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Tuesday
Dec272011

Automating Mail-ins to Evernote from GMail

For some time now I've been hampered by Evernote's e-mail in service. Let me re-phrase that; I've been hampered by the limitations of e-mail in making the best use of Evernote's e-mail in service. Now however, I've found a service that lets me overcome the limitations and open up a wide range of opportunities for today and unimaginable ones for the future.

Every Evernote account offers an e-mail address for mailing information directly into Evernote. You can find out your secret address by checking the details in your account settings. What you may not have realised however is that Evernote offers some additional processing based on the subject line of the e-mail. I did a full review of the ins and outs of this when Evernote launched the feature, but basically you can specify a notebook to create an e-mailed note in by including @notebook_name in the title along with tags #tag1 #tag2.

My problem has always been that setting these entries has always been a manual process. I use Google's Gmail for accessing my e-mail accounts (whether directly or as a proxy for other accounts) and whilst you can build up powerful rules, there was no way to automatically modify the subject line of a mail. This meant that every e-mail into Evernote had to be manually edited - not exactly the best workflow.

So the months pass by and then I came across a new (for me) service called "If This Then That" (ifttt.com. Quite frankly it's a game changer.

IFTTT is a service that allows you to build small workflow for web services (the number of which is growing all the time) that allows you to connect services together in really interesting ways. The interface is superbly simple which belies the huge complexity that it allows for - think Yahoo! Pipes for everyone.

As you might have guessed by now, IFTTT allows you to link a Gmail account and Evernote in such a way as to forward an e-mail from your GMail account into Evernote with an amended subject line. This is true, but it actually allows direct access to your Evernote account for creating a new note without having to go via the e-mail in route. This therefore allows you to automate the sending of e-mails into your Evernote account specifying the destination notebook and the tags of the note created (along with a title for the note). To illustrate this I've constructed an example.

This process has three pre-requisites:

  1. A GMail account. (Register here)
  2. An Evernote account. (Register here)
  3. An IFTTT account. (Register here)

Once you have the pre-requisites in place you're ready to start. This example is going to take an e-mailed invoice to luke.skywalker@gmail.com from han@solo-enterprises.com and place this in a notebook called "Accounts" and tag it with "Transport" and "Smuggling". The note will be titled as "INVOICE:" followed by the date/time the mail was received (in parentheses), a space and then the subject line of the mail.

  1. Login to IFTTT.
  2. Activate GMail as a channel
    1. Click "Get more channels".
    2. Click on the GMail logo.
    3. Click "Activate".
    4. Authorise IFTTT to use GMail.
  3. Activate Evernote as a channel
    1. Click "Get more channels".
    2. Click on the Evernote logo.
    3. Click "Activate".
    4. Authorise IFTTT to use Evernote.
  4. Click "Create a task".
  5. Click "this".
  6. IFTTT Step 1 - Click on GMail.
  7. IFTTT Step 2 - Click on "New email from".
  8. IFTTT Step 3 - Enter "han@solo-enterprises.com" as the e-mail address and click "Create Trigger".
  9. Click "that".
  10. IFTTT Step 4 - Click on Evernote.
  11. IFTTT Step 5 - Click on "Create a note".
  12. IFTTT Step 6 - Complete the details for the note.
    1. Set the title to "INVOICE: ({{ReceivedAt}}) {{Subject}}".
    2. Set the body to "from: {{FromAddress}}<br>{{BodyPlain}}".
    3. Set the notebook to "Accounts".
    4. Set the tags to "Transport, Smuggling".
    5. Click "Create Action".
  13. IFTTT Step 7 - Create and activate the note.
    1. Enter a description "E-mail Solo invoices to Evernote".
    2. Click on "Create Task".

So that's the IFTTT task in place. It will trigger every 15 minutes or so (according to IFTTT), so unfortunately setting a GMail filter to auto-archive the mail isn't an option, but if you have a desktop mail client with suitable rules connected to your GMail account, then you could set that up to trigger an auto-clean-up after an hour or maybe if older than two days (as this will then account for an edge case of a just before midnight invoice arrival).

IFTT is a sophisticated tool in any modern knowledge worker's arsenal. With the additional channels (additional to Evernote and GMail) it offers up a cornucopia of ways to automate getting information into Evernote.

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Reader Comments (5)

Why go through additional aggravation, when you can set the rules straight in Gmail filters?

December 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBojan Alpha Efficiency

Bojan Al[ha Efficiency.

If you read the first three paragraphs it explains my main reasons to use this method over GMail filters, but I'll expand upon this further.

1. You can specify which notebook to create the new note in.
2. You can specify what tags to add to the note.
3. You can make modifications to the title of the note based upon static text and IFTTT GMail variables such as the dat received.
4. You can make modifications to the body of the note based upon static text and IFTTT GMail variables such as the dat received.

GMail would be able to accomplish much of this if you could automate the content of the subject line. I was unable to find any way for GMail to automatically change the content of the subject line which meant that any mail that I pushed to Evernote automatically thought filters had to be manually tagged and manually moved to the right folder. Using IFTTT allows me to automate this last step of the process and effectively forget about it and get on with other more important things once it has been set-up. To me this is a small investment at the start but provides me with a bit of an efficiency improvement and another thing I don't have to remember to do. I also use IFTTT to do some other bits and pieces for me, so the time investment of setting this up is worth more than just this to me.

Also I don't think this is a huge amount of aggravation. Whilst I consider myself technically adept I found the set-up and use of IFTTT very straight forward and many non-technical people I've introduced to the service have commented on how simple it is to set-up and use.

December 28, 2011 | Registered CommenterStephen Millard

You can use the script described here:
http://www.harryonline.net/evernote/send-google-mail-to-evernote/226

Just add labels to the message in Gmail, and, in the background, the script will forward the message to a note in Evernote, to any notebook of your choice and with the assigned labels as tags.

You can use the GMail filters to add labels directly to incoming mail.

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHarry Oosterveen

Thanks for sharing Harry :-)

December 1, 2012 | Registered CommenterStephen Millard

Harry,

Thats an awesome script but I think Stephen's approach with IFTT allows you to change the note title rather than simply inheriting the email subject line as the title.

September 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFabian

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