When I found EverNote and got with the program, as they say, most of my digital chaos ended.
Most of us have random collections of this, that and everything on our computers. And when I started doing genealogy research my chaos increased exponentially. I spent days and weeks inventing and re-inventing and re-organizing my “notes from everywhere” around myriad systems.
Strictly speaking it’s not a genealogy add-on, but the way I use it it might as well be. It’s actually a general note-taking and note-organizing program and hands-down, it’s my favorite. It’s also free.
When I say “notes” I mean notes – contacts, email, to-do lists, random thoughts and graphics. Web, excel, Word, and PowerPoint clips. Anything from anywhere. Anything that doesn’t have another obvious place to go, or anything that does have another place but you’d rather do it later. For “later” read MRIN Filing System+
The Plus version ($35) has a couple of other tricks up its sleeve – handwriting recognition and synchronization. If you’d like to synchronize your notes to your PDA or cell phone that addition is presently in the works and will be released shortly. If you’re not that fancy the free version will take you everywhere you need to go.
This is how the main screen presents and, except for “Plus” in the name, both versions look the same. Most of the categories can be deleted (or preferably just hidden) so don’t get brain fatigue from all that. On the opposite edge of the screen is the Timeline, now hidden.
Notes are added to the end of a continuous scroll. They can be typed in directly, pasted, dropped, or inserted through hot-keys. Clips can be added directly by a “clipper” button in your email program or your web-browser. It also has an ink-note template for drawing notes or hand-writing with a pen tablet. Graphics can be resized on a separate screen. Notes can be dropped to full length with a single click, or contracted.
After that, the magic and speed of EverNote is in its categorizing function. It has a ream of auto-categories, (as shown above) but you can also add your own. Drag and drop a category icon on top of a note and voila! you’re organized. Categories can also be accessed through the “stamp” icon at the top of each note, or through the slider-box that presents itself atop the system tray when you send a clip without opening the main screen. Categories can be added, deleted, renamed or dragged to new locations.
There are several ways of searching your notes and any one of them will land you where you want to go in nano-seconds. Even if you have thousands of notes.
It has a very well laid out help section; clear text with large screen shots. It’s a pleasure to read through and that’s uncommon for a help file.
You can create multiple databases if you like, although I found my use of that confusing, and they recommend you stay with just one. You can password-protect single notes or your entire database. You can print single notes or multiple notes or email notes directly.
This is a program that turns somersaults with note-taking and note organizing and I can’t say enough good things about it.
Of course, what you use it for is up to you. I put everything in there. Everything in my case is predominantly genealogy web research and related email. This is the best solution for organizing email I’ve ever found, and I tried a lot of inefficient methods before I found this. Now I simply use the “clipper” button in my email program to send the mail to EverNote. I can easily scroll through and read an entire conversation in chronological order. If I want to print a conversation I can highlight the desired notes and print them. (See PDF Creator.)
My genealogy clips are categorized by either general genealogy or specific family lines, reminders to go back and have another look when I have time. Anything clipped from the web brings the URL with it, so it only takes a double-click to go back to the source. If I’m afraid a website will disappear I can clip entire pages or just a highlighted section. It’s a great alternative to bookmarks and favorites in web browsers.
There’s hardly a downside to this software I can think of. I found that after about 1,200 notes the program became slower in shutting down, although with 1,589 notes presently it’s not any slower for getting around in.
On the very rare occasion I’ve written to their tech support I’ve found them to be extraordinarily polite and I get a general sense of a fastidious bunch of engineers in the back room.
If you’re floundering in piles of sticky notes, txt’s and other digital riff-raff, salvation is at hand with EverNote 2.2.