More indulgence in mobile photography

It seems that mobile photography has me awed. Not a long time back I wrote a couple of articles on the topic.

My points, then and now, were that making photographs with one’s phone has often been underrated, and we (especially we photographers) need to re-visit it. Perhaps we can even think of making our phones our secondary — or tertiary — cameras. As people have said far too often, the best camera is the one you have with you.

I indulged in some more photography these past days with my phone and thought of sharing the results here. You can see the first round on my Tumblr.

Processed with VSCOcam with se3 preset 2014-01-29 18.35.36 Processed with VSCOcam with a2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with s1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with se3 preset Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with se3 preset Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with p5 preset

I like mobile photography for precisely the reason many hate it: because it gives me very limited control, forcing me to focus not on my device mechanics, but instead on the substance in my photograph.

Keep photographing au portable.

VHBsign

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 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]

Mozilla’s Boot to Gecko: a good thing done too late or too early?

ONE OF THE reasons I support Mozilla is because they are open source. I love open source and, like the other billions of people around the world, I prefer everything free. While that is little more than a dream, I believe things like an ad-free user experience, open availability of code and cross-browser/cross-device integration, and boundless development possibilities are terribly important in a wide variety of instances. In this regard, I could only agree with Firefox Senior Director, Johnathan Nightingale, when he said of mobile operating systems and applications, “When you peel back the covers, most… are actually HTML5 with an added veneer for iOS or Android…”

Getting rid of corporate requirements

While Operating Systems like Android are open-source, they are still governed by the requirements of and rules set by a huge corporate like Google. This naturally introduces certain restrictions to web developers. With Boot to Gecko (B2G for short) Mozilla aims to introduce a new mobile operating system that is entirely on the cloud.

 

And when I say entirely, I mean absolutely on the cloud. It’s every millimetre!

If, for instance, you download an Android app and then also buy an iPhone, the app may not be on iOS; or it could be vice versa. The point of B2G is simply to make the OS directly HTML5, sans the company-specific overlays, and make it consistent to all phones. So you have one OS, several phones, and necessarily all applications supported on all phones without exception.

B2G is motivated by a desire to demonstrate that the standards-based open Web has the potential to be a competitive alternative to the existing single-vendor application development stacks offered by the dominant mobile operating systems: Mozilla

But this is just one face of the new venture. Initiated last year, on July the 25th, with Dr. Andreas Gal’s ((Director of Research at Mozilla Corporation)) disclosure on the mozilla.dev.platform mailing list, the Boot to Gecko project was started to “pursue the goal of building a complete, standalone operating system for the open web” in order to “find the gaps that keep web developers from being able to build apps that are — in every way — the equals of those native apps that are built for the iPhone, Android, and WP7.”

What does this mean for B2G?

 

The announcement meant new Web APIs to expose device and OS capabilities such as telephony and camera, a privilege model to safely expose these to web pages, applications to prove these capabilities, and low-level code to boot an Android-compatible device. As of now, since these already have ASCII-like standardisation boards ruling over them, Mozilla is yet to negotiate its terms of use before incorporating them into its B2G OS.

B2G's incoming call screen

Mozilla says that ‘B2G is motivated by a desire to demonstrate that the standards-based open Web has the potential to be a competitive alternative to the existing single-vendor application development stacks offered by the dominant mobile operating systems.’

Is it too late or too early?

 

The main question bothering me is the absence of a standardisation board in the case of B2G. While it is great to hear that Mozilla — like Google — is standing for the open source-ware, it is also important that we understand that the average user is still unprepared to live in a world of code that is set straight by random people across the world. Personally, I feel a slight regulation is necessary.

This brings us to the hard fact that this is exactly what Android already is! An open-source OS running under the lenient eyes of Google. So is B2G too late? Do we already have a B2G in Android, along with the positive aspects of a controlling authority who, while retaining an eye on security, needs only to cut down on the veneer to infinitely increase developmental possibilities? And if B2G does take centre-stage in the coming days, what about security? How secure will it be?

Take a look at the video below, showcasing the B2G for the first time at the World Mobile Congress (the device used is a Samsung Galaxy II,) and then let us know your thoughts in the comments:

  • What do you think about B2G?
  • Would you switch to B2G if it becomes publicly available, pre-installed?
  • What would you hope to find in B2G that you don’t already find in your mobile OS?
  • How will hardware manufacturers react to the possibility of B2G taking over Android as the crown OS?
  • Will this cause some mobile phone manufacturers to revert to their native OS?

[signoff]