Build an Illustration File That’s Easy to Use with Evernote

Has the time and effort of building and using an illustration file caused you to stop using yours? Is that the reason you haven’t bothered to put an illustration file together in the first place?

Yet the merits of having illustrations filed away can’t be overstated. Having them on hand is much easier than thinking them up.

Is there a way to build an illustration file that’s easy to use?

With Evernote, there is. Evernote is an application that allows you to store text, video, and audio content, and access it fast, either offline or on the web.

Evernote makes it easy to store illustrations

Let’s say you wanted to put an online article into your illustration file. Evernote gives you three easy ways to store it.

1. Store stuff from your menu bar. When you install Evernote, choose to put the Elephant icon in your menu bar. Simply select and copy text you want to store, click the Elephant, and choose “Paste to Evernote”.

You can use this feature without even opening the Evernote application. That’s like being able to put something in your filing cabinet without opening the drawer. Pretty cool.

2. Store stuff from your web browser. If you want to store an entire online article in Evernote, you can even skip the select, copy, and paste part. The Evernote team has designed a plug-in for web browsers, which allows you to clip the whole page with a couple of clicks.

3. Type it directly into Evernote. You can always go the old fashioned route and create your own note by hand. I’ve been known to pull out my mobile device and enter illustrations during movies, while listening to sermons, or while generally out and about.

Getting your illustration stored is only half the battle. The game-changing question is when I’m in the heat of sermon prep, can I go to Evernote and find an illustration fast.


Evernote makes it easy to find illustrations

Finding illustrations (or any other content, for that matter) in Evernote will capitalize on how well you’ve organized your files in the first place. The following three ways to find your illustrations are based on how I have set up my files. You can use this system, tweak it, or invent a better one.

1. Check the topical file. Each of my illustrations are divided topically in separate files. When I need an illustration, I scan the topics I have illustrations for to see if I have one that I can use.

2. Check the tags. Another way to categorize your notes is with tags. I use tags similarly to topical files, only the file folder name is more general, and the tags are more specific. Additionally, I include book and chapter tags if I think an illustration works well for a certain passage.






3. Perform a search. If you strike out on both topical tiles and tags, the last resort is to do a search. Evernote has powerful search capabilities. It will give you results even for partial words.

Learn more about Evernote

If you want to learn more about how to use Evernote, check out Michael Hyatt’s posts on Evernote, or watch demo videos at Also, watch my friend, Nate, demonstrate how he uses Evernote in ministry.


  1. For someone starting out with this do you have a handy list of topics from step 1?

    • Eric McKiddie says:

      I don’t have a comprehensive list, Dave. My topical list grows as I run across illustrations, or as I confront various topics in the passages I preach. However, my current list is:

      Calling for faith
      Comfort zone
      Gospel, the
      False sense of salvation
      Fighting for truth
      Inaugurated eschatology
      New heavens and earth
      OT in the NT
      Pastoral ministry
      Potential, meeting your
      Preaching fallacies
      Spiritual growth

      Hope that helps!

  2. I just got an iPad2 as a seminary graduation gift and found through a Google search that Evernote is a popular app for pastors. So, I’m really new to using this app and very interested to learn how use it efficiently and effectively. Thanks for writing this post too.

  3. This seems to be an awesome idea. But are their any benefits to Evernote over a “Word documents and folders on my desktop” filing system?

    • Eric McKiddie says:

      There are a lot of benefits to Evernote compared to Word. It’s backed up on the cloud, so you don’t have to worry about losing your illustrations if your computer crashes. Evernote has apps that sync for any mobile device, so you are always prepared to add an illustration if you think of one, or access one. Also, you can clip things into Evernote and email into Evernote, so if you come across something on the web, it’s easy to enter it into the app. I think you want a system that makes it as easy as possible to collect illustrations.

      That said, the best illustration filing system is the one that works for you!