How To Use Evernote…A Step By Step “Aah Help Me!” Guide

I absolutely love Evernote. I’m really glad I came across the software. There are plenty of other apps and websites to keep track of your documents, pictures and audio notes but for some reason, the absolute simplicity of Evernote is what makes it stand out for me. I use it to keep up with recipes, fraternity notes, bookmarks, news articles I want to read later, travel info, addresses, etc. I keep thinking of new uses all the time. Maybe it’s the ease of using the website, using the desktop application, or using the iPhone app (or all 3) to keep up and be productive that makes me love it so. There are plenty of tutorials all over the net about specific things to use Evernote for and even some cool videos on their site, but sometimes that info can be overwhelming. Let’s start simply.
1. Where are you when you want to pull up your info? I’m always on the go and not always on a device that belongs to me but I do have an internet connection. But when I’m on a device that belongs to me, I want the info there too. If you use Evernote at work or a public place or even on a friend’s system, you’ll definitely at least want access to Evernote via the web. If you have a smartphone, you might want to have a free Evernote app on that device. And if you have a personal computer (or more), there are free desktop applications. The phone and desktop applications allow you to sync your notes from other places and allow you to work “offline” then sync once you’re connected to the internet again.

Do you want access via:
B) Phone (iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone 7, and WebOS currently supported)
C) Desktop (Mac OS X, Windows; Also supported for Safari, Firefox and Google Chrome)
D) Combination?

They are all free for regular users (premium costs), so mix and match and choose away! But really, pick at least one so we can continue with the tutorial. Download

2. Now that you’ve picked one, you have the urge to make a note, right? Well, more on that in a second. First, let’s talk some Evernote lingo. There are notes (duh) and then there are notebooks. If you’re familiar with your computer setup or current email setups, you’re allowed to have folders to organize your materials. Well that’s what the notebooks are – folders. And of course you can have notebooks within notebooks and even have tags (or labels) to track items within notebooks or between notebooks (if you’re like some of us who are ultra organized).

Example 1: I have a notebook called “Public Health References”. I have notebooks within this – “Epidemiology” “Biostatistics” “Citations” “SAS” “Articles” “General”.

Example 2: I have a notebook called “Recipes”. I didn’t subdivide this one since I personally just like scrolling through the recipes to find what I want. Instead, I can use tags to get a better idea of what is in it. If I tagged all my cheesecake recipes “cheesecake” then when I search for that tag or click on that tag, I see everything that matches, regardless of what folder it’s in.

Another term to know is “clip” or “clipping” (saving different sources in whole or part from files or websites). You can use a browser extension or, if you installed the desktop client, you can highlight a website or just right click on a website and choose to add to Evernote.

What notebooks do you think you might want to start with? You can always add notebooks and delete notebooks (or even combine notebooks), so don’t feel constrained by what you choose now.

3. This is a good point to practice making a note. No matter which client you’re using (web, desktop or phone), click “new note” or the + if you see it. Give your new note a title. For this exercise try “Notebooks I’d like to make”. In the text area, make a list of all the notes you’d like to make. Evernote has some formatting capabilities similar to products you may be familiar with such as Microsoft Word. You can make bulleted or numbered lists, you can bold, underline, strikethrough, italic, etc. You can also change the font and text size, etc. You don’t necessarily need to test all these features now, but if you want to, do it! Playing is always fun. Once you’ve made a list of everything you can think of to make a notebook right now, try making a few.

4. Not only can you make text notes in Evernote, but you can also make audio notes (requires a microphone), webcam notes (requires a webcam), and ink notes (hand write a note in evernote. works best if you are really good with a mouse or have a stylus handy. awesome if you have a touchpad). You can also add photos or files to your Evernote notes. Say you’re working on compiling all your addresses in one place. You might type some in, but if you get a letter from someone, take a picture of the return address, attach it to a new note with the name of the person and bam! you have the address in your Evernote.
Or say you’re working on a statistics project and there is SO MUCH DOCUMENTATION (yes this is a real experience). Save the PDFs, drag and drop (or attach) them to a note and you’ve always got that documentation with you for quick reference. Now speaking of that documentation, you want to search and find out what all in your Evernote you have about “linear regression”. Type that in the search field, hit enter and Evernote will search the text of your documentation attachments as well as what is in your notes (at least PDFs). How cool is that?!

5. The last cool feature I’ll show you how to use in Evernote is to share your notes. You can share notes via email, twitter, facebook, or copy note urls to the clipboard. If you share a note, let’s say via email, it will email the content of the note. If you share a notebook, you can choose to share it with the public or share with specific individuals. This can be helpful if you’re working on a project together. You can always change these settings. I haven’t shared a notebook yet, but I have shared individual notes.

I hope this tutorial broke down enough of Evernote for you to get started. Let me know what you end up using it for or if there is another tool that works better for you!
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  1. Ken

    Thank you for an informative article on using EverNote. I am overwhelmed with and love OneNote, but I love EverNote as it synchs across devices and operating platforms.

    • OneNote can also be synced over multiple platforms including the web and smartphones but it also has cost associated with it. I know many professionals that love One Note and it’s functionality. I think the two are very similar. And if you’re already someone that can keep up with the ever changing Microsoft ribbon/toolbars then you’ll fit right in with OneNote!