Going Paperless: 5 Tips for Speeding Up Note Creation and Searches in Evernote (Part 1)

Sometimes, all that prevents me from doing something is the idea that I can’t afford the time; that it will just take too long. I’ve therefore made a habit of looking for little shortcuts to speed things up. Over the next two weeks, I’ll share 10 tips for speeding up the process of Going Paperless with Evernote and other tools. This week focuses on tips that speed up the use of Evernote. Next week’s post will focus on 3rd party tools that help speed up the Going Paperless process.

1. Use keyboard shortcuts

I am a big fan of keyboard shortcuts. They may take some time to remember, but they save time in the long run. Evernote has several keyboard shortcuts that help speed up note entry when I’m sitting at my iMac. Here are a couple I use frequently:

^ ⌘ N – Create a Quick Note

Pressing ^⌘ N from anywhere inside Mac OS will bring up the Quick Note interface from the OS toolbar. You can just start typing, drag a file or image onto the note and save the note all from the toolbar popup.

Quick Note

Shift-⌘-5: Capture a screen image in Skitch

I am constantly capturing screen images in Skitch. The fastest way I know if doing it on the Mac is to hit Shift-⌘-5. This brings up a cross-hair and allows me to select the part of the screen that I want to capture. Once I’ve selected it, the image is pulled into Skitch, where I can edit it and save it to Evernote, copy it to the clipboard, or export it to an image file.

For a full list of keyboard commands in Evernote, check out these documents:

2. Email to Evernote

When I am in a hurry, particularly on a mobile device, I will often email notes and images to Evernote using my Evernote email address. If you don’t know what your Evernote email address is, you can find it under your Account Info options:

Email Note

To speed up this process even more, I’ve added my Evernote email address to my Google Contacts. This way, when I create an email message that I am sending to Evernote, all I have to do is type “Evernote” in the To: line and it finds my Evernote email address. No need to memorize it.

You can even tell Evernote where to file your email message. Including a @notebookname in the subject line will send the note the notebook name after the @ sign. By including a #tag you can also tag your notes as you send them. For example:

Subject: Receipt for purchase @Business #receipts

would file the note in my “Business” notebook and tag it with “receipts.”

3. Use shortcuts for frequently accessed notes

Shortcuts are arbitrary links to notes, notebooks and other items in Evernote that you can collect in a Shortcut area for quick navigation. I use shortcuts extensively to access notes quickly. The set of shortcuts I use changes from time-to-time depending on my needs, but it saves me a lot of time poking around to find things quickly. Here is what my shortcut area looks like on my iMac:


The nice thing about shortcuts is that they can contain pretty much any kind of Evernote object. In the example above, you can see I have one shortcut to a note (the list of characters in my current work-in-progress); one shortcut to a notebook (my filing cabinet notebook); and one shortcut to a saved-search (my “to-read” list).

These are things I use frequently and don’t want to go hunting for. I’m pretty bad at remembering all of the names I’ve given to characters in my story so it’s nice to click on the shortcut to the note and see the list of names without fuss. I tend to drag a lot of notes into my filing cabinet, so it’s convenient to have it in my shortcut list. I can just drag notes onto the shortcut to the notebook to file them in the notebook. My THINGS TO READ list is a saved search of all the articles that I have clipped and are sitting in my inbox with a “to-read” tag. I use this when I want to pull up the list and wade through it.

4. Used saved searches for quick access to information

A saved search in Evernote is a way of capturing a search that you do frequently and saving it for later so that you can use it over and over again without having to retype the search parameters each time. It can be incredibly useful and it is easy to create. For example, suppose I wanted to create a Saved Search that would show me “all notes created yesterday,” where “yesterday” is always relative to the current date. Here is how you go about doing it:

1. Enter your search criteria into Evernote. For the search I described above, I’d type the following into the search bar:

created:day-1 -created:day

This tells Evernote to pull up all notes created since “day – 1” or the day before the current day, e.g. yesterday. The -created:day tells Evernote to pull up all notes created before the current date. So the search is saying, show me all posts created since yesterday and before today–that is, everything created yesterday.

2. Click the Saved Search button in the search criteria panel about the list of resulting notes:

Saved Search

3. In the Saved Search dialog, give your saved search a name. I named mine “Notes from Yesterday.”

Notes From Yesterday

4. Now, when you click in the search bar, your new saved search will appear in the list of Saved Searches. If you want, you can drag your Saved Search from the menu to the shortcut area so that it is easier to access.

Here are some examples of how I use saved searches in Evernote.

5. Use Offline mode on the iPhone/iPad for access to note without a network connection

There is nothing worse than carefully capturing all of your notes in Evernote, only to find it impossible to access them because you don’t have a network connection. This can really slow things down. To avoid this problem, I enable “Offline Notebooks” on my iPhone and iPad.

The “Offline Notebooks” feature is a feature of the Evernote Premium service. It allows you to mark notebooks as “offline,” meaning that all of the notes in the notebooks (and their attachments) will be accessible to you even if you don’t have a network connection.

If you are a premium user, you can enable offline notebooks from Premium Features settings on the iPhone, or the Account settings on the iPad. (I don’t use Android, so I don’t know exactly how to do it from there, but it imagine the process is similar.) Select “Offline Notebooks” and then select those notebooks you want to be available when you are offline. Here is an example of what mine looks like on my iPad:

Offline Notebooks

Now, if I am at Home Depot and getting now cellular service all the way in the back, I still have offline access to my Digital House notebook so that I can lookup measurements and other information about my house. This saves a lot of time and frustration.

If you have additional tips and suggestions, let’s hear them. Include them in the comments below.

In next week’s post, I’ll provide 5 more tips for speeding up the paperless process with Evernote. Next week’s tips will focus on 3rd party tools and other integrations with Evernote that can help speed the paperless process.

If you have a suggestion for a future Going Paperless post, let know me. Send it to me at feedback [at] jamietoddrubin.com. As always, this post and all of my Going Paperless posts is also available on Pinterest.

Last week’s post: Answers to Your Questions on Paperless Lifestyle.


  1. Thanks for the writeup, Jamie! I’m not sure I understand how to save my searches, however. I couldn’t find a criteria panel. Then again, I’m on Mac and perhaps this is a Windows only version?

    1. Christian, good question. It looks like the icon that I could swear was there on the Mac was removed at some point. Here is how you do it: Enter your search criteria. When you have the results, go to the Edit menu, select Find->Save Search. You’ll be prompted for a name for your saved search. Once you save it, the search will appear in the list of Saved Searches when you click in the Search box. You can edit your saved searches by clicking on the Edit box to the right of the Saved Search item.

  2. Great tips. I need to learn the keyboard shortcuts – I’m sure they’ll be very handy. I’m all for minimum clicks…

    I use the email all the time – and it’s very fast and available from any computer/mobile device.

  3. If you want to add an email to an existing note. Use “note @notebook +”

    Receipt @Business + would file the mail in the end of note Receipt in the notebook Business

  4. For the on the road scanning I would recommend using a mobile application for doing the scanning. On iOS I use Scanner Pro by Reaadle and with my Android phone I use Cam Scanner. These apps will find the edges of a doc scanned automatically which can be adjusted manually if need be. Works a Treat.

  5. Excellent tips, Jaimie. I use Saved Searches when I’m working on a project. I drag the searches to the Shortcut bar, and then remove them from the bar when the project’s done.

    I’ve been using the Table of Contents feature extensively too. I drag the TOC notes to the Shortcut bar as well. Great timesaver. 🙂


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.