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My Evernote Workflow

evernoteShared notebooks are one of the many selling points of Evernote. Being able to automatically share content easily (no manual upload), with additional benefit of an RSS feed is genius – it almost becomes a blogging platform. As well notebooks shared with individuals (such as moodboards for clients) I have two public notebooks:

Design Scrapbook – where I keep any inspiration, be they images, PDFs or type samples. When clippings have come from webpages. the original URL is saved too.
Cheese Diaries) – where I take snaps of cheese labels to remember what I ate.

Some notebooks are private, but synced, (such Opera work) and I’ve got used to a system to help ensure confidential information doesn’t appear where it shouldn’t.

Simply, I have a default notebook called ‘Inbox’ where all clippings arrive. Every 3-5 days I go through and tag the content (type, * rating out of 5, colour palette etc) and then drag the clipping into it’s proper notebook.

Often, I’ll combine various images and text by copying and pasting into a single note, to create a kind of simplistic moodboard. To do this, I often have to resize and crop images, but that can be done by right clicking the image, opening it in a graphics editor (Preview does the job quickly) and saving it. When I get back to the note, the image is altered.

Using Evernote as a Design Scrapbook

I’ve used iPhoto, Littlesnapper, a combination of Leap and Dropbox, but of late, I’ve reverted to using Evernote as my collection point for design scraps.

Evernote

The Desktop > Web > iPhone ecosystem is lovely. I have my design collection everywhere I go (also possible with the dropbox method I used to use, but there’s no way of tagging on the iPhone). The desktop client collects images and websites (as PDFs), and the iPhone client collects snapshots of sketches, camera photos and images saved from mobile Safari. Then the two ‘collectors’ get synced together to become one big collection:

Diagram of using Evernote as a collector

Some more reasons why Evernote has struck a chord with me are:

  • I’m not restricted to single images, I can add PDFs, group images together (as a note), and add text notes.
  • I love the widescreen layout (above) where I can view thumbnails, followed a large preview of the selected item on the right – no need for anymore clicks or different screens to view it
  • Importing content is so easy. The context menu in Safari offers ‘Add Image to Evernote’ and ‘Add Page to Evernote as PDF’. The latter gives me a complete web page (not a print stylesheet version), and any links are still active (not so with a PNG). The former works so nicely compared to some apps that get confused by links around images (cough, Littlesnapper).
  • I’ve been experimenting with using a shared notebook to show moodboards/collected reference, and collaborate with clients, and this has so far gone OK. Would be even better if it was possible to layout images in a less linear way, and resize them, but that’s pushing the remit of Evernote.
  • I find that I can often remember text within an image (especially as I often save a lot of found typography). Evernote’s OCR technology means I can find these images very quickly, and is often faster than tagging:

searching image text evernote

I do tag as well, usually marking content type, dominant colours and sometimes a possible project reference and a star rating. I’ve also started using it for things like a Cheese Diary, where I take a snap of the the cheese label, to store it for later reference:

Cheese Diary screenshot

There are still some negative points about Evernote:

  • My main bugbear from last year still stands: Evernote makes it really easy to get all sorts of content in, but it still makes it tricky to get it out again in it’s original form. In particular multiple images can’t be exported easily – at least not without an Evernote branded border. It’s my data Evernote, not yours, and I resent the enforced advertising, especially with premium account. The ‘best’ way to do this is to export as HTML, and then fish out the images from the various ‘resources’ folders. Or drag and drop them individually.
  • You can’t select multiple items and add new tags. The only way currently is to drag them to an existing tag in the sidebar, which isn’t intuitive, or easy (depending on how many tags you have).
  • I would love to be able to restrict my view on the iPhone to a particular notebook.

Still, I love and use it despite these niggles, mainly because a lot of the things that niggled me last year (like thumbnails of images with loads of whitespace) have been fixed. Evernote development is ongoing and always improving, and I feel it’s a system I can put my trust in.

Evernote wishes

evernote logoThis post started off as a grumbly tweet, grew into a feedback email, and now it’s final state as a blog post. I’ll still email this feedback to the Evernote chappies as well, but I didn’t hear back after the last email (gentle nudge).

I’m still holding on to Evernote with the tips of my fingers, but there are areas where it still niggles at me:

  • I can’t export files in the way I would like. If I use the ‘Export’ command I get an Evernote style XML file, rather than, for example, the 3 PDFs I selected. Why XML? Just give me the PDFs! You can’t drag and drop items from the list into the Finder, but I can choose ‘email’ to get multiple items out in one go. Doing this for images frames them in it’s own branded Evernote border. Just give me the images! (does this frame go if you have a premium account?). The way around this is to drag and drop images from their notes individually, but that’s a tedious solution.
  • I really wish it wouldn’t rename my files. If I put in a PDF file helpfully named “VAT Return Jan-Mar 08” I’d like it to still be called that when I export it, rather than the unhelpful “bb2cd873d62b7e9616a056a1aac12698.pdf”. It’s my stuff, give it to me in it’s original state.
  • By default, an image is embedded into a note, which introduces whitespace into the thumbnail: Basically, portrait images fare better than landscape. I would like images to just be images – not embedded or renamed.
  • In the iPhone app, you can mark items as favourites to store them on the phone for when you have no connection (yay!) but if that is a PDF, you have to click twice to see it. Click once in the list (which shows you it’s a PDF), after which you get a screen with another PDF icon. Click that, and finally your PDF starts loading. Compare that with a PDF in Air Sharing, and you can click straight from the list to view the PDF in one. What’s the point of the middle screen? It provides no further information and just delays the process.evernote
  • New notes created on the iPhone automatically go into ‘Pending’ where it can’t be read until it’s uploaded. This means when I’m abroad and have no data signal, creating notes is waste of time, as they can’t be read until I get (or pay extra for) a connection.

The effect of the first 3 issues is that I’m left feeling that my stuff isn’t mine anymore. Once in Evernote, I can do a lot with it, but once in, it becomes Evernote’s, not mine. I’m not liking that loss of control and ownership. Compare this to a desktop competitor like Together.app, which not only lets you import and export the unaltered file in a number of ways, the files themselves are in easily accessible, visible folders. Nothing is hidden, renamed or rebranded.

Why do I stick with it? Because aside from these issues, I like where Evernote is going so far. I like that development is regular and ongoing and that they’re tackling the issue of accessing notes anywhere. I’m also sticking with it in the hope the issues I’ve noted above are simply features that haven’t been implemented yet…