Way back when I first started my dissertation research, I was eager for tools to help me organize my thoughts and research. OneNote was my first choice, as it was free and already loaded on the PC I was using. It mirrored my existing concepts of note taking since the interface was designed to look like tabbed notebooks or a binder with tabbed separators. My description here is dated since I started my dissertation eons ago, and have since moved on to trying different tools to organize thoughts and research. While I liked the notebook view of OneNote, I would spend too much time color coordinating and otherwise personalizing the notebooks, much like I did in high school (e.g., well-decorated Chandler assignment planner, with few assignment deadlines actually listed in the calendar). Now, you’re starting to understand why it’s taken so long to write my dissertation. When I abandoned OneNote several years ago, I briefly tried Evernote, and didn’t like it. Honestly, I don’t remember why I didn’t like it, though I suspect it was cumbersome or did not fit my way of thinking. But, a few months ago, I went to a training workshop for Evernote, and was encouraged to give it another try, even if I just used it for my grocery list.
I haven’t used Evernote for a grocery list yet, but I’ve used it for keeping track of ideas that would otherwise end up on post-it notes, notepads, journals, notebooks, Word documents, emails to myself, Google documents, notes on my whiteboard (…an actual whiteboard, not an app), Notes app, or junkmail envelopes. This blog would not have come to pass without Evernote. I draft all my ideas in Evernote weeks in advance of posting to my blog. I also have individual notebooks for course ideas, creative writing ideas, publication ideas, feedback on courses that should be revised, and (of course) dissertation ideas/research. I can easily save Internet articles to any of the notebooks I’ve created. By far, this has been my favorite tool for organizing my ideas and research.
Goal: find a tool that takes the place of ideas on post-it notes that make my office look like it is a sit-in for square-winged butterflies
- Cloud technology allows for updating on a variety of devices, but Internet connection is not required if the software is downloaded to your computer…I can put information in my app version and see it on my laptop and PC
- Simple, no-frills organization of notebooks and notes. I can bounce between notebooks very easily.
- You can share notebooks/notes….I don’t, but you can
- Search function looks in individual notebooks or all notebooks or tags
- Reminder feature will send an email on a chosen day to nudge you to work on a task listed as a note
- In a note, you can insert a URL, table, PDF, or graphic. You can then annotate the attached PDF or graphic.
- Web-clipper….allows saving URLs, whole articles, and screenshots of websites. I don’t have time to read all the interesting articles in my Facebook and RSS feeds, so I can save them in Evernote to read later (i.e., after graduation). LOVE THIS FEATURE…especially since I can use the Evernote app on my phone and read those saved articles when I’m standing in line at the Post Office (for example)
- You can combine notebooks into a “notebook stack.” I have several notebooks for my blog (e.g., “to post,” “posted,” “random tips”), and each have their own notebook since there are many notes for each. I can create a notebook stack for my blog, and all the related notebooks (and notes) are organized together. Think of it like a main folder with subfolders with documents.
- You can put notes in the Shortcut section at the top of the Notebook list. I put the notes there that I rely on most or that I don’t want to forget about.
- Evernote sometimes freezes for a moment when syncing or otherwise saving content. You can change the settings to sync less frequently if the momentary freeze is bothersome.
- Every once in a while I’ll get pop-ups that I should invest in the pay version.
- The blog doesn’t entirely focus on Evernote insights, but also has articles related to a variety of situations (e.g., running a small business, writer’s block). I don’t like having to scroll through articles just to find the gems related to using Evernote. (With some scrolling, though, I did find a helpful post: Tools That Write Well with Evernote. That’s on my list to read in the future.) They have an email newsletter that you can subscribe to. Most of the emails are about the perks of subscribing, but I do find a good tip every once in a while, especially if it’s a newly added feature.
- There is a monthly limit to the size uploads (60MB) and note size (25MB), but I haven’t run into the limit as of yet. I suspect that if you clip many articles from the Internet per month or you have a group working all in the same account, then it’ll be an issue for you.
Insider View: If you tried Evernote several years ago, try it again now. I don’t remember the original version, but my peers have agreed that the original version didn’t work as intuitively as this version. Also, don’t bother getting the paid version until you’ve tried the free version out for a while….I have yet to find a reason to upgrade (please, don’t tell Evernote I said that since I don’t want them to downscale features to force me to the pay version now that I’m addicted to using the tool).
Final Thoughts: There are more features to Evernote than what I’ve listed here, but these are the features that keep me coming back. I really like that I can use the software without the distractions I’ve experienced with other tools. (I should probably view the tutorials, but I like that I can use the software effectively with only limited knowledge….reviewing tutorials is on my list of things to do.)