Evernote Essentials: The Reading List

Screenshot of my Evernote Reading List Notebook

One of my go-to uses of Evernote is a Personal Reading List. I only use this list for keeping track of the books I would like to read, and that media differentiation is important. Articles & webpages to read are sent to Pocket. Academic PDFs are kept in Papers. The reading list, then, is filled mostly with general fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and academic monographs. Information about these books is sent to Evernote via one of several capture points:

  • If I see tweets about a book, I typically search for that book on Powells or Worldcat and clip the book. This gives me a nice cover image and helpful info like an ISBN.
  • If the book is mentioned in a news article or blog post, I simply clip that page. There are a fair number of posts from the Millions in my reading list.
  • If the book is suggested in conversation, I quickly enter it with Drafts and send it to Evernote.
  • I typically read print magazines on my train commute, and I’ll often see mention of a book in Harpers or Fantasy & Science Fiction. In that event, I will take a picture of the page, annotate the image in Skitch, and send it to Evernote (screenshot below).

A page from Science Fiction and Fantasy magazine, with a red box around the books being reviewed.

Regardless of capture method, the book info is sent to my @inbox. From there, I attach any additional information and send it to my “Reading List” notebook–with one note per book to read. I also attach tags–non-fiction, science fiction, academic, literary, etc–to the notes, helping me quickly find specific genres when at the bookstore or filling out an Interlibrary Loan Request.

Evernote isn’t the most elegant means of managing a reading list, but it’s the easiest to manage. I’ve also made a concerted effort to minimize the number of software solutions in my life, and an Evernote reading list helps me to maintain some degree of simplicity.

Finally, I take fairly extensive notes on the things I read. When I acquire a book in my Reading List, I move the book’s note to a notebook called “Reading Notes.” From there, I update that note with a summary, a response, and any helpful or interesting quotations. This workflow allows me to prune the Reading List and to keep an archive of reading notes and books read in a given time period.

Geeknote: Using Evernote From the Command Line

This weekend’s excursion is Geeknote, which asks:

Are you a geek? Do you like Evernote? Geeknote - is for you! Geeknote is an opensource Evernote console client for Linux, FreeBSD and Mac OS X. Use it for system administration needs, creating notes, notebooks, [and syncing] your local directories with Evernote notebooks.

I’m especially interested in the prospect of using console editors to create Markdown notes. I don’t know that I would use this on a regular basis, but it could be handy for quickly noting something in the middle of a Terminal-based task. Worth exploring.

Evernote Essentials: @Inbox

Screenshot of an Evernote Inbox

Years ago, when I first tried Evernote, it wasn’t a good fit. I didn’t want my files locked into a proprietary system; instead, I wanted to store my materials in a transparent folder structure.

I’m less picky today. I think this is partly because my relationship to digital material has changed: Rather than just handling document files that originate from one or two places, I now deal with all sorts of digital ephemera from any number of sources, and I need to a place to stash it all. I like that Evernote is cross-platform and offers several easy points of entry–the email address being my favorite. Sure, my materials are archived in Evernote’s file-structure, but there’s an export tool if ever I (or they) need to make an exit.

My first step in adapting to this system was to make an @Inbox folder. (The @ symbol pushes the Inbox to the top of an alphabetically-sorted notebook list.) All new materials–web clippings, email forwards, files, screenshots, whatever–are first sent to that notebook. Every few days I clear out the @Inbox notebook, archiving most things, and acting on what remains.

Inboxes are often unfairly vilified–a visual representation of digital accumulation. (I’ll write more on this subject later.) But I would instead argue that Inboxes are empowering: A place to sort, to prioritize, and to then act. So, for me, the first step in making Evernote–or any similar system–functional begins with an Inbox to which all material is first sent.

Using Markdown With Evernote via Sublime Text: A (Forked) Package

Update 11/10/13: This package has been updated to include notebook selection and now requires Sublime Text 3. It might still work with Sublime 2, but if you have problems I would encourage you to try installing the package via Sublime 3 first.

The Overview

I’ve cobbled together a couple of packages and created a fork of the SublimeEvernote package for Sublime Text. If you want to send Markdown to Evernote (with Evernote rendering your Markdown as rich text), this is the tool for you.

The Context

I’ve been a loyal Textmate user for years, but last Spring, at the urging of several colleagues, I downloaded a copy of Sublime Text and studied up. In the time since, Sublime has become my primary composing environment. While I don’t know that I would suggest it as a go-to Markdown tool for general writers, I can say that–in terms of power and extendability–it is the best solution for anyone working with a number of different digital languages.

Part of that power comes via the Command Palette (an Alfred-like tool that allows you to launch features via a keystroke) and the many Sublime Text packages. There’s a solid Lynda overview of Sublime’s features, and it’s worth browsing if you’re interested.

I’ve been doing more writing in Evernote this week (as classes have started), and although I love Evernote as a place to archive and search through notes, it’s not a good composing space for me. It was time to search for a Markdown-to-Evernote Sublime package.

A quick look through Package Control revealed jamiesun’s SublimeEvernote package, which provides a way to send Markdown notes directly to Evernote from Sublime. Conceptually, I haven’t seen a simpler way to get Markdown into Evernote. Upon installing the plugin, however, I found that it uses an antiquated means of authenticating your Evernote account–so the package is broken.

Looking through the git forks, it seemed that rekotan had solved this problem, implementing a token-based authentication method in the package. I installed the package, and yes–it connects to Evernote. rekotan, however, also removed the markdown translation tools–so the Evernote notes aren’t parsed into rich text. Instead, the note is stored in Evernote as preformatted text (meaning that headings still have a # in front of them, and bold text is still shown with asterisks around it). I realize the value of this; however, when I send a note to Evernote, I don’t need the Markdown syntax intact. At that point the note can be archived as rich text.

So I combined the token-based authentication with the original project and created a new fork. Installation instructions follow. If you’re a Sublime user, this is a very simple means of pushing Markdown text into Evernote.

Installation Instructions

  1. Open Terminal.
  2. Navigate to your Sublime packages directory. For me, that command is: cd ~/Library/Application\ Support/Sublime\ Text\ 3/Packages
  3. Clone the repository: git clone --recursive https://github.com/timlockridge/SublimeEvernote.git
  4. Restart Sublime Text
  5. Write a note in Markdown
  6. Launch the Command Palette (Comamnd+Shift+P for Mac, or Ctrl+Shift+P for PC & Linux) type “Evernote” and choose “Send to Evernote” An image of the "Send to Evernote" option
  7. A new window will launch with your Developer Token. Copy it.
  8. Jump back to Sublime & paste the token into the entry box at the bottom of the Sublime window. The dialog box is easy to miss, but it will appear at the bottom of your Sublime window.
  9. The box at the bottom of Sublime will prompt for a title. Give the note one. It will then ask for tags (optional). An image of the title selection dialog box
  10. If everything works as expected, you will get a dialog box acknowledging success and the note should be in your default Evernote notebook! The Success Dialog Box

1. If you are git savvy, you can also clone the repo from the command line–and then get future updates via a pull request.

Using TextExpander to Prep

A screenshot of Sven's Octopress Snippet

At Simplicity Is Bliss Sven Fechner has a handy TextExpander snippet for managing a nightly review, including a space to log tomorrow’s goals and the prep necessary.

I could see this being a very handy tool for academics, particularly in regards to class and research prep. During the mid-semester push, for example, I find that it’s easy to backlog research and reading writing tasks–they simply don’t feel as pressing as the next committee meeting or student concern. Adjusting Sven’s snippet to include reading & writing goals, however, could provide a helpful mechanism for reading/research accountability. Connect the snippet to your to-do list, and you helpful means of both scheduling and later assessing that schedule. Handy.