Monday, March 26, 2012

Digital Supply Organization - Step 3 - Use Evernote

This is the last (for now!) in a series of blog posts describing how I'm going green and using digital tools to organize my crafting supplies.  Although I'm a paper crafter, this technique could really be applied to any craft or beyond.  If you're late coming to this series check out the other posts:
So, at this point, you have a lot of digital images of your supplies, and you have an idea of how you would like to categorize them.  In this post, I will talk about why and how I use Evernote to store these electronic materials. It's a long one, so feel free to jump to the section you need:
  • Why Evernote?
  • Organizing in Evernote
  • Entering notes - drag and drop
  • Entering notes - automatically
  • Entering notes - from the web
  • Finding notes
  • Go premium

Why Evernote?

I like Evernote because:
  • It's (mostly) free. Everyone can get a free account to try it out, and for many people that will be sufficient. A premium subscription costs $45/year or $5/month, which I'll discuss more later.
  • It's portable.  You can install it on a Mac or PC, access it anywhere from a web page, or install an app for your mobile device (iOS, Android, Blackberry, etc.)
  • It syncs everywhere.  If you log into a web browser at work and add a note, the changes will appear on all of the other devices you access your Evernote account.  It will, of course, need to sync from the server to download the new notes.
  • It can save anything - not just images.  So, I can include catalogs in PDF format, web pages, images, etc. I find that handy since so many companies have PDF catalogs.
  • Everything is searchable - including text in images.  This makes it super easy to find a stamp with the word "birthday" in it when I'm making a birthday card.
  • You can get your data out of Evernote. While I don't plan on doing this, it's nice to know that my data is stored on my computer, and I can export it as an XML or html file anytime I like.  XML files are standard file types, so given the popularity of Evernote to date, I'm confident that another program could import these notes if I wanted to leave Evernote.  But, why would I?
Here's an overview of Evernote for PC users:





And for Mac users:




Organizing in Evernote

Every item you bring into Evernote is a note.  You can organize your notes into notebooks.  Each note can have the following information associated with it:
  • Title
  • Notebook
  • Tags
  • Date created/added (can be edited, which is useful if you're backloading older supplies)
  • URL (this is added automatically if you are using the web clipper to make a note)
  • Your notes - you can type anything you wish, and format using tools just a like a word processor
I'm showing a screen shot below of my Evernote program on my Mac - it is almost identical for the PC (which I use at work).  In it, you can see three columns.  The left most column has your notebooks (boxed and labelled 1), and your tags (2).  The center column has a preview of all of the notes in the notebook or tag selected.  I have the "Crafting Supplies" notebook selected right now, so you can see it's highlighted in (1).


The right hand area (3) shows the note. In the note, you can see all of the information for the note I've selected in the center column:
  • Title: 2012 03 Tahiti CSJr
  • Notebook: Crafting Supplies
  • Tags:  All Occasion, CS Stamps, UM
  • Created: Mar 15, 2012
  • Updated: Mar 15, 2012
  • There is no URL for this note, but if there was one, it would show up to the right of the updated date.
On my computer, I most often use Evernote with the application, rather than the web page. My screen shots will show me using a Mac, but refer to the Windows version when something is different.

Entering notes - drag and drop

Drag an image onto a notebook or a tag, and a green "+" sign will appear. The plus sign didn't grab in the screen capture, but you can see the notebook is highlighted below, and the ghost of the file I'm dragging:

A note will now appear, and you can edit any fields. The notebook "Crafting Supplies" has been automatically selected, but I can change it if I made a mistake:

  • On a mac?
    • Dragging multiple files at once will create multiple notes.
    • The default name of the note is the filename without the extension (.pdf, for example, is missing from the above example)
  • On a PC?
    • Dragging multiple files at once will create one note with multiple files attached to it.
    • The default name of the notes is the filename with the extension (includes .pdf, for example)

Entering notes - automatically

On a Mac

You'll need to use a script to automate the process. Luckily, the Thought Asylum has a nice write up for theirs.  You can edit the script to watch a folder, which is what I did.

On a PC

Create a folder that you'd like watched, and use the "Auto Import" tool to automatically create a note anytime you add a new file.  If you use this function on a folder that has files you've already imported, it will re-import them all, so be careful!

Entering notes - from the web

On your browser

Evernote has created "web clippers" for all of the major web browsers. I have on occasion, found these to be flaky.  It's mostly because web browsers change their technology all the time, and Evernote needs to reprogram when they do.  Search the add-ons area of your browser for web clippers, or visit evernote.com from your desired web browser and click on the green box "Get Evernote - it's free".

On your mac

On the mac, a little elephant appears in your menu bar to let you clip from the OS or web browser without installing a clipper for your browser.

On your iPad/iOS device

  • Use the blog reader app Feedler RSS Reader Pro - Evernote clipping is built in. This is great if you use Google Reader to read a lot of blogs. When the app can't clip the content because of the way the feed works, it will still grab the URL. The Pro version is necessary to get Evernote clipping. It's a $4.99 universal app, so it will work on your iPhone and iPad.
  • Follow these instructions to create a bookmark that will act as a web clipper in your browser. 

Via e-mail

Evernote will create a unique e-mail address for your account.  Simply e-mail anything to that address, and it will be added to your Evernote account.

Finding notes

Browse

Because I like to browse, and I've got all of my supplies in one notebook, I can browse through the whole notebook, or select a tag (like UM for my unmounted stamps).

An iPad note: TIFF files, and larger PDFs don't always preview nicely on an iPad.  I save these files as JPGs so I can preview on my iPad in browsing mode.

Search

Evernote supports full searching, although I'll admit it's not quite as good as Google. I did, however, find some great tips on the Evernote support page.  My quick tips illustrate how to find an unmounted stamp with "Happy birthday" in it:
  • Select the notebook or tag first - my stamps are all tagged with "UM", so I'll select that tag first
  • The default search is "or" based, meaning that it will find any post with any word that you have entered.  So, if you type "happy birthday" (without the quotes), it will find any notes with the word "happy" OR "birthday"
  • Change the search to "AND" by using the +" key:
    happy +birthday: will find posts with both words in it
  • Use quotation marks to find a phrase:
    "happy birthday" will find posts with happy next to birthday
  • Use a minus sign "-" to get rid of search terms:
    "happy birthday" -old: will find posts with happy next to birthday that don't include the word old

Go Premium

The basic account on Evernote is free, but does have limitations. If you go with a premium account, you will get:
  • An increased monthly upload allowance (60MB is free, 1GB for premium).
  • Faster customer support (within 24 hours on weekdays - they take weekends off - how civilized!)
  • Priority processing of text recognition (your documents get recognized first)
  • Off line notebooks - view notebooks on your mobile device even if you don't have an internet connection (this is huge for me, because I only have a WIFI iPad)
  • A warm fuzzy feeling because you have supported a company and product you believe in and enjoy
If you're just starting out, I would recommend buying a one-month premium account for $5 as soon as you have a load of files ready to import. After that, monitor your usage. If you don't regularly need more than 60MB per month of uploads, then maybe you just need to get a premium account some months. Web images are very small in size, so you can clip a lot of those.  Scans or PDF files can be larger, though.

For me, the offline access alone is a feature I need, so I'm happy to pay the premium price - there is a discount if you buy a year subscription.

Do you have any questions or a different solution you've found useful?  Let us all know in the comments!  I'd love to learn from you or help you out.

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