Evernote is the type of application that used to be called a "personal information manager." It can capture, store, retrieve and manage all kinds of information in all kinds of ways. I had been considering using Evernote for a long time but hadn't actually installed it yet, because I like to know as much as possible about any new software before I install it (yes, I am the one person who does RTFM). There's a good "getting started" page on the Evernote website, but I prefer having printed material in front of me while I'm learning, rather than having to flip back and forth from web page to app. I looked forward to reading Evernote for Dummies so I could be much better informed when I finally got going with Evernote. Did this book live up to my expectations? Let's see.
So what exactly is Evernote?
We have talked about Evernote before. It runs on just about any platform, including mobile devices. It was part of our list of must-have add-ons for Internet Explorer 9. It can be used for lists, photos, video and audio, and a lot more. I was hoping to use it as a research assistant for writing a historical novel and it definitely looks like it is everything I need.
Getting the explanations right
Evernote for Dummies starts off with a comprehensive, easy-to-understand explanation of how Evernote works and what you can do with it. It addresses security concerns, data safety issues, and how the various kinds of data can be captured and stored, and then retrieved for later use. It also explains the different versions of Evernote, and how to install it on desktops and mobile devices. There's a nice clear chart explaining the differences between the Free and Premium accounts. It also talks about Sponsored accounts, which is something I hadn't known about before. I followed the link in the book and found out that two people (like my husband and me) can form a group and pay the same $5/mo fee that one of us would pay individually for a Premium account (the more people in the group, the lower the cost per person per month). This, plus the chart explaining the benefits of paying for an account, was a definite plus. The book suggests starting with a Free account so that you can get the hang of it before you sign up for a subscription.
The signup process is described in detail and thoroughly illustrated. This should give just about anyone the confidence to dive right in. There's a tip that Google Chrome is the preferred browser, and the first browser that Evernote updates, followed by well-illustrated instructions for installing the Web Clipper on all the popular browsers. Then there are equally clear instructions for installing Evernote on desktops (Windows and Mac) and on a long list of mobile devices. By the end of the chapter nearly everyone could have Evernote and the Web Clipper installed and ready to rock.
Getting started, step by step
Evernote for Dummies starts the reader out with simple tasks like creating a notebook and writing a note. Then it explains how to share your notes, and how to delete them. Practicing these first steps should give the new user confidence to go on. After that, the authors walk the reader through more advanced ways of dealing with written notes, and expand the topic of notes by including audio and video (with instructions for how to record your own voice on multiple platforms). They explain how to save photos from a mobile device, and how to attach videos. Again, everything is taken step by step and there are plenty of illustrations. From there it's an easy step into e-mail, Twitter, image capture, e-readers and Eye-Fi. I was surprised to see that Evernote will work with some e-readers, like the Kindle and Nook. Alas, I have a Sony Reader.
The nuts and bolts of acquiring and managing information
By the time you've read Part 1 and Part 2 of Evernote for Dummies, you should have plenty of confidence to tackle storing your information the way you want to. Part 3 gets into the ways people can customize Evernote, on all their assorted computers and devices. There's a chart that displays all the choices on the View menu that's more than a page long. With that many options, it's clear that most people can have Evernote look the way they want it to. No more "one size doesn't really fit all" interface.
Of course, the purpose of Evernote is to organize information, and Evernote for Dummies provides an exhaustive, clearly written, well illustrated guide to organization. The authors guide you through the process of organizing your notes on PCs and Macs and mobile devices, explaining the options available on each platform.They also explain how to text things to yourself (using a special Evernote email address that comes as part of the package) and how to store photos from your mobile device right into Evernote. Then the authors walk the reader through tagging, sorting, and merging notes, again on all the available platforms. And of course acquiring all that information isn't much use if you have no way to search through it for the items you want, so there's an excellent overview of searching as well. I was interested to find that Evernote isn't limited to just the information you've stored in it—you can also search Google, Bing and Yahoo! at the same time. I've mentioned Lotus Magellan before, as the best file and information manager I ever used. I was delighted to see that Evernote includes the features I used to love in Magellan—like combining multiple notes in one search, and then dealing with them as a group. This should make keeping track of information a breeze.
Synchronizing, Sharing & Security made easy
Of course, since Evernote runs on multiple platforms, you can synchronize your data across multiple platforms as well. The authors describe the process of sharing in meticulous detail, and they include all the different kinds of devices that might be used. Evernote data can also be shared via social networks (Facebook and Twitter) and sent directly to email. Evernote for Dummies explains how all that is done, including the basics of using the proprietary Evernote email account, and why it might be better if that address isn't published for the world to see. It is also possible to publish and share your notebooks on the internet using an Evernote Web account, and that's explained and illustrated along with instructions for creating your own RSS feed for your shared information. This would be especially useful for people who work in collaboration with others. There's a chapter that explains how to export and import data, and how to encrypt your data to make it as secure as possible, followed by a chapter that explains how to move your current social media and email data into Evernote. I was interested in the description of ways to use Evernote to help you maintain a blog. The authors even provide a simple template for blog post ideas.
Making it all yours
The final three parts of the book address the features that are specific to each platform (computers, mobile devices and web), and describe useful third-party applications that enhance Evernote's capabilities. Part 6 talks about the features that will be of interest to more advanced users, like Open Scripting. Again, plenty of illustrations and attention to detail. The only thing I could possibly criticize about this book is that I wanted to finish reading the whole thing before I actually got started with Evernote because every chapter contained something I wanted to learn!
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, because it is exactly the type of explanation I like best: clear and simple writing, a light touch, and illustrations galore. The book starts with the beginner in mind and takes everything step by step, so by the end of it the newcomer will feel confident with much more advanced features. It is definitely a keeper.