One of the perils of modern research is information overload. The internet gives us access to an unimaginably large and ever-shifting repository of stuff, and managing those resources can be tricky. Whereas 20 years ago research mainly comprised journal articles and books, we now have at our disposal video clips, audio files, images, and webpages – all of them valid scholarly sources. If only we had a way of capturing all of this material and organising it … Well, now we do.
Evernote is a piece of software designed for note-taking and archiving. A “note” can be a piece of formatted text, a full webpage or webpage excerpt, a photograph, a voice memo, or a scanned handwritten note. Notes can also have file attachments, such as images or PDFs. Notes can be sorted into folders, then tagged, annotated, edited, searched and exported. The idea is that you can capture anything and access it anywhere.
It’s very easy to add content using your web browser, the desktop client, via email, or even using your smartphone. The clever text recognition feature means that you can search the content of images, eg photos of whiteboards or your handwritten notes (assuming it’s not a dreadful scrawl).
I find Evernote particularly useful for keeping things out of my inbox. For example, I forward notifications of future events or interesting books to Evernote and then go through them at regular intervals. If you use GMail you could even set up a filter to perform this task automatically.
At the moment, I use it primarily for my research, but there’s no reason why Evernote can’t help organise your entire life. Here are 20 things you can do with Evernote, and also a great post from Katie Lloyd on how she uses Evernote to organise her files.
Evernote is what’s called freemium software, meaning there are both free and premium versions available. The free version applies certain restrictions on the amount of data you can upload and the maximum size of each note. By paying the reasonable subscription of £35 per year, you can enjoy version control (ie the ability to recover previous versions of your notes), searchable PDFs, shared notebooks, and offline access. I think that’s nothing short of a bargain.
Picking up the basics of Evernote is very easy, and there are lots of tutorials on the Evernote website and beyond.
I haven’t come across anyone who isn’t smitten with Evernote, but I’d love to hear of any good alternatives. And please do let me know how you use Evernote.