll add:

  • Evernote stores all the recipes I had torn out over the years. I am now over 3000 recipes from magazines. 
  • Evernote is my go to note taking device wherever I know I will be taking notes. Coupled with my Samsung s-pen it is very helpful. 
  • I use it for sermon notes since none of my Bible apps did a good job storing and continuing those. 
  • For debate I use it to organize my debate club members and feed them helpful information
  • I take notes of youtube videos, mostly on debate, and I can split screen that with Evernote and that works great. 
  • I'm currently on a diet with lists of certain types of food, I typed all those up and when I am at the butcher counter, I can pull out the list and see which cuts I can eat. Or which vegetables are on my list of unlimited (always a good category for a dieter). 


I doubt any other users use Evernote quite like I do, but much of what I like about Evernote is its adaptability to many situations. 


However, some folks have very clear desires and Evernote might not meet those. Want a hugely layered notebook system? Evernote won't do that. I can try to explain why tags work better than that, but some folks might still want that. Want a task organizer, todo list or grocery shopping list organizer? Evernote really won't be the best choice. 


So to really learn if Evernote will work for you, it would help to know what it is you want Evernote to do. 

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In some ways, Evernote is not like a 'normal' software package.


It was not designed with a clear set of abilities and a purpose. This means it is sometimes not clear what you might want to use it for, or when you start to store things in it, what you might do with them.


I have seen so many people say they installed Evernote, but couldn't get their head around it. Then one day they went back to it, probably because they realised there was some bit of information they needed kept for easy access, like Gaz's little equipment labels, suddenly they love Evernote and find so much more they can do with it.


I use it i business and for personal use. To me it is a superb storage space that I can keep on top of my work and pleasure to do list. Easly accessing data which for me goes back many years.


Here is an overview of how I use it for a Diary and keep up with tasks.






In my set up of Evernote I have a 'Diary 2014' Notebook and a 'Diary 2014 Completed' Notebook.
Any emails or enquiries get sent to my 'Diary 2014' Notebook. I do this by either clicking on the 'Evernote' icon in Microsoft Outlook I then add a date code to the start of the title followed by the name of the company and name of the individual, leaving their title which will often have a reference number.  So by way of example lets say I get an email with the following title:
Quotation Required - Reference Stonehenge Water Treatment Works
This will be forwarded and the new title will be:
140525 - South West Water - Joe Bloggs - Reference Stonehenge Water Treatment Works
With tasks now in various Notes I begin to work on them.
Any communication from a customer is highlighted in Green
Any communication from a supplier is highlighted in Purple
Any communication from me is highlighted in Red
This allows easy viewing of notes within a Note. 
All emails to and from customers and suppliers are copied into the Note, with the newest information shown at the top. The original opening part of the Note and any relevant details such as pricing information always stays at the top along with the Tick Box at the bottom of that section and a line.
Once the task is completed the 'Tick Box' will be ticked meaning the Note has been completed. The Note is then moved to the 'Diary - 2014 - Completed' Notebook.
It becomes an easy way of dealing with tasks as I go through my day and I can easily see how many 'tasks' I have to complete by the quantity of 'Notes' in the Diary 'Notebook.
What this method does for me is keep all of my tasks in one location and by keeping the date code (thanks again for the suggestion GrumpyMonkey) the Notes are in date order. My Notes go back to 2007 and if a customer calls about something I have done in that time a quick search can bring all the relevant information to hand.
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Maybe it's me, but I've tried to use Evernote for many years but just can't grok it.




I used to tell people that "The more you put into Evernote, the more powerful it becomes". You know, that sort of thing.


Now my number one piece of advice is to: take something simple that you need to refer to almost every day and keep it solely in Evernote. If you also keep those notes elsewhere, in the beginning you'll most likely default to your usual workflow in whatever other app. Having a reason/ the need to access your account daily will get you more comfortable with Evernote on whatever platform. It requires a certain degree of familiarity to gain momentum. Before long, you'll figure out what you want to go into EN and what you want to go into Dropbox, Flickr, etc. 


For me it was my student records that I used to keep on one long note in Google Docs. You can imagine how it simplified  my life being able to split that document up into individual notes for each student in Evernote and at the same being able to easily search everything globally very easily. That way when I searched within a note, I didn't get multiple instances of the same key words and have to sift or scroll through more than was necessary. I was able to implement the most simple concepts in Evernote, which now seem so counterintuitive in many other repositories. 

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May be a bit redundant to the above, but in quick terms in no sequence of importance and probably not exhaustive:

  1. Statements (utility, bank, credit...)
  2. Receipts
  3. Stock confirmations
  4. Meeting notes
  5. Phone notes
  6. Reference manuals
  7. Web clips when researching something to purchase
  8. Web clips of reference information
  9. Pictures of the serial number plates of TVs, Appliances, whatever
  10. Pictures in general
  11. Reminders, if it fits your flow
  12. GTD for some
  13. Tax records in local notebooks
  14. Frequently used Office docs (you get automatic history with EN Premium)
  15. Jokes through email

To Frank's point, pick something(s) and give it a go.  But pick something that is of particular value to you today.

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Many great use cases were shared already. I use Evernote for everything I can.

It is my task manager, I use simplified Secret Weapon work flow (Google it, it is worth it).

I use Sunrise as my calendar app so my Evernote reminders show up in the calendar. Excellent for planning.

I keep all my private stuff in it. It made me do some crazy things such as running car fuel consumption statistics or use other people's home scale to track my weight ;-)

Receipt, invoices, contacts, important files.

My kids' art, gift ideas, travel booking confirmations, recipes, wines, etc.

Basically, the key to Evernote is to start a habit of putting everything into it. Do not try to take anything out for now. Just keep adding stuff into it for a month. You will start organizing on your own and start to see value of the software.

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