Evernote for Beginners: The Basics of the Most Popular Notebook App
Evernote’s perhaps the most well-known digital notebook app ever made. It’s nearly synonymous with digital notes. And yet, being a notebook app doesn’t even begin to explain its popularity.
If it was only an app where you could type in notes, the most organized among us would be using it to write the details of their lives and works, but that’d be it. The rest of us unorganized people would still be unorganized, and still wouldn’t be taking notes. The magic of Evernote is that it’s an app where you can add everything—from typed-in notes to scanned documents to photos of a restaurant menu—in one unorganized mess, and it can still make sense of the madness and let you find anything you’ve ever added in seconds. And it does all that from any of your devices, for free, so you’ll truly never forget anything.
That’s the power of Evernote.
In this tutorial, I’ll show you the basics of how to use Evernote, introduce you to the Web Clipper and its wonders, and help you master the search functions that’ll let you find anything in your Evernote, no matter how unorganized you are.
Evernote is, as mentioned before, a notes app designed to help you stay organized that goes far beyond what you’d typically think of as a notebook. You can add text, images, audio, scanned documents, files, and more to your notebook, synchronize everything across all of your devices in Evernote’s beautiful, free apps, and then quickly find anything with powerful search that can even recognise text inside your files and images.
Many users refer to Evernote as their “external brain”, storing anything and everything in one easily-searchable location. You can add anything you want to Evernote, from any of your devices, and then rest assured that you’ll be able to find it again in seconds from anywhere. Whether you are a stay-at-home parent or a high-flying businessperson, Evernote will free your mind by remembering things big and small so you don’t have to. It’s the app for anyone who’s ever wondered “where did I put that?”. You’ll never have to ask that question again if you save everything to Evernote.
Take the Tour
First off, let’s take a brief tour of the Evernote interface. It’s a bit different on every platform, but in general works the same everywhere. The basics are always the same: you can add notes and find anything you’ve ever saved, whether you’re using Evernote on your Mac, PC, in a web browser on the Evernote Web App, or their mobile apps for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and more.
You’ll first need to download Evernote for your device, and create a free account. As mentioned before, Evernote’s a free service—it also has a paid Premium account option that lets you upload more data each month and adds some extra features, but for now, you won’t need to worry about that.
Once you’ve signed up, you’ll be presented with the main Evernote screen. Here, you can access every feature Evernote has to offer and configure shortcuts to your most commonly used notes, notebooks and tags.
Clicking New Note will enable you to type a note, create a to-do list, capture a photograph, record audio, store documents in Evernote and much more besides. Let’s say I’m writing an article about Apple, for example. Before setting pen to paper, my first port of call is to research the company and jot down information pertaining to my article. To do that, I’ll start a new note, and type in the info that I’ve found out about Apple online. So far, so simple.
With Evernote, I am able to save each snippet of information that I collate as a note and tag it accordingly. Tagging a note is a simple way to categorize your notes by topic, so you can easily find all related notes with a simple search. Now, of course, Evernote will search through your note’s text and more, so you don’t have to add tags, but they’re a great way to quickly start being a bit more organized. For my Apple research, perhaps, I’d add a “company” tag to the top of my note so I can easily find all my research about companies in one place.
Then, for some extra organization, you can also save your notes in specific notebooks. Notebooks keep one set of notes together—just like a physical notebook—where tags are like bookmarks to similar topics across different notebooks. You don’t have to use notebooks either, if you don’t want to, as Evernote will just save all your new notes in your Inbox by default and you can still easily search to find everything. But if you want to keep getting more organized, you might as well file your notes, too.
So, let’s start organizing our notes into notebooks. I’ll put all my Apple-related research is in a notebook entitled Apple. This notebook, along with several others, is filed under a parent notebook called Work and together, are collectively referred to as a stack—imagine them as a stack of paper Moleskins on your bookshelf that are all about topics that go together. You can make as many notebooks and stacks as you want, and organize them the way that feels right to you. That’s the beauty of Evernote: it’s got a ton of flexible organization tools to help you keep track of your thoughts in the way that works best for you.
Tip: You can share a notebook with other users by right-clicking the notebook you would like to share and then clicking Share Notebook. Click Share Public Link to share your notebook publicly or Share with Individuals to share with invitees only.
Evernote can also be accessed via a mobile device, functioning in a similar way to Evernote for desktop, albeit with a significantly more attractive interface. Evernote for iOS, for instance, features a Quick Note panel, allowing you to jot down an idea in record time which will then synchronise with your computer back home or at work. You can also access it from a browser with the aforementioned web app, though it sports a decidedly less attractive interface.
The important part, though, is that all the apps have the same features and let you add and find notes with the same simplicity. Having Evernote on hand wherever you are is significantly more practical than scribbling information or an idea on a scrap of paper that could conceivably be misplaced, especially if the content is of a sensitive nature.
The Evernote Web Clipper
I don’t know about you, but I regularly stumble upon online content that is not quite Pinterest-worthy but useful all the same. Simply bookmarking the link, though, doesn’t help me remember what was so useful on that site. That’s what the Evernote Web Clipper is for. It will enable you to clip any part of any webpage to Evernote for future use, instead of saving miscellaneous images and passages of text to various document files on your computer in an unorganized manner.
Optimised for Safari, Google Chrome and Opera, the Evernote Web Clipper can clip interesting articles, PDF documents and important e-mail messages, as well as bookmark and screenshot any webpage you desire. You can save the full page, or just the part of the site that’s important to you. Simply select an option from the Clipper, then add tags or extra notes to the clipping and pick a notebook to save it in, and then click Save to send to Evernote.
Webpages can also be annotated using a range of mark-up tools included within the Clipper. You can then save the marked-up page, or share it via email or social media. Best of all, every webpage that you clip or annotate can be tagged and organised in the exact same way as any other Evernote note. Next time you open the Evernote app, you’ll see everything you saved from the internet, right there ready for you to read and search through without ever having to rediscover it online again.
There’s one extra awesome tool in the web clipper: the Google Search integration. Open the Evernote Web Clipper settings in your browser, and you’ll find an option to enable Evernote search in your Google search. Turn that on, and the next time you search for something online, Evernote will also search through your notes and clipped websites for results you’ve already saved. That’ll likely help you find the best info that you’ve already saved, in one click, instead of having to repeat your internet research again.
The Secrets of Search
As I previously mentioned, Evernote has powerful search capabilities to help you find exactly what you are looking for. Furthermore, Evernote can recognise and search for text inside an image, which is especially useful if you regularly photograph and upload receipts or other documents containing text and would like to locate them quickly and efficiently.
You can just type in the text you want to search for, and Evernote will do a pretty good job at finding what you’re looking for. But to narrow down your search, and find specifically the exact note you need every time, here are several Evernote search tips to turn you into an Evernote pro:
- Notebooks: Enter
notebook:\[notebook name]to search for notes stored in a specific notebook. For example,
notebook:applewill display all research related to my aforementioned article about Apple.
- Tags: Enter
tag:\[tag]to search for notes tagged with a specific keyword. For example,
tag:historywill display every note I have created that is tagged History. Entering
-tag:\[tag], however, will search for all notes not tagged with that specific tag.
- Dates and Time: If you would like to find every note created in the last day, enter
created:day-1in the search box. Alternatively, type
created:day-30to view every note created in the last 30 days, or
created:\[YYYYMMDD]to view notes created on a day of your choice. For example,
created:20140210will show every note created on 10th February 2014.
- Files and More: Finally, enter
resource:image/\*to view every note containing an image or
In this tutorial, I've shown you how to use Evernote, master the search function and introduced you to the Evernote Web Clipper. As you have seen, Evernote is an extremely versatile app and I have barely scratched the surface of what it is capable of. With this tutorial, though, you’ve got everything you need to get started with Evernote. Start saving everything you come across into Evernote, and you’ll never have to worry about forgetting things again.
And if that whet your appetite for more great Evernote tips and tricks, here’s some more great Evernote tutorials from our Tuts+ library: