Hands off that Mouse!

Four keyboard shortcuts you shouldn’t be without (and one Evernote really should implement…)

Want to know the easiest way to improve your productivity?

Stop using the mouse.

Watch an IT professional and you’ll see that their hands never leave the keyboard. They know that it takes a couple of seconds to move your hand from the keyboard to the mouse, and then to move the mouse to the right position on the screen and click. They know that the bigger the screen, the further the you have to move the mouse and the longer it takes to click. 

Learning just a few simple keyboard shortcuts can really speed things up. Here are three shortcuts you can use with Evernote and one that works everywhere.

1: Tab Switch between Applications

The first shortcut is nothing to do with Evernote; it’s something built into Macs, Windows and most Linux desktops 

Just suppose you’re surfing the web with your favourite browser (Safari, Chrome, Firefox, Edge) and you want to switch to Evernote to check something. 

Don’t reach for the mouse. Hold the Alt key on Windows or the Command (⌘)   key on Apple and then press the tab key. 

As you press tab you’ll see your current open apps appear on the screen.

Repeatedly press tab until you have selected the app you want to switch to, and then let go.

Tab switching is clever. The apps rearrange themselves every time you tab switch so that the app you last used is only ever one tab away. Try it.

Once you’ve got the hang of this you’ll wonder why you ever used the mouse.

2: Finding a Note in Evernote

You have two choices here:

Either jump to the search bar using Ctrl Command (⌃⌘)  E on Mac or Win Shift F on Windows

Or press Command (⌘) J on Mac or Ctrl Q on Windows to open the switcher.

The search bar remembers things like which notebook you’re in, the switcher does a fresh Evernote wide search with suggestions

Which is better? Why not try them both out and see which one you like?

If you want a new note: hit Command (⌘) N on Mac or Ctrl N on Windows

3: Finding something within a Note

Now that you’ve found your note, try and find a particular word within it.

First you have to jump to the note editor.   Hit tab repeatedly to get to it and then press enter.  (It has to be said, Evernote, you could come up with a better way)

After that it’s just Command (⌘) F on a Mac or Ctrl F on Windows to bring up the Find in Note dialog

4: A Bonus Shortcut

The previous shortcuts help you work in Evernote. But if all you want to do is jot down a quick note there is an even faster way: the helper.

The helper is one of the most underutilised features of the Evernote desktop

Ctrl Cmd (⌃⌘)  N on a Mac or Ctrl Alt H on Windows to bring it up. You can add a quick note here. You can even screenshot straight into Evernote

Test Yourself

Practicing the above shortcuts will help to get them into your muscle memory

Follow this link to see a copy of this page as a note. Save it Evernote.

Now, starting in another application see if you can find this elephant without using  the mouse

  1. Tab switch to Evernote (Cmd Tab or Alt Tab)
  2. Search for or switch to this note
  3. Search within the note for the word elephant

Your Day on a Page

For many people, going to College means freedom. Freedom to try new things, to do what you like, when you like.

Well, not quite.

You’re still going to have  lectures and tutorials to attend (that’s why you’re going, remember?)  You want to make sure that you know what you’re doing every day, so that you can really enjoy your free time without worrying that you’re behind on an assignment.

That’s where Evernote can help you.

Evernote Home gives you your day on a page. Front and center should be your calendar. Your calendar will tell you where you need to be and when. Lectures, tutorials, practicals…

Setting up a calendar with all those details can be tedious. The good news is that 99% of the time your college will have your timetable already prepared and will share it with you via Google Calendar or Outlook. 

You can view that calendar on your home page on Evernote.  Here’s how you can add a Google Calendar. Evernote doesn’t support Outlook Calendar integration yet, but you can subscribe to your Outlook Calendar from your Gmail account. Scroll to the bottom of the page to see how.

Add your college calendar and when you open up Evernote in the morning you’ll have your day on a page before you.

But there’s more.

Searching is easy on Evernote, but why search when you can have the right notes appear at the right time?

Here’s a tip: link your study notes to your individual events.

Just suppose you’ve created a note with the materials you need for tomorrow’s 9am tutorial.  Link that note to the tutorial on the calendar on your Home Page. Here’s how to add link notes to calendar events.  Now the note will be there, just when you need it.

You can even get Evernote to remind you to open the notes as the lecture begins. Just go to Calendar settings (click the dots on the top right of the calendar widget).

If I only had two pieces of advice for people heading of to college, the above would be one of them. Follow this link to see the other…

Using Outlook

Using Outlook?  You can subscribe to your Outlook Calendar from your Gmail account, if your college allows you to share calendars.

  1. Go to Outlook and click on Settings (the cogwheel in the top right hand corner)
  2. Click on View all Outlook settings at the bottom
  3. Choose Calendar
  4. Choose Shared Calendars, just below Events from email. If Shared Calendars doesn’t appear then bad news, you’re college won’t allow this.
  5. Go to Publish a calendar and choose the calendar you want to share. Hit publish and copy the ICS link.  You
  6. Now open your Google Calendar
  7. Click on Cogwheel and Settings in the top right
  8. Choose Add Calendar and then From URL
  9. Enter the ICS link you copied earlier

Live Notes and Archives

Suppose every year I plan a birthday party for my good friend, Jean Petite.

I have separate notes containing lists of presents, guests, food and drink, entertainment and so on.  I also have one master note named Project: Jean Petite Birthday 2022.  All the notes are tagged jpbirthday so I can find them quickly.

The party is a success. Even so, I create a new note outlining what went wells and even better ifs that I can refer to when planning next year’s party.

What happens when next year comes around?  Do I create new notes or use old ones? 

Some notes such as guests will just need to be modified, but others like food and drink may have to be done from scratch. I’ll probably want to create a new note for presents, but retain the old note so I don’t buy the same gift twice.

How do I stop the current notes getting mixed up with the old ones?

One way is to tag the notes by year: 2020, 2021, 2022 and then just filter to this year’s party.

Here’s a better way.

Create the following notebooks (the numbers are there so they appear in the correct order in the sidebar)

Put this year’s party notes in the In Progress Notebook. Put previous years’ notes in the Done Notebook.  Put reference notes, notes that don’t really change from year to year, in the cabinet.

Notebook View

That way if you want to see this years notes, just filter to In Progress and jpbirthday.  To see only reference notes, filter to Cabinet and jpbirthday.  To see everything, just filter to jpbirthday

The system makes use of the fact that a note can only be in one notebook at a time. Notes can be Todo or In Progress, but never both at the same time. 

A lot of people recommend using tags to represent these states, I think they’re wrong.  I’ve written about that here: You’re Using Folders and Tags the Wrong Way Round

Two more things about this system.

The filtered notes widget works really well with this system.  You can use them to see this year’s party notes at a glance.

And lastly, I used to have a separate Archive Notebook for old notes.  This is no longer needed, they all just go in the Cabinet

Stop tagging your notes with todo and done. Use notebooks.