How I use Evernote

Evernote is really powerful note taking service available for free. The basic set up is this, you set up your account and you get an allotted amount of server space in which to keep your notebooks. You can keep as many as you want, and you can throw anything in them. It provides the essential word processor and recording tools, as well as letting you drop in anything useful you may find out there on the web. You can access the service from their downloadable apps and programs (also free) for literally every platform out there (I run it on a linux netbook, windows desktop and PC, iPhone, and iPad) as well as from their site. So it’s a ridiculously versatile tool that lets you take and check notes from anywhere you can get an internet connection.

What I want to do is share how I use Evernote, so far, as a first year student at Law School.

First, and probably most obviously I set up a notebook for each of my classes, pretty standard. But I also threw in a extra book called outline (more on that in a minute).

Each evening as I do the reading for a class I got to that notebook and add a note, I title it with the date followed by “Pre-class”. I tag the note with the chapter of the casebook, the topic, and any keywords from the reading; I also add as a tag each case that comes up in that reading. I also do all of my case briefs as their own note, tagging them similarly. This has been super helpful so far, because when I get to class with my iPad I just pull up that notebook, and whenever there’s a discussion on a particular case I have the brief right there in front of me ready to go.

Now during class I sit back and pull up the notebook and add a new note, date plus “in class notes”. This is where I take down what we go over in class. Personally I find it distracting to switch from the tag line to the note body while class is going on, so whenever a key-word or something comes up I tend to bold or star it, and then after class I check those and add them as tags on that note.

Once the day is done I get back to the apartment and set on that extra notebook I mentioned, outlines. Outlines for me has 6 notes in it, one for each class. What I do is pull up the pre and in class notes from that day and compare them; any thing that gets mentioned in both notes, or anything from the in-class notes that the professor said (i.e. the things that are important from both notes) gets condensed and put under a topic heading in the outline note. Along with a list of any of the cases discussed and keywords that were used as tags.

So now at the end of the semester, or when I go to start making actual outlines, I have this handy guide. It has a condensed version of the notes that express, I hope, the important facts. And whenever a particular section seems a little fuzzy, or I’ve forgotten something there or need aide, I have the tags from that section and I can just check those tags in Evernote and it’ll bring me all the notes from that section asap.

This is how I’m using Evernote. It has a lot of features I didn’t discuss, and it’s a really powerful tool. For anyone reading I hope this could be of use.

A friend just pointed out another point that I’d like to add on here. This whole scheme may seem too dependent on laptops and the internet but it really isn’t. The other day I got out of Civ Pro and my iPad died, and I had forgotten to pack a charger. It wasn’t this cataclysmic moment where I panicked about my next class (contracts) and how all was lost.

I just went to the library before class and signed on at the Evernote site, pulled up my pre-class notes and briefs for the day and printed them off†. I took them into class and took in class notes on a legal pad. When I got home I put the sheet of notes into my scanner and sent them straight into Evernote and tagged them. Didn’t even have to bother with transcribing it, why bother, it scans in as is.

† Printing isn’t something I do a lot. Given that Evernote is a stable company and site, I don’t fear that there may be an impending server meltdown destroying my notes. Just to be safe I do use this little feature to export a notebook as an html file (website of all your notes) every weekend. I don’t think it’s critical, but it is a worst-case scenario precaution. So I’m not really into hard copy backups on paper, the whole point of the game is to get as paperless as possible. That said, printing is still pretty neat in Evernote. Any note you print comes with a built in header with the note title, notebook it’s from, date created, last date updated, and associated tags. It’s pretty awesome for when you need print on the fly and keep it organized.


About chaisesmith

B.A. Political Science - University of Kentucky Minor Philosophy - University of Kentucky
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3 Responses to How I use Evernote

  1. Anonymous says:

    I found this post because I’m starting law school in a couple months and I’m researching my options to decide how I want to take notes and organize. I consider myself an extremely organized person (I already use Evernote constantly) and a very good student, and I think this sounds like a great system.

    My only concern is that I’ve heard there may be professors who still don’t allow the use of laptops in class. But as long as that’s not the case, I definitely plan to use this method.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I worry that with evernote’s free subscription that I will run out of space while taking notes in law school. Has this been the case for you?

    • chaisesmith says:

      It doesn’t really have an effect on the answer to your question, but I feel like I should go ahead and disclaim that this is a *very* old post and I ended up leaving law school after that first semester and going on to a graduate degree program in psychology. Anyway…

      No, running out of space was never an issue for me. To be clear, overall storage isn’t a big deal with Evernote, it’s the monthly upload cap that’s important. With the free plan, the cap is 60mb/month — i.e. you can have 2gb worth of content in your notebooks, as long as you put it there in <60mb chunks over a few months — which I found to be more than enough for a semester of law school.

      If the storage/upload constraint still worries you, the important thing to consider is how you tend/intend to take notes. When I originally wrote this post, I was creating a *lot* of notes per class, per day — following the system outlined above. The number of notes was irrelevant, though, because — as you can still see in the embedded screen capture above — the content of my notes was very vanilla, which matters because: 2,000 words of plain text is just under 10kb in terms of file size and there are 1,000kb, or roughly 200,000 words, in 1mb and the limit on the free plan is 60mb, or 12,000,000 words, a month. So the limit really is quite hard to hit as long as you're just making typed notes. If you plan on, or are interested in, adding things like pictures, audio, or even video to your notes, you're going to run into file sizes much larger than I was dealing with and the 60mb/month cap may be a bigger issue for you than it was for me.

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