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.



This article is about writing, and this is the stage where it is done. It is surprisingly the simplest step when it comes to Evernote. While Evernote has a rich text editor, I use it as a simple text editor only. What makes Evernote such a good tool for me is the ability to use the entry window as a blank page to just write.

I tend to write entire articles in one sitting and my goal is to enter text continuously without interruption. I don't want to fiddle with formatting or adding links, I just write. Making an article look good for publication comes in the next stage.

Evernote MBA

I have adopted a method for dealing with hyperlinks I wish to embed in the published article. It's common to quote other sources and provide links to related articles. I paste such links above the paragraph that contains the anchor text for the link. That draws my attention to the link when I'm polishing up the article and it's a simple technique that works well for me.

After each article is written I always step away from it for a time and then come back to it later for editing. I usually conduct two or three editing sessions, one which has me reading the article out loud. The spoken word makes even the smallest errors easier to spot and clean up.

It's not unusual for me to work on an article on two or three different devices. I might start an article on a Windows tablet, and edit it on an Android tablet. Whatever device I use it will have a physical keyboard attached for rapid text entry. I've been known to edit articles using just the onscreen keyboard of a tablet when the opportunity presents itself.


Once an article is written it's time to get it into the content management system (CMS) for publication online. ZDNet has a sophisticated system and while articles can be written directly into the editor, I prefer using Evernote for the reasons stated.

Evernote plays a simple yet significant part in the publication stage as it contains all of the written words. I get those words into the CMS through a simple copy process. I select all the text in Evernote and paste it into the editor in one pass.

Anyone familiar with online publishing is well aware of the dangers of hidden formatting in such a paste operation but our editor allows pasting as plain text and that works perfectly. In one simple paste function an entire article appears in the editor as if by magic.

This method is good for me due to the multi-passes of copy editing I've done in Evernote prior to pasting it into the editor. The copy is probably not perfect, but it's a lot cleaner than it would have been otherwise. I find it easier to edit articles in Evernote, too.

Evernote is out of the picture at this point, but it's earlier role comes into play in the CMS system as I cut and paste existing hyperlinks where they need to be. I add images at this point and finalize the article to make it look as it should.

Evernote is platform and device independent

What makes Evernote such an essential tool for my writing work is the ability to use it no matter what mobile device I have with me. I don't have to think about the task at hand, I just do it. 

Whether it is a phone to capture ideas, or a tablet with a physical keyboard, Evernote steps in at every step of the writing process for me and I couldn't imagine doing the work with it.

Shout out to editors

At some point after the article is published some very bright editors step in and correct any remaining errors in the work and punch up the copy. They are the most awesome people on the planet, folks whose job is to make writers like me look as good as possible. They get little thanks for such great work so this is a shout out to these wonderful people.

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

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • 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.