Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tech Column: Fast Note Taking (on an IPhone or IPad)

by Bill Adler

During the course of any given day 100 ideas pop into my head. About 50 percent of them used to disappear before I can write them down. (I'm in no way saying that these are actually good ideas. The percentage of those is even less.)

I've been hunting for a really fast way to take notes in Evernote, www.evernote.com, my go-to program where I keep everything I need to know and remember. If you don't know or use Evernote, here's the Twitter-sized blurb: Evernote is the best note-taking program in the world. You can save and share project ideas, organize receipts for tax time, record phone call notes, take photos and save them as notes, and more. Evernote indexes attachments and even words that appear in photos, making your stuff actually findable. Your notes are available everywhere -- on Android, iDevices, the web, Windows. Evernote lets you achieve a paper-free (and organized) life.  Okay. That was a bit longer than a Twitter post, but it's still a nutshell description of how powerful Evernote is.

I've found a way to take super-fast notes in Evernote and want to share it with you. My method uses Siri, Apple's otherwise not-always-useful voice-enabled iPhone assistant.

On an iPhone or iPad all you need to do to take a note is press and hold the home button for about a second until Siri appears. Siri will work even if your lock screen is deployed (if you have allowed it to), so you don't have to enter in your PIN or password before taking an oral note.

When you see Siri, start by saying "Note." Whatever you say after that will be transcribed into English in iPhone's note's app. That's a pretty neat trick, actually, and it works well. Taking notes by speech with Siri is the fastest way I've found to take a note. It's just press and talk.

But how to get that note out of your iPhone and into Evernote?

Step one is to save your notes in Gmail. You can enable that feature on your iPhone, which saves your notes in Gmail with a label called "Notes." Here are the straightforward instructions on how to do this first step: http://bit.ly/14BAzKg.

Step two, the secret sauce: Here's how you get that note that's stuck on your iPhone or iPad into Evernote: use IFTTT, www.ifttt.com. IFTTT, If This, Then That, connects various cloud services so that you can get information from one place in the cloud to another. If you missed my introduction to IFTTT, you can read it at http://bit.ly/15mB4a1. All you need now is the IFTTT "recipe" that automatically sends any email with the Gmail notes label to Evernote:  https://ifttt.com/recipes/74098. You'll need to make one modification to this IFTTT recipe: Change the label "Evernote" to "Notes" in the IFTTT recipe so that the Siri-recorded notes that go to your Gmail "Notes" label get sent by IFTTT to Evernote.

This system is a little Rube Goldberg-ish to set up, but once you've assembled the pieces, anytime you say to Siri "Note: I parked the car on 17th and K" that note will appear in Evernote. And when you think about the fact that with this method, it's actually amazing that Apple and Google are talking with each other at all.


Bill Adler is the co-publisher of the Cleveland Park Listserv, www.cleveland-park.com. He is the author of "Boys and Their Toys: Understanding Men by Understanding Their Relationship with Gadgets," http://amzn.to/rspOft. He tweets at @billadler.

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