The One Thing I'd Change about Evernote


As I’ve mentioned in earlier columns (here, here, here, and here), I’ve hopelessly fallen for Evernote. I did want to mention one flaw I hadn’t realized until just recently, and it relates to the way Evernote handles notes from your phone (in my case, an Android phone) versus content you clip via your desktop.

When I’m at my computer and I find an article I’d like to save to Evernote, I can do so via the Evernote Web Clipper, a browser extension – I usually use Chrome as my browser of choice, and the extension puts a little elephant head in the upper right-hand corner of my screen. I can click on the icon and save the whole page, an article, a selection, or just the URL. It’s terrific – I love having that content available to me regardless of what device I’m on.

I’d assumed for some reason that my phone was doing the same thing. I frequently see articles I want to save and so I use the Evernote extension from my mobile browser to save them as a note. I can tag the note and add it to a notebook. But what I didn’t realize was that it’s not saving the actual content of the page; it’s just saving the link to the page. So if, for example, I’m using my computer at a location without Internet access, the notes I saved via my phone are pretty useless, as they are just links.

I don’t know if Evernote eventually plans to roll out an app that functions more similarly to how their browser extensions work, but I would really love to see this development. I’ll still use it on every device I own – Kindle Fire, laptop, blender – but it would be easier if I knew I was getting the same result when I clip a page.

Several folks have emailed me to say they’ve tried Evernote as a result of this series, which makes me so happy! What questions would you like to see me address in other columns?

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Copyright 2012 Dorian Speed


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  1. I have a question about how you use Evernote … How do you use it differently than Pinterest? Right now, I have both, but I guess I fear doing double-duty, which doesn’t seem to be very streamlined. Any thoughts would be much appreciated! Thanks!

    • Hi, Sarah – thanks for your question! I think I’ll use that for future post fodder. :)

      Off the top of my head: Pinterest is great for the social aspect and for seeing a lot of ideas at once. So I have a Pinterest notebook for “Vaguely Healthy Recipes, for example. I love adding new things to it and I can do so quickly.

      But Evernote’s good for not just bookmarking – which is basically what Pinterest does, really – visual bookmarks. It lets you read the content from within the app itself. I actually right now am experimenting with having a Recipes notebook in Evernote for recipes I actually TRY, versus an idea board (Pinterest). I can open it all up inside Evernote. It’s hard to explain why that’s more convenient…but it is.

      Plus, with Evernote, I can scan stuff, keep personal information, etc. I know what you mean about double-duty and I am bad about falling into that trap. I’d be interested in your thoughts.

      • Evernote does a lot more than Pinterest can do (I clip receipts, itineraries, word documents, etc) but for those areas where Evernote and Pinterest overlap, in recipe marking, for example, I do the same as Dorian describes: I use Pinterest as an idea board. But on Evernote I clip the actual recipes. I pin more broadly and save things to Evernote if I definitely plan to try them (or have already made and liked). Once I’ve clipped them the best part is that I can then access those recipes whether I am online or have no computer connection available. If the link breaks (which happens often with recipes) I don’t lose the recipe – I have the content in my notebook.

  2. The one thing that I’d change about Evernote: I wish it were possible to set up subfolders. I’m sure if I ever learn how to use my new Android phone I’ll agree with your point also. I love the clipper (I use it on my computer via the Firefox browser)

    • Well, Sarah Reinhard got the jump on me with that when she told me she’s loving Evernote and she really likes using stacks of notebooks. I hadn’t tried that before – have you? They are basically subfolders, I think.

      I read your comment as “I love the dipper” and thought “WAIT WHAT’S THE DIPPER?”

      • thanks for telling me about the stacks – I’m busy organizing my folders not, and I think it will give me the organizational ability I need.

    • Yes stacks help act as subfolders. But when i sit down with people and discuss what they want to do I amlost always end up having them set up nested tags instead of notebooks, a lot more versatile. Doesnt always work, but usually does depending on what they are trying to accomplish.

  3. Allison, thanks — I’m so new to Evernote and just discovered the clipper. I’m curious how many notebooks you have and if you’ve gone with the “more and more specialized” notebooks approach or are simply good at tagging. I’m trying to avoid the syndrome that I have in Gmail where I have so many file folders that sometimes I lose things…
    Also, still pondering upgrade. So far I’m fine with what I have in the free account, but as I use it more I may need to upgrade.
    Finally, I know you did a feature on lists but maybe you could revisit how you keep track of your leasts — do you use that little checkbox feature and do you go back and check those off manually, or just keep a running list. Is there some more efficient way of keeping a current to do list than simply writing down and item and deleting it when you’ve done it? Does Evernote have the power to track recurring to do list items? Sorry lots of questions, but you have my curiosity going!

    • I just figured out you’re talking to me! (“Allison” is your special nickname for me, I think. I was waiting for Allison to answer your question.)

      Honestly, I’m terrible at sticking to a checklist thing.

      Re: Notebooks, right now I have about 30 notebooks. I know some people will create hundreds of notebooks – I can’t really get my head around WHY, though. I’m like you, I think, in that if I get too complicated with folders and such, I’ll forget what’s in them. My notebooks are very distinct. My largest notebook, for example, is Web Design (254 notes at present) and I know I could have separate stacked notebooks for “Graphics,” “Fonts,” “Images,” etc., etc. – I would drive myself crazy with that much complexity.

      Which doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea! I know some people who love having abundant notebooks.

      I think I probably have around 150 tags. I do try to tag every note but I don’t stress about getting the perfect tags, and here’s why: you can always just search for what you want! Evernote says you will ‘remember everything” and the tags are there, for me, to know “hey, at one point I did read something about that topic.” Maybe I’m just lazy, though, but to me – I don’t get all that into the taxonomies of classifying every piece of information I have saved into Evernote. I can always just search for a word!

      RE: recurring to-do list items, I honestly have no idea. I would love for an army of commenters to descend upon this discussion and explain how they use Evernote to keep up with to-do items. I’m slowly inching towards using the Getting Things Done system but it’s going to be a long while before I have any kind of efficient workflow. My current thing is to have a Tasks notebook and add notes to it as I think of things, then delete the notes. Probably not the most streamlined system, but sorta works?

      To check off items on a list, you have to edit the note itself – then you can check off the boxes. So, that works fine if it’s not a recurring to-do list (like “Monday morning routine”) but if it IS a recurring checklist – I’m not sure what would be the best approach. I’ll look into it, though!

      • Oh my gosh Dorian I don’t know why I called you Allison. Why don’t you call me Mary just to get back at me?! I’m crazy, what can I say!

        Thanks for your explanation – I’ll probably trend towards more notebooks too, and am really working to keep tags on each new note. I’ve already managed to find something in my “system” that I thought I’d lost so “so far, so good”. Thanks DORIAN!

        • Sure thing, Persephone!

          I think I was a little unclear when I said my notebooks are very distinct – what I meant was that they are very broad categories and they’re very different from one another. So I never have to think “which notebook should this go into?” That’s why I like having fewer notebooks with more tags – you can add as many tags as you want to an item, but you can only assign it to one notebook.

  4. Being new to Evernote I created a notebook Books I’ve Read and added the Author column but cannot figure out how to insert the author’s name. Please let me know how to do this.

    • Hi, Sandi! Thanks for your comment! I think creating a notebook for books you’ve read is a great idea. The Author of the note, though, is YOU. At least, I’m pretty sure that’s right. I believe the reason that Evernote has a field for “Author” is for when people are sharing a notebook – so I could look and see, okay, my husband authored these three notes about our upcoming vacation, and my mom authored a couple, and the rest are created by me. If I were you, I think I’d just create a tag for each author’s name, so you could have a tag for “Carolyn Keene” that would pull up each note about a Nancy Drew book, for example.

      Not to dissuade you from Evernote, but I think Goodreads might be better for what you’re wanting to do – but I myself haven’t really gotten into Goodreads. I know Sarah Reinhard has used it a lot.

      Hope this helps!

  5. Thanks so much. I will make the tags as you suggested. As for Goodreads, I’ve been using them for years but I just wanted to add them to Evernote as well so I have the list readily available on my android.

  6. Mary McCarthy on

    I’ve started to read these Evernote posts and it is way too late for me to even really reply tonight, but just had to say that in a nutshell:
    Evermore = work
    Pinterest = play
    At least for me :).

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