Using Evernote as an investigative tool

Evernote is a Web-based information system that has applications for just about every computer operating system and smartphone, so you can upload, edit, and view your files from anywhere

Part of the job of being an investigator is keeping track of the information you gather. Interview notes, photos, email messages, sound and video recordings, addresses and other vital statistic information can be a chore to organize.

If an item pertains to more than one investigation, you may have to remember to make a duplicate and file it with that case—and you don’t always get to it.

A business application called Evernote might be useful to you. Evernote is a Web-based information system that has applications for just about every computer operating system and smartphone, so you can upload, edit, and view your files from anywhere. I use it for keeping up with article ideas and notes, and I think I would be lost without it.

Anything you store in Evernote is a single note. You sort notes into different notebooks, and a note can appear in more than one notebook. Multiple notebooks can be grouped into a “stack.” Notes can have tags, which are indicators of what the note is about or refers to. A tag could be a person’s name, a case number, a keyword like “bath salts,” or anything else you can think of.

When you display your Evernote file on your computer or handheld device, you see a list of notebooks, notes, and tags. Clicking on a notebook shows all the notes assigned to it; clicking on a tag shows the notes associated with that tag.

Maybe you’re collecting photos of the houses belonging to members of a certain gang. Take a photo, load it to Evernote, and tag it with the name of the gang and/or the gang member. Clicking on any of those tags will display the list of photos and anything else you’ve associated with that tag. A sound recording of an interview is handled the same way.

If you use Outlook for your email or calendar, you can install an Evernote plug-in and enter messages or appointments into Evernote with a single click. There are also browser plug-ins that accomplish the same task. You can save an entire web page or just a URL to an Evernote entry, or maintain a list of URLs in one note.

Apps for iOS, Android, and BlackBerry Smartphones allow you to add to and view Evernote notebooks in the field.

Notebooks can be shared between Evernote users. If you share a notebook with another user, they can contribute to it as well. Any information you send there will be automatically synchronized between all the devices any of you use to access Evernote and immediately available to everyone.

You start by registering for a free Evernote account at Free accounts get 50 MB of traffic per month, which is probably more than you will ever need unless you’re storing and retrieving a lot of photo, video and/or sound files.

If you do need more than that, you can upgrade to a premium account for $5 per month or $45 per year and get1GB of traffic each month. Both free and premium accounts can store up to 100,000 notes in 250 notebooks, with up to 10,000 tags.

This is a terrific service for making sense of all the random information you come across in your professional and personal life, and the price is certainly right.

About the author

Tim Dees is a retired police officer and criminal justice professor. He has been writing on criminal justice technology issues for virtually every U.S. police publication and commercial website since 1988. Tim holds a bachelor’s degree in biological science from San José State University, and a master’s degree in criminal justice from The University of Alabama. He serves on the executive board of the Public Safety Writers Association.

He can be reached at

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