Everyone loves Evernote. Okay, not everyone, but it has developed a loyal fan base among the productivity set. Evernote is a note-taking application that allows you to organize and tag information for your projects from a variety of sources: text, web, images, email, and more.
The members of the Astronomers Facebook group recently discussed how they use Evernote in their work and shared tips for getting the most out of it. For many members, the application has revolutionized their approach to managing projects and keeping track of information.
Three features in particular rose to the top of the reviews: searchable notes, shared notebooks, and the ability to save almost anything—not just text. Rather than hunting through old notebooks for something you jotted down months ago, Evernote lets you find it instantly. The ability to share virtual notebooks is indispensable for collaborative research projects, giving all colleagues access to the same notes, code, plots, etc. And support for multiple data types makes organizing all the information related to a single project a breeze.
Some of the ways astronomers are using Evernote include:
- Replacing handwritten research notebooks. Not only is the text searchable (making it easy to find something months after you’ve written it), but you can embed screenshots, code output, web pages, and relevant papers. No more scissors and scotch tape!
- Collecting instructions on how to do things (e.g., observing session log-ins, running code, setting up VPNs). Rather than have files scattered around in a bunch of directories, you can organize them in one place.
- Taking notes during talks and embedding photos of slides.
- Organizing travel-related documents, e.g., flight info, conference schedules, scans of receipts.
- Sharing lab notebooks with students. It’s easy for students to record what they did and what the result was. As a mentor, you can see exactly what they’re doing, share text, screenshots, links, etc. Makes it very easy to help.
- Sharing notebooks for research collaborations. All colleagues have access to a single notebook and can easily contribute screenshots, code, papers, and notes. Everything is searchable and accessible by everyone on the project.
- Organizing information for teaching. You can store schedules, rubrics, remarks, and general feedback to tell students.
Participants also discussed the features of Evernote they most liked and how to get even more from Evernote by interfacing with other apps and devices:
- Since everything is stored in the Cloud, all your notebooks are accessible from anywhere across multiple platforms. Forgot to bring instructions on your observing run? Log in to the web interface and get all your notes from any machine. Of course, you’re not limited to doing everything online. Need to jot down notes during a flight? Write everything up offline and Evernote will sync to the Cloud next time you get an internet connection.
- Evernote will perform OCR (optical character recognition) on scanned documents and handwritten notes, making them searchable as well.
- Livescribe’s wireless pen automagically syncs handwriting with Evernote, instantly capturing anything you write.
- Penultimate, an iPad app, lets you ditch the paper completely. Capture your writing digitally and sync to Evernote.
- Evernote allows you to email directly to a notebook and add an appropriate tag. Great for capturing email conversations or saving electronic receipts for travel.
- Evernote Hello is an extension that lets you keep track of people you meet, automatically logging where and when you met and what you talked about. Brilliant for those of us who struggle to remember names and faces.
- If you like to live-tweet conferences, send a tweet to @myen and have everything saved in Evernote.
- If you’re a Quicksilver fan, you can extend Quicksilver’s capabilities to include Evernote notes making access even easier.
If you’re considering Evernote, be aware that there are two versions: free and premium. Some of the features mentioned above are only available with the paid version. Upgrading to premium allows you to attach any file type to your notebooks (FITS, shell scripts), provides greater bandwidth, and lets multiple people edit a notebook—essential for collaborations.
Of course, Evernote is not the only note-taking app out there. One potential drawback to Evernote is that everything is stored in the Cloud. If you prefer to store everything locally, DevonTHINK keeps everything on your own machine while still allowing you sync across machines. And it maintains all records in a nonproprietary format.
For Google fans, Google Keep is a newcomer and potential alternative to Evernote.
To read more about how to make the most of Evernote, check out the following resources:
- Lifehacker: I’ve been using Evernote all wrong
- Lifehacker: What’s all the fuss about Evernote
- Evernote blog: Eight ways Evernote can help you get more from your research
- Bridging the Nerdgap: 31 ninja tricks for making Evernote more awesome
- A metric ton of video tutorials, straight from the makers of Evernote
If you’re still not convinced to give Evernote a try, what’s holding you back? If you already use it, what favorite ninja tricks have you found invaluable? What functionality do you wish it had? Anybody using a different information management tool that we should consider?