How to make Evernote work for you

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How to make Evernote work for you

Evernote is an awesome tool, but it leaves a lot of users confused on how to take full advantage of it. While Evernote’s general mission statement is to organize your life, it can be used for so many different purposes that it can leave you wondering how to actually use it. Here’s our biggest tip for making Evernote work for you: ask yourself, "What would I get the most value out of organizing?"

This article is meant to serve as a jumping off point for several different methods of using Evernote. Do you want it to serve as a digital filing cabinet for bills and bank statements? Or do you want to use it to hold recipes and create grocery lists? Our guide to the various apps and services out there will help you get a complete picture of how you can use Evernote to organize your life.

If you have more tips and tricks on how to use Evernote, we encourage you to leave a comment at the end of this article.

Make it your filing cabinet

Probably one of the easiest ways to use Evernote is to turn it into a digital filing cabinet. Like a real filing cabinet, you can keep tons of paperwork in Evernote: bills, bank statements, invoices, receipts, business cards, etc. Unlike a real filing cabinet, anything you keep in Evernote is automatically backed up to the cloud and available on all of your devices. You can also use Evernote’s powerful search function to find specific documents. If you’re an Evernote premium member ($5 per month or $45 per year), Evernote will also let you search text inside attached documents like Word files, PDFs, and even images.

Collecting documents like bills, bank statements, and paycheck stubs, can help when it comes to filing taxes in April or putting together expense reports. If you don’t want to the time-consuming task of collecting your digital documents every month, you can use a service called FileThis. FileThis connects to bank accounts, credit cards, cell phone accounts, and other accounts, automatically fetching new statements and bills to file into your Evernote account. FileThis is free for up to six accounts.

If you have a lot of receipts, business cards, or other paper documents, you can use Shoeboxed to get high quality scans. Shoeboxed has a variety of methods to get documents into your Evernote, but one of them is called the "Magic Envelope." Stuff your paper documents in a Magic Envelope, toss it in the mail, and within 2-5 business days, they will be scanned and in your Evernote account. Shoeboxed offers a free version, but in order to get the Magic Envelope service, you need to pay $29.99 per month.

You can also scan things yourself. Evernote sells a scanner for almost $500, but you can also get a cheaper and smaller Doxie scanner for anywhere between $150 and $230. The Evernote scanner has the advantage of deep integration into the Evernote platform - put your documents in and it will automatically scan and import them into the proper notebook.

You don’t need a fancy scanner to go paperless, however - the Scanner Pro app for iPhone or DocScanner for Android will turn pictures of documents into high quality PDFs for your Evernote archive. The Evernote app also has a photo to document converter, but it’s lower quality than other dedicated apps available. Evernote is working on a new dedicated scanning app, to be released sometime in 2015.

Make it archive everything

Similar to the digital filing cabinet idea, you can also turn Evernote into an archive. You can archive your tweets, Facebook statuses, emails, Instagram photos, Foursquare check-ins - if it’s on the internet, you can probably archive it to Evernote.

You can do this all manually of course, but there are two tools that will make it a lot easier. The first is called IFTTT - short for "If This Then That." The name reveals how it works. Set up a "recipe," using "if _____ then _____" as your base. For example, you can say, "if I favorite an email in Gmail, then archive it in Evernote." After you set up a recipe, everything happens automatically behind the scenes. (Check out IFTTT’s list of popular Evernote recipes.)

The second tool, Zapier, is very similar to IFTTT. Zapier currently has more apps that you can connect than IFTTT, and many of those apps are more business focused. The catch? The free version is severely limited, meaning you’ll have to sign up for one of their pricey premium plans if you want to take full advantage of the service.

There are also apps that will let you archive phone communications. An app called mysms will let you archive all your SMS conversations to Evernote, while another app, HulloMail, will archive your voicemails. Both require that you route your SMS and voicemail through their service before you can archive.

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Make it your to-do list

Stop writing your to-do lists on dozens of sticky notes strewn about the house. Evernote has checklist functionality built in to its note editor, meaning you can add a to-do list to any and every note. Want a pre-publish checklist for that new blog post you’re working on? You can add it to directly to your draft. Want to create a grocery list inside of a recipe? You can do that, too.

You can also attach reminders to notes. Evernote will automatically send you a notification so you don’t forget a single thing.

You don’t need third party apps in order to do any of these things, but some task management apps will integrate with Evernote’s tasks and reminders features. One of our favorites is Sunrise, a calendar app that connects your Google calendars, iCloud calendars, and various task management apps and social media accounts. It’s the best app for combining the different cloud calendar services out there and the fact that it will show your Evernote reminders is an added bonus. Note: Sunrise has since been acquired by Microsoft and integrated into Outlook.

Make it your notebook

Okay, we know that Evernote is built on the idea of "notebooks" and "notes," but since you can use Evernote for so many other things, the original metaphor can get lost. Evernote is an awesome tool for quickly jotting down notes, whether you’re in a business meeting or just walking around town.

While the Evernote app can be used for quick text entry, you might want to try other note taking apps that are built specifically for mobile use. Drafts is one of our favorites - it opens with a new, blank document ready for typing.

If you like actually writing your notes down, you have a few options. One is the iPad app Noteshelf. Noteshelf works with a variety of third-party styli, including Pencil and the Adonit Jot, two popular styli with Bluetooth connections. If you want to go paperless but still love the physical act of writing (along with doodles and sketches you might produce), you should check out Noteshelf.

Of course, you can also use a regular notebook and pen. Similar to the scanning feature we outlined above, Evernote’s camera can turn paper notes into digital documents. With Evernote premium, it can even read your handwriting, letting you search the content of your handwritten notes. While Evernote sells branded Moleskines (with stickers!), you don’t need special paper to use these features. The iconic Field Notes brand of notebooks are both cheaper and more portable than Moleskines, but any notebook should work with Evernote.

Make it a publishing house

There are lots of blog posts out there that explain how writers can use Evernote as a writing and research tool. But did you know that you can also use it as a publishing tool?

Postachio is a tool that lets you publish a blog without ever leaving your Evernote app. It’s as easy as connecting a notebook and tagging a note with "published." That’s it - your note is now online. If you’re already writing blog posts in Evernote and you want an easy way to get them online, Postachio is the tool for you.

You can also import Evernote notes into FastPencil, a tool that helps authors create and distribute eBooks. For authors who do all of their writing in Evernote, FastPencil is one of the easiest ways to quickly turn a collection of words into a real book.

Make it your recipe book

Using the Evernote Web Clipper, you can save any recipe you find on the web to your Evernote account easily. Evernote has their own app, Evernote Food, that’s designed to help you see your notes as a digital cookbook. Evernote Food will automatically find any notes that seem to contain recipes and display them side-by-side, regardless of whether or not they are in different notebooks. This allows you to collect all of your recipes in one place without having to give up your behind-the-scenes organizational structure.

You can also use Say Mmm, a web app, to find new recipes and create smart grocery lists. Say Mmm can read recipes and automatically create a grocery list for you based on those recipes. Using the built-in calendar, you can plan meals for weeks in advance, and Say Mmm will create grocery lists for every shopping trip.

Remember that Evernote can also create digital copies of paper recipes as well. If you have old recipe books or a collection of recipe cards from friends and family, you can easily make digital copies for your Evernote cookbook with just your smartphone camera.

Have more tips?

We’ve only scratched the surface of how you can use Evernote to organize your life. If you have tips or apps or workflows that you want to share, please put them in the comment box below. Everyone uses Evernote in their own unique way, and we want to hear about it!