31 Ninja Tricks for Making Evernote More Awesome

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Part of what makes Evernote so mind-bendingly awesome is its versatility. It doesn’t matter if you’re a student, a nuclear physicist, a soccer mom or a nuclear physics student whose mom enjoys competitive soccer — I believe that just about anybody can make great use of Evernote and, given sufficient exploration, can discover lots of little tricks for making it do more and do it better. Hell, that’s exactly how I figured out just about everything I know about Evernote (which, if I may say, is quite a lot).

With that in mind, many of you have asked for some super sweet Evernote trickery lately and, rather than send you off to spelunk the cavernous depths of Evernote, I put together this fancy list of Evernote tips for you to start using before you finish your margarita break or whatever. Enjoy :)

Advanced Search Examples (use these to build your own wicked awesome Saved Searches or to just learn how to really use Evernote search)

1. Find all notes created in the last day :

created:day-1

2. Find all notes containing an image created in the last 30 days :

resource:image/* created:day-30

3. Find all notes containing encrypted text and the word “account” :

account encryption:

4. Find all notes you added using your mobile phone in the last week that contain an image :

source:mobile.* created:week-1 resource:image/*

5. Find all notes about Evernote that are tagged with “tricks” and not tagged with “work” :

tag:tricks -tag:work Evernote

6. Find all untagged notes whose title contains “Fwd” and that came in via email (these haven’t been cleaned up yet) :

intitle:Fwd source:mail.smtp -tag:*

7. Find all untagged notes created more than a month ago that are in your Inbox notebook :

notebook:Inbox -tag:* created:day-30

Tags Everybody Should Have

8. to_read – For things you want to read later; doubly awesome if you remember to remove this tag after you’ve read a note tagged with it.

9. to_buy – Things you (*donk*) want to buy. Augment this tag with specific occasions (‘anniversary’, ‘birthday’ – and a person’s name if appropriate)

10. A tag for each person in your immediate family. I have tags for both of my kids and my wife. When I look up my son’s tag, I get everything from pictures he’s drawn for me to the results of his last check-up with the doctor.

11. A tag for every year since you started using Evernote. This works really well for things like receipts and bank records since, most of the time, you’re looking for a specific piece of information. This tag will help narrow the field.

12. A tag for each month of the year. Whenever I add anything that’s even a little time-sensitive, it gets tagged with the month (and year)

13. work – Naturally, this assumes that you use Evernote both at home and at the office (and if your stuffy IT department allows it, you should). Easily filter out work-related notes with this tag.

14. *frequent (note the asterisk) – Tags that begin with an asterisk will sort to the top of the tag list. Drop frequently used tags into this parent tag for quick access.

15. receipts – Tag any and every receipt you add to Evernote with this. Bonus points for tagging receipts with “tax-deductible” and the year the purchase was made (as applicable, of course)

16. inspiration – A great tag to visit if you need a little encouragement or somesuch.

Fluffy, Useless Tags to Avoid Like the Frickin’ Plague

17. interesting – Of course it’s interesting, otherwise you wouldn’t have added it in the first place. This also applies to any other ambiguous adjective (awesome, cool, etc.).

18. reference – This tag is mostly useless unless you have a frickton of notes on a specific topic and only some are reference. Otherwise, tag with the topic itself.

Notebooks Everybody Should Have

19. Wishlist – Clip stuff from the web into this notebook and, when it’s time for your friends and family to get with the gift giving, you can just share this notebook with them and let them figure out who’s buying you the socks and who’s buying you the underpants.

20. One for each active project you have at work (or even home) – You want to be able to have all of that stuff in a single place so you can call it up quickly. A saved search would also work, but this makes it easier to differentiate active from inactive projects (inactive get a tag “project: my project”).

21. Temp – This is an always-shared notebook where you can drop things that you want to share with people (including any file up to 50mb if you’re a premium subscriber).

22. Inbox – Make this your default notebook so everything ends up there first.

23. Archive – Where all of your notes go that don’t belong in a more specific notebook.

Other Tips

24. Curate your notes. Letting them all pile up with whatever title they had when they arrived is a recipe for painful and time-consuming searching

25. Tag liberally, but tag intelligently.

26. Choose a singular or plural convention for your tags (“book” v. “books”) and stick with it at all costs and under all circumstances. Ditto for capitalization. Trust me.

27. If you use Safari on the Mac, Shift+clicking the elephant icon will create a PDF from the current page and add it to your default notebook.

28. Evernote creates new tags as soon as you finish typing them. If you create a tag with a misspelling, find it and delete it immediately.

29. It’s very possible to over-manicure your Evernote database. Make it clean enough to be easily searched, then go outside and live your life.

30. Tagging notes with people’s full, capitalized names is a good idea.

31. Always go with the simplest search option first and make it more complicated only if necessary.

Admittedly, some of these are can be a little intimidating (particularly those search bits at the beginning), but once you’ve played with them a bit, I think you’ll find that most of them are very “oh, yeah, of course”-type things.

Do any of you guys have anything you’d like to add?

(If you’re itching to dig deeper into this kind of Evernote wizardry, I’d highly recommend you check out my eBook that will get you up to speed very quickly.)

Photo by Funky64

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Comments

  1. - Use the Evernote web clipper, either the Chrome extension or the bookmarklet, as they work the best. It’s entirely changed how I use Evernote (read: made me use it MUCH more), and I now use Evernote as my primary bookmarking system, as I show here: http://techinch.com/2010/07/12/how-i-use-evernote/

    Awesome tips otherwise, btw!

    • I do the same, and it’s simply awesome. Whenever I do a Google Search, it searches Evernote too in case I had already bookmarked something and may have forgotten!

  2. Congratulations, Jason! Your creativity in applying for this position is nothing short of creative genius! Impressive…truly! I’m sure you will be a perfect fit for 37 Signals and a GREAT addition to their team.

  3. Donna Stern says:

    I love evernote but find it cumbersome for a to-do list. Can anyone give me ideas to make it work better?

    • For me it is just the same : I love Evernote, I am using it as a to-do application too, BUT I am not content myself with the to-do system I have within Everton
      Has somebody some good advices, a good example etc ??

      • I’ve been using it as a to-do application, too. I’ve created a notebook called “Daily Log”, and I create one note for every day, inserting all the things I have to accomplish for that day (work & life related). I title the note with the date first, in this format: “03-16-2011 To-Do List”. This way it’s easier to quickly scan and find a specific day you’re looking for.

        Evernote lets you insert check boxes too, so i put one of those before each task i want to complete for the day. if i didnt accomplish something, i just cut and paste the task into the next day’s to-do list.

  4. Hi Jason,

    great Tips !!

    By the way: When is the new edition ov your “Evernote Essentials” coming out ?

    Cheers,

    Renfrew

  5. Donna,
    I never had much success using the check box approach to tasks, having all or most of my tasks in a single note. The biggest reason for me is that I use EN 80% or more on my Android.

    For Tasks I create the following notebooks:
    Today, Work, Personal, Completed
    For each Task I create a separate note and it’s placed in one of these four notebooks. The title gives the subject of the ToDo and then I’m able to use the body of the note for more details, phone numbers, etc.
    As I work-on a Task, it gets moved from notebook to notebook. While not quite as satisfying as actually crossing off a paper list, it’s a good feeling moving them into the “Completed” notebook. BTW, if you name your Notebooks “1 Inbox” “2 Today” you can order them exactly how you wish. For all my other notes I have them in “Filed Away” and use Tags for organization. Works for me, hope this helps!

  6. I was wondering what your thoughts are on clipping a webpage as a .pdf vs just clipping the page? I know EN will search for words in .pdfs. Is there an advantage to one or the other?

    Thanks.

    • I prefer to clip as PDF when possible. Reason being, it keeps the original format of the page precisely (which I really like) and, as you say, Evernote can search within PDFs for text (this is a premium user feature, though). The potential downsides are PDFs taking up quite a bit more space than regular text clips and, if you’re a Windows user, the PDF integration with the OS isn’t as good, so you won’t be able to jump to the salient portion of the PDF when searching.

  7. Very nice post, I especially like the information about sophisticated searches. One question for you: so you think you should have the “add to Evernote” button on your blog?

  8. Cliff Spicer says:

    Your Essential book really is essential to learn the quickest ways to learn the advanced features of Evernote. Thanks for creating it and for adding more tricks and tips here. I have a timely questions I hope you can answer. One use I have for Evernote is for tracking all my small biz receipts. I have created a notebook stack with a notebook for each receipt category such as “Auto Fuel” and tagged these receipts with the year. Now that we are at the end of 2010 and starting a new tax year I am curious how you may recommend archiving my receipts? I am wondering if I should just keep adding new receipts with the 2011 tag or to take each notebook and archive all the notes in it into one large note if that is possible. Seems like no better time to figure this out.

    Happy New Year !

    Cliff

  9. I generally use Firefox on my Mac with the Readability plugin. I click Readability, then webclip the result using the Evernote clipper. Once in Evernote I delete any remaining issues (such as ad’s that found their way in.)

    This, for me, and after having tried a variety of other methods, is the best way to get properly formatted web content into Evernote, so that no matter what I read my notes in, iPhone or Laptop, the contents of each note are properly structured.

  10. I’ve just started using EN so I’m not sure how well this is going to work but in creating my notebooks etc I’ve found it very useful to put a “what this is ()” note in each book which I’ve used to set out what I’m going to use that note book for.

    eg in “inbox” I have “this notebook will be for unsorted notes only and should be kept empty” whilst for “todo (future)” I’ve reminded myself that all notes must contain the date that they are to be actioned on.

    Also using a stack for eg. “todo” has then given me the option of creating two notebooks: personal and work.

    hope this helps!

  11. Hey – thanks for great bite size tips x

  12. Have been EN user for 2 years or so, and thought I was pretty ninja until I started in on your search strings! Great tips, book is very helpful as well.
    Thanks!

  13. Robert Witherspoon says:

    Thanks Brett,

    Quick question: can you recommend a resource for “Evernote as a journal”?

    I use this in quotes since I’m guessing what to call it, but it’s #1 on my Evernote wish list. Something that offers a page a day for notes, so I can keep a written record. Even better would be a date for each day, and a calendar.

    Maybe you have some tips? Or perhaps there’s an App or plug-in available?

    Thoughts welcome.

    Robert

  14. Nathalie Marlier says:

    PostEver (free or paid version)

  15. I haven’t found or figured out how to search for all notes that DON’T contain PDFs for example. I tried different combinations of resource: -pdf but was not successful. Is there a search criteria for this? Thanks!

  16. rosana345 says:

    Somebody has tested http://clicktoapp.com with Evernote??