Tips For Getting More From Evernote

I’m a big Evernote fan and I’ve been using it since 2009. I love it because it syncs across all my devices. And I’m a control freak and I love it because it doesn’t force my notes and content into a structure that doesn’t suit me. I can build whatever methods, hacks or structure works best.

Here’s three things from my system that I think will help you get more from Evernote too.


Add Emoticons To Note Titles

I think Evernote works best when notes have accurate names and are grouped into logical collections. Obviously. But I have a few notes that get more traffic than all the others. I make those notes first class with a unique emoticon in the note title:

Evernote notes with Emoji in the note title
This is easy to do on your iOS device by enabling a special keyboard and then entering emojis just as you would any other text. To enable the emoji keyboard on iOS:

  1. Open Settings.app and navigate to General – Keyboard – Keyboards.
  2. Tap “Add New Keyboard”.
  3. Scroll down, find and select “Emoji”
  4. Back in Evernote edit a note’s title and tap on the key with a globe on it to switch keyboards.
  5. Find and enter the character you want then switch back to the regular keyboard by tapping the globe button.

Entering emoji in Evernote note titles

This can also be done through the Mac desktop client too but it’s complicated. You will need to find and use CharacterPalette.app to access the emoji character set (it’s buried in /System/Library/Input Methods). Also, you cannot enter emoji directly into the subject line via the desktop client so you need to place the character elsewhere such as the body of your note, then copy and paste it into the title.

Avoid the aggravation and just use the iOS client and the emoji keyboard.

character palette.app

Have an Inbox

Evernote remembers one default notebook and all your new notes go there. Chances are this notebook is already being used for other notes and every time you create one you’re cluttering up your own system. Make a notebook called “Inbox” and set it as the default. Anything in there needs to be filed somewhere else.

Set the default folder via the Evernote preferences.
Evernote preferences default folder

Tag Differently

Unless you’re extremely OCD and already have a filing system for your socks you probably don’t use tagging. And that’s because tagging, generally, sucks – it’s a buried feature for “power users”. The more tags you have the less useful it becomes. It’s high maintenance.

And it’s unnecessary. Evernote has very good search features and notebooks eliminate much of the need for tags. So don’t tag your notes it’s a waste of time. Instead, give each note name a 3 or 4 character prefix that clearly categorizes it and then limit those categories to 6 or less. Here are the prefixes I use:

  • REFR – Material that is static like how-to’s, personal info., household measurements.
  • PLAN – Or call it PROJects. Self explanatory: these notes are live and in-progress.
  • R&D – This is a little granular but before a project becomes a project it’s R&D: a collection of information, clippings and lists. If I were researching the best neighbourhood to buy a house in I might start off with R&D before creating a plan.
  • IDEA – Totally different from R&D and PLANs, IDEAs are all about brainstorming instead of raw information gathering. These notes have a lifespan of hours to years depending on the scope of the subject. IDEAs and R&D often come together to become a PLAN.
  • NOTE – These are context specific field notes. NOTEs have a small lifespan because they always get rolled into a larger document or just go stale

I have one other prefix that I haven’t mentioned because it’s unique to my interests: it’s SELF. I use this suffix to tag personal information and self improvement notes – like fitness, diet, medical history and so on. 50% of my notes revolve around personal development so it gets top-tier placement. Go ahead and do the same with your own thing.

Now to entirely contradict what I said about tags. There is one bonified Evernote tag that I use: “archive”. When a note goes stale I might keep it around but not want it to appear in my search results. I file it in a year-dated notebook for safe keeping and tag it “archive” so I can remove it from search results by appending “-tag:archive” to the search. You can even save that search and run it at anytime.

Screen Shot 2013-03-06 at 8_85228PM

Go Forth…

I hope you find these tips as helpful as I do. I’m working on one more article about Evernote that should be ready in the next week or two so please check back or subscribe if you’re interested in more.

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