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Evernote: A Free App That's Changing the Way the World takes Notes

Updated on September 14, 2014

If I were the kind of person that made bold predictions, I'd predict that in the next 10 years, the number of Evernote users worldwide, will closely mirror the total number of mobile device users. In Feb 2012, there were 23 million people around the world using Evernote. Less than a year and a half later that number has grown to 65 million.

That's a year and half's growth people!

The only other 'app related venture' that's experienced that kind of growth in a such short time frame is the total sales of all apps in Apple's App store...which quite frankly, received a lot more press.

But that's one of the things that makes Evernote so uniquely individual...and perhaps so successful. The forward thinking team maintains an unassuming, low profile. They consider themselves to be their own target market and their most important customer. Because they use Evernote as much, if not more than their enthusiastic fan base, they are their own worst critics. They continually update an already amazing product, and they reach out to and embrace their user base in an unparalleled manner.

Learning how to use an app from a book isn't usually the greatest idea, because apps are constantly being updated and improved. But I, like many from my baby boom generation, still rely on them...a lot! I researched the available alternatives for books today, and was pleasantly surprised to find quite a few decent ones. After spending a lot of time deciding which one I would recommend to my loved ones I arrived at this one sold at Amazon. What I like about this book is that it's really inexpensive ($2.99), it got great reviews, it's still pretty current (Dec 2012) and has several current reviews that continue to be favorable, and most importantly, it's designed especially for absolute beginners.

Did I mention that it's a #1 bestseller on Amazon?

EverNote's New Post-it Note Feature


I Didn't Fall In Love With EverNote Immediately

When I first began using Evernote a few years ago, I had already tried a few other note taking apps. I wasn't blown away by any of them.

I tried out Evernote, thinking it would be equally abysmal. I was ecstatic to find I was utterly and completely wrong! The learning curve could have been shorter, and there weren't a lot of places to look for comprehensive instructions. Consequently that prevented me from truly realizing the full potential of the software.

All that has changed. If anything there is too much information available now, and figuring out where to turn and how to start is, unfortunately, still more confusing than it should be.

Many friends and relatives have asked me to show them how I use Evernote and how to get started with it.

It was during the most recent occurence of this that I realized I was spending a lot of time personally instructing them in how to get started with it. I figured that instead of recreating the wheel each time, I'd setup an Evernote Notebook with all the information I'd gathered, that I could share, whenever the occasion next arose. The frequency of these requests has been steadily increasing (due in part no doubt, to my unrelenting advocacy). Therefore I want to provide the most comprehensive information that I can, which in turn requires checking online for new articles and helpful blogs.

I Struggled to Learn to Use Evernote Effectively in the Early Years

The Evernote website didn't provide the training videos and FAQ sections that it has today. But even though those resources are available now, they can be hard to find. I spent a lot of time searching for a few key details that impeded my ability to integrate Evernote into my daily routine. I even searched for books and ended up downloading the 'Evernote for Dummies' book on my Kindle, which was one of the only ones I could find at that time. It was pretty good, but too much of it seemed to assume prior knowledge with Evernote:

The Notebook I Use to Write This Article

This screenshot is one of 3 Evernote notebooks I created while researching this topic for my lens. It was an early screenshot, before I had gathered much data, and each of the entries you see represent on note in a notebook I called 'Ways to use Ever
This screenshot is one of 3 Evernote notebooks I created while researching this topic for my lens. It was an early screenshot, before I had gathered much data, and each of the entries you see represent on note in a notebook I called 'Ways to use Ever

There is a lot of information written on blogs today about Evernote, how to use it, and ways to get started with it. I've scoured the current offerings and selected the best of the best for people who are considering using Evernote, and for those who are just getting started.

Links to free content available on the web

These first 3 links I consider 'must read' material for anyone brand new to Evernote.

1. This link is to one of my favorite blogging sites, and this particular blog is called 'The Missing Manuel'. It's very detailed, with great diagrams, and completely free!

I read the 2 below about a year after I had begun with Evernote, and found them to be both helpful and somewhat enlightening.

2. This and the following link are from another great blogging forum, lifehacker, and both give some wonderful advice for new Evernote users.

3. In addition to just familiarizing you with the features of Evernote, these lifehacker links provide some great ideas to those new too Evernote for ways to go about structuring you data

This article compares Evernote's features and functionality to several other note taking apps:

Visually, this article offers a good side-by-side comparison between Evernote and Springboard

Evernote's website offers many more guides and tutorials now than they did a few years back.

The following link is to the written guides that Evernote currently offers. You can use the drop down menu at the top of the page to pullup the guides for all of you devices.

Evernote Getting Started Guides by Device Type

The Quick and Easy Guide to Evernote: 2013 Edition (Quick and Easy Guides)
The Quick and Easy Guide to Evernote: 2013 Edition (Quick and Easy Guides)

I'm including this book for some of my older relatives (you know who you are). A lot of beginners loved it...a few felt it was too simple...I suspect that the difference of opinion is due to generational differences. This book is only $2.99 for the Kindle version too!


How to Create a Note

Every time you create a note, you give it a title (usually I just say what the note is about), then you decide which notebook to store it in (you can create a new notebook on the spot), and then you may type in a few key words (called tags in Evernote) that will help you find that note again in the future. If you don't do any of these things...don't worry...your note still gets saved! Evernote sets up a personal notebook with your name on it, and puts everything there, until you decide to put it somewhere else. And it will use a default title of 'note created at your location' until you decide to give it an actual title.

Because tagging can be an important part of the note creation process, and I found it a little confusing at first, here's a little more information about tags.

Adding tags to a note simply means attaching a few key words to a note that will help you to find it in the future. Most often tags are just key words you've used in the note that will help you to identify it in the future. Adding tags isn't absolutely necessary, and you won't lose out on the inherent benefits of Evernote, should you choose not to use them. So whether or not you start out creating tags for each of your notes is entirely up to you. This was my approach. When I began, I tagged every note. But over time I realized that I never actually used those tags for retrieving eventually I stopped (because it can take an extra 30 seconds to a minute per note to create them). Because Evernote's search capabilities are so very powerful, tags aren't necessary, but there have been many people who've come up with some ingenious methods for creating additional structure and organization through the use of tags.

Later on I provide a link to one really great example of this in the section where I recommend some additional books (specifically the GTD Book).

I really only use tags in special cases now. For example, if I can't decide which notebook to store a note in, I may arbitrarily store it in one, but I'll tag it with key words that will help me to find it by searching if I go to the wrong notebook looking for it. Another instance is if the information I'm storing is really important, and I know that I will need to access it in a hurry. Or if the subject matter is part of a larger subject that has many branches that are similar, but I need to differentiate this information from the larger group. Then I'll think up unique tags for it.

Video Training Resources

Video tutorials offer another way to quickly master the basics of Evernote. The Evernote team has developed a whole library of short instructive videos. Longer ones, which delve more deeply into feature rich layers, are also easy to find (and generally free)! I've placed a small video library here, to both instruct readers who are interested in learning more right now, and to show you the breadth and richness of the video training alternatives available to you. The videos I selected are all great resources for newbies. I limited my search to videos available from and You Tube, but there are more sources easily found through Google.

The best way I've found to search for You Tube material is by searching via the YouTube app on an Apple or Android mobile device (personally I prefer using a tablet because of the larger screen size). If you sign into it with a Google account, then you can tap on the plus sign after you viewed one, to save it to a personal playlist (you can create a new playlist at the same time), so you can easily access it again in the future.

About the GTD Movement


My Book Recommendations

Keeping in mind my caveats mentioned above about buying books to learn to use apps, there are a few other books I think would be worthwhile to check out at Amazon. One of them falls into the sub-genre I briefly mentioned earlier, GTD, or Get Things Done.

The GTD movement, is focused on productivity. Especially on helping people to come up with methods which streamline their daily tasks, and allow them to cope effectively with today's 'information overload'. It's a movement I've been intrigued by, and have dabbled in, but haven't entirely embraced yet. In fact, I don't know that I ever will. I'm a detail oriented person, and the streamlined techniques offered by GTD gurus, seem to me, just a little too streamlined for my personal needs. But the jury's still out for me.

The movement has produced quite a few well-respected leaders, who have in turn produced some interesting methods. It's not surprising, with the powerful feature set Evernote offers, that it's use is often quite central to some of the better know GTD methods. The 3rd book below is based upon the GTD movement.

I discovered a website, new to me, that provides a lot of free information about GTD, as well as materials and resources. I haven't spent a lot of time exploring this yet, but it's intriguing, and this link brings you to an introductory video they've created.

The Secret Weapon Website (it's a .org URL)


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    • vsajewel profile image

      vsajewel 4 years ago

      @ValerieJoy: Thank you for visiting and taking the time to share your thoughts. I was in a similiar place when I became aware of Evernote, and was really surprised that so many people used it. I try to stay on top of technology, and somehow this one slipped through the cracks for me. I downloaded it, but then didn't actually use it for quite some time for the same reason. When I finally did It took some time before it became my preferred method for taking notes...but now I use it for much more than that...and I think I'm still not entirely taking advantage of it's features. I'm still learning too!

    • ValerieJoy profile image

      Valerie Smith 4 years ago from New Zealand

      Thank you for this information. I had never heard of Evernote before reading your lens. It sounds as though it could be helpful with keeping track of ideas to use in future articles etc. I won't try it now though as I don't have the time at present to learn something new, but I will keep Evernote in mind for the future. Thanks again for a great lens.

    • vsajewel profile image

      vsajewel 4 years ago

      @norma-holt: Thanks so much for your words of encouragement, I really appreciate it.

    • vsajewel profile image

      vsajewel 4 years ago

      @Elsie Hagley: Thank you for reading me lens. I found that as I built up my note database, that I ended up using it more and just kind of progressed naturally. I'm curious about what the challenge was.

    • vsajewel profile image

      vsajewel 4 years ago

      @Seasons Greetings: Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I've kind of gravitated more towards tablets and don't use my computer much anymore. I never tried Linux, but my son does. Why aren't you using it now?

    • Seasons Greetings profile image

      Laura Brown 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I had a look at Evernote when it came out. But, I'm not getting into the mobile very much - don't even want another phone especially. So it isn't something I have a use for. I'd really rather go back to running Linux on my desktop than get into new mobile technology. It's funny how everyone assumes you have a mobile phone these days.

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 4 years ago

      this is a great introduction to a device not known to me before. Well done,

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 4 years ago from New Zealand

      Great review.

      I have joined Evernote and have basic ideas how to use it, but I have a lot to learn about it.

      I agree with you it is very popular, Ed Dale's, challenge in september used it.

    • vsajewel profile image

      vsajewel 4 years ago

      @SusanDeppner: Thank you so much for your kind words! Please don't let the amount of information intimidate's really easy, and my next lens will be step by step instructions to get started.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 4 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Wow, what a great review and resource! I haven't joined the Evernote crowd but when I do, I'll know exactly where to find the information I need to use it to the max. Thanks!