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.