And no, that’s not a typo. I just prefer the British spelling of “organise”, rather than the American version “organize”. It’s more refined and less harsh. Of course some spell checkers will automatically replace the ‘s’ when I’m not looking. If I have the opportunity I will argue with it until I get my own way. I tend to be stubborn like that. You know.
Anyway, today I’m not talking about physically organising the stashes or the kitchen cupboards but about organising ideas. I recently came upon a blog post that mentioned using a program called Evernote which I had never heard of before. Quick google-search later and I was convinced to try it. What’s to lose? It’s free for the basic level which seems like it will be adequate to my needs. I got registered and downloaded and installed the desktop version on both my XP-running PCs, big Damselfly and little Bluet. I also got the Clipper apps for Firefox on both machines. I don’t have a smart phone, but if I did there are Evernote apps for pretty much every type out there. Oh, Macs and iPad too and probably other things I don’t know about. Nobody should feel left out! Features you get are dependant on what each device is capable of. Oh, and you also get an email address that you can use to send a note to your Evernotes. Is that cool or what?
I found it a little confusing at first since there really isn’t any user manual and the help is also very scattershot. This issue has been mentioned in some of the reviews too so it’s not just me. Somewhere on the Evernote website is a basic getting-started section (not immediately apparent so I’ll link it here) and I did read a lot of different blog posts and got some ideas of the ways one could make use of the program. A little (ok a lot!) of experimenting ensued. And continues to ensue. After all I’ve only been using it for a day. So far.
What does it do exactly? That’s kind of hard to say really. It’s pretty open-ended. Basically it collects your notes, check-lists, photos, voice clips, web clips and PDFs in notebooks. But here’s the kicker for me: Evernote synchronises them over all your platforms and also keeps them on a web-based “cloud”. This means I can access my notes from either of my computers (no finding out that something I need to check is on the other computer) and I could conceivably access it from anybody else’s computer or other device with Internet access. Only someone with multiple devices could comprehend how useful this is.
What kinds of things would someone make notes about? Ummm…pretty much anything. Craft projects, home dec, gifts, impending wedding or party planning, baby names, to-do’s, home or car repairs, research on any subject, holiday itineraries, packing check-lists, design ideas, photos, quotes, blog ideas, music or movie or book lists, etc. etc. etc. Limited only by your imagination. And your time to pursue it. But really I think this will save time in the long run and keep my ideas (of which I have many!) somewhere where they’re more easily accessed. My mind is not big enough to hold everything I want to keep.
Once you put things in there how do you find them again? Tags and a good search feature. There is also a feature similar to optical character recognition (OCR) that can read words (clear handwriting, type etc.) in photos. You can take a photo or a scan of a note, business card, nametag, anything and search for keywords. You do need the premium (paid) version to search inside PDFs though.
What are the drawbacks? There are a couple, apart from the big lack of a user manual that I mentioned earlier. However I did find a third-party manual here but it’s kind of pricey. Might be worth it though if you aren’t comfortable with experimenting on your own or you’re a power user type who wants all the secret codes. You don’t need to be a whiz though to get started. You do need to do a lot of cut and paste and drag type things. Everything you put in wants to be a separate note, but I just discovered that you can merge notes together pretty easily. The note interface is very rudimentary, particularly if you’ve been used to something like Word. It’s a bit glitchy with formatting and line spacing and such. It’s just a basic way of getting the words in there and not necessarily to make them pretty. Old newsletter editor’s habits die hard. I have to let go of my urge to fix things up.
If you have the right devices you can simplify getting photos into Evernote. Unfortunately I don’t have an iPhone or a compatible scanner. My scanner is a very ancient legal-sized behemoth that still works just fine though I can only access it from the big computer. Rather than scan directly in, I need to do a few extra steps: scan things, save them as JPEGs and then put them in Evernote. And getting photos off my older digital camera is similarly multi-stepped. Doable though even if a little more roundabout. I have the time if I want to use it.
And time is what’s needed to get familiar with the interface, set up your notebooks and start to put stuff in them. I think once you’re past the initial stages it gets easier to keep up on an ongoing basis. I hope. It’s kind of fun though. I keep finding things I’ve totally forgotten I had – hidden away in files on 2 different computers. They’re on the same network but the file sharing doesn’t work very well – or at all mostly. I’m forever trying to find a photo or file that’s on the other computer and it’s not even turned on! Now I can put it in Evernote on whichever computer I’m on and they will sync so I can access it from anywhere. And I can put all the relevant notes on a project in one place so I don’t have to go hunting all over or forget I had it. Where was Evernote when I was planning our last vacation? I think I need to put my sci-fi/fantasy book list into it before my vintage Palm dies. And I need to put the rest of my sewing pattern scans in along with my fabric inventory as a checklist. I already have my current quilt project in there. I’m starting to collect blog ideas there too. Hmmm…I think this is going to mean a major change in how I do things. Five million other users seem to think so too. More anon.