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Why Evernote is the vehicle for my paperless journey

Even in today’s digital world, going paperless is no mean feat, but then why would you want to?  Sure, there’s some security in knowing that something’s written (or printed) in black and white, but can you find it when you need to refer to it years from now.  What about all the space it takes up in your home and office?  And what do you do should your kids/pets/pests decide to convert your paperwork into artwork/confetti/bedding?  Hope you’ve made a copy and stored that somewhere else.

Just looking around my desk, I’m surrounded by paper receipts, hand-written notes, printed statements and letters.  Most of this wood pulp isn’t actually needed in its current form and I would be happy to send it off for recycling.  Whilst some of it can and has been stopped at source, many companies are still to roll out paperless alternatives to their communications.  In the meantime, there’s plenty which can be done to get rid of some of the paper load and having a decent place to store digital versions of these bits of paper is essential to the cause, but it’s a quite a big ask.

Not only does the chosen solution need to be as unobtrusive as possible to avoid becoming a reason not to go paperless, but it’s also got to be reliable and make your information easily accessible.  For their general flexibility, digital notebooks can be well suited for such a task.  There’s no shortage of notebook apps for desktop and mobile platforms, but a plethora of choice can actually make finding the best one for you not such an easy thing to do.

Since starting on my paperless journey, I’ve tried and tested quite a number of note taking solutions across Windows, Mac OS, Android and iOS. Despite how different each of these platforms are, I always found myself drawn to one particular note taker; Evernote.

It’s not been an entirely pain-free journey as I found more recent versions of the Mac application (where I carry out most of my work) not entirely to my liking so I’m actually using a version which has been superseded by several upgraded versions. Fortunately, the later versions of the iOS and Android apps have maintained compatibility with it.

As an information storage solution, it’s mature, flexible, robust and user friendly enough for me to have recommended it to my co-workers, friends and family. We can each tailor Evernote to suit our individual needs, but also at the same time share information without conflicting.

Users can get a lot of functionality before having to spend any money and most casual users will probably get by on the free tier, but to get access to the power features I subscribe to the ‘premium’ service.

Here are some of the benefits of Evernote (including Premium) which make it my go-to choice.

  • It’s collaborative. I can share my notes and notebooks with other users and they can share theirs with me. Very useful for families and users who work together or just anybody who wants to share information. Note that only Premium users can initiate the sharing of a notebook.
  • It’s multi-platform. Evernote comes as a native application for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android as well as a browser based app. My iMac is my primary workhorse, but I also make heavy user of my iPhone 6 and my iPad for getting stuff done. With Evernote’s reliable syncing across all devices I’ve installed it on, I can keep my information with me at all times.
  • It plays well with a whole host of third party applications from mobile apps such as Dispatch to services such as IFTTT meaning you can automate a lot of data capture into Evernote. Want to automatically archive your Instagram photos into a specific notebook each time you post? There’s a recipe for that. Want to send Facebook photos you’re tagged in into Evernote? There’s a recipe for that too.
  • It works off-line. You don’t have to sync notebooks across the Internet. You can also have local notebooks which don’t leave the device they’re hosted upon which is great for more sensitive information. For extra protection, Evernote also provides the ability to encrypt text within notes using AES.
  • It’s free to use, but power users can subscribe to a premium service to gain more features and functionality such as annotating embedded PDFs and keeping offline copies of your notebooks on your mobile devices.
  • It’s flexible. You decide how you want to organise your information (which can also be a bad thing if you’re not disciplined enough). Notes can contain formatted text, images, audio, office documents, PDFs and can be contained in an unlimited number of notebooks which can also be stacked together. Getting access to information is made easy with keyword tagging and powerful search capabilities which even reaches inside attachments. Notes can even have reminders set against them providing more ways in which to work with Evernote.
  • There are lots of free companion apps which work with Evernote such as Skitch for marking up images, Evernote Scannable for scanning documents, and Evernote Food for helping you keep track of your favourite eats.
  • Your data isn’t locked into a silo. You can export your data in an Evernote XML format (.enex) or as HTML.
  • A presentation mode provides you with yet another way to share notes.

There are literally an endless number of ways in which you can use Evernote which I guess is why I use it so much. I have notebooks for archiving social media posts, notebooks for storing ideas for projects and articles, notebooks to store all kinds of letters, receipts and statements and I can pretty much find anything I have stored in there in a few seconds. If you’re embarking on a paperless journey, I’d highly recommend checking out Evernote and if you sign up using this link you can get 1 month of Premium access for free.

Will

Husband, father, photographer, systems developer and all-round gadget and tech fan.