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The hard drive to my laptop failed in late September. At that time I had used EverNote two times. Being without a primary computer, and pretty much spending 85% of my waking hours in the library, I tried the online version to see if it could keep up with my hectic, computer hopping lifestyle. It could not. Frequently moving between Mac and PC, laptop to desktop, I found the learning curve to be greater and the extra log-in less convenient than, what has become my absolute stand-by for any and all long-term projects: Google Drive.

GoogleDrive

GoogleDrive

Google Drive is bare bones file storage and basic file creation, but it allows users to create the infrastructure that they are most comfortable with and files that can be transferred and used with any Microsoft Office software.

I wanted to use video to tell the story of murder within Tammany Hall. This requires very specific and expensive software that was on my computer, so I spent most of the semester gathering material and researching the topic. Most of this was in the form of New York Tribune and New York Times articles found via the library’s ProQuest database. A lot of these articles went into Google Drive, however, some of them I just printed out and kept with me for quick reference. I find it much easier to flip through pages than I do to scan through PDFs. When it finally came time to include these in the exhibit, I needed only to do a quick keyword search and download the file in order to access it.

Admittedly, this is not the most centralized or organized approach in the world, but it is how I am accustomed to working and it seems to get the job done for me. It is difficult to find a single program or software that offers you every function and application necessary to do a research project. I think some programs are better suited to some functions than others. Because there are so many programs that do one function really well, I’m not sure it’s necessary, or even more convenient to have one program that does every function only so-so. I use Google Drive because I use many computers, but I also use the library databases as if they were personal hard drives because it’s easier to do a keyword search than it is to go through subfolder after subfolder to find a particular file.

New York Times ProQuest Database

New York Times ProQuest Database

I’m sure EverNote works well for a lot of people, but it didn’t fit with my particular methods for researching and creating a project. I think this is why we have so many different programs available – there is a person for every application and an application for every person. It’s just a matter of finding the one that fits.

 

Screen Shot 2013-11-19 at 9.32.48 PMWhile my personal experience with Evernote has been limited, it has already proven valuable for my Greenwich Village exhibition as well as trying to manage coursework readings this semester.

By far the greatest function in Evernote is its “Web Clipper.” This function works better than bookmarking because the saved website becomes dynamic and tag-able, while often my bookmarks languish in my Chrome browser. Particularly, I love the Simplified Article option. This makes the page more readable, and saves the text for later reading offline. I have particularly used this for class readings, which often include blogs and other web-generated articles. By using my Evernote iPad app, I can complete homework on my subway commute.

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While Evernote’s functions are innumerable, I haven’t yet used it to its full capacity. Mostly, my Evernote notebook contains web clips for sources related research for my exhibit. Though my time using it for this class is waning, I am not yet ready to entirely give up on the program. I personally enjoy organizing my digital items hierarchically, and I haven’t properly employed the Tags function.

Because I don’t use tags to organize the items in Evernote, I find the look of all the files together too cluttered. I’ve always stuck by the adage that a cluttered desk leads to a cluttered mind, and my computer often reflects that. I prefer using folders to organize my files, and I believe that Evernote’s lack of folders is its greatest weakness. I also think that some of their features tend to be more dazzling than pragmatic. I personally find that geo-tracking my note-taking a bit worthless, and also a bit creepy.

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How does it know?

When I was an undergrad, I used the program “Papers” to organize research for my thesis. I would upload digital files of primary resources, and I also organized my notes on secondary sources in the program as well. It was fairly similar to Evernote, but I appreciated the organizational flexibility that is less intuitive on Evernote. However, Papers is a proprietary programs that costs a steep $79 to purchase and install. Evernote’s free access is a great advantage.

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After a bit of guidance from other Evernote users, I’ve realized that many of my complaints could be rectified. By creating a number of “notebooks” for different classes or subjects, I could delineate between the different files I store. As I begin research and writing on my capstone project next semester, I believe that Evernote could become an invaluable tool. As I move further, I may try and experiment with tags to see if they can be of any use to my personal and academic work.

In general, I appreciate Evernote’s flexibility and universality; however, I am not sure I use it to its full advantage. I have it installed on my computer, on Chrome, on my iPhone, and on my iPad, but I rarely use it on anything but my iPad. To fully appreciate Evernote’s worth, I am going to need to dramatically alter my current research and note-taking habits. This shift could be to my advantage, but it would be a difficult transition to make.

Researching with Evernote

I first started using Evernote over a year ago to organize research for my undergraduate thesis and haven’t turned back. Now I use it for almost everything, from taking notes during class to saving recipes that I want to try. But mostly I use it to organize my research. Currently, I’m working on a number of different research based projects, including my online exhibition about the Irish in Greenwich Village and Evernote allows me to organize everything and keep track of my sources and ideas.

An Evernote Notebook

A glimpse at one of my notebooks on Evernote.

Evernote gives you a two different ways of organizing your notes: notebooks and tagging. I’m more of a notebook kind of gal but I use tagging too, especially when I have a lot of information to sort through. Notebooks are the most basic way of organizing whatever it is you’re working on. I generally name my notebooks by topic or subject because it’s the easiest way for me to use them. You also have the option of stacking notebooks meaning you can have one big notebook with a number of smaller ones, like subcategories. So I could have a notebook called “The Irish in the Village” which is filled with general research and within that notebook I could have another notebook called “Church of St. Joseph” which would contain all my research about St. Joseph’s.

Tagging is another great way to organize your research. I don’t use tags as often because it’s not how I normally think of topics while I’m researching. But tags do come in handy when you have a lot of notes in a notebook. It’s a way of organizing your thought process by subject or topic. It’s also a great way of clustering your research using a common thread.

Tags that I've used to help organize my research.

Tags that I’ve used to help organize my notes.

An awesome feature of Evernote is the web clipper. You can download the web clipper onto your Internet browser and it acts as a snipping tool. I use it a lot when I’m sifting through articles I come across on the web that may not be totally relevant to what I’m researching but have a few interesting facts or quotes. The web clipper gives you the ability to screenshot the entire article or just a piece of it and then saves it into the notebook you chose. It’s great when you don’t have time to read everything that comes up in a search but you know might come in handy later.

The web clipper gives you options when clipping things from the Internet.

The web clipper is a great way of taking things from the web and saving the in notebooks.

For me the best thing about Evernote is I can use it across multiple devices and I don’t need an Internet connection. Between commuting, school, and working, it’s great that I can access Evernote nearly everywhere, even on my phone. But the most useful thing is that I can use in offline on multiple devices. I can review notes or reads articles while I’m on the train or bus. And then once I have an Internet connection again, it syncs my devices so each one is up to date.

There are, of course, some frustrating aspects to Evernote. Sometimes the web clipper can be frustrating to work with and the organization of Evernote can seem a little rigid at times. But overall, Evernote is one of the best programs I’ve used to help organize research, thoughts, and ideas, and I’d recommend it to anyone who’s about to tackle a project or just needs a way to stay organized.

My Date with Evernote

My relationship with Evernote has been a little rocky over the past few months. I haven’t been using the note-taking software for very long, but in that relatively short time I have experienced moments of both admiration and exasperation. Evernote has many positive qualities and is capable of combining a lot of useful features, but I am having trouble falling in love with the program completely. I am also afraid that if I choose to deepen my relationship with Evernote, I have to commit to either updating my operating system or purchasing the Premium version, neither of which are steps I am not willing to take at this point in our relationship.

Let me first mention what I like about Evernote. The Web Clipper is a great feature and has been helpful for saving online articles and blog posts that I can’t download as PDFs. Previously I simply saved links to these articles in lists under topical headings that would remind me of their content. This approach was difficult because it required me to revisit all of the articles under a specific subject heading when I wanted to find a specific phrase or quote. With the Web Clipper, I can save the whole article in my notebook and use a key-word search to find the passage I need more quickly. Image

I also really like the Evernote App. For my web exhibit I have spent a great amount of time taking photographs of walls and murals around the East Village and the App has proved to be a useful tool for this endeavor. The Evernote App has a snapshot feature that allows me to immediately sync all of the photos I take with my notebook. It also automatically records the location where the photo was taken, which is essential information for my project, and saves me a lot of time.

That being said, I have encountered problems with both the Web Clipper and the App. With the Web Clipper I have experienced trouble clipping certain articles. Often articles that are longer in length won’t fully clip. I will select the article I am hopingto save and the Web Clipper will act as if it is copying it, but it won’t actually download the article into my notebook.Image

Even after waiting as long as ten minutes the clipper still fails to save the article into my notebook. As a result I have been able use the Web Clipper for a few articles, and have resorted to my previous, not to mention less effective, method of saving article links in a list under subject headings.

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The App on the other hand does not seem to have any glitches, but snapshot feature is at times unhelpful because it is not able to zoom. In one particular instance I tried to take an image of a mural that was painted on the top of a building. I had no way of getting closer to the image and because I couldn’t zoom my photo wasn’t able to capture the details I desired. While I like having my photos sync to my notebook, I am more concerned with the quality of image I am taking rather than the convenience. I would rather take the extra step to email or upload a photo from my device than sacrifice capturing an image the way I wanted.

One final feature that frustrates me about Evernote is that I can’t mark-up PDFs with my computer. This is not Evernote’s fault, but rather the result of my out-of-date technology. My computer is several years old and is still running Mac OS X 10.6.8. Unfortunately, the current version of Skitch, the tool that allows you to mark up PDFs in Evernote, only runs on 10.7.4 or later. I have downloaded an old version of Skitch that is compatible with my operating system, but I can’t seem to open it in Evernote. While it is probably in my best interest to upgrade, I have not yet developed a strong enough devotion to Evernote to spend $20 just on its account, especially when I am more than happy annotating PDFs in Preview. Image

In general, Evernote is stylish and makes notes easy to visualize, but I’ve found that most of the special features that it offers only half-work for my specific needs. I am fairly new to using the tool and there might be ways around these problems that I haven’t considered, but at present it has caused more frustration than convenience. If anyone has any advice to offer and would happily accept it. Who knows, it might save this troubled relationship.

 Whether in the digital or analog realm, it is crucial to use the right tools for the right tasks. As part of Creating Digital History, we experimented with the note-taking program Evernote while researching and for our digital exhibits. Due to the nature of the materials I was working with and the version of the program that I was using, I did not find Evernote to be a transformative tool for my research process, but I could picture it being useful for a project with different demands and materials.

A few Evernote features stood out as particularly useful, even if they were not crucial for this project. One of its key strengths is the ability to sync smoothly across devices. Evernote’s iPhone app allows one to take pictures and upload them directly to a notebook. This feature would be exceedingly useful for visiting an archives or non-circulating library, where time is of the essence for collecting content. By and large, though, I was able to check out the books that I needed for my project, so I did not need to use this feature extensively. Similarly, The Masses, the primary source material that was the focus of my project was completely digitized and available through an online archive, so there was no need to duplicate this material in a notebook. The Web Clipper add-on for web browsers was quite useful for capturing URL’s and images. Because most of the web resources that I found, with the exception of the primary source materials, were introductory in nature, I did not have much cause to revisit them after clipping. For research on a modern topic with extensive online resources, though, I could see this feature being invaluable. Additionally, while I was working alone on this project, I could see how the ability to share notebooks could be quite useful, assuming everyone on the team was using Evernote.

Ultimately, for a system like Evernote to be make a major impact on one’s research, it would be necessary to go more “all-in” than I did for this project. While I only used the phone app sparingly, I quickly took enough pictures to run up against the monthly upload limit placed on the free version. Evernote did not feel crucial enough to my project organization to compel me to upgrade to a paid plan. Without upgrading to a paid plan, however, it could not take on a greater role than it was playing. Naturally, as a commercial entity, Evernote is under no responsibility to provide its services for free. Under different circumstances, I could picture it being a useful tool to purchase to support the research process.

Though I have been using Evernote to take notes for class for about a year, this is my first time utilizing it as part of a project to keep track of my research. While Evernote is useful even if just using it to keep individual class notebooks organized, taking it a step further revealed numerous advantages to adding Evernote to my research process.

 

One of the biggest advantages of using Evernote is that it is available almost anywhere. It can be accessed on a phone, tablet, or computer as well as through Evernote’s website on any Internet browser. This allowed me to access my notebooks on Evernote regardless of what device I had with me or as long as an Internet connection was available. Usually, I accessed Evernote through the iPad and Mac applications, though occasionally I used the website version as well. Though the easy accessibility is great, I have found the differences between the Evernote applications to be disorienting and sometimes frustrating. Since I am constantly switching back and forth between devices, I would prefer to see a consistent layout and design scheme. Once I became comfortable using specific features on the Evernote iPad application, I would need to access it on my computer and find that the interface was significantly different.

Evernote web application

Evernote web application

 

Evernote Mac application

Evernote Mac application

Furthermore, occasionally features would not be available on all of the applications. One example that I’ve run into is the ability to make checkboxes in lists. This feature is available on iPad and Mac applications, but is not available through the Evernote web application. Since I am constantly making to-do lists, this limitation has frustrated me. However, where this feature is available, it is great and something that I use constantly.

 

Evernote checkbox tool

Evernote checkbox tool

Evernote allows users to create as many notebooks as they want. I currently have two notebooks that I am constantly updating, one for the Creating Digital History class and my personal notebook. I also have several notebooks from classes that I had in the past. The ability to organize by notebook is especially helpful when searching through my notes. Evernote’s search function allows for searching through all notes or individual notebooks.

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I typically format individual notes consistently in bulleted lists, although I have found that Evernote’s bullet list format is not that easy to use, particularly in regards to representing hierarchies. I also try to remember to add consistent tags to my notes, which will allow for a better search of my notes. For class notes, my tags are not very complex; I usually tag them as “reading notes” and then whatever subject matter they reference. However, the tags I utilize for my research are much more helpful. Since most of my notes document the individual items I have compiled for the Greenwich Village Digital Archive, many of my tags indicate the type of item (i.e. image, recording) and the source (i.e. Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons).

One of my favorite tools for Evernote is the web clipper, which allows you to clip articles directly from an Internet browser and save them in Evernote. Once the feature is downloaded from Evernote’s website, an elephant symbol appears at the top of your browser. This button allows me to clip any article or webpage that I find relevant or interesting and save it to my notebook. This is something that I to be incredibly useful, especially when combined with tagging. This allows me to search through these articles and is much more intuitive than saving links as bookmarks in a browser. Furthermore, articles saved using the web clipper can be accessed and read in Evernote without an Internet connection, allowing me to read them on the bus or train.

Despite some small criticisms of Evernote, the positives definitely outweigh the negatives. Evernote has become a crucial part of my research process and has allowed me to be more organized with my notes.

Evernote is a great note taking tool, that should be utilized by anyone who likes to keep everything in one place. I was first introduced to Evernote last year, but did not start using it till our Creating Digital History Class. However, I wish I started using it earlier as I find myself more organized than ever with it. It is great as it can be accessed with their app on your phone, tablet, and computer, in addition to their website that can be accessed using any internet browser.

Upon signing up for a free account, a user can create notebooks for anything that they need. My notebooks include a personal notebook for any to do lists I make or any interesting articles I find; a notebook for each of the classes I am in; and a notebook for the Greenwich Village History project. Each notebook contains information that I can easily access on my laptop or on my phone during my commutes to and from the city. The easy accessibility of Evernote is one of the main reasons that I use it for everything. I love that it has an app for your smartphone, which I utilize all the time, whether it is reading for class on the train or writing something down on the go, it is extremely useful.

My Notebooks on Evernote

My individual notes are easy to read as I constantly use the bullet points or numerical list format that Evernote allows you to use. For my notes on the readings for class I am able to clearly label each reading and organize my thoughts in bullets underneath each heading. I then apply whatever tag is necessary, in this case the tag would be Reading Notes. The option to tag was something I only recently started using. It allows for an easy way to search through any of the notes or articles that you have saved on Evernote.

The Notes in My Greenwich Village History Notebook

Another great feature of Evernote is the web clipper. This tool allows you to clip articles from the internet and send them straight to their perspective notebook. The little elephant head appears at the top of your browser. Whenever you come across something of interest you just press the button and it clips the article. The web clipper has become an integral part of my research for my Greenwich Village Digital Archive Exhibit. I am able to organize all the articles I am using for reference, as well as maintaining the websites that any of my images in my archive come from. I have also been writing any notes I take for my exhibit on Evernote. Numerous times I find myself without a laptop and finding something useful for my exhibit. I can easily access my notebook on my iPhone or the web browser and make note of my findings.

 

Evernote is very alert to the needs of its users. Their website includes a bog where users can post any questions or concerns that they have. It was here that I personally was able to understand how to use the web clipper tool. The blog is divided into six pages: Latest, Product Updates, Tips + Guides, Community, Partners and Our Notes. Each tab is full of practical information for new and old users. I have found that the Tips + Guides portion of the blog is the most useful as it offers many troubleshooting posts as well as new and different ways to utilize Evernote, like creating a cookbook with it.  It was here that I personally was able to understand how to use the web clipper tool. After having looked at their blog many different times I have realized the wonders of Evernote and am glad I had the opportunity to finally utilize it. My student life has drastically changed with Evernote as I find it so much easier to be organized in all of my classes.  I plan on continuing to use Evernote in my future classes.

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