Evernote Mobile – Part 4: Seven tips and techniques to use Evernote for college

One of Evernote’s biggest usergroup is college students. While day-to-day use of the service is being done in great amounts everywhere, one of the less talked-about uses is for college.

Use Evernote to collaborate

Evernote’s student ambassador, Megan Cotter, has already come up with a few tips for using Evernote — as the company itself puts it — from a college or university setting. But there we see a lot about using Evernote across devices — desktops/laptops, phones, tablets and so on.

However, in the real world, we are more often with our phones than most other devices, so here is how we can make best use of Evernote mobile everyday for college.

Evernote for research? Read on to find out!

Before we head off, I would like to map out our journey (it is going to be a longer article than usual!) We will start off by looking at a few common questions most students have — and, trust me, having used Evernote at college for 2 years, I realise there are some things you only learn by experience; nonetheless, I will share them with you!

From then on, we will assume certain things for our seven tips: that you are a college student (or are soon going to be one,) that you go to the same human college as the rest of us, where we all just love homework, that your day at college is spent (at least) trying to be more productive than usual, that you are actually interested in college.

Whew! We got that out of the way.

A couple of common questions

Should I go free or premium?

Sure you are an Evernote junkie, sure you can afford Evernote premium — you can also afford that enviable Volvo you look at everyday — but do you need it? Unless you are a student of graphic design, fashion, media or some field that actually lets you create visual artwork all day long, you most probably have no use of the extra offering on an Evernote Premium account.

Yet, the best advice I can offer you is this: try Free first; if you are frequently held back by the 60MB per month limit of Evernote Free, go Premium and bask in all 1GB glory.

I am an Apple fanboy, I have iCloud.

I am happy for you. No, really, because all I have is Google Drive which offers me all that and more, absolutely free. Anyway, since this is not a competition, let us return to the question at hand: can Evernote offer you something iCloud cannot, or vice versa?

Evernote using MapBox
Evernote+MapBox, one of the many extras Evernote can do. Image courtesy: Flickr/MapBox

Honestly, that is a silly question — and a surprisingly popular one at that. Evernote is a cross-device, cross-platform note-taking, pinning etc. app; iCloud is cloud computing. If you still do not get it, this might help: use Evernote as a go-to app for taking notes, making mark-ups, collaborating in sharing memos, links, saving parts of the web and so on; and use iCloud to store your documents securely online and make them accessible from everywhere.

So, when you share an update on Evernote with your project team, you can attach a link to the document on the cloud. You can take notes using Evernote, but compile them and create formatted documents on the long run that you can save on the cloud (Drive or iCloud.)

The bottom line? Evernote and iCloud are different, they cannot replace each other and are best used side-by-side.

So with Evernote mobile at college, I can take notes. Anything else?

A lot more. Evernote being called a note-taking app is mostly a namesake. Evernote really is a lot more, as we will see over the course of this article.

Now let us move on to the meat of this article!

1. Use Evernote as a scanner with search features

This is one of Evernote’s biggest advantages, in my opinion. When you come across some interesting snippet to keep and… well, just keep, then you can go the CamScanner way. But when there are notes you will get back to, study, annotate and stock, use Evernote. This is, in fact, how I do it myself.

Evernote’s wonderful image scan feature lets you search scanned, hand-written notes based on words appearing in those notes! Here is a quick demonstration of a similar  in screenshots:

Evernote image search demonstration screenshot 1
Step 1: I capture my handwritten note
Evernote image search demonstration screenshot 2
Step 2: I search for a keyword I recall
Evernote image search demonstration screenshot 3
Step 3: Evernote delivers results!

2. Organise your research

As part of an informal college group that discusses physics once a week, I find that I have to constantly hunt for information, research, read, make notes and recall them.

While Evernote cannot possibly help me do the last thing on that list (unless I physically look at my notes) it can help me do all the others there.

Research is a part of almost every college student’s years. The next time you are sitting for a long bout of reading, start capturing things and putting them in your Evernote. And when you are not sitting and researching, the chances are that you will come across something that might help you. The solution is simple: clip exactly what you need, organise it at leisure, and you are good to go!

3. Capture that whiteboard (or black or green)

Capture whiteboards with Evernote at college
Capture that whiteboard! Image courtesy: Flickr/Arenamontanus

We all know the popular saying, “Chalk and blackboard wait for none.” (Well, I cooked that up now, but you get the point!)

The next time your professor gets something up on the board (and if they are not allergic to phones and other gadgets in their class) snap a picture. With Evernote’s image search feature that we saw before, you can get back to the right whiteboard (or black or green) anytime you like.

4. Discuss and collaborate with your peers

While I cannot do this myself, I cannot deny the idea sounds enticing either. In fact, all college students should start collaborating this way if possible.

Set up a shared notebook (or stack if you wish) and start using it as a cross between a noticeboard and a discussion forum. Your friends can update it with things they have found in their exploration of syllabus topics while you can do the same. You can also set up combined study meet-ups in this manner.

This can also help in projects where many students will have to collaborate. Use Evernote as your own discussion board to exchange files (our next tip,) memos, updates and related thoughts.

5. Share, upload and search files

Evernote cannot open any files (as of the time of writing this article, not even open file formats) but the attach feature lets you attach a file in absolutely any format to open and use elsewhere.

Attach files to your notes in Evernote mobile
Attaching files in Evernote mobile

If you have an important file and uploading it to your choice cloud service is time consuming, quickly attach the file to your Evernote. That way, it syncs at leisure (for instance if you have set up sync only on Wi-fi) but you can rest assured the file will always be attached and available locally.

Now this may take up your storage space if you do it ten times a day, but it should hold up for nominal use. Also, if you already have an Evernote Premium account, you can search attached .pdf files. What is important here is to note that when you attach, Evernote merely carries the file, so, be it Pages, Office, OpenOffice or any other unheard of format, Evernote will still attach and carry it around, albeit never open it.

6. Record lectures or your own thoughts

Now students of sciences may find this impractical, but students of arts — where a lecturer’s words are art at best — will find  it extremely convenient to record lengthy talks and discussions directly to their Evernote. Simply turn it on at the beginning, go through class and turn it off again.

Recording audio notes is fast in Evernote
Recording audio notes is fast in Evernote

Here, you have the choice of keeping it locally in your mobile phone alone, or, if you do not mind the huge file sizes (as with our previous tip,) you can sync it to your other devices. Recording to a local notebook will solve this problem as it never syncs; similarly, recording to a synced notebook does its thing too.

But here is a nice thought that applies quite to everybody: use the audio note feature to quickly record your own thoughts into your Evernote.

For instance, I get weird, but wonderful, ideas many a time when I am out walking my Dane. If I stopped to type a note each time, he would understandably rip my shoulder socket out and continue on his walk. But if I record my thought, I can listen to it later while not breaking pace on my walk.

7. Manage documents, handouts etc.

I probably do not have to say how handouts and notices and schedules and notes and slides and… Well, these are essential and rather tiresome part of document management in college. With your Evernote, you can just start digitising them, or, if they are already digitised, maintain an Evernote library of all these documents.

By library I mean a notebook full of these documents attached. It is one thing to leave them lying around in your storage card, but an entirely different, organised approach to have them filed in your Evernote on all your devices.

I myself usually make it a point to download schedules, any syllabi and notices from my college website onto my Evernote and then scan and digitise supplied notes, slides etc. as the year goes. Try it yourself!

 Bonus tip! 

8. Keep a Schedule notebook

I call it a schedule notebook, but you can go ahead and call it whatever you like. The idea behind this is simple: keep a track of recurring things. (Not your daily schedule — I know the name is a tad misleading.)

College students have several things to do every day and several of them recur. These may come once a week, a month or over some other period; and a schedule notebook can help you keep track of things and make sure you attend to them all. These recurring tasks can be anything from making sure you attended enough hours in every course to keeping tack of whether you completed all assignments usually allotted each semester. Or it could be something — including regular tuition and hostel fees — that recur and are specific to your college.

Simply create a list with check boxes and leave it untouched. Every time you need to swing into action and do one of the tasks on that list, make sure you tick it and you can keep track of your progress.

 Bonus insight! 

How do I organise my Evernote mobile for college?

This is a question I got soon after I published the second article in this series, and I think it is both valid and interesting. While how each person organises their notes depends entirely upon that person, for the few who are understandably lost as to where to get started, it helps to know how others are organising their Evernote.

I keep a stack called “College.” At the start of a semester I erase all of my unwanted notes/notebooks and prepare fresh notebooks arranged so: one per paper, named by subject; one called dates; one for documents; and one miscellaneous notebook.

Any homework or coursework announced goes into the respective “subject” notebook. Any important dates, such as submissions, test dates and so on go into separate notes in the “dates” notebook tagged with the respective subject — this allows me to later search for dates by subject. As mentioned before, syllabi, handouts and other documents go into the “documents” notebook with the subject tags. Everything else goes into the “miscellaneous” notebook with the same tagging system for later reference.

Take a look below. (Since I am between semesters right now, I have reset my notes and that is why all note counts you see here are zeros.)

How I organise my Evernote for college
Organising my Evernote for college

 Apart from this, I do keep a To-Do notebook which may contain college stuff, but is a general notebook because it also contains my everyday, out of college stuff; the same goes for my research notebook, since I do not consider research to be a college-centred activity, but a lot more of a general one. And once a job mentioned in a note is finished, I tag it with my all-time favourite tag, done, so I will know when it is complete and out of my way!

I will spare you any further details; but now that you have an idea of how I organise my Evernote for college, maybe you can go ahead and come up with a system of your own to suit your subject and needs. Or you could go ahead, save your time and do it the way I am doing it. Either way, make sure your use of Evernote serves the purpose: increased efficiency, organisation and getting the job done. [vhb]  Cover image: Flickr/NazarethCollege 

Evernote Mobile – Part 3: Effective browsing, web clipping and saving with your Evernote

More often than not, time spent browsing the web is unproductive. For some this may be because they veer off course, for others because they go online with something in mind and one thing leads to another and they have too much information on their hands — more than anybody can possibly remember or digest in an hour or so.

Introducing web clipping

Evernote web clipper tipsA quick and self-sufficient way to work around this problem is to use Evernote’s nifty little feature: the web clipper. This tiny browser-bar button sits out of the picture until you want it, and when you do, it swings into action by saving just the area of a web page that you choose.

I say self-sufficient because the web clipper is beautifully integrated into Evernote: once you choose an area of a page to save, it allows you to add tags and pick a notebook to save it into, and quickly clips and stores it away on all your devices. In this article we shall see a couple of ways in which you can make your web clipping better and more efficient, and also some interesting uses for it.

Important! This is part 3 of a 7-part series of articles on Evernote Mobile:

  1. Getting started with Evernote Mobile
  2. 5 tips and techniques for improving your Evernote organisation
  3. Effective browsing, web clipping and saving with your Evernote
  4. Seven tips and techniques to use Evernote for college
  5. Five tips to use Evernote for photography

Why is it better than alternatives like Readability, Pocket or Instapaper?

Many, including myself who uses Pocket, will naturally be asking this question. What will Evernote’s browser extension give me that existing apps like Pocket will not?

As far as I am concerned, the biggest draws towards the Web Clipper for me are two things: small size and (wonderfully) the redundancy of one more app.

Firstly, in Pocket, when you save a web page, the app decides whether you save it as text or web page itself. In other words, there are quite a few instances where you cannot save a webpage as text alone. Evernote’s Web Clipper, on the other hand, allows you to clip (as opposed to save) a part/whole of a web page, leaving you with a smaller file. This is especially useful when you are on mobile data — not all of us (or perhaps nobody, now,) has an unlimited plan!

Secondly, using the Web Clipper, you can completely get rid of Pocket from your phone (great as it is) since your Evernote can do the job of both and more.

Web Clipper on Evernote Mobile

The biggest drawback on mobile (which was where Pocket, Readability etc. came in) was that the Clipper was desktop-only. So if you were browsing on your phone, there was no way you could save a webpage unless you shared the entire thing to Evernote, which offers no real advantage — besides, you would be plain foolish to want to do something like that.

But now, the good news is, there are Evernote web clippers for phone OSes. That is right, all plural, there is more than one!

EverWebClipper vs Add-ons

Broadly categorising, there are two way you can go when it comes to web clippers on Evernote mobile: the paid EverWebClipper app, or the free Add-on. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages. And there are Android and iOS versions.

Evernote mobile web clipper
Step 1: Drag out the sidebar

EverWebClipper offers three styles of clipping: full web page (with styles,) text-based, or URL-only (like Pocket, Instapaper etc.) all of them are quite self-explanatory, and in the decreasing order of file size. The disadvantage is, of course, that it costs money.

On Android

Among add-ons, the most popular one is arguably the Dolphin Evernote Add-on that lets you save web pages to Evernote. The catch here is that although it saves the whole web page — more or less itself deciding to chop in text-heavy areas and rarely going wrong — since we are on mobile browsers, we are already being fed slimmed down text-prominent versions of the website or article and file size is not all that large.

Evernote mobile web clipper 2
Step 2: Fill in the details

The disadvantage is that it is a Dolphin browser add-on, so if you are a fan of Chrome on Android, you cannot experience it there (yet — there surely is a Chrome mobile extension coming!)

On iOS

It is the same case with Safari on iOS which does not support an Evernote web clipper either. In this case you can follow these (rather complicated) steps:

Step 1: Create a blank bookmark (i.e. without opening any page) on Safari and give it a recognisable name.

Step 2: In the URL section (you may have to go back and edit your bookmark to add this first) copy the following code and paste it:

Evernote mobile web clipper 3
Step 3: Let it clip

Step 3: The next time you spot a web page to clip, simply click on the bookmark you just created!

The first time you clip, you may have to log into your Evernote account, but it remembers the data for further clippings. The advantage of this procedure is that the javascript that runs when you click on the new bookmark lets you pick a notebook and tag your clipping. Read this article to find out why tagging is important.

Quick clip tip: normal web pages vs print-friendly pages

Evernote mobile web clipper 4
Step 4: Enjoy it on Evernote

A quick way to make sure you clip text and not ads, images or other unnecessary media is to first turn on the print-friendly (or reader friendly) version of web pages. This is something similar to Safari’s reader view option. Once there, simply clipping it will make sure you get the content and not the heavy flair.

As karloldreyes puts it, “sometimes [the web clipper] doesn’t handle formatting or any other extra things like ads or flash very well… [the print-friendly] version usually has little to no formatting and other useless things you don’t want clipped like ads or comments.”

Related results

While this is not yet (unfortunately) a feature of Evernote Mobile, it is nonetheless worth mentioning.

Once you log into the web clipper on a desktop browser, Evernote starts supplying what it calls related results on all your Google searches. These appear in a decent, non-intruding fashion on the right-hand side of the results page and show three notes from your Evernote that are in some way related to your search query on Google.

Evernote web clipper related results
Evernote web clipper provides related results on Google. Image courtesy: Evernote

This is quite a nifty feature for obvious reasons. Having these snippets can re-direct and tune your search as you are aware of what you already have on that topic and you could go about finding more interesting data. Or maybe something else entirely?

Evernote Business account holders can also get search results from co-workers’ notebooks they are linked to or permitted into.

In conclusion

As we saw, the Evernote mobile web clipper, even if not as powerful as its desktop counterpart, can be an unparalleled add-on to your mobile browsing experience. It offers an offline view of your favourite web pages with a small file package, not eating your data or running dry your free Evernote account’s paltry storage limit.

Using this intelligently can let you save your web experience for later, to come back, annotate, crop, cut, clip, share and make your work a lot more organised and efficient.

Return in a day for our next article in this series: “Seven tips and techniques for effectvely using Evernote Mobile at college.”

 Cover image: Flickr/Guttorm Flatabà

Evernote Mobile – Part 2: Five tips and techniques to improve your Evernote organisation

In this age of technology, we all have more things to do than we possibly can. So we need some sort of digital assistant to keep reminding us of those things and making sure we complete it. Now some can afford human assistants to get this job done, but others would rather have safer digital assistants.

Evernote is one such application: it is a note-taking app that can help you keep your day-to-day activities on course, keep a schedule and do things as planned. But Evernote alone cannot make you do your job. There is a certain systematic method in which you need to organise yourself around this wonderful app to make it truly useful and effective to you — and a lot more people need to understand this than is evident at first.

With the five simple techniques we will see in this article, you can learn how to manage and make Evernote a more efficient and effective digital assistant that can actually help you get things done!

Important! This is part 2 of a 7-part series of articles on Evernote Mobile.

  1. Getting started with Evernote
  2. Five tips and techniques to improve your Evernote organisation
  3. Effective browsing, web clipping and saving with your Evernote
  4. Seven tips and techniques to use Evernote at college
  5. Five tips to use Evernote for photography
All screenshots taken on an International GALAXY Note N7000. All Right Reserved. No screenshot may be reproduced elsewhere without prior permission. Also, click on any image to view full resolution version.

1. Tags as a fourth-level organisation

An important feature in Evernote (now also present in other apps in a similar fashion) is tagging.

Evernote - add tag - step 1
Step 1
Evernote - add tag - step 2
Step 2

This is a lot like tagging images, which is something more people are familiar with, but differs in one aspect: Evernote lets you tag a note based on what it is about and/or things it is connected to with any (number of) keyword(s) of your choice.

How exactly is this feature useful? Tagging notes means you can search your notes quickly later. Tagging also means you can use this as a fourth level-organisation.

By default, Evernote allows for three levels of organisation: stacks, notebooks and notes. Supposing you (for some reason) have a stack called “Physics,” and several notebooks classified by discipline (“Astrophysics, quantum physics etc.,) and you further have one note for every research paper published, then you can quickly look up tags for all research papers dealing with one subject.

For instance, you can search by tags for all research papers dealing with proton (tags,) under the collection of research papers (notes,) under the field of astrophysics (notebook,) in your Physics stack.

2. Interlink notes

Evernote - note interlink - step 1
Step 1
Evernote - note interlink - step 2
Step 2

One little-known feature of Evernote and its great versatility is the ability to interlink notes.

If you are writing a note that is in some way connected to one you have already written, you can simply link a word or phrase from the new note to the older one for quick access later.

There is one catch here, though (as of the time of writing this article.) On the Evernote desktop client, linking to an existing note is as simple as right-clicking and selecting the “Link” option to choose a note.

Evernote - note interlink - step 3
Step 3
Evernote - note interlink - step 4
Step 4

Now, while the mobile client has no such quick workout, I have come up with a workaround which some of you might already know.

Step 1: Go to the note you would like to link to.

Step 2: Click on sharing options and click copy url.

Step 3: Create a new note and paste the copied url by long-pressing.

Step 4: Save. (Kind of obvious, that, yes?)

3. Create a general incoming stack

While the best way to organise your Evernote would be to have neatly cut stacks, notebooks, notes and sufficient (but not too many) tags, what happens every so often is that you end up coming up with some note that just does not fit your existing stacks.

There may be several reasons for this:

  • You share from an app that does not let you choose a stack
  • You share from an app and forget to choose a stack
  • You share from Google+ (yes, you can do that too, as we shall see in coming articles!)
  • You enter a note but are in a hurry and cannot decide on a stack
  • Doctor Who is showing on TV

The quickest solution to this is to create what I call an Incoming stack. Then set this up as your default stack (via your account settings) and you are good to go. Now you know anything in that stack needs to be looked into to be organised manually, or — in the event that you notice sufficient related notes are coming up — it is time to create a new notebook or new stack.

4. Sync. Please.

You are not going to gain much out of Evernote if you do not download it on all your devices and sync, sync, sync.

The point of Evernote is to get to all your devices before you get to them and be ready for when you do get there. I have my Evernote set up on my phone, tablet, laptop and desktop. Most often, it is my phone that is with me, but there are times when I drop everything off and carry around my tablet; and there are yet some times when I forget my phone at home in the mad rush of not forgetting to carry my laptop and its accessories; and there are other, if rare, times when I am at my desktop and am just too lazy to grab my phone from where ever it is.

In every case, I have Evernote where I am and I can access, edit and add to things with great ease. If you want to increase your Evernote efficiency, this is one thing you simply have to do.

5. Learn these 3 Evernote search techniques inside-out

Like Google search, Evernote too has certain search syntax that can go a really long way in making your search results more accurate, streamlined, fast and simply a lot more relevant especially when you have a huge collection of notes. With thanks to the awesome Brett Kelly for these, here is a list of the top three:

  1.  created:day-x : When you replace x with a number, you can choose to search notes made only since x days ago. So if today is Sunday, created:day-3 will list all notes made from Thursday onwards satisfying yout search criteria. Similarly, created:week-1 will list out everything since last Sunday, and so on.
  2.  tag:xyz -tag:abc searchterm : When you replace the word xyz with a word of your choice, and do the same for abc, and also include a search term as shown, then Evernote will look for all notes related to the searchterm which are tagged with xyz and also not tagged with the word abc. Pretty slick, eh?
  3.  notebook:name : When you want to search for something in a particular notebook, this is how you can do it on Evernote. Simply replace the word name with one of your notebooks and voila! So, if I have to search for something in my Incoming notebook (see  point 3 above) then I would simply use notebook:incoming in the search bar!

 Bonus tip! 

6. Email, Twitter and Evernote Mobile go hand-in-hand!

If you have ever been in a fix as to what you do when you spot something really great on Twitter and thought, “Hey, I should keep a copy of that in my Evernote!” (or even if you did not) there is a way you can do it, quick and simple. Here is an example:

Message I tweeted:

It quickly arrives on my Evernote:

Twitter-Evernote link

Now your link-up may not be as fast, I just happened to tweet it at a time when Twitter was fairly free and not crammed with posters. In any case, unless you are in a great urgency, your message should get to your Evernote in less than 15 minutes or so, but it often happens much faster.

So how do you set it up?

Step 1: Follow @myEN on Twitter

Step 2: You will receive a direct message on Twitter (often instantly) carrying a link. Click on the link.

Step 3: You will be re-directed to your Evernote where you must authorise a connection. Do it.

Step 4: Start tweeting to your Evernote by mentioning @myEN.

Tweeting to your Evernote can be especially useful when you want to keep a tweet: simply retweet it mentioning @myEN.

Alongside tweeting, if you are clearing out your email inbox when you get a thought worth noting (or you simply want to retain a message that will othewise drown in your starred queue) you can also email it to your Evernote.

Your Evernote emailOn your phone, click on your username and choose “Account info” from the drop down menu. There, you can find your unique email address. (It usually looks like so: username.67w65@m.evernote.com were you have your username, some letters and numbers and the @m.evernote.com suffix.)

Simply email anything to that address and the subject line becomes your note title and body becomes your note content.

In conclusion

With the six tips and techniques you have seen today, you can vastly re-organise your Evernote, fine tune your note-taking style and rhythm, and become a lot more efficient over all.

From easy note-taking and posting from third-party services to specifying search strings and interlinking, Evernote lets you do a great deal of things that can make your life easier. Make sure you get all of this into your daily routine to make the best of Evernote, while you wait for a day or two for our next article in this series: “Effective web browsing, clipping and saving with your Evernote.” [vhb]  Cover image: Flickr/watchsmart 

Evernote Mobile – Part 1: Getting started

If you have not heard of Evernote, you definitely are living under a rock. Evernote is a powerful, cross-platform, note-taking and collaboration app. And if you read our recent notes-app comparison, you will see just how feature-rich Evernote is.

Now, on the other hand, if you have not yet got started with it for some reason, that is excusable. With this seven-part series, you are sure to be an advanced Evernote user (we call ourselves ‘Evernote junkies’) and — here is the real deal — you will be using Evernote not just as a note-taking app, but as one to improve your productivity and (seemingly) lengthen you day!

Evernote Mobile

I will only be talking about Evernote on mobile devices (be it iOS, Android or something else, Evernote is basically the same build-, design- and structure-wise) because its mobile app itself is so plump with features and targeted at several types of users that it is going to us seven interesting articles to cover.

I am going to be putting up  one every two or three days to help you digest the information effectively. So, today, let us start with a quick run-down of what Evernote is, what you can do with it and getting a basic understanding of how Evernote works.

Granted, this is for absolute beginners, but let us give all readers an even chance! If you are new to Evernote, this infographic below should give you a good feel for what it is and how it basically works.

Evernote at a glance for beginners - getting started - Infographic by VHBelvadi

In two days, get back here for an intermediate article, “Five tips and techniques to improving your Evernote organisation.” Until then, download Evernote on your mobile device and be armed. [vhb]

On Man: On Democracy and other forms of mis-governance

MAN BELIEVES IN ruling himself although his own realisation of this is flawed, in that he lets others rule him so long as they are men too — at least physically.

Therefore, in order to satisfy his spirit, and (mis)lead it to believe he is his own master, he created a new word that could describe his hope. But men were multiplying as far as the eye could see and man quickly realised it would become futile to have so many rulers and so few followers, because, if his own adage were to be believed, “too many cooks spoil the broth.”

This was how man created the word “Democracy,” solely to turn the tables on this adage; but it was in vain: the broth was still a little too salty to be any good.

Some time later, somebody probably hit upon a brilliant idea and that was how the concept of opposition was born. It was not opposition to the idea of democracy (man was hardly in a position to accept his mistake,) rather, it was an opposition inside a democratic system. However, man often takes things too literally and, with a ruling and an opposition, democracy merely became a slightly more civilised way of fighting — although certain human factions, called countries, are yet to attain that civility.

The workings of a democracy are far simpler than they might seem (the workings being intensified and complicated by man’s depiction of them.) At the lowest, and arguably the least consulted, level are the people that matter. They are represented by people who think they matter, and who answer to people who do not quite matter. Some countries, it is worth mentioning here, have several levels in between the lowest and highest strata. This arrangement is often justified by citing a growing population, which, while it is certainly plausible — and hence often goes unquestioned (or unanswered) — is merely a cover to hide the real reason: to alienate the masses from the administration. This is done very efficiently; and is perhaps the only job done so.

The picture of democracy often painted, though, is a different matter entirely. It involves hundreds of people taking part in strange, often questionable, sorts of debate as they claim to represent the views of millions — which is really half-a-million different opinions, satisfying all of which a country is expected to run. And the aim of democracy is to make sure it satisfies no single one of them for fear of disappointing the others.

In the pith, democracy, like all of mankind, is about two parties (there are two faces to every coin) — one which is quite lost and another which believes it knows the way. The latter (popularly known as the opposition) almost always takes its appellation too literally and believes its sole job is to oppose the former in all possible manners, every step of the way. The former (the mostly lost ones, popularly known as the ruling party,) make the best efforts to remain lost. The opposition and ruling teams then take turns swapping places in a bid to satisfy the remaining of their faction/country, signifying that they are both well and truly lost.

In spite of the fact that democracy, at the highest level, is managed by said people, it is not the most hopeless form of ruling (a more fashionable term being “administration.”) There are others, such as dictatorship, where one man does the job of two parties, thereby making the need for the two parties in the first place, somewhat foggy; and there is communism, a misunderstood form of self-reliance where every man is responsible for his own misfortune so long as somebody else caused it. Communism was first experimented with disastrous results by the USSR — a brave people who, thereafter, immediately re-christened a major part of themselves as “Russia” in a bid to wipe away all of history pointing to this and start over anew. It is yet to prove fruitful.

An older form of government that preceded democracy was called a “constitutional monarchy.” The term “constitutional” was stripped off in the early stages, when King John found out what it meant. This fashion of mis-governance has since been succeeded by more efficient forms such as federations (hierarchy of people) and confederations (hierarchy of people who are really cons.)

Some men, called anti-federalists, despise the idea of federalism owing to the fact that they find it hard to keep track of all these layers of governance and repeated lose track by the time they figure out who is ruling at the top; and — unlike most others — these do not mind confessing it, or even throwing a tantrum about it (as they often do.)

Occasionally, these anti-federalists win against the government and — much to their own surprise — successfully overthrow it. However, this is as far as they plan, and, without the faintest idea of what to do next, come up with a name to brand themselves, which is almost always a derivative of sorts of the Spanish word, juntado,  meaning “joined.” Since nobody still knows what it is that is joined, the victorious revolutionaries take safe haven behind an altered (or, perhaps,mis-pronounced) form, Junta, since the word has no real meaning and hence such a thing cannot be inquired into.

It is well known that a poorly planned scenario outlasts an unplanned one; in this manner, the junta, ironically, realising that months later they still have no plan, give way to democracy once again. In this manner continues perpetually, the holy circle of anarchy and hypocrisy in governance.

The most outrageous form of governance, however, is theocracy. It is merely democracy taken one step too far by a company of ingenious men, preachers, priests, chanters and lip-movers who conjure up more-or-less successful ways to get an entire nation to believe they are ruled by an invisible supreme being so far greater than everybody else that nobody is worthy of seeing them, and that all men were created equal &c. — mostly all words people want to hear.

These preachers — in their busy schedule of robbing cities of time in broad daylight, and smothering genuine scientific curiosity in all men — take the time to decide which creatures their supreme being created and which they did not; the latter category usually comprises of either everybody who refuses to believe in such a supreme being unless he is shown before them, or re-elected every half-decade; or everybody who could spot the mute lip-mover in a choir.

It therefore becomes apparent that theocracy is a cross between democracy and autocracy — a hedge of contradicting claims that gives its leaders an opportunity to equivocate.

Man, in these ways has governed himself for as long as he bothered to record the activities of his kind. He is convinced it is working and that there is no better way to do it, save the above mentioned lot. So he does it with all his heart, which is what is most inspiring about mankind: the fact that they know they are wrong, refuse to believe it, and continue working roughly the same way, governed by democracies, juntas or dictators who believe a nation is their private property; and then, alongside them, a bunch of arrogant pro-theocratic men who strongly believe the immeasurable universe was created solely for their convenience — and misapplication.

Everything you need to know about typography: Part III

IN THIS FINAL installment of our 3-article series on typography, we are going to get our hands dirty and take up a fairly complicated project and design typesets in a circumstance mirroring the real world.

[hr_padding] [notice type="red"] Did you know that this is the third article on a series introducing you to the basics and intermediate levels of Typography? Head over to the first article, and then visit the second one too to get a better idea of what we’re doing in this post.
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Getting hired on a typesetting project

It is going to be a hands-on, real-world experience, so do not take the back seat and read through this. Try, instead, to participate every step of the way and go to a step only after you have finished the last. I have coded this article to make that easy for you. To start, click step 1, and once you are done, click step 2 to reveal it and so on. That way you will not sneak a peak involuntarily.

And before we go on, here is a word about our client of today: he is going to need us to typeset a heavily textual, offline work, covering consistency, readability and overall appearance, and he has several demands that we will learn from him soon. But we shall try to handle it in ways that can be used for either an offline or online work — and for you to get a good picture about on-set typography.

Ready? Dive in! Here is our client walking through the door. We have no idea what his name is, so we’ll just call him Richie.

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Richie’s newspaper typography requirements

Richie is a newspaper editor who owns a local daily called the City Lights Tribune. He needs us to design a newspaper for him, and his requirements are –. Let us hear them in his own words:

[hr_padding] [notice type="green"] “I’m going to need you to typeset my newspaper for me. Use the usual dimensions. I want the title to stand out, but none of that old English typefaces that everybody uses. Go for something different. I like it modern, but not so modern that it loses the touch of a newspaper and people don’t take it seriously.

“My articles are going to be of three levels. I’ll have a major headline or two, a few important stories and few unimportant news items. Your typesetting must make that clear. And don’t forget colours! I’ll also need a space for just titles and page numbers for navigation and such. That’s what I need. I’ll leave the rest to your discretion. Do a good job of it!”
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So there goes the man out the door. Now let us begin working on his paper. By the usual dimensions he probably refers to the rectangular layout of a newspaper, so we shall disregard specifics for now and head right to typesetting it. We shall be using lorem ipsum as dummy text, so if you have no idea what that is or do not know how to get it, take a look at this article.

When you’re ready, head to step 1.

[hr_padding] [toggle title="STEP #1 - TEMPLATES"] We shall begin by letting you make your version first (keeping Richie’s conditions in mind!) Then, once you have done that, return here and head to step #2 from where you can begin working on the design alongside me.

Here is a quick checklist of what you will need to be making:

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  • Newspaper title
  • Main headlines with sub-headings and body typeface
  • Second order headlines with sub-headings and body typeface
  • Default news item, including headlines, sub-headings and body
  • Colours

And here is a template broadsheet file I created for you to download. I have already equipped it with images and borders, but have left spaces for you to typeset the above-mentioned texts with ease. You can even use a programme as simple as Microsoft’s Paint to get the job done beautifully. For general convenience, I have put it up in .png format. Just right click (or ctrl+click) and ‘save link as…’ below:

[hr_padding] Download Richie’s newspaper layout [hr_padding]

Downloaded it? Great, so here is an explanation: The first horizontal bar, right on top, is where the newspaper name goes. The next one has a grey block, which is the image, so wrap your text around it and play with your headline and body for the main story. Moving down a row, we have three blocks: the centre one is for the second order headlines with its body etc., and the sides are for less important stories. Finally the last bit can be anything you like: little asides, perhaps? Or you could use one of the boxes to state what is inside today’s edition using just article headlines? Work it out yourself — and do not forget to choose good colours — then come back and follow me all the way from step #2 below.

[P.S. You can close a step once you're done with it by hitting the minus symbol next to the subheading step# above.] [/toggle][toggle title="STEP #2 - THE TITLE"]

We’re going to go top-to-bottom so that’ll give us a fairly good idea of hierarchy when typesetting. First, then, is the title of the newspaper. Now, throughout the process, I will refrain from mentioning exact font-size and other dimensions because that is largely dependent on the dimension of our play area. That would mean you’ll have to keep a close eye on the relative dimension of each element yourself. So, here goes:

Richie is looking to avoid the old English typeface entirely. That would have been a great choice, but to choose something else in its place would be quite a good challenge for us too, so I am going to begin with a basic question: serif or sans-serif?

My idea, since this is print media (and for reasons we have seen in the previous part of this series) is that it is better to go in for a good serif typeface for the body, which means the upper level is going to be sans-serif and the level above that (i.e. the heading) would balance out as a serif font. This is entirely personal taste, but we shall see how things turn out by the end!

I had several options, and I have narrowed it down to the two you see below. (You can just click on the font names to download most of these fonts — which is why I have opted to write off stock fonts altogether.)

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After much speculation, I have decided to opt for a bold version of the Optimus Princeps typeface for the City Lights Tribune. Incidentally, I am not going to be using Bambi for its weight — I shall explain more in the next step. I worked on the layout and here is what my paper’s title is going to look like:

Alright, that’s looks pretty good. Now I am going to keep that aside and start working on the headline fonts.

[/toggle][toggle title="STEP #3 - THE HEADLINES"]

We are going to have three levels of headlines as I explained already; and in this step I am going to work on all three of them, namely, the main headline, the second-order headline and a general headline typeface for all other news items on the paper. And we’re going to worry only about the typefaces on the front page for this project.

Like before, I have a few typefaces in mind, and as you have probably guessed, I’m going to opt for sans-serifs now. I played around with the weights and widths and finally chose these three, in order, for the main, second-order and tertiary headlines. Notice how the first one stands out among the three for it plays on heavier weights and is wider. (Again, click on the fonts to download them; I have personally made sure that they are all free!)

My choice for the main headline is one of my favourite sans-serif thick typefaces, called Alte Haas Grotesk. It’s soft inner curves add to the heavy look it carries, and the reason why I did not choose Bambi, comes in here. Think about this carefully: if you subscribe to the City Lights Tribune daily, then you know you subscribe to it and you do not have to be reminded about it every time you pick up the paper. But, as the typesetter, I need to make sure that what does beckon your eyes is the day’s main news item. In other words, if the name of the paper takes precedence over the main headline, it becomes disturbing to read the paper!

Remember that at any point of time, you can break the serif/sans-serif rule and go ahead and choose a serif font for one of the headlines too. But you just have to make sure you do it perfectly right, or you can wreck the design and turn off your readers.

In this regard, for all second-order news item headlines, I’ll be using the infamous Liberation Serif typeface.

 

Our last level of headings is going to be set in our beloved Arial. I shall be using the narrow variant, but the exact dimensions will be more relative than discrete, but here is the font itself as eye candy:

Now that we have our headline typefaces set, I’ll move to the body contents and create balancing serif typesets.

[/toggle][toggle title="STEP #3 - THE BODY"] For our main news item as well as our second-order news item/s I have opted for an extremely well-balanced, uniform typeface with an excellent x-height; the typeface, called Angleterre Book, is somewhat Bookman Old Style meets Georgia, and is well-suited for large chunks of fairly tiny sized text.

For our tertiary blocks of news, I’ll narrow down to fit more text into a smaller area, but still keep it legible by reverting to an old classic that you will surely smile at:

Satisfied? Now we’ll quickly go through the last step of our typesetting (we are rather quick, aren’t we?) There we will decide colours and any other leftover stuff.
[/toggle][toggle title="STEP #4 - MISCELLANEOUS"]

We have two more things to discuss: colours and a fallback typeface.

I am going to opt for Arial regular as my fallback typeface. If you have no idea what it means, let us see you work your grey matter and find out — just spot Arial regular on my finished work and there you have it!

As for colours, I played in the sandbox and finally came up with three productive colours to use along with my typesetting. I have put up the details below. Everywhere else, the text is going to be standard black on a white background. I have also mentioned the RGB settings in case you would like to reproduce them.

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So, have you taken yourself through the above steps? It is time to take a look at the final product. As your third and final typography lesson comes to an end, and you prepare to brave out the world with your newly found knowledge, here is a final piece of typographical work for you, as part of this three-article series. Click on the thumbnail below. (On the top right corner, you’ll find a tiny grey box. Click it to magnify the image.)

[hr_padding] [pictureframe image="http://vhbelvadi.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Newspaper-typesetting_City-Lights_VHBelvadi.png" align="center" lightbox="true" title="The City Lights newspaper typeset by VHBelvadi.com" link="" width="108" height="164"] [hr_padding]

So that ends our fun typography blog/workshop! I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it for  you. And I certainly hope it will be of use to you at some point of time in the future. As always, if you have any doubts or would like to drop a kind word, you know how to get in touch with me!

Everything you need to know about typography: Part II

WELCOME BACK TO the 3-aricle series on the A to Z of typography. This part continues from part I that we saw previously, so if you have missed out on that, make sure you head over to part I and familiarise yourself with all the jargon and basics of typography before continuing with this; you are bound to benefit best that way.

If you have already come through that route, keep going right on! In this part we will discuss several more interesting — and, more importantly, fun — things like I had promised last time. Here is a quick look at the highlights of this article:

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  1. Considerations when selecting typefaces
  2. Web-safe typefaces
  3. Standard print typefaces in the publishing industry, and
  4. Some good, important rules and practices when handling typefaces
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In this article I am going to make fairly open use of some of the terminology you have learnt in the preceding article, so try to keep up. Any time you cannot, just keep the first article open in a alternate tab on your browser!

[hr_padding] [notice type="green"] After Part 1 of this series, I got several requests to deal with the problem of the near-infinite scrolling, since these are considerably long posts. (This part, for instance, is around 3,000 words long.)

So I sat down, and, with a handful of code and a slightly altered design around that region, managed to break down this post into three pages.

Once you reach the bottom of this page, you have a direction-link to the following pages. Use that to navigate and reduce any stress of scrolling!
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The A, B, C of type selection

You are faced with the dilemma of choosing the right typeface for your work more often than you think. Over 65% of the working population out there does not really bother about the type they set their work in (but they do later spend a lot of time wondering why it does not look as good — I’m particularly talking to Richard Campbell, one of my readers who mailed me regarding this and requested me for a series on Typography.) 25% — which includes you — actually take interest in the field and try to learn from the rest of us who know. That said, the next time you start typing something, start paying more attention to the typeface of your document or book or webpage and you will find it helps immensely.

Plaque for Elrod machine
Plaqe for Edinburgh’s Elrod machine. Image courtesy: Flickr/edinburghcityofprint

When you are considering a typeface, you will naturally have to keep three key points in mind: readability, complementary behaviour, and consistency. Now these are terms you can easily understand: readability refers to how easy the typeface is on the eyes; complementary behaviour is how well one typeface works with another (or several others) in the document/webpage; and consistency is how the typeface works over several weights, styles, sizes and so on.

[hr_padding] [notice type="yellow"] Remember! Do not confuse readability with legibility.

Readability refers to how easy the font is on the readers’ eyes, and in turn how well suited it is especially for long periods of reading; this is especially in the case of books or articles.

On the other hand, legibility is how high the chances are of every single reader being able to read the typeface with ease. For instance a curvy, flourishing font — while obviously disturbing as part of a large block of text — wold be perfectly fine to use fleetingly as a heading text so long as an O does not look like Q. You get the point.
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Of course this would entirely depend on what you are going to use it for: if it is a book title or webpage heading, you do not have to bother as much about readability as you do about legibility. The same goes for consistency, as the rate of variation of such choice of fonts is narrow at best.

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A CaSe LiKe LeX in typography

There are 6 factors to remember when choosing a typeface, and — since we can afford to rush through this list quickly — I have created a simple mnemonic to help you remember it. If you are a fan of Superman (comics of film) you can definitely not forget an iconic villain, a nutcase like Lex Luthor! So let us take Lex’s help in remembering this list: CaSe LiKe LeX

Needless to say, pay attention to my weird spelling. This is what the six capital letters stand for: Cap-height, Serif, Ligature, Kerning, Leading and X-height. Five of these you have already learnt, but since we have not seen what a ligature is previously, I created a simple equation to help you remember. (And if you are not a fan of equations, just think of this as a typographical diagram!)

Some font have — and many a time typographers make sure that — the kerning between two letters gets so fearfully close that the set-up looks clumsy as two letters, but much more beautiful as a single entity.

The finest example in type-history is the ligature between an f and an i. In some fonts (the one you see above is Robert Silmbach‘s beautiful Minion from the 90s — an entirely digital font) typing f and i in a word, in sequence, creates a ligature that looks very similar — but should not be confused with — an h.

In particular, the term ligature refers to the crossbar-like horizontal stroke joining the two letters.

The thing about CaSe LiKe LeX is that you need to make sure, for an idea you previously had in mind, that a given typeface satisfies all these six needs just right. It is as simple as having an idea, picking possible typefaces, and making sure the six properties of a typeface matches with your idea.

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Web safe typefaces: what are they and why do we need them?

Whenever we talk about typography in the twenty-first century, a standard assumption is that we create a distinction between print typefaces and websafe typefaces.

The distinction is mainly based on availability. If we reeled back to the 1800s or even the early 1900s, and you were thinking of publishing a pamphlet (which was all the rage then) you could only choose between select typefaces — the ones whose slugs the type-caster or publisher had. If you did not find what you were hoping for, he would probably tell you, ‘Head over to Gustaveson’s press, he’s got the typeface you’re looking for,’ or something to that effect.

Fast forward to the 21st century and that problem is solved. With digital printing for books, if you want a font, you will, of course, get it. But a new problem has cropped: this is not true for the web. Much like in the 1800s, if  I want my webpage in a certain typeface and you do not have its font installed on your computer, you can never see my webpage! History repeating itself? Not quite, as we have a work around this — meaning we can now build webpages with almost any font and have in shown in almost any computer regardless of whether a font is installed in it or not; but we will see more about this technique in the final installment of this series.

For now, what you need to understand is that some fonts (mostly the ones that come pre-installed with your computers, be it a mac or a PC) are available in all computers all over the world. These are called web safe fonts and are just as safe as their name suggests. If you are familiar with codes, you will know how we often set a fallback font — or several fallback fonts — to make sure the webpage is delivered as close to what we envisioned as possible.