Keeping Things Straight With Evernote

You wouldn’t think there’d be a new twist in the work-flow/word processing/information-management software arena, but I’m happy to report that Evernote ( is a new, useful, and fun departure from all of the tired applications you’ve seen over the years…and best of all, it’s free.

The Need
Not long ago I realized I was juggling three novels, six short stories, and one or two non-fiction titles, all in varying stages of production, development, or release. I also had big promotional ideas that needed to be scheduled carefully if I wanted them to have maximum impact. I’m a really bad planner, so I needed some help.

I started looking for an application to help me keep a checklist that would help me scope out the next 6-9 months. A traditional 4×7 calendar just didn’t seem to collect the items in one place to give me a macro-view of things. And, as time marches on, I never feel like I’ve accomplished things on a calendar; they simply disappear from view over the horizon. I wanted a sense of actually getting things done.

Enter Evernote
I stumbled across Evernote while I trying to find ways to use my Kindle/iPad for editing manuscripts. People raved about Evernote, not just for the “checklist” need, but for all kinds of generic uses. I was skeptical at first, since I’ve seen my share of word-processors-turned-work-flow apps, but once I started digging into it, I was impressed. It was flexible, smart, and just plain useful.

I’ve been using it now for about 2 months as my writing checklist, story idea repository, note taking device for research, and all around brain-dump area. Here are some of the features that make Evernote useful for writers:

Click for larger image.

Intelligent Design
Take a long look at the screen cap to the right. I made it fairly large so you can get more than just a passing glance (click for larger image).

The writing area is fairly large, with just enough formatting options to keep you happy. One of the best features—since I was looking for a checklist—is the checkbox you can insert at any point. When you are out of “edit” more (i.e., not writing the list), you can still tap or click in the checkbox to mark it as done. A little thing, I know, but I love it.

The layout is clean and clear, with very little to muck up the usage. Notes and Notebooks (see below), help you keep track of previous jottings.

Notes & Notebooks
Notes are easy to create and can be stored in folders that are logically called “Notebooks.” I make Notebooks for anything: my overall writing calendar, individual books, promotion ideas. The notebooks make it an easy to locate hierarchy. Each Notebook has a small number next to it in parentheses to show you how many notes are in it.

Taken so many notes you can’t find the one you want? Well, besides smart Notebook design and the ability to name your Notes yourself, Evernote allows “tagging” which is essentially attaching keywords that make sense to you to each note. So, search for “novel” or “research” and those particular Notes spring up (as long as you were smart enough to tag them correctly in the first place).

The single most useful feature I’ve found for Evernote is something so smart and straightforward, I can’t believe it hasn’t been adopted universally by all office programs: synching. It’s not rocket science, but with the click of a button (or, by default, at particular intervals), Evernote synchs your scribbling to a central server. This means that no matter where you access your notes—PC, ipad, iPhone, laptop—you always have the latest content. Invaluable.

Others Doodads
There are many more uses that I haven’t made use of, including web clipping (grabbing an entire website or email and saving it directly into Evernote), audio clips (self-explanatory), and image/photo clips (e.g., I took a picture with my iPhone and threw it into Evernote. It kept the photo, allowed me to add notes to it, and added the GPS/map information where I took the picture).

Evernote gives a free 60mb of storage (seems small, but you could probably store hundreds if not thousands of text notes at that amount). There is a Premium version which allows more storage as well as more bells and whistles.

This is an amazing piece of software to be offered up for free. I’ve found it incredibly useful and agile for organizing and streamlining my writing life, not to mention my grocery list. Give it a spin and see if it helps you!


Writer of crime fiction, psychological drama, and dark humor.

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Posted in Helpful Software & Sites, Tips for eAuthors
7 comments on “Keeping Things Straight With Evernote
  1. Wo3lf says:

    Excellent post, as always.

    I’ve been using Evernote for a couple of months now and I concur with everything you said above. I specifically love that you can sync content between various devices and I have found the clipper to be a useful tool when I do research. I use Scrivener to write and lay out the story, but Evernote contains all my research. It is so easy to clip a selected paragraph or a whole webpage when you’re on a site that contains information you want to keep for reference. I have whole pages saved this way along with highlighted paragraphs and quotes, and the ability to use tags ensures that you don’t drown in a sea of data.

    I’ve now opened a notebook for blog entries too. It makes sense to use Evernote for this purpose and here tagging will also come in handy.

    • Matthew Iden says:

      Thanks, Woelf. I’ve heard great things about Scrivener…that may be my next curiosity-inspired tech review. And I really need to use Evernote to its greatest potential. Right now, I have to admit I’m using it as Notepad on steroids with synching, but I know it can do much, much more, as you allude.

      Hmmm…re: blogging, i wonder if WordPress will consider a widget for Evernote for auto-blogging. That way you could write the blog over several devices, then publish with a single click from Evernote…or is that already there and I’m dumb? 🙂

      • Wo3lf says:

        Not that I am aware. It allows for sharing, but only to Facebook, twitter and email. Maybe they will bring something in later. You can however export your note in HTML, so maybe there are some possibilities there, maybe too Dropbox?

  2. char says:

    I’ll have to check it out–but not sure if I’m ready to be that organized yet. I use Dropbox for everything and have been quite happy with that. But the tagging feature sounded handy.

    • Matthew Iden says:

      Hey Char — I would really encourage you to check it out. It’s free and, wow, are there a lot of features for $0.00. Dropbox is nice, too, but not quite the same niche IMHO…great for file storage across devices, but less so for on-the-go writing.

  3. patgarcia says:

    Very nice article about what evernote can do. I have been a preminium user for five years and love it.

    • Matthew Iden says:

      Hi Patricia – Thanks for stopping by and the kinds words about the article. I can’t believe I’m coming so late to Evernote…seems like the best kept secret!

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