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How I Use Evernote

Update: Brett continues to receive a ridiculously positive response to this article. He has since authored the first book on Evernote called Evernote Essentials. You should check it out here.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been really pimping Evernote to friends (both in real life and online, particularly on twitter). I’m usually pretty shocked to hear how many people have tried it and simply don’t know what to do with it or how to make it a useful part of their workflow. So, I thought I’d give you all a little peek into how I use it in my day-to-day life in the hope that some of you might come to love it and use is as heavily as I do. But first, indulge me in a little bit of speculation as to why people find it so difficult to put Evernote to good use.

I love office supplies. Pens, paper, binders, desktop gadgets, you name it. Aside from the Apple store, an office supply store is one of my most favorite places to wander around and just look. I’m especially fond of notebooks, particularly those that are made in a unique way, or maybe whose company has an interesting story. Moleskine notebooks will spring to many of your minds as you read this, and they’re pretty much what I’m thinking of as I type it :) . Now, I’m sure many of you have had this experience: you acquire (somehow, either in a retail store or online) a brand new Moleskine notebook. You get it home, unwrap it, feel it in your hands. Then, if you’re anything like me, you start to wonder how to actually useit. Will it be a journal? A sketch pad? Will it hold your GTD lists, etc.? This is always a big quandry for me – and I suspect the same to be true of the average person when they are first faced with the Evernote window.

In other words, the canvas is too blank, the potential directions too many. You can think of a thousand ways in which it might be useful, but none of them really sticks out as a good, dedicated purpose for it.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s good for anything (or more importantly, everything) you can think of. And that’s sorta how I use it – a big ass digital junk drawer that syncs to the web, indexes the text within my images and works great on my iPhone.

And now, a few examples of my Evernote use, with screenshots and commentary.

Picture Archive

I’m talking pictures of anything. Cute pictures of my kids, pictures of products whose names I find funny (see below), even pictures of the license plates on our cars – whatever. Some of it is for fun, but some of it is also information I feel like I could potentially need at some point.

The iPhone client is particularly useful here, since I can create a new note using a camera and upload it directly. Very slick indeed.

Code Snippet Library

As I’ve mentioned many times before, I get paid to plunk out source code on a computer. Now, for all the time I spend doing this, there are still little snippets of code that I need to revisit (as examples) to jog my memory about how to do a specific task. This image is part of a short piece of code that shows me how to do an overlay with a mask using the Yahoo User Interface javascript library:

yui

All of the text in this picture is indexed and searchable using Evernote, so I never have to go Googling around for it again. I know exactly where it is.

Receipt/Serial Bucket

I sign up for (and in some cases purchase) a great many services online and pieces of software for personal use. I use Evernote to store my login information, serial numbers and the like just in case my house burns down or something. (And, yes, I’m aware there are more secure ways to store the information, but I’m just not that worried about it, frankly).

Evidence Locker

Ever feel like a record of the IM conversation you’re having could be of some use someday? Yep, these get tossed into Evernote along with emails, pictures of hand-written notes, whatever comes across my path that I feel like I might need again.

PDF Warehouse

I also find myself receiving a pretty regular stream of PDF documents from fellow bloggers and friends, either for review or as a way of promoting their new product. I also have access to a handful of application and programming language reference books. Currently, only the Mac version of Evernote supports importing and indexing PDF files, but the Windows version will still happily accept and sync them. Here’s a few:

pdfs

So these are just a handful of ways you can use Evernote. It’s beauty lies in it’s ability to handle many, many types of data (and the ease with which you can add to the pile using the OS-specific tools that come with each desktop version). And it doesn’t all have to be super-important crap, either. I also keep things like jokes, intersting quotes and bookmarks in there. Your best bet is to just install it and start throwing things at it. Learn the shortcut keys for taking a screenshot and clipping text out of pretty much any application you’ve got. Before you know it, you’ll have a sizeable archive of information that you can search, slice, dice and do whatever you want with.

You can now sign up for an account for free (and without an invite code, as they’re no longer in beta) at Evernote.com. So, go do it now and thank me later :)

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