Saturday, July 13, 2013

At last I'm getting the hang of Evernote

I've had Evernote on my computer for several years, but haven't used it much until now.

It came on one of those discs that come stuck to the front of computer magazines, and I installed it, and when I read the description of how it worked I thought it must be useful, but I somehow never managed to do much more than write a few test notes. The description made it sound as though it must be useful, but I could never get the hang of using it.

But when, on genealogy forums, people asked, as they do surprisingly often, what you do with all the notes scribbled on bits of paper, I would sometimes suggest that they have a look at Evernote. Though I didn't use it much myself, it sounded as though it could be useful.

As recently a couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article on that topic, Genealogy notes and news: Managing research data: hastily scribbled ideas, scraps of paper and sticky notes, and I forgot to mention Evernote.

But after writing the article, I thought I must really make an effort to get to grips with Evernote, and so I sar down with the book, and re-read it. And then sat down in front of the computer with it, and tried out everything. It worked.

So what is Evernote?

Do you know Microsoft OneNote?

It's a program that comes with Microsoft Office, but none of the books you can buy about using MS Office tell you how to use it (sometimes I get nostalgic for the days when softwere came with actual documentation). I couldn't even get a third-party book for using OneNote. But my daughter who is studying for a doctorate in Greece discovered it, and said it was very useful for taking notes.

Well Evernote is something like that, but it's free. And I found a book about it.

My EvernoteMy Evernote by Katherine Murray

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've read the book a couple of times, and some parts several times, and I think I'm beginning to get the hang of it now.

One of the useful things about Evernote is that it synchronises across all devices. That means that I can have a copy on my desktop computer, my cell phone and my laptop computer, and I can enter and access data in all three places. And you can also access it on the Web, as the Evernote server is where all the synchronisation takes place. And if that isn't enough, you can send entries to it by e-mail, or even by tweeting from Twitter.

So what does it do for genealogists who want to know what to do with all those notes scribbled on scraps of paper, and on paper napkins and the like?

My method, described in my other post, is to make notes in a text database program, which means that even if I lose the original scrap of paper, I can find the information again, which makes it much more useful. But some people, like this blogger, don't like retyping, Marian's Roots and Rambles: Taming all that Information! - Part 1:
Ok, I know some of you are thinking, how does she get those handwritten transcriptions into the computer?!! Most of the time, unless there is a very good reason, I will scan my original notes and capture them as a pdf or jpg. That way I can save time by not retyping them and I don't have to worry about introducing further errors.
But if you have a zillion pdf and jpeg files, how do you find them again? She does it by typing long descriptive file names. But how much easier to scan them directly into Evernote (Yes We Scan!) And Evernote claims to be able to read and search for text in graphic files (I haven't tried that yet).

Evernote lets you have up to 250 different notebooks (one for genealogy, one for recipes, one for gardening, one for your PhD notes etc.) And its free. If you really need more, there's a premium version you can pay for.

Evernote also lets you clip web pages -- either the whole page, or a particular article, or selected text. It even advises you on which way to do it, but you don't have to take the advice if you don't want to.

And what if you really like working with pieces of paper? I know some researchers do like that. Well Evernote can print out your notes for you, on 3x5" cards, if that's what you want, so that you can shuffle them and spread them out on the dining-room table.

So why not go to and give it a try? There's nothing to lose, and it could solve your filing problem.

What about Microsoft OneNote?

Well Evernote can import that too.

View all my reviews


I've just discovered that some other bloggers are also discussing the genealogical uses of Evernote, so check for more tims and resources here UpFront with NGS: Evernote -- is it part of your genealogical arsenal? Should it be?

No comments: