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BLOG: How I use Evernote for work

David Sparks | March 22, 2012
If you are familiar with Evernote, you know that it's an app and Web service that lets you save and organize notes, PDFs, images, and all kinds of other random bits of data. But you may not have considered how useful and versatile Evernote can be for business use. Here are some of the ways I've incorporated it into my workflow.

OCR Made Easy

Evernote doesn't just hold your data; in some cases, it can actually improve on it. Specifically, when Evernote imports an image file, it scans that image for text and then adds that text to the image file's index. It's a really powerful tool.

For example, I'm a tea geek. When I find a good tea, I snap a picture of its label and save that picture to Evernote. Evernote's servers then analyze the uploaded image and save whatever text they can recognize. Which means that I can later search Evernote for monkey picked oolong and my picture of the tea label will show up--even though I never typed that word myself.

I can imagine lots of productive uses for this feature--processing and indexing business cards is only the most obvious. If you have a Premium account, Evernote will also perform optical character recognition on uploaded PDF files. Given how common PDFs are, this could be a huge productivity-booster.

One other business-friendly feature: Evernote offers some basic collaboration and sharing tools. Specifically, you can choose to share a notebook with specific people or the entire Internet. This is particularly useful if you work with other Evernote users. These sharing tools aren't anything fancy; they don't track changes or maintain file-audit trails. But for simple projects, they could be a helpful tool.

A few caveats

Though it's easy to get data into Evernote, it's not so easy to get it back out. You can drag JPG and PNG files from the Evernote app to your Mac desktop. You can't do that with PDF files, though; the best workaround for those is to use OS X's built-in print-to-PDF functionality. If you try to copy and paste rich-text notes from Evernote into a Mac word processor, the formatting won't necessarily survive the trip. Some users find these data-export limitations a deal breaker, while others are able to live with them just fine.

You also need to consider security. While you can designate specific data to be stored locally only, the real benefit of Evernote is its cloud storage. But if you work with sensitive data, it may not be wise--or even permissible--to save it in the cloud. You can encrypt selected portions of text notes, and Premium users can encrypt whole files before uploading. But regardless, Evernote is cloud storage and that carries some risk.

All that said, I think Evernote can be a really handy business tool. I'm relatively conservative in what I do with it; I don't, for example, take full advantage of its tagging and search capabilities. (For an excellent introduction to what the app can do, check out Brett Kelly's $25 ebook, Evernote Essentials.) But even so, I find Evernote an indespensible tool on business trips, for quickly accessing images and other files I use a lot, and, of course, for cataloguing my tea.

 

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