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Taming the Elephant: Awesome Evernote Tips and Tricks

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Out of the box, Evernote comes with some pretty robust syncing tools for all your note-taking needs. If you haven't dug in to all Evernote can do, though, you might not be aware of everything on offer or just how well you can integrate Evernote into your workflow. From automation to advanced searches, we're going to make Evernote start working harder for you.


Email and Evernote

There’s a mobile app for just about every device for Evernote, but if you don’t have your phone handy, are using someone else’s computer, or just find it easier, you can email yourself text notes, images, and even audio. This is also a great way to save important emails quickly. You’ll have your own email address, similar to username.e456n@m.evernote.com or something like it, but if you’re seeing spam show up in your Evernote notebook, you can reset your email address.

Using your email address provided by Evernote, you can email notes to your Evernote notebooks.
Using the email address provided by Evernote, you can email notes to your Evernote notebooks.

Add the email address to your contacts, preferably under something memorable like “Evernote” or “Notes.” Any notes you send to your personal email address will fall into your default notebook, but you can use the subject line of your email to slot notes into the right spot. If you want your new note to find its way to your home decorating notebook, just add @homedecorating to the end of the email subject. To tag the note, stick some hashtags on the end.

You can use your Evernote email address to quickly save and organize project emails into an Evernote notebook or manage package delivery and tracking emails. Just make sure that whenever a relevant email finds its way into your inbox, you forward it on to your Evernote email address, with the correct notebook subject line and tags. Automatic inbox flags are a great way to remind yourself to get those important emails into Evernote.


Automating Evernote

Evernote can be used for more than just taking notes or managing projects. With the ability to connect to so many services and install on just about any device, Evernote also makes a great journaling app. I’m all about automation, though, and try as I might, I’ve never been able to keep up with a daily journal.

Evernote can be used for more than just taking notes or managing projects. With the ability to connect to so many services and install on just about any device, Evernote also makes a great journaling app.

With Evernote, I don’t have to. To get started and get fully automated, you’re going to need an account with IFTTT. Short for “If this, then that,” IFTTT watches out for triggers and then performs actions. You’ll have to give the service some pretty broad access to your various social media and maybe even email accounts, but its “recipes” do pack some automation muscle, especially when teamed with Evernote.

A great example is saving your Instagram photos to Evernote. But maybe you don’t want to save every Instagram photo. Sometimes you just take a picture of some guy with a long beard on a tall bike, and you don’t need to remember him forever. IFTTT has you covered.

This is a sample of your IFTTT recipe; a tagged Instagram photo becomes a note in Evernote.
This is a sample of your IFTTT recipe; a tagged Instagram photo becomes a note in Evernote.

Your recipe would go something like this: Whenever you upload a new photo to Instagram, tagged “diary,” but only when it’s tagged “diary,” IFTTT will move it over to Evernote, too. Set up a special Diary notebook in Evernote to hold all of your memories, and IFTTT will slot the Instagram photo into that specific notebook if you say so. You can also choose to append the photo to an existing note rather than create a new one.

Similar recipes can be created for Facebook updates, tweets hashtagged #diary, or important Google Calendar entries. Just tell IFTTT what keywords to be on the lookout for, and it will pull the events that are important, that you want to save to your automated journal.

A similar recipe would pull your Facebook status updates into an Evernote diary.
A similar recipe would pull your Facebook status updates into an Evernote diary.

I’m including links to a few IFTTT recipes I’ve created, but you can also create your own or browse the community-created recipes. The sky is the limit and you can really make IFTTT work for you, so I encourage you to look at how my recipes are put together and try to make them your own. I've laid out how you can use IFTTT to create an automated Evernote journal, but how you use the automation tools at hand is really up to you.


Advanced Evernote Searches

Once you’ve got those notes into Evernote, you need to find them. You know you can search your notes and notebooks in Evernote, but you probably aren’t aware just how robust Evernote’s search really is. Here are a few great searches that you probably aren’t using but really should be.

Advanced searches help you sort through your bazillions of notes.Advanced searches help you sort through your bazillions of notes.

todo:*

This search will return all notes that include checklists. Similarly, “todo:true” and “todo:false” will find checked and unchecked checkboxes, respectively. (If you haven’t been using checkboxes, they’re available from the Format menu or by selecting the checkbox tool in the note editor toolbar.)

intitle:

A search for “intitle:KEYWORD” will return all notes that include that keyword in the title.

notebook:

If you only want to search within a specific notebook, use this operator plus the notebook title and a keyword. For instance, “notebook:NOTEBOOKTITLE KEYWORD.”

If you'll get lots of extraneous results, you can search just within a single notebook, narrowing your focus.If you'll get lots of extraneous results, you can search just within a single notebook, narrowing your focus.

any:

Use this search with multiple terms to return notes that contain any of the terms. Usually, Evernote would attempt to match all of the search terms.

-tag:

This search operator will return all notes without the searched tag.

created: and updated:

The created and updated searches find notes based on when they were originally created or when the were last updated. Evernote requires that date be formatted like YYYYMMDD, so you would search “created:20120101” for a note created January 1, 2012. you can also search for notes created or updated in the previous few days by searching “updated:day-7.”

resource:

If you’re looking for a note that has an embedded image or other media file, you can use the resource search. If you’re looking for any note containing an image, try searching for “resource:image/*” but if you only want notes that include PNG images, you would search for “resource:image/PNG.”

Saved Searches

Once you’ve searched for something often enough, you might start to think there’s got to be a better way. Well, there is. It’s called saved searches. Unlike tags, which will just bring up all of the notes pegged with a specific tag, if you use the search modifiers we talked about above, you can get really precise with your queries.

You can save searches in the Edit menu.You can save searches in the Edit menu.

To create a saved search, first enter your search query. Check to see if the results look about right; if not, refine your search terms. When you’re coming up with the sort of results you want to see, click the Edit menu, choose Find, and select Save Search.

If you use the search modifiers we talked about above with saved searches, you can get really precise with your search queries.

Enter a name for your new search, preferably something descriptive, and click OK. Next time you click in the Evernote search field, your save search will appear beneath your most recent searches. Click any of your saved searches to perform that same search again.

Your new saved search will show up below your recent searches when you click in the search field.Your new saved search will show up below your recent searches when you click in the search field.

Merging Two or More Evernote Accounts

If you’re already trying to get the most out of Evernote, and if you’re reading this tutorial that’s probably the case, it’s possible you’re maintaining two or more Evernote accounts. You might be managing a personal account and one for work, or a project-specific account separate from your main account. If you’ve decided you want to merge the accounts, it’s easy enough to bring the notebooks from one account to another.

You won’t be able to truly merge the Evernote accounts, so you’ll have to pick one that you want to keep working from.

First, decide which account you want to keep, the account that you will continue to manage. You won’t be able to truly merge the Evernote accounts, so you’ll have to pick one that you want to keep working from.

Right-click on the notebooks you want to export to get started.Right-click on the notebooks you want to export to get started.

Log into the other account and begin exporting your notebooks. You’ll do this by right-clicking each notebook name and choosing “Export Notes From...” Select a location for the exported file, and make sure you choose to export as the ENEX filetype, or you’re going to have some problems. To preserve your tags, be sure to select that box, too, when you’re exporting the file.

Open the Evernote account you want to use on your Mac. Click File and select Import Notes. Navigate to the ENEX file you want to import. Evernote will create a new local notebook with the imported file, but you can choose to synchronize it easily enough. Repeat this process for each file until you have all of your notebooks imported.

Once your notebook is imported, choose to sync it or use it as a 'local' notebook.Once your notebook is imported, choose to sync it or use it as a 'local' notebook.

Creating Template Notes for Evernote

There are other things you can do with ENEX files. For instance, you can create note templates. If you have a note format you seem to be returning to over and over again, but you find you lose time recreating essentially the same note with different values, templates could be a real boost to your Evernote workflow.

First, navigate to Macintosh HD/Library/Scripts/ and create a directory titled “Evernote” or something equally obvious. This is where you’ll keep the script that’s going to make the template work, but we’ll get to that later. The best way to get to the Scripts directory is to click on the Go menu in Finder and select Computer. (If you hold Option while clicking Go to pull up Library, you’ll end up in the wrong place.)

Create a folder for your template scripts.Create a folder for your template scripts.

I have all of my Evernote templates together in a subfolder in my Dropbox folder, but you may choose to put them in Documents or elsewhere.

Now you need to decide where you want the actual templates to live. I have all of my Evernote templates together in a subfolder in my Dropbox folder, but you may choose to put them in Documents or elsewhere. Create a folder in your Documents or wherever you like, and call it "Evernote Templates." Now that we have our scripts folder and our templates folder done, we can get to work.

In Evernote, create a “template” note. Think of your template note as a sample note, the example for all other notes of its type. You’ll want this note to very generic, useful again and again. You can create multiple templates, though, so don’t be afraid to make lots of templates for different notebooks, projects, clients, or whatever you’re working on.

Next, you’re going to export the note. Find the note in your list of notes within that notebook and right-click on it. Choose “Export Note...” and again, you’ll want to export it as the ENEX filetype. Select the Evernote templates folder we created earlier as the destination.

Now you can open your exported note in a text editor and delete the timestamp. The timestamp is everything between the <created></created> and the <updated></updated> tags. Delete all that mess. Nothing should be in there. If you don’t get that timestamp cleared out, when you eventually reimport your template, it will have the wrong dates attached.

You can also remove the info between the latitude, longitude, and altitude tags if you're concerned about confusing your location information. When you’re done, save the edited template.

The highlighted section is what you should be on the lookout for.The highlighted section is what you should be on the lookout for.

To get your template back into Evernote, you’re going to create a script with AppleScript Editor. While that may sound scary, it’s going to be so simple.

To get your template back into Evernote, you’re going to create a script with AppleScript Editor. While that may sound scary, it’s going to be so simple. Open AppleScript Editor, located at Applications/Utilities/AppleScript Editor. Create a new AppleScript using the following code:

tell application "Evernote"
	activate
	import "/Users/YOUR USERNAME/DIRECTORY/Template.enex" to "NOTEBOOK"
end tell

Make sure you update the path to the actual template location, including your username and the directory you’ve chosen to house your Evernote templates. Enter the name of your destination notebook exactly as it appears in Evernote. Alternately, you can create a “Default” or “Inbox” notebook to accept your new templates, as well.

Your script should look something like this in the AppleScript Editor.Your script should look something like this in the AppleScript Editor.

Find the Evernote directory we created in Macintosh HD/Library/Scripts/ and save the new script as something memorable and descriptive, as you may be creating more template scripts. For instance, if this template helps you keep track of bibliographic information, name the AppleScript file “Bibliography Note” or something similar. Before you exit out of AppleScript Editor, open the application preferences, and choose to view the Script menu in the menu bar. That will make it a lot easier to import your scripts.

Now you can try out your script. Click the AppleScript icon in the menu bar and select your template from the Evernote folder. You may see a brief notification as the script runs. After a few seconds, check Evernote to confirm your new note has been created. If you do run into any problems, try putting your templates in a higher level directory, but remember to update your script, so it knows where to look.

Your script will be under Evernote in the Script menu in the menu bar.Your script will be under Evernote in the Script menu in the menu bar.

Conclusion

With the omnipresence of Evernote, available on just about every OS and device imaginable, there's really so much you can do with it right out of the box. Just syncing notes from your phone to your computer to your other computer was enough to blow my mind the first time out of the gate. However, with a little elbow grease and know-how, you can take Evernote's note-taking and syncing features to the next level and really customize your notebooks to fit just your needs.

Hopefully you learned some tricks today you hadn't tried or started thinking about Evernote in a new way. Are you using Evernote in a particularly ingenious way or do you know of a really clever tool we missed? Hit us up in the comments and let us know!

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