Going Paperless: Reading and Researching Using Evernote, Clipper, and Clearly

I have a friend who prints out nearly everything he wants to read. He did this with email for years, and I think he finally gave that up. When I’d send him a link to an article, he’d print that out, and put it in a stack of stuff that he wanted to read. Ditto if he came across a web page he was interested in. Today, my friend reads most of his book on his iPad, or listens to them via Audible, but I think he¬†still prints out a lot of stuff that he finds on the web. I suppose that works for him, but it uses up an awful lot of paper.

I’ve always¬†preferred to try to read things I’m browsing online on my screen, but there were times in the past when I did print out things like manuals or long articles to take with me when I wasn’t going to be online. Today, with devices like iPads and Kindles, access to electronic documents is ubiquitous, even when you are not connected to the Internet and in the years since I’ve been going paperless and using Evernote, my habits for reading and researching online have changed dramatically. I thought I’d discuss those habits today.

My Tools for Reading Online and Offline

First, let me define what I mean by “reading online.” I’m not talking about reading books on my Kindle or magazines in Zinio. I’m talking about the vast amount of blogs and articles and web pages I read each day. I have three primary tools for reading these kinds of things:

  1. Chrome – my web browser of choice on every platform that I work on, Macintosh, ChromeOS, Windows and iOS.
  2. Reeder – the app I use on my iMac and my iPad for reading the RSS feeds I subscribe to.
  3. Evernote – the application I use to store articles for later reading, reference, or offline reading.

Within my Chrome browser, I also make heavy use of two more Evernote products, both of which are free: Evernote Web Clipper and Evernote Clearly. The former allows me to clip all or part of a web page, image, or PDF to Evernote, specifying the details of what notebook I’d like the clip stored in, how I want it tagged, and adding any other relevant notes. The latter, Clearly, allows me to view the article in a cleanly formatted presentation. I can highlight pieces of the article, and even have Clearly read me the article out loud. I can clip the article to Evernote directly from Clearly.

My Process for Reading and Researching

Each morning, while I am having my breakfast, I start by skimming my RSS feeds in Reeder, usually on my iPad. On a typical morning, my RSS feed looks something like this:

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Yes, that’s 239 unread articles in my RSS feed. I don’t read all 239 at breakfast, but I read a few of them and I at least skim all of them. If I see an article I’m interested in, but either want to save it for later, or save it for reference or research purposes, I send it to Evernote:

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When I’ve finished my pass through my RSS feed, I purge the feed and move on to other things.

Throughout the day, I will come across posts and links, often via Twitter or Facebook, but sometimes a news article that I pick up off Google News or some other source. In these cases, I am usually sitting a my desktop computer and am reading things in my Chrome browser. This is where I will make use of the Clipper and Clearly plug-ins.

I use clearly when I am reading on-screen on my desktop or laptop. Evernote Clearly cleans up a post so that a page that looks like this in Chrome:

Tor_Web.png

 

Looks like this in Clearly:

Tor_Clearly.png

From within Clearly, I can highlight text, change the font size so that it is easier to read. I can also send the entire article, with my highlights, to Evernote with the click of a single button (or keyboard shortcut).

At the end of the day, I go through my RSS feed one more time, as described above. Then, I glance at my “to-read” list in Evernote to decide if there is anything I want to tackle before bed.

My To-Read List in Evernote

When I clip an article to Evernote using Evernote Clearly, it is configured to go into my “Clippings” notebook with a tag “to-read.” I have a saved-search in Evernote called “List: THINGS TO READ.” This search looks for anything in my “Clippings” notebook that is tagged with “to-read.” This morning, the search looked like this:

Evernote_Reading_List-2.png

My “to-read” list is a subset of the documents in my Clippings notebook, and when I finish reading an article marked “to-read” I remove the tag, but typically the article stays in my Clippings notebook. You never know when this stuff will come in handy.

Some Configuration Tips

I’ll offer two additional tips for folks who use this method for reading posts and articles and capturing research in Evernote.

Tip 1: Offline Reading

I don’t have a set time or place in my process when I go through the articles that I’ve clipped to Evernote and read them all. As I said, I’ll skim them in the evening before bed to see if there is anything that piques my interest, but sometimes, after skimming them, I decide I’m not ready to read them, and move on. I find, instead, that I often end up reading these articles to pass short amounts of time while I am waiting for something else–for a meeting to start, for a doctor or dentist appointment, etc. And at these times, I don’t always have access to the Internet. So I make sure these clippings are available offline.

As a premium user of Evernote, I can pick and choose notebooks to be available offline. This allows all of the notes in that notebook to be completely accessible on my iPad, even if I don’t have a network connection. I configure this from my Account Settings as follows:

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Tip 2: Configuring Evernote Clearly

By default, Evernote Clearly tries to make a best guess at both how to tag a clipping and what notebook it should go into. It is designed to save time. All you have to do is click the Evernote button, and, unlike the Web Clipper, don’t have to worry about providing a notebook or tags. However, I’ve found that the “guess” that Clearly makes works well only about half the time.

Fortunately, you can configure Evernote Clearly to not guess at a notebook or tag. Indeed, you can specify them yourself. You do this from the Extension setting in Google Chrome1:

  1. From the Chrome menu, select Tools->Extensions.
  2. From the Clearly extension, click the Options linkScreenshot_2_5_13_8_14_AM.png
  3. Configure clearly to send the notes to the notebook of your choice. I modified the following three settings:Screenshot_2_5_13_8_16_AM.png

This ensures that the pages and articles I clip with Clearly all go into my Clippings notebook, tagged as “to-read.”


There is a lot of convenience in being able to capture web pages and articles in this manner. I have them available for future reference, to say nothing of being available to read at my own convenience, no matter where I am, even without an Internet connection. I am certain that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with nearly as much blogs, posts, articles and other online reading if it wasn’t for my ability to capture this information in Evernote and read it later.


As always, this post and all of my Going Paperless posts, are also available on Pinterest.

Notes

  1. I only use Chrome. I imagine there is a similar setting somewhere in Internet Explorer and Safari, but I don’t know what it is.

13 thoughts on “Going Paperless: Reading and Researching Using Evernote, Clipper, and Clearly

  1. Thanks for this information – I use Pocket for more or less the same process – but the extra step is obviously when I want to save something from Pocket to Evernote – so it would be nice to eliminate the extra step.

    I’ve been through and configured the Clearly extension but struggling to save directly from Google Reader automagically for later reading – I tried IFTTT to save a starred item into Evernote however this just saves the link and does not clip – so not so useful for offline work / saving the actual contents.

    Does the Reederapp allow you to clip to evernote or just save a link? And can it allow you to autotag with “to-read” and autosave to the Clippings notebook ?

    1. Paul, Reederapp does indeed clip the entire article to Evernote at the click of a button (or hot key). You cannot specify a notebook or tag, as far as I can tell. In the case of Reeder, the note just goes into your default notebook. When I “clip” things from Reeder, I end up refiling the clipping to my Clipping notebook when I process my inbox each evening.

    2. I use an IFTTT recipe to save a lot of RSS feeds into Pocket. When I want to save an article from Pocket to Evernote, I click on the “Share” icon (arrow to the far right), which has an Evernote icon (this is a relatively new update to Pocket). A menu allows you to specify the notebook and tag for your note. The interface between Pocket and Evernote requires no editing.

  2. So how does this workflow handle multi-page articles? I assume in those cases you probably look at a print preview and clip from there?

    1. Wesley, it’s been my experience that both the web clipper and Clearly pull an multi-page article together in one note, much the same way Instapaper works. Makes it easy and saves several steps.

  3. I do much the same as you. However, I have found that fairly long articles present a challenge. If I get interrupted during the reading and must come back later, I have not found a good way of finding where I left off. Do you have a trick that you use in situations like this?

    1. David, I haven’t really had that problem, but I try not to break my reading mid-article, so if I start it, I’ll generally stick with it until I’m finished. On the rare occasions when I don’t finish it in one sitting, I usually don’t have much trouble finding where I left off. That said, once the article is clipped to Evernote, you can edit it any way you want so as to indicate where you left off (highlight text, add in a couple of line-breaks, type in big letters START HERE, etc.).

  4. Hi Jamie,

    I started out using Clearly the way you’ve outlined (it can make websites truly beautiful to read) but I’ve since moved to a more diverse workflow, more heavily reliant on Pocket.

    The reason being that I’m using Pocket as a ‘staging area’ for articles I’m reading, and Evernote as a ‘repository’ for things I’ve read that I know I want to keep.

    I’ve outlined my approach to Capture (which is essentially what you’re describing) in a post on my blog here: http://bit.ly/12pTzod

    Another thoughtful and useful post – thanks!

  5. For some websites, it is the comment section of their page that I like most. Do you have any methods to grab them along with the main content of the page to Evernote?

    1. You can clip whatever part of a page you want. When I go to a website (this one for instance) and clip a post, if that post has comments those comments are also captured as part of the clip.

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