I have to apoologize that I didn’t get The Thursday Ten out yesterday. Its topic was to have been “Ten Things I’ve Learned About Evernote.” I was stuck in that eternal struggle between wanting to keep posts short and wanting to be as thorough as possible. The latter comes from my years as a software trainer, where I was sure that, if I didn’t cover something, sure as God made little green apples someone would ask about it. Hmmm, I think there’s a song about that…
Evernote (EN) is a huge application with lots of bells and whistles that you might or might not use, depending on what you have it for. A lot of those features are things I either haven’t used or things I haven’t learned about. So, let’s talk about something I have lots of experience with: Notebooks and Tags.
Migrating from Springpad to EN, I had to get used to the idea that all your notes have to go into a notebook. Springpad allowed you to leave the various types of notes unfiled, and I did that a lot more than I think I should have. When I converted my notes from Springpad to EN after the former’s demise, all of those unfiled entries ended up in a notebook called, appropriately enough, “John Holton’s Notebook.”
“John Holton’s Notebook” was set up by EN and made my default notebook. The default notebook is where any notes not destined for another notebook are filed. Many EN gurus (and there are many EN gurus) suggest setting up a notebook called “_INBOX,” the underscore forcing EN to force to to the top of any notebook listing, and making it the default notebook. You can (and should) go through the _INBOX notebook and decide whether to assign each note to a permanent notebook or to throw it away. You might decide that you want to read an article later, and save it or its URL in the inbox. At the end of the day (or week, or month, or…), you go through the inbox and decide what you want to do with the articles. (I use Pocket to save my articles for later; IFTTT has a “recipe” that takes any articles marked as favorites in Pocket and copies them to Evernote. I’ll talk more about that later.)
Ask any EN guru how many notebooks you should set up, and they’ll reply “as many as you need.” There is no limit to the number of notebooks you can set up, or if there is, very few people have set that many up. You might have one notebook for work and one for home. If you’re in school, you might set up a notebook for each of your classes. If you’re writing a novel, you might have a notebook for research, another for characters, another for settings, etc. You might set up 31 notebooks, one for each day of the month, and put reminders, to-do lists, research, etc. you’ll need on each date. Whatever makes life easy for you.
As an added bonus, you can stack your notebooks, so that all of the related notebooks you need are in one place. Like our student, who could “stack” all of the notebooks for a semester.
EN also gives you tags, identifiers that you can assign to your notes to organize them so that you can find them later. A writer could tag all of the notes pertaining to a character with the character name; a student could tag all notes relating to a topic with the topic name; and so on. The advantage is that you can use the same tag in multiple notebooks, so a search on that tag would bring up notes from all of them. That could be useful if, say, you’re writing a series of novels using the same cast of characters, or taking a more-advanced class in a subject you’ve studied before.
And that’s where I ran into trouble. In order for this to do me any good, I figured that I would need to strive for some sort of consistency with my tagging. I have a Writing notebook, and in that notebook I keep notes with ideas, techniques, tips, inspiration, and prompts. I do four kinds of writing: blogging, memoir, nonfiction, and fiction. A technique or tip for fiction could be about setting, character, plot, structure, or description. Ideas for nonfiction could also be used for blogging, and vice versa. Memoir could be family-related, job-related, or cat-related.
Etc., etc., etc….
It would have helped to do this kind of thinking before I started using Evernote, I think.
So, in short, here are things I learned about using notebooks and tags:
- Be consistent. Searching for the tag “cat” doesn’t include notes tagged with “cats” or “kitties”.
- If it makes sense to set up another notebook, set up another notebook. You can set up tags to work like notebooks within notebooks, but there’s no reason to.
- Keep the inbox empty. Otherwise, what good is it?
- Don’t be afraid to reconfigure when a different configuration makes more sense. I think, when I’m done here, I’m going to do just that.
So, that’s the first thing I’ve learned.
What would you like to hear about? Let me know. If I can answer, I will; if not, I’ll figure it out.