How to Organize Your Writing, Ideas, and Research with Evernote
Have you ever written the ultimate idea for your book on a scrap of paper, only to lose it later?
Have you ever misfiled an important citation or research file for your book or article project?
I used to spend an inordinate amount of time digging through my filing cabinets trying to find the research I needed to write my dissertation. However, in early 2011 I stumbled upon an app that made me a more productive and better organized writer: Evernote.
Evernote allows you to capture and store all of the ideas and research you need for your writing projects. It also helps you quickly locate the information you need when you need it. The best part: Evernote is free.
Although Evernote has many features that ease a writer’s workflow, three have helped me become a more prolific writer.
3 Evernote Features That Will Make You a More Prolific & Better Organized Writer
1. Portability. You can take your notes every where you go.
Evernote is a cloud-based storage system, or as I like to refer to it “my digital filing cabinet in the sky.” In addition to their desktop app, Evernote has apps for your smartphone and tablet. It even has a web app, which will allow you to access your notes on any computer that has an Internet connection.
Evernote’s portability has made me a more productive writer because no matter where I am, I can access Evernote. Evernote’s ubiquity ensures that I never lose an idea. Whether I am walking down Boylston Street when a new idea comes to me or a flash of brilliance awakens me at 2 a.m., I can pull out my smartphone or tablet and type or record a voice memo of my idea into Evernote.
Evernote has also proven an immense help when I research in the archives and suddenly decide I must access an article. I simply open my app and within a few clicks Evernote gives me the article I need.
2. Web Clipper. Evernote will streamline your online research with its web clipper button.
Whenever I come across a blog post or website that contains information I want to save, I press the Evernote web clipper button. Evernote captures the information from my web browser and saves it. The web clipper also offers the flexibility to capture only the information I want to save. If I want to save a blog post, but not all of the extraneous ads and e-mail sign-ups around it, I can tell the web clipper to clip just the article. I can also save a small portion of an online article by highlighting the text I want and then pressing the clipper button.
The web clipper feature has saved me time and money. I no longer spend money on printer ink and paper when I want to save a 30-page article from J-Stor. The ability to save only the information I want saves me time when I need to find and access it later.
3. Search. Evernote finds what you need fast.
With Evernote you have two ways to locate their information: Keywords and tags. Keyword searches work just like they do in Google or any other search engine. Type what you are looking for into the Evernote search field and Evernote will pull up all of your notes with the relevant keywords in them.
Recently, Evernote added Optical Character Recognition to its search capabilities. This means that keyword searches also pull up some handwritten notes or photographed manuscript documents.
Alternatively, you can search for the information you need via tags. Users have the option to tag every note they create. When you need to find information relative to a certain tag, you click the tag and Evernote will pull up every note that has that tag. Some users love tags because rather then organizing their notes via notebooks, they file all of their information into a giant “work,” “personal,” or “project” notebook and then use tags to locate what they need in them.
Evernote has many features that writers will find useful. The features I presented above are those that I find most helpful in keeping me organized.
If you would like to learn more about Evernote and how to be a more prolific and organized writer, I will be teaching “How to Organize Your Writing, Ideas, and Research,” on Monday, March 24 from 6:00-9:00pm at GrubStreet. In this 3-hour workshop, I will show you how you can use Evernote to improve your writing and organization. I will also introduce you to Zotero, a free program that will automagically format bibliographies, footnotes, and endnotes into the style you want, and DEVONthink, a Mac-only database program that works a lot like Evernote, but has additional features.
Liz Covart is a historian and writer. As a historian, Liz studies the revolutionary and early republic periods of American history. As a writer, she strives to bridge the gap between academic and popular history in an effort to bring well-written and well-researched history to everyone. Liz loves writing about history and does so through 3 different outlets:
1. UncommonplaceBook.com, Liz's practical blog about writing, writer platform, and plying the historian's craft in the 21st century
2. America's First Gateway, Liz's book manuscript about the American colonists' transition from European nationals to United States citizens
3. Freelance Articles: Liz writes articles about history for mainstream publications. She is also a regular contributor to the Journal of the American Revolution (allthingsliberty.com).See other articles by Elizabeth Covart