Evernote is a free service that allows you store text, images, audio files and (if you’re a premium subscriber like me) any other type of document on the web.
OK, so that sounds useful, but hardly unique. There are lots of tools that do the the same sort of thing: SugarSync and DropBox are two that come to mind. The difference with Evernote is that it’s optimised for a particular purpose, online note-taking. And when I say optimised, I mean optimised.
For note-taking to work it has to be as immediate and accessible as a notebook and pen in your pocket. And for the online aspect to work, it has to take advantage of the medium. Evernote succeeds on both these points, and here’s how.
Evernote have produced desktop applications for Windows and Mac OS X. There’s a fully featured web client. Mobile apps exist for iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, Palm’s Web OS and even ,Windows Mobile. You can add notes via the automated Twitter account, @myEN. There are various browser extensions and third party apps. So there’s no shortage of ways to get hold of, and add to, your notes.
The various Evernote apps are all designed to help you get information into Evernote quickly, including images and audio as well as text notes. On mobiles, you can use Evernote to launch the camera and take a photo – that photo, once tagged, will be added to your notes, and will then be accessible from anywhere. Here’s the Android app’s start screen:
On the desktop apps, there’s an option to have Evernote take control of the Print Screen key. Pressing it will bring up some crosshairs, which you then use to select an area of the screen to send straight to Evernote. Right-clicking a file gives you a “send to Evernote” option. And anything you add can be tagged, making it easy to retrieve in future.
It’s one thing to be able to add lots of notes and have them available on almost any network-enabled device you own. But one advantage of having those notes online is the ability to share them.
Evernote allows you to create additional notebooks, which can then be shared with the world or with specified individuals. If you want someone else to see a note, just move it to one of your shared notebooks, and others can see it.
There’s a WordPress extension called Everpress that will automatically post items from a shared notebook to your blog, but I haven’t tried that yet.
This is the best bit, and the feature that really got my attention when I first found it.
One day, when I was still quite new to Evernote, I was testing its search feature. I searched for a word that I knew wasn’t stored in plain text (I didn’t have many notes then). Evernote said “1 result returned”, so I thought the search system must have a bug. Then I looked at the result, and it was a photo I’d taken of a whiteboard. The word I’d searched for was written on the board, and Evernote had highlighted it in yellow.
Searching for the word 'confirm' - the highlighting is from Evernote
Up until then I didn’t know Evernote had that feature, and it was a bit of an “encountering the future” moment. Whenever I tell people about this they have an “encountering the future” moment too.
I’ve since found out that Evernote scans any images you upload and uses OCR to extract text from them. That text then becomes searchable, which is extremely useful, and is becoming more so over time.
So yeah, I think you should try Evernote. If, like me, you collect & create a lot of information which you then need to get hold of further down the line, you might come to find it indispensable.