I had never used Evernote software before this semester. To be honest, I hadn’t even heard of it. I utilized a hybrid-system of typed and handwritten notes that were saved in various places in an array of formats. I would usually transcribe class notes onto my laptop, highlight my digital format readings in Mac’s Preview, write out reading notes from printed materials into notebooks, list things I needed to remember on sticky-notes, and work out assignment outlines in a more compact and accessible ‘travel notebook.’ I wouldn’t say Evernote resolved my obsession with diversified note taking, but I would say it helped organize some of the confusion.
This is the basic interface of Evernote, although there are a few different outlines you can choose from. I used the list feature here to keep track of which projects I have edited. This feature is great for to-do lists.
There are multiple note taking programs out there, from Google Keep to OneNote, and sometimes it’s just a matter of which is most compatible to your personal note-taking style (or aesthetic preference). However, there are a few features of Evernote that make it a little more versatile than its competitors. To begin, Evernote isn’t an exclusive Microsoft/P.C. product like OneNote, or an Android preferred system like Google Keep. This means that if you do make the daunting crossover from PC to Mac, Android to iPhone, or vice versa, your Evernotes will still be compatible.
Basic interface of Google Keep, taken from an Android
Basic interface of OneNote software
The software’s diversity is threefold in its ability to be referenced on computers as a program, mobile devices as an app, and online as a website. This means you can sync it to your different devices or access it online if you are without them. This does lead into to some interface problems, however. When using your iPad or Kindle the keyboard cuts off most of the Evernote screen making it difficult to use it for anything but reading notes already taken. If you write all your notes on a computer and then use your iPad for referencing, this won’t be a problem. But that’s likely not the case, and this is something to consider.
While I haven’t used OneNote or Google Keep extensively, I have used Google Docs, which seems to be another popular online note storage method. The appeal of Google Docs is its alignment to a word processing program. You can type up entire papers, save them with multiple users for coediting, or simply have them in the Web 2.0 ether for ready accessibility. This is a dream for the increasing number of students without printers. It also allows you the flexibility to make folder under folder ad infinitum, a more cumbersome task with Evernote. But there is a reason I have been using Evernote for the majority of my notes and outlines, and Google Docs only for my paper drafts.
The fluid interface and various tools Evernote offers allows me to take more diverse notes, and track different media elements that would be tricky with Google Docs. The Web Clipper, for instance, ‘clips’ sites you come across that pertain to your interest and store them in your folders for easy access. Because your notes can appear in square thumbnails, previewing what is in them, it’s easier to reference what you were saving. I find this helpful when I am in the beginning stages of writing a paper; having accumulated all my research, it’s an efficient way to skim my resources while I put my draft together.
The Web Clipper also gives you the option of saving the site as an article, a simplified article, full page, bookmark, or screenshot. Then there are ‘Markup’ options so you can make notes on the page to remind you why you clipped it. You can also tag the page, a tool that runs throughout Evernote, which provides subject clouds to pick out themes or find notes from.
The tagging feature is helpful in quickly amassing related topics, especially for a final paper or research paper where relevant notes could be spread out at various points and in various notebooks. I find this particularly helpful when I have notes from different classes that could strengthen my paper, but that I might not have remembered if they were limited to the notebook they are stored under. If the tags are too broad for you to find the specific parts of the note that relate to your interest, there is a text mining capability in the search bar. If you are writing on ‘modernism,’ but can’t remember which parts of the note are specifically on the topic, you can mine it for the keyword.
Evernote also allows you to upload photos and videos that could be important to your topic or interests. Storing them among your other notes, instead of a different media file, has a similar benefit as the Web Clipper. They are in sight and easily referenced, making them more likely to be intergraded into your project or paper. However, if thumbnails are aesthetically too chaotic for you there are multiple ways to organize and display your notes. You can reduce the files to just dates and headlines, no images or displays, and place these either at the top of the program or to the side.
Here is another organization option for your Evernote notebooks and notes
In conclusion, I use Evernote for all note taking: in class, reading notes, attaching preview-highlighted readings, web clipped articles, etc. When it comes to writing papers the format isn’t compatible, I would much rather use Google Docs. If Evernote integrated a space for writing papers in a word processing format, I would be inclined to make the switch over. However, the large number of my peers and professors who use Gmail and Google Docs, and don’t use Evernote, might be an impasse. For now, I will mix the two programs. Evernote is great for researching, outlining, and brainstorming for a paper and Google Docs is better for drafting and editing the paper. I rarely find a need for a paper notebook, and with all the capabilities of Web 2.0, this will become increasingly true. I think there are improvements to be made for Evernote, and look forward to their upgrades.