You can already bend Evernote’s notes, notebooks, and stacks to your will. And maybe you’ve directed your team to use Evernote Business. Evernote is friendly when you’re getting started with it, but the more you use it, the more your notes can pile up, threatening your productivity.
Now that you’ve excelled at the basics, it’s time to dig into Evernote’s arsenal and charge ahead like a true note-taking, to-do-list-tackling warrior.
Use checkboxes in notes
One of the more popular uses for Evernote is to create lists, such as to-do lists, shopping lists, enemies lists, and the like. A simple text list is fine, but you can enhance the utility of your list by adding checkboxes to the items on it.
Checkboxes are simple to add but easily overlooked. When creating a text note, look at the toolbar across the top of the screen. You’ll see an icon that looks, well, like a checkbox. Simply click this icon wherever you’d like to add a checkbox in your list.
These checkboxes are functional. Just click or tap them in any device to turn them from blank to checked and back; checkmarks are persistent across multiple devices when you synchronize, too.
Save frequently used searches
If you find yourself hunting for the same thing in Evernote over and over again, you can save your search to make it easier to replicate. First, create your search. Next, in the Windows client, click the small drop-down arrow to the immediate right of your search term to reveal the advanced search bar, if it’s not appearing already. Click the blue magnifying glass to open the Saved Search dialog box. There, click OK to save the search. It will now appear in the left-hand navigation pane under the Saved Searches header.
Instructions for saving searches on mobile devices are similar. Look for the magnifying-glass icon any time you’ve completed a successful search (that is, a search with at least one result) to save it.
Clip Web pages with Evernote Mobile
Because of the vagaries of smartphone Web browsers, Evernote’s mobile app can’t clip Web pages by default, dulling its utility. There’s no easy workaround for the iPhone, but Android users have a couple of options to make Web clipping possible. Dolphin: Evernote is a free add-on that lets you grab Web pages and pull them into Evernote, although it can only grab entire pages, not partial selections. EverWebClipper ($2.88) gives you more flexibility in what you can snag, if you’re willing to pay for the privilege.
Use offline notebooks (Premium only)
Because Evernote syncs content among your devices and the cloud, many users don’t realize that mobile devices do not by default store copies of documents for offline use. Instead, every time you access your documents on an iOS or Android device, Evernote downloads them on demand. If you’re at 30,000 feet or out in the sticks and you need to check a note, that can be a problem.
If you’re an Evernote Premium user, you can configure individual notebooks to be accessible offline, whether you have an Internet connection or not. In your device’s Evernote Settings panel under the Offline Notebooks option, just select the notebooks you want to keep stored on your phone or tablet.
Access note history (Premium only)
If you tend to revise notes over and over—or share them with other people—having access to older versions of your documents can be a lifesaver, should something critical get changed or deleted. Premium account users can access older versions of notes by logging in to Evernote on the Web, clicking the note attributes drop-down arrow for an entry, and then clicking View note history. A list of archived notes and their timestamps will appear.
One important caveat: Evernote does not save a copy of every version of every note, but rather makes a backup of your notes on a schedule that runs every few hours. If you make multiple changes to a note over a short amount of time, only the most recent version is likely to be saved. Don’t rely on note history to save you if you accidentally erase your entire document 10 minutes after you create it.
Archive webpages, in whole or in part
Emailing a webpage or its URL to yourself for later retrieval never seems to work right. This task is especially difficult if you’re trying to save a password-protected webpage or a news story that may simply vanish at a later date.
Evernote’s Web Clipper lets you copy webpages in full to Evernote, but power users know that you don’t have to grab the entire screen. When you use Web Clipper, it will automatically attempt to determine where the “meat” of a webpage is, encircling it in a yellow border and graying out the detritus. Use the arrow keys on your keyboard to grab more of the page (Up Arrow) or less of the page (Down Arrow), or to pick a different selection on the page (Left or Right Arrow). When you’re done, press Enter to finalize your clipping and save it.
Master Evernote’s search tool
As your Evernote database begins to fill up, you’ll have to rely more and more on searches to find what you’re looking for. You can search for simple keywords, but this tactic will start to turn up a larger number of results, especially if you tend to use Evernote to save lots of information about a narrow set of topics.
To search only within your tags, type tag:tagname or tag:"multiple-word tagname" into Evernote’s search field. To find an exact phrase that comprises multiple words, use quotation marks just as you would in a Web search.
You can use a structure similar to the tag search above to search only for notes within notebooks that contain specified terms in their names. Type notebook:notebookname or notebook:"multiple-word notebookname" into the field.
If you want to find notes that contain your term in the note’s title, try either intitle:term or intitle:"multiple-word term" in your search.
To return notes that contain any of the specified terms inside, type any:term1 term2 term3 in the field. (A standard search for term1 term2 term3 would return only notes containing all three terms.)
You can even perform searches based on content-creation date, using an eight-digit number to represent the date (or even more advanced syntaxes), like so: created:yyyymmdd
If you’d rather get results based on the last time a note was revised, type updated:yyyymmdd into the search field.
Learn advanced email syntax
A quick and easy way to get something into Evernote is simply to email it to your Evernote address. The problem: If you don’t specify where the email should go, it will create a note in your default notebook, with no tags.
When sending an email to Evernote, you can manipulate the subject line to determine where it should end up. Here’s an example of a subject line that covers all the bases:
The Hobbit @Movies #review #4stars #dwarves
This creates a note called “The Hobbit” in your Movies notebook, with tags of “review,” “4stars,” and “dwarves.” Note that you must put the notebook (@) and tags (#) identifiers in the above order. Also, the notebook and tags must already exist before you attempt to use them in an email to Evernote.
Transcribe voice notes
You can get notes into Evernote through any number of methods. One of Evernote’s big advantages is that it can convert one file type to another, letting you search PDFs and OCR-converted images for text.
Although Evernote can now convert voice recordings directly to text on Android devices, it can’t do that trick on iOS devices or via recordings made on your PC. You can get around this and make audio notes searchable through a couple of methods. First, you can use a smartphone app like Dragon Dictation to record a voice memo, and then copy the text into Evernote.
Alternatively, you can use a third-party add-in called Voice2Note to do the translation for you directly from Evernote. Just register for Voice2Note online, and record voice notes within the Evernote app normally. They’ll be transcribed and saved behind the scenes. You can also call a special Voice2Note number to create new notes via a simple phone call—something that you can’t do without an add-in on any platform. (Voice2Note is free for five transcriptions per month, or $3 per month if you need more.)
Pick up keyboard shortcuts
Only a rube uses the mouse to get around desktop apps. The following keyboard shortcuts help you use Evernote even more efficiently on a PC. (The commands are similar on a Mac. And you’ll find even more shortcuts on Evernote’s site.)
Ctrl-Alt-N: Start a new note. (In Windows, this is a global shortcut, meaning that it works from any application as long as Evernote is open.)
Windows-A: Pastes selected text into a new or open note. (Global shortcut.)
Ctrl-N: New note.
Ctrl-Shift-N: New notebook.
Ctrl-Shift-T: New tag.
Ctrl-Shift-E: Send a note or notes by email.
Ctrl-Shift-C: Insert a checkbox.
Alt-Shift-D: Insert the current time and date.
You can redefine global shortcuts for Windows from within the Evernote desktop application under Tools > Options > Hot Keys.
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Christopher Null is a veteran technology and business journalist. He contributes regularly to TechHive, PCWorld, and Wired, and operates the websites Drinkhacker and Film Racket. Disclosure: He also writes for Hewlett-Packad's marketing website TechBeacon.