Using Evernote as a Virtual Hard Drive Library System

Back in the day when I shot on digital tapes, whenever I finished a job I’d create a self-contained, high quality QuickTime export of the final project and a DVD. I’d then delete all the raw footage and renders from my drive to free up space. I’d file the tapes away in some cool space. I could always go back and re-capture the footage if necessary.

But now everything we do is tapeless. (Go to to read about my tapeless workflow). That means no tapes to file away. That means I can NOT delete raw footage. In fact, I keep duplicates (and in some cases triplicate) copies. That’s a lot of hard drives to track. As the number of hard drives stacks up, keeping track of which projects are on which drive becomes a challenge. I have a Google doc project tracker where I list all of the project’s in production, and in that document there is a column for “Hard drive.” For some reason though the column is empty (i.e. I keep forgetting to fill it out. Can we say A.D.D.?) Besides, there are many other projects on my array of drives that were created before I started using the project tracker and frankly, I’m just too lazy to go back and enter all of those into the tracker. So I needed a way to easily find old and current projects.

Evernote to the Rescue

I hope by now you know what Evernote is. In short, it’s a computer and cloud-based note system that allows you to track and remember everything. I use it for taking notes, filing receipts, saving client emails, and now, as a virtual hard drive library system. Here’s how.

  1. In order for this system to work, you need the premium version of Evernote. It’s only $45/year and worth every penny! (Next week I’m going to write about how we use it to empower our paperless office).
  2. Create a Notebook called “Hard Drive Library”
  3. Within that Notebook, create a Note for every hard drive you have.
  4. For each folder you want to track, open it up then take a screen shot of it.
  5. Rename the screen shot (e.g. Projects snapshot on may 19 2012) then drag and drop that snapshot file into the appropriate Evernote Notebook.
As you can see, my sci-fi/fantasy geekiness extends to the names of my hard drives. Click to enlarge.

That’s it. Once that Notebook gets synched online and indexed, you will be able to do a search in Evernote for any folder in a snapshot. Evernote Premium’s optical character recognition (OCR) feature will not only read PDFs, it’ll read PNGs (the default file format created by snapshots on the Mac). So, let’s say I need to find where the files for the Joe Buissink promo we shot. I just go into Evernote, click on the Hard Drive Library Notebook, then do a search for “buissink.” Then vóilà…

Evernote Premium’s OCR technology can scan PDFs and PNGs for text. Here’s it finding “buissink.”

How cool is that? Obviously, you can use this far beyond just tracking projects on your computer. As you add folders and projects to any drive, take updated snapshots and drag them into Evernote.

I have no doubt many of you have much better systems for keeping track of all those pesky projects folders on your disparate drives. Eventually I may one day perhaps update my Project Tracker Google doc (maybe). What system do you use?

11 thoughts on “Using Evernote as a Virtual Hard Drive Library System

  1. Even though I am a big fan of Evernote and use the premium version, I wouldn’t use it in this way — it’s just way too labor intensive. There is a great, inexpensive utility that will do this task for you automagically, called Where Is It? You can get the program from It will automatically read and index all of your drives, and you can save indexes into “notebooks’ just like you do in Evernote, but there’s no need for intermediate OCR of the image of the drive directory tree. WhereIsIt just catalogs all the files on the disc. What I like to do is then generate a report from WhereIsIt’s built in report writer that just lists the top-level project folders, so I know which client projects are on a given drive, and then I just tape that report on the side of that drive, so at a glance I can see what’s on the drive. If I need to find a specific raw clip or other related media, I just do a file search in Where Is It’s search function. It’s really great for this task.

  2. Great article Ron. We are quickly entering the world of multiple, multiple, multiple, hard drives and backups. Catologging and tracking where projects and client folders are is a huge part of the process that we are learning. Thanks for offering your advice and workflow as a solution it is definitely something for us to look into.
    Thanks again!
    Brian & Lindsay
    Team SchlickArt

  3. DiskCatalogMaker works well for me. It’s a Mac app. You have to manually scan/rescan drives as you change things and move them around, but I generally spend at least one day a month manually re-organizing my files and shuffling files around, so I do it at that time. The catalog is fully text searchable, and it’s fast. Has saved me many many hours of looking for files the old way…

    Matt Jeppsen

  4. The $45 fee is a small amount to pay for peace of mind. Data storage is so important and this will aid you in saving important files like receipts, emails, spreadsheets, etc.

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