iPad Productivity – iPad Note Taking with Evernote
One of the areas I get most pleasure from the using an iPad for work is note taking. I’m a big fan of Evernote on iPad as it allows me to get things out of my brain and into a place where I can search and find these notes again. Evernote has saved my bacon on a number of occasions as it holds so much information about what I do, that I couldn’t be without it. It is no exaggeration for me to use Evernote almost as much as I use email.
So if you are looking at Evernote, you will need to consider that it comes in three main flavours:
The main differences between the plans is the amount of data you can sync and the number of advanced features. Plus gives you more data to sync, along with the ability to sync more than 2 devices. Premium gives you even more sync data and allows you to search for text with PDF files. Here is a breakdown of the Plus and Premium features – correct at the time of writing:
There are also Business plans which are for teams of users and along with collaborative features come with a higher price tag.
The following tips have all been tried out on Evernote and where appropriate if there is something that Evernote Premium does better than this is pointed out.
Evernote has the kind of text formatting and editing options that you’d expect. Namely you can create bullet pointed lists, change the colour of text and have check lists. Once you are finished creating your note just press close the note and it automatically synchronises to the cloud. When you open Evernote on another device these notes are available for you to view and update.
Evernote stores the time and date a note was created, so you no longer need to add this info on the top line. If you have location services enables on your iPad and are connected to the internet it will record a geolocation so that when you are searching for notes you can find them by place. Also you can add tags to each note to help find them again in the future.
Searching for Notes
You can carry out a normal text search and the results will be presented in reverse chronological order (newest at the top). If you have geo-location tags or manually added tags on your notes you can have a look at these by scrolling to the bottom of the trunk.
Premium Feature – Storing and Annotating PDF files
PDF (Portable Document Format) files are a common standard these days with everything from manuals to building drawings being supplied in this format. From the document authors perspective she is able to keep control over the document using PDF by not allowing the underlying content to be changed – unlike a Word or Pages document.
If have the Premium subscription and you upload a PDF then the content is OCR (Optical Character Recognition) scanned in the cloud and this text can be surfaced through a search. This makes storing manuals and technical data sheets in Evernote a really good idea.
Once you have your PDF files stored in Evernote you can add a layer of notes on top using the built in annotation tools. These are perfect for reviewing and commenting on some work that someone else has done.
Evernote stores notes into notebooks – makes sense. These notebooks can be grouped together so that you can build a simple folder structure from the notes, notebooks and notebook groups. What I find works well is to have a notebook group for a type of work (such as consulting) and then have a notebook for a project within that group. Then my notes for each project get neatly filed in their associated notebook.
If you’ve got a bunch of receipts or letters that need converting to a digital form then the Document Scanning feature of Evernote is just what you need. It allows you to line up the camera and does a really good job of removing the background / setting the image settings so that it is easy to read. Without having to purchase an expensive document scanner you can use the Document Scanner to help you go paperless and digitise that mountain of paper work in no time.
Sending Voice Email
From your iPad you can easily record an audio note and then share that with someone. What the recipient gets is an email with an attached audio file that can often times be more personal and enjoyable to receive than the usual text message. If you get good at recording audio notes you’ll also find that these can be much quicker to create than if you were to type it out.
Premium Feature – Storing Business Cards
When you store a business card Evernote not only captures the useful info but also can be connected to LinkedIn to make a virtual connection through your LinkedIn account. If you can manage to snap these cards whilst you are at a conference or meeting you should be easily be able to associate someones contact information with their LinkedIn profile – this will make recalling them that much easier in the future.
After waxing lyrical about the many virtues and benefits of using Evernote, it is worth reminding you that Notes built into iOS has more power now than it ever has. For instance, it sync’s with iCloud and allows you to capture and annotate images for retrieval later. Notes does a great job of keeping things organised, as it allows you to keep notes of a similar type corralled together. As well as experimenting with the Free edition of Evernote, it is well worth looking at Notes as this may cover off all of your needs.
You may also wish to look at OneNote from Microsoft. This is especially interesting alternative if you have an Office 365 subscription. Many people get on famously with OneNote and if you are such a person then I suggest you look at this first. For me, I find you have to adapt your workflow and structure to get the most out of OneNote. This is more hassle than it is worth, so I’ve never really got into using OneNote for this reason.
Another means of iPad note taking is to use Pages or Word. By going down this route you may lose some of the high end features, such as searching for words within images, but this probably requires very little getting used to. If you come up with a decent naming convention for your notes and are disciplined enough to keep them in a folder structure, then this may be just the ticket.
My Note Taking Workflow
Whilst it has become a bit of a cliche, I genuinely use Evernote as my second brain. What I mean by this is that all of my iPad note taking happens here, as does converting paper to digital. Receipts get document scanned and uploaded to a Receipts Notebook.
When I’m sent an email detailing a new process, this gets forwarded a Notebook called Processes. This is something I often refer back to as my own knowledge library of how I’m expected to work with other.
I keep a Notebook per project that I am working on so that I can sift through my notes on a project by project basis. I spend time working on building sites and take photos that go directly into a note. By doing this the photos are automatically filed with the right project and if necessary I can add notes outside of the photo.
Hand written notes are snapped using the document scanner and then filed into an appropriate notebook.
I keep a Notebook specifically for technical data sheets and device manuals as this can save much searching around for information if you know you have copies already. If you ever tried to search different websites for manuals and data sheets you will realise how useful your own repository can be.