The Business of Writing

Simon Whaley's Resource For Writers

Do You … Evernote?

As writers, we’re constantly collecting ideas, undertaking research, and filing useful website addresses for future use. What we need is a big bucket.

However, no matter how big your bucket is, we need to be able to get stuff out again for it to be of any use.

My bucket is Evernote (https://evernote.com), which I’ve been using for more than a year now. It allows users to create notebooks, and put as many sheets, or notes, inside each of those notebooks. Tags can also be added to these sheets/notes, offering further ways of retrieving the information.

 

Evernote’s Notes are just like pieces of paper. Create a new note and you can write anything you like on it, and format the text just like you might in Microsoft Word.

It’s not just a bucket for text though. You can insert, photos, pdf documents, Word files, excel files, video and audio files.

Like most things these days, Evernote is cloud-based, but this does mean that with the right apps, you can access your bucket wherever you have an Internet connection, on any Internet-enabled device. (Yes, it’s a cross-platform device which works on Windows, Apple, and Android devices.)

Of course, there are other digital note-storage services available (such as Microsoft’s OneNote – https://www.onenote.com) so it’s always worth exploring the market to find a bucket that suits you.

Evernote allows these notes to be collected together in Notebooks. Think of them like the folders you might use on your main computer for filing. Some people prefer having lots of topic-themed notebooks (one for each project, novel or whatever it is you are working on).

Others prefer to have fewer notebooks and use tags for categorising their information.

Tags are keywords you attach to notes. Notes can have more than one tag, and it’s this flexibility that appeals to me.

Every project I work on has its own reference number. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an article, a short story, a non-fiction book or a novel, each has a unique identifying number. Any notes I create are tagged with their relevant project numbers.

When I interview someone, I drop the audio file into a note, and tag it. I’ll also tag it with the place they were interviewed, the name of the interviewee, and the subject matter. If I use the interview as the basis for another article, I’ll tag it with this new project tag too.

Tagging like this works better than filing stuff in notebooks, in my opinion, because a note can only be filed in one notebook, but it can have any number of tags. So, if I interview somebody for one project, it gets tagged with that project reference number. But if I have another idea for which I can use those quotes, then I can also tag the note with the other project reference number too. That way, whenever I search for the project reference numbers, I’ll always get all the notes that are tagged with that number (even though a file might be tagged with more than one project reference number).

Tagging like this works better than filing stuff in notebooks, in my opinion, because a note can only be filed in one notebook, but it can have any number of tags. So, if I interview somebody for one project, it gets tagged with that project reference number. But if I have another idea for which I can use those quotes, then I can also tag the note with the other project reference number too. That way, whenever I search for the project reference numbers, I’ll always get all the notes that are tagged with that number (even though a file might be tagged with more than one project reference number).

Another really useful facility (that other digital note services offer too) is Evernote’s Web Clipper. It’s an extension, or add-on, that you can download and add to your web browser.

Then, whenever you come across a webpage that looks useful, click on the web clipper and you’ll be presented with several options:

  • Article (which saves the main text from the web page, and its layout)
  • Simplified article (which saves the text and relevant photos, but without any of the adverts, in a plainer layout)
  • Full page (everything as you see it – including adverts)
  • Bookmark (this creates a link to the page and saves it as a separate note)
  • Screenshot (takes a picture of what you can see on your screen at the time – which might not necessarily be the whole web page).

I find saving the article or simplified article really useful. Some websites change, so clipping the link doesn’t capture what you’re seeing on the page today. Whereas if you clip the page/simplified article you’ll have a copy of what the website displays now. (Always useful if you want to quote something from a website – clip what they’ve published, in case it changes in the future. That way, you have evidence of where you obtained your information.)

I have the Evernote app on my smartphone too, so whenever I’m out and about I can jot down thoughts and ideas, knowing that these will be available on my desktop when I get home.

Most of these note-taking apps utilise your smartphone’s camera. Snap a photo of something from the app and it will automatically save it as a note. I take a photo of all of my receipts, and I tag them with the relevant project tag. Whenever I call up a project tag now, I get all of the receipts for that project’s expenditure too. (You can tag your receipts with a ‘receipt’ tag, and then if you search for notes tagged ‘receipt’ and with your project reference number, you’ll only get the receipts for that project – and no other notes for that project.)

So Evernote has become a useful business tool for my writing. Its blistering-fast search facility will find all notes and return the results within seconds. And it searches within notes and some PDFs and photos too. Search for ‘pens’ and if you’ve a photo of a receipt for some pens, it will appear in the results.

If I want to find a particular email I sent for a project, I find it quicker to search Evernote than trawl through my email software. Being able to bring up everything related to one particular project is brilliant. Much quicker than trying to think about which folder I might have saved it to on my desktop computer. (Which is also no use, if I’m out and about somewhere, with only my smartphone to hand. But if it’s on my Evernote account, and I have access to the Internet, I can access it from anywhere.)

Evernote can be used for free, if you upload less than 60Mb of data a month and use it on only 2 devices (which is ample for many writers). I pay for the Plus version, which offers more bells and whistles, and a greater upload limit.

As with any software, always back up your data. Evernote allows you to do this.

To find out more about using Evernote, visit their Quick Start pages: https://help.evernote.com/hc/en-us/articles/208314458-Quick-start

You might find it a useful tool for your writing business.

Good luck.

7 Comments

  1. What a fabulous post, Simon. I have both Evernote and Onenote on my device but end up just using the simple ‘notes’ on my phone. It’s laziness really as I need time to get to grips with them. Your post have prompted me to have another go.

    • Yes, do, Wendy. Play about with both Evernote and OneNote to see which you find more intuitive. It took me a few months to get to grips with Evernote, but I think that’s because it took me a while to work out how best to set it up to get it to work for me.

  2. Thanks for a brilliant explanation, Simon, I’ve often thought about using a system like this but have never got around to looking into it properly. The fact that I can add photos of receipts – why have I never thought of that! – and pdfs clinches it. Now I just need to buy myself a scanner and start tackling all those tatty bits of torn articles/brochures/post it notes strewn around. I might be gone for some time.

  3. I started using Evernote again recently. I had a few blog posts I wanted to link to in my own blog. Rather than bookmark, I just clipped them to Evernote. I may even add it to my phone. When I search the internet I also get the option to search Evernote. Never done so, but it is useful to know that is there also.

    • BusinessOfWriting

      March 13, 2017 at 5:10 PM

      Yes, it’s one of those programmes that the more you explore, the more you realise what it is capable of. (It’s just a question of finding time to do the exploring!)

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