Evernote for CPAs: Developing a Super Power

Here's how you can use Evernote to make yourself more productive

Evernote is a game-changer for CPAs.

What is Evernote?

Think of it as your personal digital library. 

Evernote is a cloud-based storage system which allows you to capture and file voice recordings, documents (including Word, Excel, PDFs), pictures, and videos. Once information is placed in Evernote, it is searchable in a Google-like fashion. Even hand-written notes are searchable.

Evernote for CPAs

Picture is from AdobeStock.com

Things CPAs Can Do with Evernote

Here are examples of what you can do with Evernote:

  • Create a personal digital library (e.g., use an Evernote digital notebook to store Journal of Accountancy articles, CPE material, and videos of class instruction)
  • Share individual files or notebooks (a compilation of files) with others (with the premium version you can collaborate with others, allowing them to change Excel or Word files)
  • Capture meeting conversations with your smartphone and save them to Evernote
  • Use your smartphone to take a picture of meeting notes on a whiteboard (remember manually written words are searchable in Evernote)
  • Encrypt selected text within an Evernote note (password protected); it can’t be viewed without the password
  • Add selected web information to Evernote using an Evernote clipper 
  • Email any document directly to your private Evernote email address (which adds the emailed information to a “to be filed” folder in Evernote)
  • Create a local Evernote notebook for sensitive information (the notebook resides on your local computer and does not synchronize to your Evernote cloud account)

The Skeletal Framework: Notes, Notebooks, and Tags 

Evernote for CPAs

1. The primary element of Evernote is a note.

Think of a note as a blank piece of paper on which you can type. You can also attach other files to the note (e.g., an Excel spreadsheet or a picture taken with your cell phone or a voice message recorded with your cell phone).

2. Notes are placed in notebooks.

Think of a notebook as a three-ring binder.

For example, if I want to create a note about comprehensive income, I can do so. Then I can attach related files (e.g., PDFs) to the note. Next, I might add a note about other comprehensive income and another about reclassifications from other comprehensive income. The separate notes can be–for example–a text file, an Excel file, and a voice message.

All three notes can be added to a notebook titled Comprehensive Income.

3. You may also tag each note.

Alternatively, I can place the comprehensive income notes in a notebook titled accounting (a more generic category) and tag each note as comprehensive income. Then I can search and find all comprehensive income notes by using the comprehensive income tag. When I type tag:”comprehensive income” in the Evernote search bar, all such notes appear.

Getting Information Into Evernote

Feed your Evernote account in multiple ways.

You can use Evernote apps or programs on your iPad, PC, and smartphone to add information to your account. 

I use this smartphone app to make and save pictures, notes, and voice messages to my Evernote account.

Evernote also provides you with a unique email address that can be used to feed information into your personal cloud. When you find something you want to store, you can email it to your Evernote account.

Also, you can use the Evernote clipper to capture information on the fly, such as when you are browsing the Internet. Just download the Clipper program from the Evernote website. 

Another neat way to get information into Evernote is with your scanner. I use a Fujitsu ScanSnap to feed scanned pages directly into Evernote.

Using Evernote on an iPhone – An Example

In this two minute video, I demonstrate the use of notebooks and notes inside of my Evernote account.

To Create Your Account

To create your account, go to the Evernote website and follow the directions. There is a free version if you desire to try it out. The premium version is $70 per year.

Recommended Books

Here are two recommended books if you desire to learn more about Evernote:

  1. Evernote Essentials 
  2. Evernote For Dummies 

Top 10 Technology Tips for Accountants

Here are tips to make your accounting life more productive

Are you looking for technology tips for accountants? Here are ten tips that will make you more productive.

Technology tips for accountants

Ten Technology Tips for Accountants

Here are my top ten technology tips in no certain order (with links to prior blog posts).

  1. Use Skitch to create annotated screenshots.
  2. Use Office 365 to jointly create Word or Excel documents with others.
  3. Use Basecamp to manage projects (such as audits).
  4. Use Scanbot as your phone scanner.
  5. Use a Livescribe pen to take notes with audio.
  6. Use Evernote as your personal digital library.
  7. Travel light as a minimalist auditor.
  8. Use your cell phone in creative ways as an accountant.
  9. Use technology to save your life.
  10. Use technology to make your office work life more efficient.

Those are my ideas. What are yours?

Tips on Searching Your Evernote Account

Evernote accounts can have thousands of notes, but then how to you find particular information?

Are you looking for tips on searching your Evernote account?

Today I was working on a fair value note disclosure and needed to find information about the reconciliation required for level 3 changes. I knew I had, several weeks ago, fed my Evernote account with an example fair value disclosure. So I typed “fair value” “level 3” in my Evernote search box. Presto, there it was, and it took me about ten seconds.

Once you add hundreds and, yes, thousands of notes to your Evernote account, you need to know how to find the needle in the haystack.

Searching your Evernote account

Searching Your Evernote Account

Back in the 60s, when I was a mere child, I could call the operator if I needed help locating someone. While you can’t call Evernote operators, they are just as helpful in finding, not people, but information.

Operators

You can use operators in an Evernote search box to locate particular information. Some of the more commonly used operators are:

1. And
2. Any
3. Tag
4. Notebook
5. Intitle
6. Created

And – Normally you will not type the word “and” as an operator; it’s implied. So if you type: comprehensive income in the search box, Evernote will locate all notes with the words comprehensive and income. If you want to see all notes with the phrase “comprehensive income,” then type: “comprehensive income”–using quotation marks.

Any – Typing the words “any: compilation review” will provide all notes with either the word “compilation” or the word “review.” If a note has the word “compilation” (and not “review”), then it will appear in your search list. If a note has the word “review” (and not “compilation”), then it will also appear in the list.

Tag – By typing “tag:Bank” into the search box, you’re telling Evernote that you want to see all notes tagged “Bank.” (You can tag each note regardless of which notebook it is in; for example, you might have four different notes in four different notebooks, but each tagged “Bank.”)

Notebook – Let’s say you have a notebook titled: Auditing (along with 70 other notebooks). You can type: “notebook:Auditing” in the search box and Evernote will locate your auditing notebook.

Intitle – Typing “intitle:derivative” will yield all notes with the word “derivative” in the title. So if you have one note titled “Mitigating Risk with Derivatives” and another note titled “Derivative Disclosures,” both notes will appear in your search list.

Created – “created:day-1” will provide you with a list of all notes created yesterday and today. You can substitute “day” with “week,” “month,” or “year”. If you want to see all the notes created in the last two weeks, issue a search with “created:week-1.”

Combining Operators

Searching becomes even more powerful when you combine operators.

For example, typing:

Intitle:derivative swap “cash flow hedge”

will provide you with all notes that have the word “derivative” in the title and the words (1) “swap” and (2) “cash flow hedge” as a phrase.

Another example, typing:

Notebook:Accounting any:swap “cash flow hedge”

will provide you with a list of all notes from your accounting notebook that have either the word “swap” or the words “cash flow hedge” as a phrase.

Finally, typing:

Notebook:Bank tag:Deposits FDIC “Due to Due from”

will provide you with notes from your Bank notebook that have a “Deposits” tag and that contain the words FDIC and “Due to Due from” as a phrase.

Give It a Try

Go ahead, try some of these tips with your Evernote account. You’ll soon be sifting through your notes with ease.

Evernote offers a free version, so if you haven’t tried it, give it a test drive.

You’ll find more information about Evernote in the following posts:

How I Use Evernote as my Digital Library

CPAs gain huge benefits from Evernote

I wrote my first Evernote post about two years ago, and I am–more than ever–a believer in this product. I said, at that time, that Evernote is a game changer. It was and still is.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received a phone call with a technical question, queried my Evernote account, and provided an answer in just a minute or two. It makes me look far smarter than I am.

Evernote for CPAs

Why I Use Evernote

If you are not using this product (or one like it, such as OneNote), I strongly recommend you do. Why?

  • 24/7 access to my information from any place
  • Searchable notes
  • Folders for filing and organizing my library
  • Multiple tags can be attached to any note (making it easier to find the information)
  • Easy-to-use Evernote interface (making use of the product intuitive)
  • Storage of a variety of documents (e.g., Excel, Word, PDF, plain text, JPEGs, pictures taken with my camera)
  • The ability to share any document via email and Evernote’s chat feature
  • The ability to share folders with anyone (those persons can see anything I place in the folder)
  • The ability to create and store voice messages from within Evernote
  • The ability to store my accounting and auditing research (so I can retrieve it at any time)
  • The ability to access my Evernote account using my iPhone, iPad, and laptop
  • The ability to store a variety of documents in one note (so, if I like, I can place a PDF and an Excel document on the same note and then make text comments above those two documents)
  • Provides a convenient place for storage of expense report support (I take pictures of my receipts using my iPhone)

Notebooks and Tags

As you can see above, I now have 3,400 notes–and my digital library continues to grow daily. Those notes are stored in electronic folders (called notebooks in Evernote); some of my notebook names include:

  • Auditing
  • Accounting
  • Blog
  • Speaking Engagements
  • Expense Report
  • Quality Control

The notes placed in these folders are tagged. For example, I might have a note about internal control weaknesses that I put in my Auditing folder; I can create a tag such as “Material Weakness.” If I have 200 notes in the Auditing notebook, I can locate this particular note by typing–in Evernote’s search box–“Tag: Material Weakness”; this will cause all notes tagged with “Material Weakness” to appear (regardless of the notebook they are in).

Free or Premium Version

I use the premium version which costs $50 per year, but Evernote offers a free option. Sign up here. (I receive no compensation from Evernote.)

Prior Evernote Posts

To see my previous Evernote posts, click below:

Recommended Evernote Book

To take a deeper dive, buy Brett Kelly’s book Evernote Essentials for $29. Click here. (Again, I receive no compensation for this recommendation. This is the best Evernote guide I have found.)

Seven Ways to Feed Evernote

How to store forms, research, articles, sample financial statements

Do you find yourself overwhelmed with information?

Picture is courtesy of AdobeStock.com

Picture is courtesy of AdobeStock.com

Maybe you spend several hours researching interest rate swaps and file the information away, but months later–at the very time you need it–the material vanishes. You spend 20 minutes searching through your computer folders, but you can’t find it.  (Where did you put it? You know you filed it away.) The result: You spend three more hours doing the same research–again. What a waste!

Wouldn’t it be nice to have your own personal electronic library? That way, all of your research, sample financial statements, forms, professional articles, expense reports, meeting notes, screenshots, etc. are all in one place–and accessible with search features. Such a place exists. It’s called Evernote. I previously provided an overview of Evernote that you can see here.

Today we’ll look at seven ways to feed Evernote.

First Set Up Your Default Evernote Notebook

Before sending information from one of your devices (e.g., smartphone) to Evernote, specify where it should go. My default landing area: To Be Filed notebook. (You will need to create the To Be Filed notebook in your Evernote account.)

Setting Default Folder

Since I send information from a variety of devices, I initially send information to the To Be Filed notebook; later, when I have time, I tag each note (e.g., Fair Value) and then move each to an appropriate notebook (e.g., Accounting).

Tip – If you put an asterisk in front of the folder name (e.g., *To Be Filed), Evernote will present it (the folder) at the top of your folder list. This will make it easier to locate your default folder.

In short, my standard operating procedure: (1) capture on the fly and (2) classify with a block of time (it usually takes me less than five minutes each day to tag and move the new notes).

Seven Ways to Feed Evernote

1. Smart Phones

You can use your smartphone to create and send pictures, text files, and voice messages to Evernote.

To download Evernote for an Android phone, click here.

iPhone users should download the Evernote app.

Here’s a screenshot of my iPhone Evernote app.

iPhone evernote

2. Scanners

I use a Fujitsu scanner (model iX500) to scan documents directly to Evernote. (The iX500 costs about $400 from Amazon.)

scanner

3. Web Clippers

Evernote provides web clippers for browsers including Safari, Explorer, Google Chrome, and Firefox. If you click this web clipper link, Evernote will automatically recognize your browser; then download the clipper software to your browser. While browsing, click the Elephant icon to clip a portion of the web page, the full page, or the full article.

Clippers

4. Hotkeys

Evernote allows you to use hotkeys to capture information from any program (as long as Evernote is running in the background). To activate screen clipping, use the key combination (e.g., for Windows: Win+PrintScreen). See Preferences to change your hotkeys.

So if you are working on an Excel spreadsheet, for example, and would like to capture the information into Evernote, use the hotkey combination and select the portion of the screen you wish to save. The screenshot will go to your default Evernote location.

You can do the same with an email, a Word document, and anything else that appears on your screen.

5. Email Directly to Evernote Account

One of my favorite ways to feed Evernote is to email a document (e.g., Excel, Word, PDF) directly to Evernote; when you set up your Evernote account, you will be provided a private Evernote email address. Set this address up in your email contact list; then you can send any email or document (attached to an email) to your Evernote default notebook.

6. Drag and Drop

With Evernote open, you can create a new note and then drag a document (e.g., Word or Excel file) onto the open note. The material is added to the note. You can add multiple documents to one note.

7. Import Folder

An even easier way to get files into Evernote is to use an “import folder.” After you specify in Evernote where the “import folder” is located on your computer (i.e., a particular Windows folder), you can drop files into the designated folder, and they will automatically feed into your default Evernote notebook. (Note–Import folders are only available in Windows.)

What About You?

How do you feed Evernote? Are there other ways to feed Evernote that I have not mentioned?

3 Ways to Increase Your Recall (and Look Smart)

Record and remember everything

Is it possible to recall everything said in a meeting and remember every word for years? Well actually, yes.

Using the three tips below, you’ll do just that.

Take your notes using a Livescribe pen, and take pictures with your smartphone of whatever you desire to retain. Then store the data in Evernote. It’s that simple.

The Livescribe pen records audio in conjunction with your notes. After the session, touch a word in your notes and the audio will play at that point in the conversation, allowing you to hear a select part of the discussion.

Use your smartphone to take snapshots of handouts or notes on a whiteboard. Use scanbot (an iPhone or android app) to take several pictures and then upload them.

 

If This Then That (IFTTT): Automating Computer Actions

I was recently looking for a quick way to move selected emails into my Evernote cloud. For instance, if I receive an email from Bill Gates (not an every-day event), I’d like to archive the message in Evernote. I can feed my Evernote account using an email (forwarding the received email to Evernote). But is there a quicker way?

Yes. By using a recipe from If This Then That (IFTTT; a free service). By establishing the right recipe, I can simply star the email in the gmail account and–Boom!–it goes to the Evernote account.

Below you see a recipe for sending a favorited tweet to my Evernote account.

ifttt

IFTTT Recipe

What is a recipe? It’s a conditional statement you set up on the IFTTT website to cause specified computer actions to occur. You can create these from scratch or use shared recipes created by others (as I did).

For instance I can:

  • Send all favorited tweets to my Evernote account
  • Send all starred gmails to my Evernote account
  • Cause Twitter to change my profile each time I change my Facebook profile
  • Cause a picture made in Instagram to be placed in a Dropbox folder
  • Cause a photo posted on Facebook to be posted on Twitter
  • Receive a text once the weather drops below a certain temperature

Each service (e.g., Evernote, Gmail, Feedly, LinkedIn, Facebook, Dropbox) has a channel; you will need to activate the channels you desire to use.

If IFTTT is of interest to you, then watch the instructional video below.

Evernote – Five Steps to Simultaneous Search

You can search the Internet and Your Evernote at the same time

After you have built your personal library in Evernote, you can then do what my daughter calls a way cool thing: you can search Chrome, Bing, or Yahoo – and your Evernote account – at the same time. Yeah, I would call that a way cool thing (or as we used to say in the 70s, far out)

Here’s how. (This discussion assumes you already have an Evernote account.)

1. Install your web clipper extension.

Evernote provides web clippers for browsers including Safari, Explorer, Google Chrome, and Firefox. If you click this link: web clipper, Evernote will automatically recognize your browser; then click the “Get Web Clipper” link to download. Once you are done, you will see the elephant icon (like the one below) – usually to the right of your URL.  (You will not see the elephant icon in Explorer; see my prior post.)

Clippers

2. Enable the simultaneous search feature in your browser.

In Google Chrome, go to Settings, then Extensions. Now click the Options link.

Then check the Related Results option (the last item in the list below).

Screen Shot 2013 01 19 at 4 16 57 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To enable simultaneous search in Firefox, click Tools, Add-ons, Add-ons-Extensions, Evernote Web Clipper, Options, check Use Simultaneous Search (the last option in the list), then Save.

3. Open your search engine (e.g., Google).

4. Sign into your account from the web clipper.

Click the elephant icon, login, check Show Related Results when you search the web (after password below) and click Sign In. (If you don’t see the Show Related Results option when you click the elephant icon, log out of the clipper and then log back in; when you log back in, you should see the option.)

Screen Shot 2013 01 19 at 3 30 21 PM

5. Perform your search.

Now you can search the Internet and your Evernote account.

Try It, You’ll Like It

The above may seem like too much trouble, but once you download the clipper and establish your settings, it’s quite simple. Click the elephant icon, key in your username and password, check Show Related Results, click Sign In, and start searching. I think you too will find it a way cool thing.

Are there other features in Evernote that you like?