Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Tech Column: Three Great Evernote Tricks

by Bill Adler

This will be my last tech column on the Cleveland Park Listserv. I am going back to focusing on writing books.  
--Bill Adler

If you're not familiar with Evernote,, it's worth a look. Evernote is cross-platform, which means it works on PCs, Macs, iPhones, Android, the web -- just about anywhere. Heck, you can even use Evernote with a paper Post It note, because Evernote can take a shapshot of that note, save it, and index it for fast finding later on. Evernote lets you store everything you want, so you never have to wonder, "should I save this, will I need it?" Save the information in Evernote; it will be there, and findable, if you need it later. Save phone numbers, web clips, pictures of restaurants you've enjoyed (Evernote keeps the location data, too), to-do items, telephone conversation notes, recipes, driving directions, store receipts (take a picture), anything you want. Did you know that Evernote indexes the words in photos? So, for example, if you photograph a contract you've signed, you can search for that by any word that's in the document.

Evernote syncs with your Mac or Windows PC, your Android or iPhone, even with Blackberrys. The notes and information you put in one place are available every place.

If you’d like to enjoy a life free of paper clutter, then Evernote is your ticket. Evernote comes in free and paid flavors, so you can try it out risk-free.

Evernote can do a lot, even more than you may imagine at first. Here are three Evernote tricks that I'd like to share.

Carry a scanner in your pocket by connecting Evernote with a scanner app: Scanner Pro is the best scanner app for iPhone and Evernote. It's currently free (though that may not last long), and you can find it at While you can directly add photos into Evernote via the iPhone and Android Evernote apps, Scanner Pro has a nice feature that the stand-alone Evernote app doesn’t: It automatically sizes and scans just the document, cutting out everything that's not on the paper you want to scan. Scanner Pro and Evernote turn your phone into a full-fledged scanning machine. There are scanner apps for Android, too, so if you have an Android phone, you can turn your phone into a powerful scanning machine, as well.

There are lots of great "read it later" extensions for popular web browsers, including Instapaper and Pocket. These browser extensions enable let you save articles you want to read but don't have time to read now. Click and save; they're easy, fast, and handy. I used to use Instapaper until I realized that I should save articles I want to read in Evernote. Why have a separate program for reading stuff later, when I already was using a perfectly good program, Evernote? Evernote happens to have two different web clippers, one called "Evernote Clipper," an apt name, and the other called "Clearly." You can tweak these clippers to send pages or articles you find on the web into specific Evernote notebooks. (Evernote lets you organize notes into notebooks, as well as tag them.) I use Evernote Clipper to save pages from the web that I'm using for work, but I told Clearly to always save web articles into my "Read Later" notebook. Now whenever I want to save an article to read at my leisure, I clip it with Clearly, and it's on my phone, tablet and PC.

There are a lot of amazing things you can do with Evernote than can lead you toward a paper-free life, but there's one other that I want to mention here. It's a little more complicated than the other two, but very useful if you're an iPhone user. This little Evernote trick lets you save iPhone screen shots directly to Evernote. Actually, it's not that complicated, but involves invoking a second app called IFTTT, which stands for If This, Then That. Here's how it works: IFTTT enables you to connect your phone's or iPad's photos to Evernote (or to other apps.) Whenever it detects a screenshot, that image is automatically added to Evernote. I don't know about other people, but I'm constantly taking screenshots of information I want to save on my iPhone. The process for getting this to work involves two steps. First, sign up for IFTTT, which is free, at Second, add the recipe for saving screen shots to Evernote, which you can find at

I was asked recently what the difference between Evernote and Dropbox is. Why do you need Evernote if you have a cloud-based file backup service? Evernote is more of a note-taking, information-saving service. Dropbox (or Google Docs) is better suited for saving entire files. Your Excel spreadsheet with the home run averages for Major League baseball players belongs in Dropbox. But notes about players and specific games belong in Evernote. Vacation photos go in Dropbox; a photo of that amazing dessert fits into Evernote. You wouldn't put somebody's name and phone number in Dropbox, but that's exactly what Evernote is good for. Do you collect antique cell phones? You can keep photos and notes about your collection in Evernote, and access it everywhere.

Evernote works. Let it work for you.


Bill Adler is a writer. He is the author of "Boys and Their Toys:Understanding Men by Understanding Their Relationship with Gadgets,", "Outwitting Squirrels," and a mess of other books. He tweets at @billadler.

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