Do you ever wish there was a single place you could keep all your notes, web clippings, voice memos, and incredible ideas for screenplays? Somewhere that synchronised your notes across all your various devices and made them fully searchable by their content or tags?
Introducing the uninitiated to Evernote – a single place for all the things you need to remember! Is it worth the money you ask? Well it’s free so we should probably have a look…
When considering a universal note taking app, it’s of vital importance that it warrants its place as your one and only! Fortunately Evernote makes a great stab at covering all the bases by including a myriad of different note taking options:
- Type a text note
- Clip a web page
- Snap a photo
- Grab a screenshot
- Upload a voice memo
One thing that sets Evernote apart is its ability to comprehensively search your notes, which it does by automatically indexing your notes and making them searchable. If you want to go a step further then you can simply give tags to your notes or arrange them into different notebooks!
Tags are a great way to track your notes – remember that you can give your note multiple tags if it fits in several different categories!
As you dig deeper into Evernote, you’ll find that the number of notes you take increases dramatically as you familiarise yourself with its extensive capabilities. This is where the ability to search comes into its own. You never have to worry about organisation when adding notes on-the-go, as you can quickly find them later. Using OCR technology, Evernote even makes printed and handwritten text inside your images searchable too! (and if that isn’t worth an exclamation mark then what is?)
Getting started with Evernote is easy. You simply go to the Evernote website, sign up for a free account, and download the Mac app. In this review I’ll focus on the nature of the Evernote Mac app, but it is worth noting that it has a great iPhone companion and the Web App can come in very handy – for those (rare?) occasions when you’re in dire need of your notes and away from your Mac.
Once downloaded, Evernote allows access to all its functionality through a single interface – it’s simple but powerful. It has three possible layout settings but doesn’t faff around with further customisation that you simply don’t need. I hardly need to go into the use of Evernote’s interface as it manages to be consistently intuitive, with everything where you would expect it to be.
The left column has your notebooks, tags, attributes, and saved searches, while the centre column lists your notes and the right column displays each individual note as you select it. I like the way the left column allows you to quickly narrow down the notes you are looking at by selecting a tag, previously saved search, or attribute such as:
- When it was created
- When it was last modified
- What kind of information it contains
- The original source
One of the best things about Evernote is the way in which in syncs across all platforms. Whenever you open or close the app, it synchronises all your ideas, snapshots, voice memos, and notes so that they’ll never be forgotten! It’s also possible to force a sync if the note you’ve just uploaded is just too valuable to risk a crash on…
The choice of whether or not to go premium will entirely depend upon your personal use of Evernote and whether the extra data storage is worth it (500mb per month as opposed to 40mb on a free account). Personally I don’t find that the small adverts are particularly bothersome – they mostly seem to want me to buy an Evernote t-shirt!
It’s worth noting a couple of criticisms before I hit the bottom line. It’s slightly strange that Evernote allows you to take iSight snapshots but doesn’t allow you to record voice memos from within the Mac App. The iPhone App lets you do this and it’s an odd omission from an otherwise feature-packed Mac counterpart.
Another criticism would be that Evernote lacks the capabilities to be an adequate cloud based file manager – while you can email PDF files (and the like), the lack of a standard folder structure will frustrate the organised.
It is clear, however, that Evernote was not built for file management and it actually does what it does extremely well. If you do need a cloud based file manager then stick to an app that does that well, like Dropbox.
As I was writing it appears the development team at Evernote have been bravely slaving away on their Evernote 2.0 beta and have released the full version! I’ll briefly look at the impact of the two key additions, sharing and stacks.
As you can see above, sharing adds a new tab at the top of the notebooks sidebar that switches between your own Evernote account and those notebooks that have been shared with you. There are a vast array of options including sharing your notes with individuals, groups, and even making them publicly available! Premium account holders gain even more value from this update as they can now edit others’ shared notes, make their shared notes open for editing, and see the history of a particular note – invaluable for group collaboration!
The other major new addition is the inclusion of notebook stacks, in response to the requests of its users for a good way to further organise notebooks. Simply put, stacks allow you to group notebooks together and keep Evernote tidy!
Evernote 2.0 also includes some smaller additions that, overall, make Evernote even better! It’s great that the Evernote team are clearly committed to their users and the future of their App.
Evernote is a brilliant app with some incredibly useful features for helping you keep track of almost everything. The main selling point is definitely its ability to cloud sync across almost any device, and its fully featured search functionality – it still amazes me that it manages to index some of my scrawly handwriting!
With very little not to recommend, and a development team who appear determined to support and expand Evernote, the future is bright. If you struggle keeping track of things or just want a single place for all your thoughts, ideas, and notes then I’d urge you to give Evernote a try. Sign up for a free account, download it on all your devices, and see whether it makes your life easier!