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So What’s The Fuss About Evernote?

Writers are always being reminded that inspiration can strike at any time. It could be during the bustle of a busy work day or in the middle of night. And just like dreams, ideas can quickly fade to a distant memory if they’re not recorded. As a result, writers are advised that they should keep a notebook with them at all times, ready to jot down any idea that comes to them, no matter where they are or what time of day or night it is.

This has given rise to the image of the writer with a notebook by their bedside, waking up in the middle of the night and feverishly scribbling down their dreams before they float out of their head. Writers paw over luxury notebooks only to then worry about sullying them with their jottings.

The problem is that writers, just like most people these days, have busy lives and carrying something even as small as a moleskine notebook can be a little cumbersome. And you can bet the day you do leave it behind or forget it is the day inspiration will strike with that awesome idea. And what if you lose it? How do you even go about replacing something with years’ worth of ideas in it?

Evernote (logo detail)This is where software like Evernote comes in. Think of it as a digital notebook, with the ability to organise notes just like its real world equivalent but with the added benefit of being able to organise them and collect them together. A digital medium also brings the benefit of being able to search your notes or add tags and other metadata to aid you in sorting and organising your thoughts.

Evernote at its most basic allows you to do all this. Log into the application and create a document called a note. This could be book research or article ideas (I have one where I keep all my ideas for Fantasy-Faction articles!). In reality it looks little different to a Microsoft Word document. You can text format, you can add images. Notes can be collected into notebooks. So if you’re researching Elizabethan England for a novel you’re working on, you could give each piece of research its own note but collect them all under a single notebook. Together with the search capabilities and metadata it makes Evernote an incredibly flexible system.

It also leads to possibly the software’s greatest weakness. It’s so flexible that when you first come to use it, you’re not sure how exactly you should be using it. The truth is that it’s one of those rare pieces of software that adapts to your process rather than requiring you to adapt to it. That means if you come to it without an idea of how you want to structure your note taking, you’ll probably not get the most out of the software.

The obvious benefit of Evernote is that its cloud based. That means it’s possible to log into your notes via the Evernote website from any web browser and add or update as needed. Because of its broad scope and wide adoption, there are apps available for just about every device out there. Given that many modern mobiles have speech-to-text transcription abilities, it means you can even dictate your notes. They’re not always perfect, but it should be good enough to capture the essence of that all-important idea. That means you could be out for a run, and use your phone to add an idea to an existing note without even slowing down.

For desktop users, Evernote offers a companion product called Web Clipper. This is a web browser plug-in that allows you to highlight pieces of the web and save them to Evernote. That means interesting articles you might want to refer back to can be saved to relevant notebooks rather than be added as a favourite you have to scour to find at a later date. Better still, if the original article disappears from the web or the link changes, you still have your reference copy in Evernote. It’s a bit like Pinterest for text and can be a handy aid when it comes to research.

There are three offerings of Evernote: Free, Premium and Business. For most writers the free option is all they’ll ever need. Premium offers the option to work offline for £4 a month and Business allows group collaboration.

For me personally, even with a free account, I’m not utilising the software to its full potential and just researching this article has made me think that I could make better use of it. But as a digital notepad I’ve been using it for years and found it perfect for being able to jot down ideas no matter when or where they strike.



  1. Avatar Beau Kemp says:

    I’m not a writer, and don’t play one on TV, but I use Evernote. Mainly for lists. Albums to look out for, gift ideas, random quotes I come up with, when my bills are due, beers I want to try, bourbons I want to try, the location of sprinkler zones and valves in my yard (you can have pics in a note), etc.
    Good article, I completely agree about Evernote being powerful to the point of not knowing what to do with it.

  2. Hi, Adrian. I’ve tried using Evernote a few times, mainly using some of the unofficial Evernote clients for Linux since official clients are only available for Windows and Mac. I never really got into it, because I found Evernote clunky and because Evernote still doesn’t support the use of Markdown for formatting. Instead of using Evernote, I just crack open a text editor and bash out a file since I almost always have my Chromebook handy. 🙂

    • Like anything it’s not going to suit everyone. Disappointing there’s not a native client for Linux but I’ve used the web client very often and not really found any difference between that and the apps

  3. Evernote didn’t click for me until I stopped sitting in it, wondering what to do, and started using it from the outside, as a destination for stuff.

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