As I became more determined to go paperless, I realized that getting information into Evernote quickly and easily was critical. Jumping through hoops to create notes or capture paper can be a show-stopper. Last week, I provided 5 tips for speeding up note creation and searches in Evernote. In this week’s post, I have 5 more tips, this time centered around how you can speed up your paperless productivity with some third-party tool.
1. Use the Drafts app to quickly create note on your iPhone
When you need to grab a quick note–perhaps you are jotting down a phone number, address, or some other important piece of information, speed is everything. To capture this information without paper, the process needs to be faster than it would be if you carried around a pen and paper.
Back in May, I wrote a post describing how, after running some trials with the Evernote app on the iPhone, I found that it was still faster for me to scribble notes like these down on a pad of paper, and scan those pages into Evernote later. Based on my trials, it took me 25 seconds in cold1 trials before I could start typing my note into Evernote. In instances where the Evernote app was already running on my phone, it took 13 seconds. Still too long.
Several people back then suggested I try out an iPhone app called Drafts by Agile Tortoise. I did this and was delighted to find that Drafts is very speedy and integrates seamlessly with Evernote. If I need to jot a quick note in Evernote in my iPhone, I’ve found myself using Drafts more and more. Based on my own cold trials (iPhone 5), from the time I click the Drafts icon until the time I can start typing a note is less than 3 seconds. This is less than the time it would take me to pull my pad out of my pocket, turn to a blank page and start writing.
I also like the clean, simple interface of Drafts:
One final advantage that Drafts has: it can integrate with the iOS version of TextExpander. Text expansions you’ve created in TextExpander will automatically expand when used in Drafts (see tip #2 below).
2. Use TextExpander for frequently-used text snippets in notes
When I am working on my iMac, I find TextExpander by Smile Software really speeds up my work. Given the nature of my freelance work, I get a lot of the same kinds of questions, and I have snippets to handle answers to most of those questions so that I don’t have to keep retyping them each time. It is an enormous time saver.
I will also use TextExpander within Evernote’s thick client on the Mac in order to speed up my note creation. I’ve covered this topic in an earlier Going Paperless post but wanted to call it out again here because it really does save me time when entering information into my notes.
And as I indicated above, if you also use TextExpander on your iOS devices, the Drafts app makes use of the TextExpander libraries to be able to expand your snippets as you type on your phone or iPad, also saving lots of time when creating notes.
3. Use KustomNote for creating and using templates for your notes
Sometimes, you collect notes that are in a standard format–what is essentially a template. KustomNote does a very nice job of filling this niche. KustomNote (which was featured in Evernote’s DevCup for 2012) allows you to create templates which you can then use to fill in standardized “forms” as notes in Evernote. KustomNote goes a step further, allowing you to share your templates and use templates from a public repository. In the public repository, other uses can vote for how useful a template is, making it easy to find those templates that are most useful.
KustomNote works on a mobile device through their mobile web interface, which is nice and clean and gives you access to all of your templates in a mobile setting. Overall, it is a useful web-app for quickly capturing “standardized” notes.
Check out the public repository; there are some really good template ideas out there, things that I would never have thought of myself.
4. Let Evernote handle text recognition when scanning
If you are trying to go paperless, then you almost certainly have a scanner with which to scan any paper you do get into Evernote. I am still using my trusty Fujitsu ScanSnap s1300i for my primary scanning, and my Doxie One when I am away from my office.
Most of these scanners come with software that will do things like create searchable PDFs by doing an optical character recognition scan while scanning your document. The software creates a PDF on which the text is searchable. The problem I’ve found is that this can slow down the scanning process significantly.
Instead, if you are an Evernote Premium user, I suggest turning off the OCR scanning on your scanner software and instead, allow Evernote to do the OCR for you. When you upload a PDF to Evernote, OCR will happen automatically on Evernote’s servers, after which, the search data will be downloaded back to your machine. This allows scanning to continue quickly, while still allowing you to get the searchable PDFs that are part of what make Evernote so useful.
5. Use Evernote Clearly/Web Clipper to quickly grab anything from the web
There are just too many great articles on the web for me to keep up with. When I find something interesting, or something I might want to keep for later when I am browsing around, I use Evernote Clearly to capture the article in Evernote. Clearly is a great tool. It formats any web page into a nice, clean-looking document that I can highlight, annotate and, of course, send to Evernote.
If you’ve never used Clearly, here is an example of a web page without Clearly:
And here is the same page in Evernote Clearly:
I like how Clearly cleans up the page, capturing just the important content. I can then click the Evernote icon to send the note to Evernote. It is a quick way of capturing stuff from the web.
I also use the Evernote Web Clipper. This I primarily use to capture things like receipts, PDFs or images I want to capture in Evernote. (I use Clearly almost exclusively for capturing articles)
These tips, combined with the 5 tips from last week, are some of the ways I’ve found to speed up how I get notes into Evernote so that I don’t get bogged down in the mechanics of collecting notes. It allows me to focus instead on the task at hand, and it allows me to capture whatever I need quickly and with a minimal amount of intrusion.
Do you have suggestions for how to speed up note collection, creation and searching? Leave your tips and suggestions in the comments.
If you have a suggestion for a future Going Paperless post, let know me. Send it to me at feedback [at] jamietoddrubin.com. As always, this post and all of my Going Paperless posts is also available on Pinterest.
Last week’s post: 5 Tips for Speeding Up Note Creation and Searches in Evernote (Part 1).
- A cold trial is one where the app is not already running in the background. A warm trial is one where the app is running in the background. ↩