Learning About Evernote – An Interview with Mitchell Allen

Mitchell Allen is a prolific writer, pretty good chess player, and all around technophile. He did a Q&A on the topic of online cloud storage with Sharon Hurley Hall and one of the programs he talked about was Evernote, which I use and love but know I don’t use all that well. After discussing whether this should be a guest post or a Q&A we decided on the Q&A. Don’t get confused with both of us being “Mitch” here; I asked the questions so I’m in bold; thus, Mitch gets the first word here. 🙂

Mitch250
Mitchell Allen

Mitch, thanks for inviting me to answer some questions about one of my favorite productivity tools. I’ll leave the techno-babble on the doorstep and bring in this little basket of basics.

1. For folks that don’t know (because they didn’t read my Evernote for Android post), tell folks what Evernote is.

Evernote is a tool for saving just about anything. Notes, pictures, music clips, videos and files. Once you have saved your stuff, Evernote helps you find it later. It is like having your own little World Wide Web.

Like the real web, you can access your stuff on many different devices. That’s because Evernote automatically syncs your devices with your online account.

Finally, you can share your stuff. I will talk about that in a moment.

2. At a very high level, can you tell folks how you personally use it?

Here are the top five things I do every day:

•  Save web pages
•  Jot down ideas for stories
•  Update to-do lists
• Hunt for references (stuff I said a long time ago, links to resources)
•  Manage my disaster recovery plan

The web pages are better than bookmarking because the text is right there. Sometimes it looks awful, but most pages are legible.

I have dozens of notebooks, each of which could be the next Great American Novel. LOL Most of the time, I’m just feeling creative and I like to jot down the ideas while they’re fresh in my mind.

Evernote has a very simple keyboard shortcut for creating a checkbox in a note (Ctrl+Shift+C). I create lists and try to check them off as soon as I can.

Hunting for references is probably the most frequent activity. I am always looking up stuff about Microsoft Excel, for example. I also spend a lot of time tracking down web addresses to include in my email correspondence.

Because of my freelance software business, I am always looking for the best ways to safeguard my stuff. Evernote is the perfect tool for me to keep track of my progress, as well as my thoughts about different backup strategies.

Evernote001

3. You pay for Evernote; what extra benefits does that get you and is it worth the expense for most people?

The limits on a free account are very generous: 100 notebooks, 60MB upload per month, 25MB per note and 25MB per attachment (actually, the attachment plus the note together cannot exceed 25MB). I was pushing up against the 60MB limit, so I don’t mind paying 5.00 a month for a premium account. I get 250 notebooks, 1GB upload per month, 100MB per note and 100MB per attachment (same restriction on combined size of note and attachment.) I am always editing my notes and all that syncing counts toward my quota!

Folks who only occasionally hit the limit on uploads can pony up the cash for just the months when they need it.

4. I just discovered that I can keep a journal or log by using Notebooks on Evernote. Can you explain Notebooks better and how people can really use them to their advantage?

Well, I promised not to get too technical, so think of a notebook as a steno pad. For a journal, you add a new note each day, similar to starting on a fresh page in your steno pad. You know those colorful sticky tabs that folks use to bookmark different sections of a report? Well, that’s your tags. Only, with Evernote, you kind of have to remember what tags you use. Otherwise, there is no point – you won’t be able to search for them later!

Actually, you don’t have to use tags, because Evernote will let you search for phrases, just like a Google search. Here is a useful link from the Evernote blog.

5. Is there a way to set up Evernote as a task manager?

As recently as February, 2013, the CEO of Evernote stated that the tool wasn’t all that great for to-do lists. But, if you Google task manager +evernote, you’ll find a bunch of people who seem to manage it.

Personally, I stopped using Evernote for task management. Gmail, Basecamp and my own custom-built tools are more suitable for the types of tasks I need to manage. I use Evernote to keep to-do lists for personal stuff, if I don’t need a reminder.

6. We actually share a notebook; can you compare the differences between sharing notebooks as opposed to using Dropbox for sharing?

This is one feature I don’t care for. It clutters up my space. I have joined a few shared notebooks and I have to wade past their tags. Ugh. I prefer to use Dropbox to transfer files and Google Docs for, well, documents!

Evernote002

7. I’ve never understood how to use the Shortcuts area; can you talk about that?

The new version of Evernote shortcuts took some getting used to. Instead of bookmarks across the top, the shortcuts now appear on the left side, along with the tags, notebooks and everything else. The trick is to drag the note from the preview area onto the Shortcuts title or within the section itself.

I discovered that, if you drag a note onto a tag, that tag is added to the note, which was not what I expected! As a further experiment, I dragged a note onto the title Notebooks and it moved the note from its old notebook into my default notebook.

8. What’s that Atlas thing all about?

I never paid the Atlas any attention. From the Evernote website and forums, I learned that it uses geotagging to establish where the note originated. So, if you take a lot of pictures, this might be useful. Of course, that brings up the issue of privacy and security surrounding geotagged images. If the notes are private, that should be no problem. But if you link to them or share them, be careful about the information you are sending along with the image!

9. I tend to mainly use it for saving URLs to look at later on when I’m either on the Nook or my phone, and I have my grocery list there as well. You know me a bit better than most; how better could I use it?

I don’t subscribe to a best practices philosophy for productivity tools. Each of us has his own way of viewing the world and how things should work in it. If the two uses you just mentioned make your life easier in some way, then Evernote has done its job.

What I will say is that you should play with it as much as you can. As you get comfortable with the features and annoyances, you will come up with more ideas.

The beauty of Evernote is that you don’t have to commit to anything. I used to save my freelance proposals on Evernote. It was a hassle, so I stopped.

10. I know you use a lot of things. Is Evernote the easiest, the best, or is there something better or easier?

The only thing easier than Evernote is pencil and paper. There may be better-designed alternatives but I am satisfied with 90% of Evernote. The lone 10% annoyance is that it freezes temporarily while I am typing. Not always, but enough to get on my nerves if I’m trying to get some ideas down. I have a lot of software running on my laptop, so it may not even be Evernote!

The best thing about Evernote is that it does not force you into a specific way of working. As I work with it more and more, I continually refine my interactions. Yet, like most productivity software, it just sits in my taskbar until I need it.
 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014-2016 Mitch Mitchell

Feedreader

With so many people freaking out about the demise of Google Reader, and realizing that I hadn’t ever really written about the program I use, I thought it was time to introduce it to you. I’m a standalone guy instead of having everything in my browser so this might not be what some of you want. But I love it so it gets some love publicly now. 🙂

FR

Feedreader is basically a program that allows you to track any RSS feeds you want, categorize them, and determine how you want to view them. I use the standalone product as I mentioned before but they also have a browser version as well as some other versions of the main product, but I can’t tell you anything about those.

The first image is exactly what the program looks like when you open it (to enlarge you’ll have to click on it, then when it opens again click again and it’ll be much bigger & easy to see). You see that I have my categories there on the left, and I’m highlighting one of the articles from one of my other blogs just as an example. This is only a reader; if you’re subscribing to blogs you have to click on the link at the top of the article and it’ll pull up a browser so you can comment on it.

FR01

The second image shows you how you can add feeds to the program. However, an easier way to do it is to click on the RSS feed on the blog or website and the program will automatically open up and allow you to add the link to it. Once it adds the link then you can go to the left and change the name or move it into a new category.

The final image shows you one of my categories, which I call Friends. Everyone in this category is a close friend, as opposed to a blogging friend, thus the only person in here that doesn’t live in the states, but I count him as a close friend after so many years, is our buddy Sire, and 3 blogs on this list are his. lol

FR02

The way you move links around is you open up a category, go to the link, hold your left mouse button down and drag it to where you want it in that category. You hold it as far to the left as you can so that if you want to alphabetize things, which I do for all my other categories, it’s easy to do. On this list you’ll see I have all my blogs at the top, which I do to make sure everything is always working properly.

Anyway, I love this thing and I think it’s a great alternative for those who still want to track RSS feeds. I don’t know if they have a mobile version, as truthfully I don’t want to read feeds on my smartphone so I’m not worrying about that. Check out the site above and you might find what you need there.
 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2013 Mitch Mitchell

Questions About Skype

After years of fighting the demons of getting a video camera for my computer I finally got one in December. Then, after years of fighting it because I didn’t have a video camera, then months of thinking about it, I finally got Skype. Now that I’ve created an account I want to ask you, the masses, just what the heck I’m supposed to be doing with it.

To date I’m connected to 5 people. I’ve only talked to three of them, but only two of them by video. I’m glad to have talked to the third person, our friend Vernessa because I wouldn’t have known that you could go totally audio without having to do the video thing. That was really important to me because, well, I tend to heat up in the evenings and sometimes during the day and I’ll sit at the computer without a shirt on. Sure, guys can get away with this, but I like to protect as many people as I can from seeing any of this uncovered; yeah, I know, TMI! lol

Anyway, I now have this Skype account; just what am I supposed to do with it? Before I loaded it I kept hearing from all these people who said they had Skype accounts and wondered if I had one so we could talk. Well, all those people seem to have disappeared. I thought it was the growing thing for business, to be able to talk to people and have them see you while interacting with each other; nope, none of that.

What gives? I assume there’s a bit of etiquette and being protective with this thing, but is there also apathy? Am I late to the game?

I mean, do I put my Skype address in my advertising? Do I list it on my websites, or here on this blog? I’ve never seen anyone else do that, but I’d have to admit that it wasn’t something I paid a lot of attention to in the past. And do you just up and call people if you find their number or do you send email first then wait for them to say “okay, hook me up”?

Frankly I’m stumped. Vernessa said she basically stays on most of the time, but Homegirl, truthfully, the only time I’ve ever seen you on when I’ve had the program open was the one time we talked. I’ve got it open as I write this a day before it’ll post and I don’t see anyone I know on. Then again, it’s only 5 people.

This kind of reminds me of the issues I’ve seen with the Hangout feature on G+. It works great, but only if you can find people to talk to. Supposedly you have to set it up way in advance to talk to people. That’s not such a big deal I suppose, and maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to work with Skype as well. I just don’t know.

So, for once, I’m asking questions. How do y’all use Skype? Are you using Skype? And what’s the protocol, if any, for getting the word out without inviting all the crazies to hook up with you?
 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2011 Mitch Mitchell

Firefox Vs. Chrome – The Debate Continues

You know, back in July when I wrote the post talking about testing Chrome & coming back to Firefox I thought that all discussions about chrome would probably be over. Little did I know that discussion would open up again via a conversation I had with someone on Twitter.

I don’t remember what exactly started the conversation, that at one point in the conversation the young man and I started talking about browsers and he said regarding Firefox “Maybe it’s for old people? 😛 My visitors use IE, Chrome, Firefox, Safari. In that order.” When I commented on that, saying I had trouble believing it, he said “I manage 5 of my own, plus about two dozen for clients. Never seen anything but IE in first. You, sir, are an anomaly.”

First I have to address the “old” issue. I would doubt that age would have anything to do with what browser anybody decided to use except for possibly IE, and then only because it’s the default browser that comes with Windows. Whereas younger people might learn from their friends later on that there are better browsers, older participants might not hear that information, and thus will stick with what they know.

Old? Let’s look at old for a minute. I first got on the Internet December 1995. Back then, there weren’t a lot of choices when it came to browsers. The first one I remember using came with America Online, and everybody was using that because AOL was everywhere. Later I discovered IE, but learned that there were security issues with it. All the “cool kids” were using Netscape, and when I gave that a try I said “wow”. That was my browser of choice until it was bought by whomever (can’t remember right now but I’m sure it will come to me later) and Mozilla decided to go out on their own.

The first Firefox was wonderful. The only thing I lost in switching to it was the ability to code within the browser. But since I had another program for that I didn’t mind so much. The best thing about Firefox is always been customization. You can pretty much customize it to do whatever you want to do. For instance, I have a bunch of extensions that allow me to do things such as change what websites look like, change the functionality of my browser, give me information and immediately so that I don’t have to go elsewhere, and a host of other things I’d rather not get into right now. True, adding all those extensions will slow things down a bit, but since I added the extra RAM to my computer things have been running beautifully.

My friend believed that speed and clean browsing is more important than customization. I will agree with that to an extent. If my browser slow down the files I wanted to download I’d probably have a gripe. The browsers have nothing to do with that, IP’s do. If speed was the only thing my friend really cared about he wouldn’t be using Chrome at all, he would be using Opera, which even now is the fastest browser I’ve ever seen. Not only that but Chrome, which is a Google product, tracks pretty much everything you do online. Everybody knows it, but there is something about younger people who really don’t care that their tracks and really don’t care about their privacy as much as us “older” people, who had to deal with things such as the red scare, communism and all that other garbage that we’ve proven really was a flawed model.

That’s enough of the “old” talk. Let’s talk about the demographics of browser use when it comes to webpages. As you saw in his quote above, he stated that Chrome was the top browser being used by people who visited all of his websites. With the caveat being that there is no way I can determine the age of the people who visit all the websites that I have in the websites I manage, let me show you the numbers that I see for all of my websites based on Google Analytics; by the way, if you care, you can view this information under Visitors, then look at the bottom under “technical profile”:

I’m Just Sharing:

Firefox 37.55%
Chrome 25.97%
Internet Explorer 17.94%
Safari 11.36%

Mitch’s Blog:

Internet Explorer 32.48%
Firefox 28.57%
Chrome 18.86%
Safari 11.83%

Top Finance Blog:

Firefox 38.61%
Chrome 26.19%
Internet Explorer 22.92%
Safari 7.91%

Syracuse Wiki:

Firefox 30.57%
Internet Explorer 26.57%
Safari 17.43%
Chrome 13.71%

SEO Xcellence Blog:

Firefox 57.39%
Chrome 20.87%
Internet Explorer 7.83%
Safari 5.22%

SEO Xcellence:

Firefox 31.78%
Internet Explorer 31.01%
Chrome 26.36%
Safari 4.65%

T T Mitchell Consulting, Inc:

Internet Explorer 57.81%
Firefox 19.20%
Chrome 10.93%
Safari 6.44%

CNYHBA:

Firefox 45.59%
Internet Explorer 27.94%
Safari 13.24%
Chrome 8.82%

CNYHBA Blog:

Internet Explorer 51.25%
Firefox 23.75%
Safari 10.00%
Chrome 10.00%

Li’l Specs:

Internet Explorer 40.00%
Firefox 32.31%
Safari 10.77%
Chrome 9.23%

Medical Billing Answers:

Internet Explorer 79.13%
Firefox 9.88%
Chrome 5.62%
Safari 3.34%

Smoke Not So Much:

Internet Explorer 36.86%
Chrome 19.49%
Safari 17.37%
Firefox 16.95%

Services and Stuff:

Internet Explorer 53.95%
Firefox 21.31%
Safari 8.59%
Chrome 7.90%

Professional Consultant’s Association:

Internet Explorer 32.04%
Firefox 30.10%
Safari 15.53%
Chrome 13.59%

PCA Blog:

Internet Explorer 40.32%
Firefox 29.03%
Chrome 14.52%
Safari 8.06%

G Chapman Consulting:

Internet Explorer 54.21%
Firefox 17.37%
Safari 13.68%
Chrome 6.84%

Krueger Resource Recovery:

Internet Explorer 64.66%
Firefox 18.10%
Chrome 7.76%
Safari 4.74%

There’s a couple other websites I manage, but I didn’t want to bring those clients into the mix. However, their numbers are pretty much the same as all the others I’ve shown you above. Since the only one where Chrome actually beats Firefox for my sites is my anti-smoking site, I can probably conclude that only sites that addicts visit tend to use Chrome more often than Firefox, but that would be pretty silly.

Anyway, those are my numbers. I don’t necessarily expect that everybody who has a website will end up with numbers like mine, but I wanted to paint kind of a broad brush because I guess the “old” thing was something I felt I needed to address. But it would be interesting to hear from some of the rest of you what your analytics look like when it comes to browsers that visit your sites, especially those of you who are younger than 35, since I believe my young friend is actually younger than that. Seeing as how in 1995 I was 36 years old, that means that I was older than he is now, which could mean that in his eyes I’ve always been old. But that’s okay because I’m feeling pretty old myself these days; good thing I’ve got that Vegas trip coming up. 🙂
 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2011 Mitch Mitchell

Google’s Shutting Down Desktop

Well, what a bummer this news way. Google announced last week that it was stopping work on Google Desktop and a host of other programs they’re normally working on. That depresses me because I loved Google Desktop, loading it many years ago and happy once again when the latest version came out for 64-bit.

Of course I saw this coming, but was still hopeful. Just like many other programs they put out that worked well with Firefox, I knew that as they pushed their own browser more that things they were working on with the Mozilla people was going to come to the end. And if they’d added Desktop as part of their Chrome browser, I might have at least used Chrome for that.

Their reasoning is that people can search for almost anything on their computers now through our operating systems. That’s not quite true. If there was a reference to a golf program in an email I’d send 2 years ago it’s not coming up on a Windows search, and I doubt it would come up on a mac search either. However, that part of the Desktop program seemed to shut down last July anyway, and I’ve been trying all sorts of things to get it to index newer mail, all without success. Search will find things in programs, but I still need something to help me find words within my email (I use Thunderbird).

This comes on the heels of their announcement in July that they were shutting down Google Labs, which allowed people to go in and test things Google was working on, then report what they observed.

They’re also shutting down a company they purchased last year, Slide, which made games and social media apps. They gave no reason for this move except to say that all the employees of the company would be merged into Google and that the creator of the company was moving on to do some other things.

The questions are vast here. Is Google suddenly tightening their belts because they’re getting competitive pushes from other companies? Could it have something to do with G+ and all the machinations about it, including claims from some (like me) that it might be just the latest “dog” of social media? Could it be the lawsuit against they for patent violations that’s threatening their HTC line of smartphones? Or could it be that they realized their operations were getting a bit unwieldy and they want to sharpen focus on their main lines of business?

Don’t know, and I’m not sure I care. I knew nothing about Aardvark, and I never downloaded Google Pack. I will miss Desktop, and probably will kill it soon since email is my main thing. But they move on, I move on; it’s a fairly symbiotic relationship in that manner.
 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2011 Mitch Mitchell