Evernote Hacks IV: Saving things to Evernote on the go with Drafts

Evernote is great to remember everything. In my previous Evernote Hacks post, I showed how to set up Evernote as a complete Todo/Getting Things Done system. One of David Allen’s GTD principles is to always be ready to write down what comes to mind. Here, we’ll set up iPhone and iPad with the Drafts app as a capture-everything tool. With this setup, you can save to your GTD Evernote Inbox any time and on the go.

This post is part of my Evernote Hacks series – check out the other posts!


The iOS app Drafts makes a rather unpretentious first impression. When you open it, you basically see an empty screen on which you can type. The app’s power hides behind a small button in the upper right corner. When you click it, a sidebar appears that lets you dispatch the text you’ve typed to multiple destinations, such as email, Twitter, SMS, Calendar, and Evernote. In addition, Drafts lets you set all kinds of parameters, such as the Evernote target folder and note tags, along with sending the text.

Let’s set it up for the Evernote GTD system.

Set up Drafts to send to Evernote

  1. Install Drafts from the Appstore and open it. If you have several iOS devices, go to Settings (hide keyboard, then click the cogwheel in lower right corner >> iCloud >> turn on Sync. This way, after you go through creating this action on one device, it will sync to all others.
  2. Click on the upper right icon. Choose any tab. Evernote is considered a “Service”, so that’s where we’ll put our Drafts action in this post. drafts start screen
  3. Click on the Plus sign in the upper right corner. In the appearing dialog, choose Create Action.
    drafts actions
  4. In the first field, next to the empty box, enter a name for your action, for example “Save to Evernote Inbox”. In the color row, choose the color you like. For example, green for Evernote… Click on the empty box to the left of where you entered the action name. In the icon list that appears, you’ll find the Evernote elephant. If you prefer, use the peace sign. Or maybe the snowman?
    drafts evernote action
  5. Click on the line that says 0 steps. An empty page appears. Click on the Plus sign in the upper right corner. Scroll down the list until you find Evernote. Click on it.
    evernote action type
  6. In the screen that appears, enter “[[title]]” as title. This takes the first line of whatever you typed and uses it as the title of the note you save.
  7. As notebook, enter your Evernote default inbox notebook, presumably “Inbox”.
  8. You can enter one or several tags. If you’ve set up Evernote according to my Evernote Hacks GTD post, then leave the tags empty: you’ll assign them later, when you go through your inbox while clarifying and sorting new entries.
  9. Leave write type create. This means that Drafts will ask Evernote to create a new note.
  10. As content, enter “[[body]]”. This will save all text you entered in Drafts in the Evernote note, except for the first line that we used as note title. Just to add, Drafts lets you do many more fancy, nerdy, geeky things. For example, you could set up the tags field to use the content of the second line, and to add to the note body only the input of line 3 and following. I trust that if you are that geeky, you’ll find out how it works yourself…
    evernote action specs
  11. Click Save in the upper right corner. You return to the Action Steps screen, which now shows your Evernote note creation action. Go back to Action (upper left corner this time).
  12. You can set up your action to automatically delete your text in Drafts when it’s been sent to Evernote. If you want that (very practical), scroll down to Advanced and select Delete in After Success. And, no worries: if the note could not be created, then your text will not be deleted.
  13. Click Done in the upper left corner. Find your new action on the bottom of the list in the Services tab.

There are many more options to work with Drafts and Evernote. Drafts understands Markdown and allows you to send a formatted text to Evernote. If you have some inputs that should bypass your Inbox, set up a separate action for it. For example, I have an action to “Save to blog ideas”. If you’re working on a bigger project (say, a paper or book), you could set up an action to save ideas for that. I use drafts to take notes during talks (on the iPad), and have an action that sends those notes to a “Talks” notebook.

Do you have your own flow to get stuff into Evernote quickly? Which apps are you using? Any tips for Android? Leave a comment!

Resources

Get Drafts at the Appstore, or find out more about it. The developer also entertains an Action Directory (actions are the type of things we set up in this post) – people can upload their Drafts actions for everyone to download. If you decide to buy Drafts, it’s worth checking out what all can be done with it.

The One Tap Less blog has some nifty stuff for Drafts, too.

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