Using Evernote

I’ve found Evernote extremely useful for several research purposes, though limited for note-taking. Maybe it’s my own process that limits my ability to use Evernote for note-taking but I’ve found that I much prefer taking notes by hand when I want to consider them repeatedly or deeply. For me, Evernote notes get buried quickly and I never return to them. Also, since each note within each notebook is o the same valence, it is difficult to prioritize them visually or to move from notebook to notebook.

While I don’t use Evernote for brief thoughts or any type of journaling or in-class notation, I’ve found it extremely useful for working with documents in an archive. When I will want to return to each object in the context I’ve found it, Evernote has helped me keep track of a document’s location while also making it searchable across my own database. Evernote doesn’t work for me when I’m trying to synthesize ideas, but it does function as a useful repository for information. It is easy to transcribe pieces of a documents alongside its location in in the archive without filling out forms or clicking through any tabs. Even without using tags, you can just write an important tag in the note and it will be easily found with the search. When looking for connections between different documents, like names, it has been very useful. I enjoy the way the results narrow as you type into the search field so you can see if there is a significant spelling error or piece of information that repeats between documents.

I wish Evernote had a more dynamic way of organizing hierarchies of notebooks because many of my documents should appear in several notebooks without duplicating themselves. I’m often unsure which tags I will ultimately be looking for so I often don’t assign any when creating a note. This isn’t much of a problem when it is easy to search, but I would definitely prefer a way of visually connecting and moving notes.

Screenshot 2015-01-12 11.21.39

The Web Clipper is amazing and I’ve absolutely integrated it into my daily web use. I use it for academic and personal bookmarks. It’s actually been most helpful for me in keeping track of distant deadlines for grants, jobs, and applications as I can see a post and quickly tag it with “Deadline” and return when I’m able to look more deeply into the application.

Evernote is definitely useful for storing information in an easily accessible place but it doesn’t have the organizational complexity that I would like in a program that I could use solely. It’s not easy enough to move things around or to create many sub groups that can be viewed simultaneously.

I will definitely continue to use Evernote for research, deadlines, and web browsing because of the Web Clipper and search ability but I can’t rely on it for note-taking or any aspect of the writing process.


From 1849 to 2010, Saint Vincent’s Catholic Medical Center was an invaluable resource for the residents of Greenwich Village during countless crises. Reflecting the demands of the diverse and struggling populations of Greenwich Village, St. Vincent’s Hospital was dedicated to serving the poor and disenfranchised. First located on West 13th Street, the charity hospital was founded to address a cholera epidemic. By 1856, the hospital needed a larger space and moved to 11th Street and Seventh Avenue, where the flagship location remained until its bankruptcy and closure in 2010.

St. Vincent’s treated patients during various historic disasters including the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the sinking of the Titanic, the bombing of Fraunces Tavern, the AIDS crisis, the Union Square subway crash of 1991, and the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks. Patients were treated regardless of their financial position, making St. Vincent’s an incredibly valuable resource to the surrounding communities. The hospital was one of the first in New York to provide ambulance services, beginning in 1870 with a horse-drawn carriage. In 1900, St. Vincent’s began using its first motorized ambulance.

St. Vincent’s was notable for its various outreach programs that served the community beyond the traditional emergency and medical services as well as many innovative medical programs. The hospital hosted a soup kitchen to feed the poor, and provided community programs for the homeless. More recently, the hospital provided pet-care services to patients, an example of the hospital’s mission to care for the community in various broad and deep ways. St. Vincent’s also opened a Chinese-speaking unit to better serve the Chinese community of nearby Chinatown which offered Chinese-focused services and treatments, as well as transportation. The hospital was dedicated to the idea that patient-care is not limited to basic or emergency medical treatment, but holistic community engagement.

St. Vincent’s Hospital was site of the first and largest AIDS center, providing intensive outreach, education and support services for AIDS patines and families at the “epicenter” of the epidemic. The hospital remains iconic in the telling of AIDS histories because of the sheer number of patients treated. Many people recall traumatic memories of the overwhelmed AIDS ward, where patients lay dying in the hallways, waiting for too few beds.

St. Vincent’s dedication to serving the most at-risk communities was an unprofitable mission. As the residents of the neighborhood shifted and became increasingly wealthy, many more affluent and insured locals chose to use other prestigious hospitals in Manhattan.


The location of St. Vincent’s is intended to be the site of the first AIDS memorial in New York City. While the memorial’s preliminary planning was begun in 2011, that part of site has yet to be developed, though controversial construction is underway for luxury condominiums.

The history of St. Vincent’s hospital is a useful lens through which to look at the traumas and trajectories of changes in Greenwich Village. Founded to serve one Village, it went bankrupt in another. The death of the hospital also points to complex changes in the American healthcare system and New York City. The hospital’s impact on 161 years of New Yorkers’ lives is undeniable. As one of the tens of thousands of babies born there, I feel its closure symbolizes the end of a particular New York.

“Remembering St. Vincent’s,” The New Yorker

“St. Vincent’s Remembered,” Out Magazine

“Where St. Vincent’s Once Stood,” The New York Times

“The Decline of St. Vincent’s Hospital,” The New York Times

Prior to the start of this semester, I had heard of Evernote and even watched a demonstration on how to use it properly. However, I would not consider myself the least bit prepared to dive into using it throughout the course of the semester. My experience with Evernote can best be described as a love hate relationship, but probably more along the lines of “I sometimes like it, but primarily dislike it.” In order to start off on a positive note, I’ll first discuss Evernote’s strengths and the reasons I found it useful over the past three months.

Most people using Evernote will agree that its web clipper tool is extremely effective and helpful when conducting research. When I first started researching my historical question for the digital archive and web exhibit, I greatly appreciated the web clipper as a tool. I used the web clipper frequently in order to save complete articles until I narrowed my research topic. However, my research topic changed in October and most of my resources were not readily available on the Internet. This rendered the web clipper fairly useless for this particular research project.

Another feature I enjoyed and used consistently was the search function in Evernote. I found this feature more useful than the tags I included in my notes. Normally when I conduct research, I prefer to use one hard copy notebook. I take notes and label them by source. I also color code them by theme or argument using pens or highlighters. I recognize that this method is not the most efficient way to go about research, especially in the digital age, but it works best for me. Evernote does not enable users to organize their notes by folders, colors, or any other method to which I am accustomed. However, the ability to do key word searches helped significantly in comparison to combing through dozens of pages of handwritten notes for a particular point or quotation.

Beyond the web clipper and the ability to search all of my notes in Evernote, I found the other aspects of Evernote to be quite frustrating. The software in general did not mesh well with my organizational or learning processes. I collected information for my research using the software, but I began to notice that I did not retain the information as much as I normally do when I take handwritten notes. It made me wonder whether I actually saved time using the search feature because I spent much more time reading my notes than I would if I wrote them by hand.

Additionally, I continued to write all of my blog posts, exhibition pages, and other assignments in Microsoft Word before transferring them into Evernote. The software works better as a repository than it does as a word processing application. However, the user needs to create a formal and rather strict system of tagging in order to successfully use Evernote as a place to store information for research projects. I failed to do this and encountered a variety of issues when it came to tagging. I used a variety of tags and thus rendered the tagging tool useless in terms of finding information and organizing my notes.

Overall, I am glad I tried using Evernote this semester for my research question and other course projects. Despite its challenges and frustrations, it proved to be a valuable learning experience for me. Tools such as Evernote can be helpful to students and researchers, but it is important to find the tool that works best for each individual. After three months of practice with Evernote, I will continue looking for another software package that works better for me.

Most of my note-taking involves an intricate web of paper and digital notes. Essentially, it is an incredibly organized mess. When given a project of paper, first I do a run through my handwritten notes to see if any of those seem useful and type those up. As I read through more books or articles, I use a Word document to make more notes while also making the bibliographic citation for each potential source. When I’ve dragged myself through the research process, we have reached color coding time. Either the notes get color coded by subject or each source gets its own color. It depends on the type of project or paper. Somehow, I do manage to take this mass of information and throw it into an outline and finally a paper. It might be chaotic, but the method worked for me all through my undergraduate career.

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An example of my color coded note and PDF system.

When we were presented with the task of using Evernote for notes this semester, I was initially fairly unenthusiastic. It seemed like an additional burden. I had made some attempts before to try and use Evernote, but I always ended up giving up. Either I just wanted to stick to my own system or I found some flaw in Evernote that annoyed me.

Evernote for researching the digital archive and the web exhibit sometimes proved useful. The one part about Evernote I did appreciate was the web clipping for the digital archive materials. By having the page saved in more than just a link but also a visual representation, it was nice to be able to scroll through my “notebook” and look over all the items to potentially go into the archive. Using Evernote for additional research for the web exhibit did not please me. The only convenience that gave me was having some of my reading with me anywhere I went (as long as I had an internet connection). I would have much rather used my own PDF and note-taking system, but instead I tried to do all the work straight on Evernote. This ended up confusing me and leading to parts of my web exhibit notes scattered across Evernote and Google Drive as I went back and forth annoyed with Evernote.

A screenshot of one of the many sections of my Evernote filled with concert pictures from Webster Hall.

A screenshot of one of the many sections of my Evernote filled with concert pictures from Webster Hall.

Organization seems lacking on Evernote. The option to “stack” notebooks and to “tag” notes does exist and is somewhat helpful, but it still feels like a vague structure. I want something more structured than what Evernote provides. Also, tags just do not appeal to me. Even just making the process of putting a notebook inside another easier would improve Evernote.

In the end, Evernote did not surprise or disappoint me. It remained right in the middle of usefulness for me. My previous annoyance with it potentially prevented me from exploring it to its fullest, so maybe I am being a bit unfair. Would I use it in the future? Probably for a more website resource based project where I need to aggregate websites and images rather than research involving articles and PDFs because I prefer to have those saved or physically printed out. Evernote did not make me feel anything.

Prior to using Evernote, I never even considered taking notes online. I knew my sloppy system of copying and pasting URLs into a massive Word doc was not the best practice. But, honestly, it worked for me. Nonetheless I was excited to try Evernote as it seemed more professional. And, frankly, it seemed less embarrassing than poorly compiling notes full of typos and long URLs in an endless word document.

At first, I loved it. I downloaded the computer and phone apps and set up folders for both my classes. I constantly clipped articles and took class notes. Most importantly, I felt as though I was using it because it made my life easier, not because we were required to give it a try.

As time went on though, my Evernote began to look more and more like my word docs. I was again compiling a lengthy list of data. Realizing I might have missed the point of a content organization system, I tried tagging articles in an attempt to categorize my clippings. This, unfortunately, taught me that I use a number of mental tags to describe a document. Figuring out which tag I had actually assigned to a specific clipping ( or if I had assigned one at all) proved more challenging than originally expected.

In failing to effectively utilize the tagging system, I came across another issue I was having with Evernote. One of my favorite aspects of my word document system, was the ease with which I could rearrange each note or URL. This reordering is key in my paper writing process, as I essentially build a detailed outline by grouping different notes and sources under paragraph headings. Evernote organizes notes chronologically, or alphabetically,  even when viewing a certain tag. So if I recently clipped a website I think would be useful at the end of a paragraph, I cannot get it to display at the bottom of a list.

For me, the issues with Evernote are purely graphic. If I was able to adjust the position of notes or place them under headings, I would be happy as a clam. But then again, Evernote does not claim to be an outlining aid, so perhaps I’m asking too much.

Despite the organizational issue, Evernote has a number of features I absolutely loved. Like most of my classmates, I adored the Web Clipper extension. While I clipped articles in a lower-tech way before, the fact that Evernote displayed the actual page in its dashboard proved surprisingly useful. This, more than anything taught me how visual I am as an organizer. I could never remember the titles of articles or tags I assigned, but the preview of the webpage instantly jogged my memory.

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View of  Evernote’s handy web page display

Also, as a student working full time and living outside Manhattan, I fully took advantage of Evernote’s offline capability. I spend a lot of time underground and the fact that I could take articles with me without printing them out proved to be a crucial time saver.

In all, I like Evernote. I think I’ll continue to use it, if only for collecting web pages and articles I find interesting and reading on the train. Academically, it proved to be more of a hassle than an aid but still offers a number of features I very much appreciated.

See you soon, Evernote.

When Cathy asked our class to organize our research projects with Evernote, I was more than hesitant. Past experience had made me a healthy skeptic of the green elephant and its web clipper.

Instead, I turned to Scrivener. Scrivener is a sort of souped-up Microsoft Word, a word processing computer app marketed to authors, scholars, and would-be authors and scholars. As with Word, you can change the font, text alignment, and spacing; but Scrivener also comes with certain bells and whistles that supposedly make it easier to generate long bits of writing. I soon realized that those same tools—a host of extra metadata fields, multi-document view options, and organizational offerings—also made Scrivener a stealthily capable program for note taking.

scrivener gen Continue Reading »

To Evernote or Not

All through college, I never really found my ideal note taking process. Sometimes I would print readings out and keep all my notes on the paper. Sometimes I would leave the readings on my computer and take notes on paper while I read from a screen. Neither had any particular drawbacks, or overwhelming appeals. They got the job done and I never felt a strong need to find something more efficient or useful. This, of course, does not mean I didn’t face my share of frustration when it came to trying to shape my notes into something worth reading.
All that said, Evernote really appealed to me when I first started using it. My ability to keep things all in the same place was great, and I could search to find what I needed without issue. Most of all, the web clipper helped me do online research without clunky bookmarks, or copy and pasting. I was able to clip the web content, and the necessary citation info all in one click. Not only that, but I was then able to annotate that content, so my notes stayed right with the material. In this way, Evernote was extremely helpful, and I started to use it for everything. I soon ran into a paywall, when I had clipped so much from the internet that Evernote warned me I was running into the maximum space available in the free version of the software. Thinking it would be worth it, I ponied up the five dollars required to upgrade. Unfortunately, I would soon discover that the more information I poured into Evernote, the less functional I found it.
A very small snapshot of my notes

A very small snapshot of my notes

Despite tagging options and searching, I found the layout frustrating when attempting to return to a particular note. I tried to make use of the “shortcuts” option, but that also soon lost functionality. I was annoyed by the way tags were displayed on individual posts, cutting them off from visibility when I had more than two or three, and they were also finicky in terms of editing or deleting. The software also suffered more than an acceptable amount of glitches. Sometimes updating fixed this strange flickering, but not always.
Ultimately, I think I prefer something more along the lines of Scrivener. I like the visibility of folders and subfolders, and I don’t think I need the tagging functions to keep track of information. I’m more likely to forget how I tagged something than forget what I wrote. I also appreciate the ability of Scrivener to view two pages side by side without opening a new window. This makes transcription or reference very easy.
Using Evernote for a semester was a fantastic experiment and I can definitely see myself using some kind of database in the future. It was certainly easier than flipping through a notebook, trying to find the page on which I wrote a particular thought. Now, if only Scrivener had a clipper for my browser like Evernote.

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