You probably wouldn’t guess it by looking around our flat; but I’m an organizer. I like to plan ahead and for everything to have its place. (I can hear my mother chuckling from across the Atlantic now. Hey, I said ‘organizer’ not ‘neat-freak.’)
About a year ago, I discovered Evernote, an on-line application for storing data – notes, photos, pdfs and web pages. If you love to cook and/or travel, like I do, read on to find out how Evernote simplified and organised my life.
Evernote for travel planning
Let’s talk about your bookmarked websites for a moment. If you’re anything like me, you start off with good intentions. You put things in neatly categorised folders for easy reference and feel proud of yourself for being so organised.
Fast forward six months. You know you saw something about a great hotel in Antwerp somewhere. Did you bookmark it under ‘hotels’ or ‘Antwerp’? Or maybe you forgot to put it in a folder at all… You’d Google it again, if you could only remember the hotel name.
Here’s where Evernote comes in. Instead of bookmarking that great hotel, you can save part or all of the webpage in Evernote. You can drop it in a folder called hotels or Antwerp, just like your regular bookmarks, but here’s where it gets really handy.
If you have a bit of forethought, you can tag your note with handy keywords, like hotel or Antwerp. But even if you forget to do that, Evernote’s search feature will scan all of your notes and bring up those with the words hotel and Antwerp. All of your notes are totally searchable.
Another nice feature is the ability to share any of your notebooks with someone else.
Right now I’m in the middle of planning a big trip in April. My parents are coming to visit Andrew and I for the month and I’ve been busily booking flights and hotels and planning some activities for us. I’ve created maps, saved interested articles and blog posts and made notes about hotels and B&Bs we’re staying in.
I’ve dropped everything into a notebook called ‘April 2012 travels’ and I can share that with my mom, dad and Andrew with one easy link. They can check it whenever they want, and see anything new I’ve added.
But for my absolute favourite feature, let’s move on to how I use Evernote for cooking.
Evernote for Recipes
I love to cook. I also love cookbooks, cooking magazines and cooking websites. I’ve amassed hundreds of recipes over the years.
It’s one thing to know I have a recipe for Thai green curry with prawns in a magazine; it’s a totally different thing to know which of 72 magazines that recipe is in. I’ve spent hours, in the past, searching for that one recipe I just knew I had somewhere.
The other issue with all of these magazines and cookbooks is space. In our small flat, I just don’t have room to keep them all. Something had to be done.
Enter my favourite Evernote feature – Optical Character Recognition, or OCR. OCR means Evernote can look at a jpg and pick out any text in it. If I upload a photo or scan of a recipe from a magazine into Evernote, that text is suddenly searchable. Miraculous right?
It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty darn good. I’ve been scanning in my recipes for a few months now and it has made finding things so much easier.
Say I get some celeriac in my organic veggie box and I’m not sure what to do with it. I simply search celeriac in my Evernote and volia! All of my recipes containing the word celeriac appear. Do that with your stack of magazines.
Of course I can also add recipes I find on-line, just the same as with travel planning and everything is searchable. Even if the website link goes dead, I still have the information safely in Evernote.
If you use Google Chrome as your browser, there is a handy extension to make clipping things to Evernote even quicker.
Evernote for Mobile
If you have a smart-phone, Evernote is even more useful. There is an Evernote app that syncs between your phone and on-line versions of Evernote. No more taking up counter space with my laptop when I want to use a recipe. I can bring it up on my phone instead.
If I’m travelling and want to bring up all my notes on a particular destination, it’s all right there at my fingertips.
So how much does this wonderful tool cost? Well, nothing actually. The free version gives you most features, including the OCR. You can upgrade to receive priority in the OCR queue (it does take a day or so for your text to be searchable otherwise) and have a higher monthly upload limit. I upgraded when I was scanning my cooking magazines just so I could get them all uploaded in a timely way, but with normal use I’ve never run out of space.
There are many other ways to use Evernote. If you have a good one, we’d love to hear about it in the comments.