New Text Formatting Options in Evernote 8 for iOS

Evernote 8 introduced some text formatting options that people had been requesting for a long time.  Here is a quick tour of how to use them.


Features that Evernote mobile apps need

  1. A dark mode would be helpful on all Evernote apps, but mobile in particular.The mobile apps could do with the option to print (or export) notes to PDF.
  2. Scan to PDF for mobile apps.  Scannable is an excellent app from Evernote which offers image and PDF export options for scans.  Scannable surely shows that this can happen!  Recent iterations of the Evernote mobile apps have included things that first appeared in Scannable.  Here’s to hoping for the ability to create PDFs with my scans!
  3. End to end or client side encryption.  Fully encrypted services are becoming more widely available and popular (Telegram Messenger, Whatsapp, and Tresorit to name a few).  Evernote following suite here would make my day!
  4. The iOS text formatting pop up menu needs fixing (and it’s needed fixing for about two years).  Whenever I want to copy and paste text in notes it is far more fiddly than it should be!  The menu is meant to appear when you tap to place the cursor somewhere.  But in Evernote the menu disappears immediately before you can actually use it.  Currently the best work-around is to select somewhere and then scroll the screen which then brings the menu back up, but this is awkward.  I hope Evernote fixes the root problem ASAP.
    A related point is that Evernote’s custom pop over menus for list items and text formatting on iPhone need fixing – they should disappear when they’re open and you tap the button again.
  5. The ability to airdrop note files (.enex files), not just a link to the note.
    1. You can appreciate how useful this would be.  It would be considerably faster than generating a note link and then directing someone to a webpage to read it.  Also what’s the point of encouraging my family and friends to use Evernote if Evernote themselves only share a webpage with co-users?  Yes I know there is Work Chat but two issues:
      (i) As far as I can tell Work Chat doesn’t actually send a note file to another user.  So if you want to collaborate with someone, all well and good.  If you want them to have a standalone copy of the note, no good.
      (ii) You still need to use the cloud to share a note with Work Chat, so what if you can’t access the cloud?  Onto my next point…
    2. This would be perfect for the (few) cases in which I’ve had notes that won’t sync up to the cloud because they’re too large and were created on an old device.  But it would also be extremely useful for cases in which you’re offline and therefore unable to sync a note to the cloud.
  6. Do checklists well.
    1. Firstly, checkboxes in Evernote iOS can be really difficult to work with.  Selecting text to the right of a checkbox in order to overwrite it can be a real pain and often results in overwriting the checkbox (even though it wasn’t selected) which additionally results in typing something like font size 6 text.  Whatever the heck is going on there it needs fixing.
    2. Secondly, I don’t know about you but I make better use of features that are visually appealing.  Right now Evernote’s checkboxes in iOS look like they really don’t belong there.  Take a look at Apple’s implementation in the Notes app for iOS 9 – they are good looking checklists!  Some work along these lines has been done with Evernote’s Mac app, perhaps it can be extended to the mobile apps?
  7. A nice feature to have would be font size options but I don’t regard it as important as the features above.

How to use Evernote Scannable : Exporting JPGs, PDFs and multi page documents.

Edit: version 1.0.1 was released after this post. It’s now possible to force PDF/JPG exports, see how in this post.

Scannable is the new app for scanning from Evernote. It is a capable scanning app: easy to use and functional. There is some functionality missing if it is to trump existing scanner apps, but it is a solid release from Evernote. I already had a scanner app which I thought to be more powerful than Scannable and I thought that Scannable would be little more than the scanning functionality of the existing Evernote app in a separate app. So I thought I’d skip it. But my curiosity got the better of me, so I downloaded it to see what it’s like, and so that I could express my concern that Evernote would remove functionality from the core Evernote app in the AppStore reviews.

As you can imply from above I was pleasantly surprised by the experience. I played around a bit to investigate the possibilities. Then I took to the AppStore to investigate other users’ experience. Reading through the reviews in the AppStore highlighted a couple of issues. 1. Several users mistakenly thought that Scannable can only export JPGs. 2. They also mistakenly thought that Scannable cannot export multi page documents. With that in mind I thought it might be worth making a short screencast demonstrating how to take control of the exporting process, I’ve added it below.

If anyone has any further questions go ahead and ask in the comments, or over on Google Plus.

Evernote : A teacher’s best friend

Evernote is a useful and powerful note taking application. Millions of people around the world rely on it for activities as diverse as ticking items off a shopping list to collaborating on extensive projects.  For many Evernote is so invaluable it is like an extension of their brain!

Several core features make Evernote hard to beat for most people: it is easy to use, it is reliable, apps exist for just about every platform (desktop, mobile and web) and it is quick to perform detailed searches.  In addition to its wide appeal, Evernote is a fantastic tool for teachers and students.  Below are the main ways in which Evernote aids my day to day planning and teaching.

A large part of my work consists of thinking up new ideas and new resources, Evernote’s biggest strength is capturing information.  It is great at capturing ideas typed up, scribbled on an envelope, doodled, sketched – you name it Evernote can capture it!  Type directly into Evernote if you are able to or write / sketch onto paper and use the excellent document scanner which is built into the mobile apps.

There are three main ways to organise stuff in Evernote: stacks, notebooks and tags.  Stacks and notebooks provide the overarching structure.  I use Stacks to broadly differentiate between personal and work notes, each area has with a few / several sub categories provided by notebooks.  My work area consists of a general archive, a resources archive, notes from meetings, notes for tracking student performance, and an archive of physics / teaching related articles.

Notebooks are useful for imposing order upon Evernote content but the most useful aspect of organisation is the use of tags.

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Whereas a note can only be in one notebook at a time, a single note may have several tags.  It is also possible to nest tags in order to keep them organised too.  Tags make searching through thousands of notes much easier.

It is also sometimes useful to be able create a checklist for lessons and tick them off as the lesson progresses.  Checklists are easy to create and tick off in Evernote mobile apps.  Managing tasks in the office and classroom is straightforward and effective.

In one form or another Evernote is nearly always at hand, whether I’m commuting or at my desk I have a way of collecting and shaping ideas.  The mobile apps are very capable so refining ideas for a lesson on the go is possible.  The desktop apps are even more powerful so my work accelerates when I’m at my desk.  I much prefer to have my ideas and plans in a custom made application rather than as separate documents in folders on a computer.  In Evernote I can click / tap on a note and instantly start reading it, but documents have a time delay before I can start reading through them.  That difference is accentuated on mobile platforms.  And as mentioned above, organising notes in Evernote with tags makes finding what I need a heck of a lot quicker.

Planning on paper has the big advantage of being able to sketch or doodle ideas as you go.  But paper is messy when it comes to archiving – I am hopeless at paper based filing!  It is also incredibly slow to search.  Digital platforms are excellent at search.  Evernote brings paper and digital together wonderfully.  It has a document scanner built it – it’s the camera function I use most.  After planning something on paper I scan it into Evernote.  Once it’s uploaded to Evernote’s servers even the handwritten text will become searchable!  I have terrible handwriting so it’s usually hit and miss for me but it does get it right sometimes.  Nonetheless good use of note titles and tags makes searching much more efficient anyway.

Evernote searching is very useful, it can be narrowed down by notebook, tag, and attachment type.  If you find yourself searching with the same terms regularly then you can save the search too.  Notes can also be tagged with locations if you like.  That can create a whole new approach to browsing your note history, especially if you travel a lot.

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I’ve often created notes in Evernote that I think my students will find useful.  With a few taps any note can be made public with its own link.  Share that link with a class and they have access immediately via the link.  If I make something in advance of a class I can insert the link into Moodle (our VLE, the same can be done with Blackboard etc) so students can login and tap / click on the link.  I usually make a QR code for the link too and add it to the note / presentation so that the students can scan the code and navigate straight to the note on their phones / tablets.

Often my students and I may produce something worth keeping on the whiteboard in a class.  The document scanner works very well on whiteboards too, so I’ll often scan it and then share it with the class.  The above method of sharing is useful for sharing resources or ideas with other members of staff too.

If you want to take sharing to the next level, then share a whole notebook with students or staff.  Then collaborate on projects in the notebook.  Anyone who has an Evernote account and to whom give editing rights in a notebook can add new notes or collaborate with you on existing notes.  In order to give editing rights to someone else in a shared notebook you will need a Premium Evernote account.

Make an Evernote account here:, download the app, then get more productive.

Type a lot of science and math content?  Then you need these symbols for your smartphone.

Update: please see this newer post where I explain how to type symbols efficiently.

Quite often I am composing something on my phone when I find the keyboard is missing a symbol that I need (superscripts, subscripts, mathematical operators etc). So I then have to wait till I’m at my Mac to continue/finish off. Chances are if you are in a science or maths related job you’ll have this problem too.

The interesting thing is that whilst my iPhone keyboard doesn’t offer many of the symbols I need the phone itself can actually work with them if I provide them some other way. The usual method I have used is to type the symbols into Evernote and sync them to the Evernote app on my phone. There are other methods too: Pages or Word docs, email, SMS etc.


Once the symbols are on the phone they can be copy and pasted to where you need them. So for example let’s say I need to type the kinetic energy equation. I could type a really messy version: KE = 1/2 mv^2. Or I could type this much lovelier version: KE = ½mv². ✓ Yes I did just produce that second version with my iPhone (I am writing this entire post on my phone).

There are still limits to what can be done. For example on a desktop superscript and subscript letters can be typed, but it’s not possible to produce them on a phone (unless you’re using something like a LaTex processor). This leads me to a caveat about superscripts and subscripts.

On desktops these are produced by using modifier keys and typing the required letters. Once synced/sent to a phone those letters cease being super/subscript. In order to use super/subscripts on a phone you will need to use those symbols available in the respective character viewer.

In order to save you the process of typing out all of the symbols you need I am making my list available on this page and via an Evernote note. It should prove to be at least a good starting point. The Evernote link will open in a web browser (desktop or mobile). If you use Evernote yourself you can add the note to your app. If you don’t use Evernote you can copy and paste the list into whatever format suits you. I hope the list useful for you.

Have you ever run into this problem of needing a symbol which is absent from your phone?

Boom! This is the best recipe for Siri to Evernote yet

Important!  This recipe does not work with iOS 9 present.  Something about the way Siri sends notes to the Notes app has changed and they do not sync to Gmail.

Add your Google account to your iOS settings.  Make Google the default account for iOS Notes.  Add the IFTTT recipe (below) for adding Gmail notes to Evernote.
Prefer to read this as an Evernote note?

We all know that Siri can take notes for us if we ask, they will be filed away in the Notes app.  Useful if you use Notes.  However, I find the Notes app less than practical for handling large amounts of notes and it also cannot handle rich content.  For those reasons in addition to its many positive features Evernote is my go to note taking/searching app.  So wouldn’t the following be a great method for taking notes:
Evernote Camera Roll 20140514 125851
I know that many people agree with me as there are numerous ideas around including several recipes on IFTTT designed to accomplish just that functionality.  All of them are awkward in some way, e.g. you have to compose an email in Siri or add a reminder to an “Evernote” list.¹  So I started to think about a way to use Siri’s built in note taking functionality to create a note in Evernote.  By default Notes are handled by an iCloud account, but they can be synced with Gmail instead.²  I investigated how Gmail handled notes – it uses a label: “Notes”.  Simple.  Notes operate like a standard email but they arrive in All Mail not Inbox and they are labelled with “Notes”.  I then put an IFTTT recipe to work.  The trigger is any new email labelled “Notes”, the action is to add the content to a note in Evernote.  I was pleasantly surprised that this actually worked as I had tried using the “sender” of the email (i.e. my email address) as a trigger but that was unsuccessful.  View the recipe on IFTTT here:

IFTTT Recipe: Boom! This is the best recipe for Siri to Evernote yet. connects gmail to evernote

Now I can add Evernotes from Siri with ease.  Here’s what the result looks like for the example above:
Siri to Evernote - the final product
Admittedly the title/body break down is not very sophisticated but its pretty good.  Additional information can be inserted into the note via the IFTTT recipe if desired.

¹ Also for the IFTTT recipes that use Reminders you will need to have the IFTTT app open and if it’s in the background it may not work, whereas this recipe will reliably handle everything in the cloud. 
² For this to work Gmail has to be the default account in Notes.  If you’re not sure how to set that up here are some instructions – screenshots are shown below.
Open the Settings app.  
1. Go to Mail, Contacts, Calendars > settings for the relevant Gmail account > Turn on Notes for Gmail.
Next go back to the main screen for the Settings app.
2. Go to Notes > change the default Notes account to the Gmail account.
1. Turn on notes in the Gmail account.
60bba94336637aa7969815cc6d223749  d01d6adce9560c0ac80b382cb12827d0  d6e4a03957070d6442427a487f8d355d
2. Make the Gmail account the default.
f9c26f8650d94bd84c49e32def5b957d  Change_default_notes_account_to__Gmail_2