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I have had an Evernote account for many years now. I was certainly not the first one to use it, but I did start rather early on I believe1, and yet despite my best intentions, I have never really used it to that extent I would have liked to. It was merely somehow around while I was trying to stick to a plain-text-based note system and at some point even thought I should get rid of completely.

At some point in the past I had set up a few IFTTT rules to get my Instapaper highlights into Evernote and while searching for a specific quote during the past vacation I realised how useful the app can be for me.

This got me curious and thinking and after some more explorations I eventually moved all my notes over to Evernote. As one does when one has some free time on his hands. Or?

Previously I have taken good care of sticking to a plain-text workflow to ensure portability and longevity of my data/notes. I used to stick to this kind of workflow for a couple of years in fact. This portability though does come with a price.

Yes, I can always access my notes on any platform, most likely even 50 years from now, and plain-text files are supported everywhere. Sure, this is all nice, but first of all it suggests that these notes are still of importance 50 years from now, which in most cases is very doubtful also it causes friction. This friction is not caused by the notes itself, but in the way to access them.

During the time I have used a plain-text workflow I have:

  • gone through a boat-load of text-editors/apps or services to access these notes2,
  • have moved around the files from one folder to another3,
  • have been thinking about tagging systems in order to be able to use apps/services which don’t support folders or such
  • generally spent too much time tinkering with the system
  • been forced to use multiple applications to access different subsets of notes, such as PDF’s, audio-notes, images or simply .txt files for other areas of responsibility which I for one reason or the other wanted to store somewhere else.

You see where this is heading? At some point I have used

  • Simplenote for various, mostly random notes,
  • then another text-editor (Editorial, WriterPro, Byword or a few others) to access my work-notes (text-files with info about the lessons that I keep) and the writing for the blog that I did,
  • Quotebook for my growing collection of quotes,
  • another app to store PDF’s (such as bills, scans and what have you),
  • then there were still some images or the admittedly very rare audio-note to be taken care of4.

So, by now we’re talking 5-6 apps already. Which seems excessive. And then comes the moment I need to look for something… You know, like this one note that is actually of importance and that I need just now

If I don’t know immediately where I had stored that note in the first place, I need to search each one of the above applications for that one note. Some of the apps might not even have a good search solution, and needless to say it is going to be last app in which I find it.

At this point I’m not even talking about how to get stuff into any of these apps5. Which is another story.

Point is, there’s too many buckets to throw stuff into and essentially stuff might get lost or forgotten there.

Once I started to use Evernote more and eventually moved everything that can be even loosely characterised as a note of some kind into it, things have become so much easier. I know where to store and where to look for things. Perfect.

Still I have the fun to tinker and organise everything the way that I want, use folders/notebooks, tags, saved-searched you name it. Also if I can still fiddle with workflows, Drafts-actions and what not to get stuff into the database.

A positive side-effect is that this way I could finally separate everything that is related any form of writing, which is now taken care of in Ulysses, and all kinds of notes, quotes, reference materials and such into Evernote.

Clarity achieved. It hardly doesn’t get any simpler. All I have to do is stick to the system. Now after a few weeks of sticking to this workflow I have to say it was worth it and I discover almost daily a new use for the application.

  1. One of my earliest entries on this site, erm a previous instance of it at least, date back to May 2009 
  2. As much pain in the rear-end that is, it is though fun to experiment with new apps. So it hardly can be described as painful, more of a time sink. 
  3. probably lost notes in the process 
  4. At some point I thought the latter few could be taken care with but that obviously didn’t work out the way I expected. In hindsight it would have added just another point of friction. 
  5. As I said already in the beginning I found that automating Evernote is a rather straight forward process. Instapaper notes, Quotes, Twitter quotes and what not can be very easily automated, sorted and tagged with little to no effort from my part with a few quick IFTTT actions.