Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Are You Playing Evernote?

If you haven't heard about or tried Evernote, you can probably ask your kids.

This Silicon Valley company made a big splash in schools when many teachers from middle school through high school adopted it as a favorite online study tool for students.

If I just told you what it does, you might not be impressed, or you might wonder what it offers that you don't already have. But when you talk to advocates for this note-taking and organizing tool, you might get the impression that there's a lot going on.

So here's what it's all about...

Evernote is much more than a note-taking app.

First of all, it's knowledge organization in the cloud. You can take notes on your computer and they'll show up for you on your phone or pad while you're on the move. Or you can take notes with your mobile device and refine them later when you're sitting at your desk with a keyboard.

But that's just the opening ante. You can do that sort of thing with a half-dozen different tools depending on what devices you use.

Evernote gives you some good tools for organizing your notes, and if you use it regularly, you can develop your own style for how to pull information together for personal reference. You can put written notes, web links, photos, charts, just a whole lot of things into a note. Then you can group notes together in notebooks.

But that's still really just the starting place. The piece of their puzzle that I find most useful is the app called the Web Clipper. This is an app that plugs into your browser and what it does is allow you to scrape the content of a web page into a note for your Evernote notebooks.

"What's the big deal about that," you might ask? "I can just bookmark the pages and return to them anytime."

Well maybe you can, and maybe you can't. Some content on the web is transient, and it won't be there the next time you look. (And yes, we know about the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, but you might spend as much as 20 minutes hunting for content you've seen previously and now it has moved on.)

One very good use case for Evernote Web Clipper is when you are doing product research on Amazon, or on Craig's List.  Items on both of these platforms are found at addresses that change or disappear as time goes on. So it's very convenient to simply look at a possible listing, scrape it your notebook, then move on until you believe you've got enough data to make a choice. Then you can study the notebook where you're keeping the information and make your final determination.

I've found cars, apartments, and even a piano this way in the past.

There's a whole lot more you can do with this tool and it's definitely worth a look.

For people who prefer Microsoft products, the functionality of Evernote is also available by using OneNote, part of the Office 365 productivity suite. So you might keep an eye on comparison articles to see if that's a good choice for you.

For those without affiliation, I can wholeheartedly commend Evernote to you as a tool that may turn out to be one of your favorite apps on both your computer as well as your mobile devices.