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.
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 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.
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.