How to: Writing with Evernote on mobile devices

How to: Writing with Evernote on mobile devices

Summary: Evernote is much more than a note app, it can be used in different ways for writing projects. Here's how I use it.

Evernote iOS OS X
(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

Mobile devices of all kinds can be used by writers, it's a great part of what we do. I regularly use laptops and tablets for my writing projects, and they cross all platforms. Being platform agnostic makes it important to have writing tools that work on all OSes, and Evernote is great for that reason, among others.

Evernote is a note-taking app on steroids, and in addition to having a web interface it also has apps on iOS, Android, and Windows 8. These apps are free, as is the basic level of service that backs them up.

Notes taken in any of the Evernote interfaces are instantly synced to the cloud, thus making notes accessible no matter the platform or device being used. This makes Evernote a perfect fit for the way I work.

To call Evernote a note-taking app as I did doesn't really do it justice. At its core, Evernote has a rich text editor which on its own can be used as a writing platform. It's so full of features it is overkill for my needs as I use it as a simple editor for my writing projects.

Typical writing projects consist of four stages: idea capture, research, writing, and publication. Evernote plays a big role in the first three, and most of my writing projects are done in Evernote.

Idea Capture

A significant part of writing is coming up with topics to write about. Evernote is great for this process as ideas can occur to me at any time. I have an Evernote notebook for story ideas, and no matter where I am when inspiration for a potential article occurs to me I tap a button in Evernote and enter the thought.

The beauty of Evernote is this idea capture isn't restricted to just text entry. Sometimes ideas are the result of something I see, and at those times I grab my Android phone and snap a photo right into Evernote. An image is worth a thousand words and sometimes images I capture do indeed become that many words thanks to Evernote on my phone.

Text and visual ideas aren't the only way to grab ideas on the go, I often record audio notes using my phone that go into Evernote. A quick thought can be spoken in seconds that turns into a lot of text in the writing stage. 

I also get inspiration by reading about a topic on the web and at those times I paste the hyperlink right in a note. I may add a little description to go with the link, but sometimes just the link is enough.

I may never write an article about a particular idea but it's present on all devices just in case. From time to time when I have a few moments I look at the idea cards and when further inspiration hits an article is born.


Good articles require research and like most writers I do a lot of it. This happens outside of Evernote but it's captured in a note I open for that purpose. The capture can be links, images, or snippets of text that will add value to the writing at hand.

There's nothing fancy about the research stage, and Evernote brings it all together.

Next: Writing, Publication, Awesome Editors

Topics: Mobility, Android, iPad, Laptops, Tablets, Windows 8

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  • How many times...

    have I read something you have written and immediately thought, "...that idea has flashed through my mine before but never verbalized..." James, you can take the same thought and not only verbalized, but expand it into a five minute read and re-read, which could "hang around" for 5 hours and be revisited 5 days/weeks later.

    You have a special talent!

    Thanks for your thoughts on how you use Evernote. We can/could all learn from your verbalized thoughts.
    jmb codewriter
  • Thanks!

    I appreciate it.
  • I use OneNote

    Like many others. Both apps are cross platform, sync with the cloud, support multiple input types etc. A comparison would have been helpful.
    • And

      using an app generator, I even have it on my iMac at work, working over the cloud version. It is good enough for reading notes and adding to them. Generation is usually done on my Windows tablet.
    • OneNote - good & bad

      I find OneNote on the PC excellent but the Android App is almost useless IMHO. I have yet to try Evernote so I'll give it a g. I've been meaning to try it for some time and this article has given me the push I need.
  • What do you use for a keyboard?

    I can't stand typing on glass. Do you carry an external keyboard around with all your tablets? Do you need a separate keyboard for each? Or do you type on glass?
    • Any serious typing.....

      probably requires a real, external keyboard, at least it does for me. My Android tablet is in a keyboard-case combo. The keyboard is bluetooth. While it is not as easy to use as a regular PC keyboard, it is certainly better than typing on the screen.
      • Real v Virtual keyboards

        I agree 100% that a real keyboard is much easier to use than a glass keyboard. However, what the glass lacks in touch and speed it (I almost said "more than") makes up for in the Swiftkey predictive texting which also learns phrases I use often. The disadvantage of a bluetooth keyboard with a tablet or phone is the need to support both devices and type - almost impossible in many mobile situations. So I've come to like my glass keyboard - and my laptop ;)
  • Are you serious?

    I write novels (latest one is "Project J" available on Amazon and others) and there is no way I would ever try writing anything but a short email or note on a table, even with Evernote. No way!

    I have tried external bluetooth keyboards, but none can take the place of a good, full sized keyboard on my desktop.

    I really don't like typing on a laptop since I cannot equal my normal typing speed on them.

    There is also the usual problems with storing your data in the cloud: you must be online, the server must be up, the Internet must be up, your data is available to third parties, etc.

    Evernote may be fine for occasional notes and such, but for a serious writer it fails to do the job. But then, there is no way to do serious writing on a tablet in the first place.

    • That's you

      I've written 100,000+ words easily in the past few months alone using tablets and keyboards. Works well for me.
      • I'm serious!

        Well put, James Kendrick! I AM a serious writer and have typed many thousands of words on my tablet--no external keyboard--because it simply does work so well. (Of course one's lack of comfort and success with these things is directly proportionate the same one's limited intellect and propensity for whining. Whiners aren't even qualified to identify 'serious writing'.) I appreciate your Evernote article which is definitely going into my keeper file! I have the app as well as many of its sibling apps but I'm not very proficient with it. Your How-To will certainly be welcome assistance in my becoming more so.
        Sherry Lienert
        • So, you are a serious writer, Ms. Lienert...

          May I ask what works you have published? How many books have you written on your tablet and had actually had published?

          Over the last ten years, since I retired from a career in IT, I have 90 novels published, a total of over four million words. I'd like to see you do that on a tablet -- and with no external keyboard as you profess. And how long did it take you to type those "many thousands of words" you claim?

          I take objection to your classifying myself as of "limited intelligence" and having a "propensity for whining." In the first place, I am a member in good standing of Mensa. Also my BS, MS and PhD. So much for intelligence. As to whining... I was simply pointing out that attempting to write on a tablet, with or without Evernote, is too time consuming for serious writers. That is not whining. It is simply stating a fact that also happens to be agreed with by numerous persons in this forum.

          In short, who is doing the whining??

    • Oh yeah?

      Well I've written 10 kajillion words, therefore your own preference for how you do your work is completely invalidated.

      Sounds a little silly, doesn't it?

      Anyway, I don't see where the author of this article claimed to write all or even most of his work on mobile devices, so...
  • Another 'How Many Times....."

    As in: 'How many Times do I have to remind ZD Net that multiple page articles / slide shows are totally unacceptable for a 'tech' client base without a prominently place 'View as one Page' link at the top of the article'.

    'Nuff said.
    Leo Regulus
    • 'Nuff said.

      Thank you and amen, Leo Regulus!! I generally like ZDNet, but those silly little slide shows they are quite proud of are so abhorrent as to leave me increasingly disinclined to give them even a glance. Articles that go on page after page ad infinitum--or ad nauseam--are likewise unacceptable. Apparently not yet has there been "'Nuff said" since these folks still don't get it. Perhaps therein lies the point: they are not going to get that which their clients request, so why bother with them? ZDNet is certainly not the only resource in town!
      Sherry Lienert
  • never ending arguments

    Come on guys, be nice to each other. Your argument is just like the never ending choices - Coke or Pepsi, Mac or PC, traditional or avant garde. Whichever is good for one, is always better than the other but both are right. Right?
  • Pretty much how I use Evernote

    Except for publishing to ZDNET, that is :)

    Also, I use an Livescribe Sky pen, that directly syncs with Evernote over WiFi. That lets me write directly in a paper notebook, which sometimes inspires me more, than writing "digital" -- and also allows me to draw diagrams and record sound at the same time. All of this goes in Evernote and gets classified and sorted later. Evernote also OCRs my written text and lets me do full text searches etc... something I was especially impressed with, as I did not expect it would understand my script/language. Livescribe has released a new pen (Livescribe 3), which uses Bluetooth instead of WiFi and syncs to mobile devices directly and is also better looking -- but I am likely to wait for a next version -- a combination between the Sky (with WiFi) and 3 (with Bluetooth) :)

    By the way, I have so far resisted an physical keyboard for my iPad.