Evernote: A Boon to the Disorganized

I feel the need to preface my review with the forward that I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, an organized individual. Sure, I have organizational methods and keep notes is some fashion or another; however, those notes and methods are practically useless to others due to the fact that they are often encrypted, in far flung locations, locked somewhere in my brain, or a combination there of. Time and time again I find myself losing important notes in my books or double booking myself for appointments. For quite some time, I have been searching for a method of organizing my life that I can click with.

With this in mind, it should not have been a surprise to me that my obstinate resistance to the Evernote would be met with the revelation that it is in fact incredibly useful. At a glance, a digital archive tool can easily seem selective, limiting itself to use by professional researchers and business aficionados. This knee jerk reaction, however, is incorrect. On a much simpler level, the application can be used to organize and catalog notes for school, methodologies for projects, outlines for essays, and even simple life events like upcoming events and engagements.

Evernote 1Before using Evernote, my regular method for keeping track of work in classes was to make word documents in my school folders. Though I was able to have some degree of written documentation through this method, it was far from organized. I was often left comedically shuffling through folder upon folder reading titles, trying to find the file I was searching for. This process only became worse when new iterations of windows made their search tools less expansive, effectively requiring that I know both the containing folder and exact name of the file I was searching for. Evernote affords the same degree of documented organization with an improved search function acting through the use of tags. By tagging a note, the user can quickly find all articles related to that note, thereby significantly cutting the clutter. Furthermore, the more tags used for a single note, the easier it is to find. This greatly incentivizes the user to come up with multiple tags that can contextualize the note by subject.

Having already used it for several assignments, I can attest to its value. I have begun to make my outlines in Evernote due to the fact that I can pull them up at the drop of the hat by typing either “outline” or the subject that my essay will be on. Likewise, each individual section of my essay usually has a separate note where I expand on content and source material. In effect, this system creates a “master outline” and several “subject outlines,” which allows me to expand on my ideas in more detail without creating a single document that is cumbersome to look at and difficult to follow. Outside of my academic endeavors, I have also been using Evernote to help ameliorate my woefully inept cooking skills. My family keeps a fairly extensive collection of home cooking recipes in dejected and disintegrating books. Out of these culinary compendiums, I have taken some of my favorite recipes (such as pierogi, apple pie, pumpkin pie, and Stromboli) and digitized them so I can save them for later in my life.

In spite of the praise I have already lauded on the program, likely the most decisive advantage of Evernote is the cloud feature. Many applications use the cloud (such as Microsoft Skydrive, Google Drive, and Dropbox) and arguably are more useful for their ability to upload and transfer large documents and files over the web, Evernote can still rely on its organizational niche to make it relevant. Not only is Evernote compatible with mobile devices via the app, it will aslo automatically update itself with your cloud account regularly, allowing mobile devices to stay up to date without the need to duplicate notes yourself across platforms. Furthermore, the mobile app has voice recorder and written note features. If you have a thought but are not in a position to record it through writing, you can activate the app and record the idea audibly (disclaimer: using a phone while driving is both dangerous and illegal and should be done by no one ever.)   Meanwhile, if you prefer to record your idea as an illustration, such as a flowchart or an artist sketch, you can sketch the image into a mobile phone or tablet. There is also a photo function where the user can take pictures of things and attach notes to those.

All things considered, Evernote is an incredibly useful organizational tool that can act as a versatile cloud based personal digital assistant. I recommend the use of it to anyone looking to find new modes of organization for their thoughts and life projects.

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Evernote: An Online Note Taking Tool

I had never heard of Evernote until enrolling in this Digital History class so the spring semester has been a personal crash course in the program/app.  Having a Chromebook as opposed to the traditional Mac or PC platforms has added to the adventure.  Now that I had a few months to play around with it, I feel like I can contribute to the conversation of its strengths and weaknesses and best/worst features.

Cloud storage has been the emphasis of the last several years and was one of the reasons why I decided to purchase a Chromebook.  Having access to updated files on any device has been a great advantage to this new trend in computing.  Evernote takes advantage of this trend, allowing its users to take notes anywhere and accessing them anywhere.

First, let’s begin with the basics.  Evernote is a great note-taking tool.  Outlines are easy to create and its toolbar features mostly everything you could ever need.  It allows you to include outside links, create tables, and even attach files.  The toolbar even includes “to-do” boxes.  What this does is allow the user to create a “to-do” lists, complete with little check boxes that can be checked off as you continue with your research.  This has been one of the features I have used most often as I put together my exhibit.  It has kept my research organized and allows me to map my progress.

Additionally, each entry in a notebook can be tagged with appropriate words so that notes can be sorted any which way by the user.  This is great for those of us who want to save hundreds of sites.  Like a pile of note cards, the information you had one day could be buried to the point of its disappearance from your research.  If tagged properly, however, notes are easily retrievable and organized.

A user can also have unlimited notebooks and each notebook can be subdivided into smaller notebooks.  If one so desires, the notebooks can be shared publicly which encourages researchers from around the world to network with each other.

The greatest strength of Evernote, however, is its “web clipper” that allows you to save any website you may stumble upon on any device.  This is great for the researcher who is on the go often and has limited time in front of a computer.  If an interesting source is discovered on your mobile device, you can “clip” the site and return to it later when you have the time to fully examine it.  It is also beneficial for those of us (all of us?) who end up surfing the web and researching on multiple devices – whether they may be cellphones or work, library, or home computers.  Evernote’s web clipper allows you to store all sources in one spot that can be accessed from anywhere.

There are numerous add-on apps for Evernote that I have not personally had the opportunity or time to try out myself.  However, one of the more popular ones is called Skitch which allows users to add shapes and text to images and save those images in various formats.  This can be a very useful tool for a variety of reasons.

As with everything, though, there are drawbacks.  The interface at times seems buggy.  Again, I am using a Chromebook and cannot speak to Evernote’s compatibility with Apple or Windows operating systems, but I have had frustration in editing my notes.  When I hit the backspace button, the cursor seems to randomly move around the screen at times and delete text that I had no intention of deleting.  Another frustration, to me, is the lack of an undo button.  Short cuts are great (ctrl + z restores lost text), but the undo/redo buttons are simple additions to any word processing toolbar.  I have read that these buttons are available in Evernote for Mac and PC so why would they be excluded from the Android OS?

Another drawback has more to do with a user’s personality and discipline.  I find at times that I overuse the web clipper and tend to be lazy in going back and truly studying my sources.  The clipper has encouraged me (and others who I have talked to) to save so many sources for later that time does not allow me to rummage through all of them.  As I have previously mentioned, the web clipper itself is a useful feature, but it is no different from the bookmarking feature of web browsers in my use.

Overall, I would say Evernote is a very useful tool for note taking and sharing notebooks.  I may continue to experiment with it in the future when doing research for other classes, but it will probably be on a more minimal frequency than I am using it now.

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Learning about EVERNOTE – a little too late?

OneDrive-logo-blue-bgI never heard of Evernote until I took Digital History for my coursework. I will admit I did not want to use Evernote. I finally caught up with the ‘cloud’ and dreaded having to learn a new program. I tend to be very loyal to my software. For example – I use DELL and ONLY DELL equipment for computer work which means I have only ventured with Microsoft programs and will continue to do so. I of course, now am very enthusiastic about my ‘cloud’ platform on OneDrive (used to be called Skydrive.)  OneDrive and the basic function of Evernote is the same. You are able to copy and save files off the internet into a central location that you can access anywhere. So when I was introduced to Evernote, I was turned off to it. I didn’t feel I needed to learn another program that would store files.Evernote_logo_635

Unlike our cloud apps however, Evernote has this function (which is the only thing I like about it) called the ‘web clipper.’ The web clipper has the ability to highlight content on a webpage or document and import it directly into you Evernote database. You do not have to be on the Evernote homepage to do this. It’s quite cool. This way I am able to download everything faster to my folders. I even add Evernote to my smart phone,which is okay – I rarely use is on my phone but I feel comfort knowing I can access my information anywhere if I needed to.

Evernote is definitely geared towards college students and researchers. If I learned about Evernote earlier, I do believe I would have used it for all my research projects. At this time I have completed my research for my Master’s coursework and will be graduating soon, and therefore Evernote has no advantage for me. I am happy that I was introduced to such a program since there are not many out there such as this. If I ever have a major research project in the future, I will be sure to invest more time into it.

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What I learned about Evernote and its Magic Web Clipper

When I started my graduate studies I decided to invest in an IPad rather than a laptop.  I was very interested in being able to use the various applications that potentially would make my life as a student easier.  I bought a Bluetooth wireless keyboard Evernoteand was very pleased with the results of bringing my IPad to class.  My IPad became an all in one tool for research, note taking, and writing.  I had messed around with Evernote when I first started looking for note taking software, but I ended up settling for an application called Notability that allowed me to annotate .PDF files.  I was very pleased with this application and never went back to messing around with Evernote.

When I was reintroduced to Evernote through this Digital History class I became pleasantly surprised with Evernote’s capabilities.  The feature that really stood out to me was the ability to have a shared notMy Shared Notebookebook.  Shared notebooks allow for other people to share in your findings.  I feel like this provides great potential for crowd sourcing a project.  It was interesting to not only be able to share a notebook with others, but to add search tags making it easy to track down certain notes.  I feel like I have just scratched the surface as to the organizational capabilities that Evernote offers.  I personally would love to be involved in a large scale historical project were the sharing of notebooks would really shine through.  The features in Evernote are vast and it really allows you to organize your notes in a way that paper notebooks just can’t offer.

     While Evernote’s sharing and tagging capabilities are very impressive the tool I found to be most useful was the Evernote Web Clipper.  This nifty little browser add-on allows you to clip either URL’s or full web pages into Evernote with the simple click of a mouse.  For my research project regarding Butler, NJ history I was able to go out to the web and quickly do web searches and rapidly save information to my notebook.  This allowed me to keep searching without having to stop to copy down the information.  The ability to clip a whole web page allowed me to go back after the fact and search through what I had found.  I feel that searching for information is like going down the rabbit hole each click taking you deeper and deeper, and closer to what you are searching for.  Evernote with its Web Clipper allows you to focus on your search and worry about everything else later.

Web Clipper

Evernote Web Clipper

One of the few issues I did have with Evernote Web Clipper was that it was not available on the IPad as an application download.  I was forced to add it to my Firefox browser on my desktop computer in order to enjoy that feature.  This was one limiting factor that I hope they will fix in the future.  It would be wonderful to be able to use the Web clipper on the IPad as this is what I use on the go for all of my research.  Now while I am sure that Evernote is a wonderful tool for many you want to invest fully in its features I personally did not rely on it.  I feel that my classes right now do not really allow for me to take advantage of Evernote as a note taking tool as the classes themselves are primarily focused on projects.  I will in the future bring my IPad and Evernote into more seminar based classes to really try to take advantage of its capabilities.  When I am reading a secondary source or doing research I still prefer to be able to highlight the physical book, or E-Book.  While this is the case I can see the benefits not only writing out your material with citations, but also tagging them to make re-finding the information that much easier.

Overall with Evernote’s vast selection of tools and add-ons I would most definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking for a powerful note taking software/application.  For people who are looking to do historical research or any research work for that matter would not be disappointed in the many doors using Evernote opens to them.  Sharing notes with colleagues, writing drafts, clipping in information from the web all becomes easier with Evernote.  It is a tool that I will be continuing to use and I am sure there are some surprises left for me to discover as well.

 

 

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My Opinion on Evernote: A Great Tool for Academic and Non-Academic Work.

Before I took this class I had never heard of Evernote. If I recall correctly I did not have much of an opinion on Evernote. I just saw it a requirement I had to do for this class. However, after I had some hands-on-experience with it and read about similar systems in the class readings I now see myself using it after the course is over, for academic and non-academic work.
For the first half of the class I had, at best, lukewarm feelings towards Evernote, and at worst, none what-so-ever. It should also be noted that I was going through a difficult period concerning family affairs during this time, so that contributed to my feelings and attempts to understand how this thing work. One noticeable event came on February 19, 2014 when I tried to figure out how to use Evernote’s Share capability. You can share your notes with other people but I could not figure out how to share my notes with the other students. Looking at the options listed I could not figure out which one would allow me to connect with the other students. At the same time, I was noticing that some of my notes were not appearing on Evernote when I accessed it from the web. I have two ways of accessing the tool: from my desktop or from the web. However, it would seem that if I put material on the desktop version it does not appear on the web version. So I decided to put material on the web version for now on. With these inconveniences and others I probably would have never given Evernote a second thought, but that attitude changed in the second half of the class.
After I read the article “A Method for Navigating the Infinite Archive” in History in The Digital Age for March 13, 2014, I realized the potential this tool can give me. I recently have been having storage difficulties concerning items in my house, including paper. I tried to put my loose papers in binders but if I did that the binders would take up a lot of space and cost money as well. But, thinking about the reading and working with Evernote I now view it as a good alternative to using paper, thus freeing up space in my house. Also, because Evernote can save lots of material I can use it to save my multiple drafts of a particular paper. I can even use it to transcript my past papers and their drafts that I currently have in hard copy. Thus, if the hard copy is destroyed or I have to throw it away I would still have the material of it in digital form.
Seeing the advantages Evernote can give me I feel that I will be using it for the rest of my life, not only to help me in academic work but also with personal work as well. This could be a potentially great tool for storing my work and keeping them save.

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An Adventure Using the Evernote Program

Technology is designed to make life easier. Throughout history human beings have always innovated new ideas to do less work. The first bit of technology I can think of off of the top of my head that changed our existence dramatically is the wheel. Many more inventions were made possible due to this technology. When we think of technology today our minds automatically go to computers, video games, cell phones, and television sets. The advanced technology of today was not all created to make our lives easier. Video games and television sets are mainly used for entertainment purposes. The technology that I will discuss however was created to make our lives easier. The question is does it?

The Evernote program was given to my graduate class to assist us with our research. Although it has practical uses, I must admit I did most of my note taking the traditional way. As I drove all over Sussex County with my notebook on my passenger seat with addresses of historic sites I wanted to visit scribbled in its pages I began to think of exactly how I would use Evernote. I used it only once to take real notes, which was when I was reading lying in bed. It came in handy to just type some page numbers and quotes into the phone and sync it to my computer. This could not be done while driving and made no real sense to put the addresses there to look up, so what purpose could it serve?

As I jumped out of my car to take my first few pictures of one of my stops, I remembered a simple, yet very practical use Evernote has. I could easily take my new pictures and put them right into Evernote through the app on my iPhone. Then when I got home, all of my pictures were already on my computer so I can upload them to my digital archive.

Although I did not take many notes in the program, it became an important tool. The file share ability saves time by making it possible to instantly stream files by the sync feature. This was much easier than my usual way of emailing pictures to myself and then downloading them.
The ability to almost instantly have everything on my phone go right to my computer made me like the program. I decided that as a tribute to the instant sharing idea that I would write this blog on my phone and then use Evernote to put it on my computer for posting, and I did not even have to get out of bed. Evernote is easy to use and has practical purposes. Although I am very much used to the traditional notebook method of doing research, I do believe that if I got used to it, I would make good use of Evernote. I certainly would recommend this easy to use program to other people. It is downloadable on most smartphones, tablets, and computers and can sync them all to each other instantly.

Simply click on the link: Evernote.com to get started.

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A Brief Snapshot of Sussex County History

If you go exploring in Sussex County, New Jersey you will find an immense amount of U.S. History.  New Jersey in general has more Revolutionary War history than many people know about.  According to A Guide to New Jersey’s Revolutionary War Trail for Families and History Buffs by Mark Di Ionno, “Sussex County, though it’s hard to believe now, was the frontier at the time of the Revolution,” concluding in all of the battles in Sussex County to be with the Indians[1].  To call them battles is a loosely used term since there are no real recorded battles known to be held within New Jersey’s border, however some of the battles close to the Delaware River definitely involved Sussex County by the use of supply routes and march routes.

Supply lines through Waterloo Village,an ironworking village, and marches in parts of Sussex County show proof of the major role Sussex County played in the Revolutionary War.   In the current area of Wallkill High School in Hamburg, NJ there is a campsite said to be the site where George Washington set up camp for a night on a march from Newburg, NY to his headquarters in Morristown, NJ to meet General Lafayette in 1779.  There is a monument off of Route 94 near the corner of Route 94 and Beaver Run Road saying on it “In this field General George Washington encamped for a night on a march from Newburg to Morristown in 1779 to meet General Lafayette.”

George Washington Campsite3

Photo of George Washington’s Campsite Plaque

On one march a soldier fell from exhaustion on what is currently Cherry Lane in Hampton, NJ.  If you travel into Hampton and make a left, coming from Wantage, NJ, onto the dead ended Cherry Lane you will see on the left-hand side of the road a memorial set up for the soldier.  Inscribed on the headstone is the words “Erected to an unknown soldier of the Revolution Chinkchewunska Chan No. 240 AR NJ.”  Doing further research on the topic I found that it was customary for fallen soldiers to be buried where they fell during marches.  The soldier was “a part of the Continental army marching in 1780[2]” according to Di Ionno.  The site is small and worth a short visit as many of the locals walking their dogs and bike riding by tend to do.  Di Ionno says that “around the turn of the century, the Chinkchewunska Chapter of the Daughters of the Revolution marked the site with the granite plaque that can be viewed today.[3]”

Unknown Soldier2 Cherry Ln

Photo of Unknown Soldier’s Memorial

As you take a trip through the history of Sussex County, Newton seems like a viable place to start.  There are historic buildings there such as the Thomas Anderson House and one of the sites of James Moody’s raids.  As you travel through the history, you will see organizations such as the Daughters of the American Revolution and American Legion leaving their mark to help preserve our precious history.  Perhaps even a better place to start is with one of these organizations rather than taking the trek alone.

 

[1] Di Ionno, Mark, A Guide to New Jersey’s Revolutionary War Trail For Families and History Buffs, (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2000), 190.

[2] Di Ionno, 192.

[3] Di Ionno, 192.

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