How to Optimize Your Evernote Experience

Here is a summary of my ideas for optimizing your Evernote experience that I originally posted on the Evernote forums. The suggestions are focused more on making Evernote the best experience for you over the long haul — assuming that you will spend a lot of time in the app and will be generating a lot of notes. No one will run into issues with 10 notes, but with 10,000, you want to make sure you have a plan in place to keep it all working smoothly. Some of the ideas here will also be useful for users of other notetaking applications like nvALT and VoodooPad.

forum post

Are You Short on Storage?

Consider stripping the text out of PDFs (I use Automator) and putting that into your account instead. You can put the PDFs into Dropbox just in case you ever need to see the original files.

For example, if you have a library of several thousand PDFs for your research, you only need to find occurrences of words and phrases, and you don’t need to worry much about the formatting, then this could make a big difference for you. This approach has several benefits:

  • it will reduce the amount you will need to upload each month.
  • it will reduce the size of your database on your local hard drive.
  • it will enable you to search inside the note on mobile devices.
  • it will enable you to include the contents in offline searches with mobile devices (PDFs are not included in the search results if you are using a mobile device without a connection even if the PDF is included in an offline notebook).

Which Client Do You Want to Use?

The various Evernote clients have their own strengths and weaknesses, because they are tailored for their environments on each platform, and I happen to enjoy using all of them. One benefit of working with a Mac is that you can install Windows using something like Parallels, and have the benefit of using both desktop versions. I did this in the past, and it was a great boon to my productivity. If you use something like Logmein on your iPad, you can remotely access your Mac desktop and use Windows from there. Pretty nice, eh? Hook up an external keyboard and you are ready to go.

What Should You Consider When Designing Your Workflow?

Design your organizational system around the strengths / weaknesses of the Evernote client you are using the most. If you rely on reverse sort orders, for example, you will not find this on the iOS client, so you’ll want to keep these differences in mind and develop workarounds, if possible. In my case, I take a minimalist approach to organizing, and much of it is based on consistently titling my notes YYMMDD + keywords. In combination with the “intitle” advanced search, I am usually able to easily navigate my account even without the sort options. Becoming familiar with the Evernote advanced search grammar will help you quickly get a handle on what can and cannot be done.

What Should You Put into Your Account?

I focus more on making notes of “notable” things instead of noting everything. Jamie Rubin has got some good advice on going paperless. I am still a “completist” and scan everything, but I only have a handful of attachments in Evernote. I store most of my stuff in Dropbox. If Evernote develops the ability to toggle notebooks offline / online on the desktop versions (we already have them on the mobile ones), then I might change my mind on this, because I could leave most of my stuff on the cloud, and wouldn’t have to worry about how much space Evernote is taking up on my local drive.

Should You Use the Appstore Version or the Direct Download on the Mac?

The direct download gives you more functionality (such as printing a web page to PDF in Evernote), and I see no benefits whatsoever to using the appstore one. Here are directions for switching from the appstore version to the direct download one.

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