• What’s Evernote for? How about making a vast, searchable archive of all your files

    Evernote turns eight years old this week. But even after all these years, some people have trouble grasping what, exactly, this mystical app is supposed to do. Is it for taking notes? Saving bookmarks? Taking photos? All of the above?

    EvernoteEveryone’s needs are different. But for me, Evernote really shines as a vast, searchable archive that allows you to comb the full-text of every web page, document, photo or note you’ve saved, and find what you need in seconds.

    Here’s how it works. When you type some words in Evernote’s search box, you’re not just searching the titles of your files. You’re not just searching the tags of your photos. You’re searching the entire contents of everything you saved in Evernote. This even applies to anything you take a picture of that has words, such as business cards, thanks to Evernote’s sweet optical character recognition capability.

    For people like journalists who work on deadline, this can be incredibly useful for quickly finding a needle in a haystack.

    Evernote isn’t perfect — its desktop app can get sluggish and I get frustrated with it sometimes. But I realized how powerful this tool could be when I worked on a story about the family history of Johnny Manziel several years ago. I used Evernote to save every article, court record and web page I came across during the course of my reporting. Then, when I was writing the story and had to look up something, I could use Evernote to instantly search the entire text of those files.

    An example: I came across several old news stories about the friendship between Manziel’s great-grandfather, a wildcatter and boxer named Bobby Joe Manziel, and heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey.

    Manziel retired from boxing and moved to East Texas in the 1930s to try his luck in the oil fields as a wildcatter. Almost broke, Manziel asked Dempsey for some money to drill for oil in Gladewater.

    The well was a gusher. Dempsey later said that gamble was the smartest investment he ever made.

    But there were discrepancies in the stories I found about how much Dempsey invested. Some said $400. Others said $700. Well, which was it?

    Enter Evernote. I searched for “Dempsey” and the varying dollar amounts in my Evernote files and all the relevant articles popped up. It didn’t take long to determine that the older, more contemporaneous stories claimed Dempsey invested $400. One article quoted Dempsey directly. Problem solved.

    Now imagine life without Evernote. I would have had to reread a pile of photocopied articles looking for any mention of that investment.

    Is it possible? Sure.

    Was Evernote a useful tool that totally sped up the process?


    I wouldn’t upload sensitive files to a cloud-based app like Evernote. But for the vast majority of information you rely upon in your day-to-day life, Evernote can transform those records into a vast archive that’s instantly searchable — and instantly more useful.

  • Reporting tool: Bookmarking and searching your personal archive of web pages with Diigo

    If you bookmark lots of websites, then at some point you’ve fruitlessly searched for a specific page that you bookmarked years ago with your browser. Not fun.

    Diigo is a bookmarking tool that lets you build a searchable archive of websites that interest you.

    Like Delicious, there’s a social-media component to Diigo. You set up a profile, follow people, set up groups, and view popular Web pages. And just like Delicious, when you bookmark a page, you add tags.

    Reporting tool  Bookmarking and searching your personal archive of web pages with Diigo   John TedescoBut Diigo makes it a little easier to find those bookmarked pages. It saves a cache version of the page, so you can do a keyword search of the actual text. That’s important if you forget how you tagged a certain page, but remember some key phrases. You can also highlight the particular sentences on a Web page that you find interesting.

    What this all means is if you want to find a Web page you bookmarked years ago, you can find it by typing words or phrases you read on the page. Diigo will remember it for you. That’s certainly better than a frustrating search of the dusty old bookmark folders in your Web browser.

  • Reporting tool: Taking notes with Evernote

    Shawn Miller wrote an amazingly detailed review of Evernote, a free service that lets you take notes, pictures and recordings; sync them with Evernote; and read and search all your material on Web browsers, desktop software, and mobile apps:

    Why install the same application in so many different places? Evernote stores your collected items in the “cloud,” so every time you capture something using, say, an iPhone, that item resides on the Evernote server and thus becomes available through other interfaces such as the standalone Evernote application on a desktop machine or via the Evernote website visited on your laptop.

    EvernoteMiller explains the myriad ways he relies on Evernote. To use a technical term, it looks wicked awesome for journalists and researchers. I’m now inspired to try it out on my Android phone — check the instructional video.

    Update: Just found this vid that demonstrates how Evernote uses a type of Optical Character Recognition when you upload photos. So when you type keyword searches, you can find the words in documents you photograph. Madness.