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Evernote (Review)
April 23, 2010 10:14 PM

Evernote is a digital note-taking application that hopes to rethink the traditional method of the pen and paper. The service offers the ability to turn a variety of media formats into notes, making it something of a mix between a scrapbook and a journal. The application organizes everything from essays, photos, to just random thoughts. While other competitors have failed due to proprietary technologies, Evernote succeeds with its cross-platform compatibility. The free price tag is tempting, but after a few days in use, there is a lot to say about whether the application is helpful or simply another hassle.

Compatible Platforms:

  • Windows XP/Vista/7
  • Mac OS X
  • iPhone and iPad
  • Android
  • Blackberry
  • Palm Pre and Pixi
  • Windows Mobile

Desktop Application:

The desktop platform is by far the most powerful version, especially when compared to the mobile iterations. Although I’m using the Windows client, the Mac version is technically identical. The application offers the ability to create text-based notes as well as store web clips, computer screenshots, and to-do lists. Evernote also accepts files formats including image files, audio recordings, and PDFs. The application automatically organizes notes by running Optical Character Recognition (OCR) on all data. This enables all stored documents, including pictures of text, to be searchable. Browsing through notes is a simple task since everything is organized by date or name. Furthermore, the application lets you create multiple notebooks, which are essentially folders that can represent different parts of your life. I found the application helpful for jotting down quick notes during lectures and for saving images from the web.

While computers already offer the ability to organize and search through files, Evernote’s real value is in making data accessible. Cross-platform synchronization allows users with multiple devices to view or create files from just about anywhere. This leads me to my experience with the mobile iPhone App.

Mobile Application:
The free iPhone application took merely seconds to install, and offers scaled back desktop-like features. After launching the application, the user is presented the options of creating Text, Image, and Voice notes. While the iPhone App is somewhat limited with only these choices, other platforms such as Blackberry and Windows Mobile allow uploads of any file format. The OCR feature is once again a powerful tool since it can turn images into searchable text. Whether it is a quick snapshot of a business card or a passage from a book, Evernote will digitize everything into text. While it’s not very practical to type an essay on the iPhone’s small touch screen, it is convenient for viewing previously saved notes. The synchronization is a great feature especially because Apple’s included Notes App is not compatible with iTunes or any other desktop service. Evernote users will never need to email themselves files again due to the lacking features of the current iPhone OS.

Web Version:
While the desktop programs and mobile application are great tools, they are often limited to the devices you own. Evernote’s web interface solves that issue by making all your data available through any computer’s web browser with a single login. The web page is great for viewing content and creating notes. It also supports simple file uploads to the service. In addition, Evernote offers a convenient “secret email address” that will auto-import text and attachments that are sent to it. There’s also support for linking accounts with Twitter; however, it likely doesn’t have practical real-life use. This is due to the maximum character limits of Twitter.

Who is it for?
Evernote is not for everyone. Those who are already organized and have only one machine will find no value in it. The majority of people already use included tools such as browser bookmarks and simple folder structures to stay organized. I for instance use Microsoft Word for note taking and Dropbox to make my files accessible from multiple locations. Dropbox’s tight operating system integration across platforms is by far superior for simple file synchronization. However, Evernote does have an edge when it comes to storing quick webclips, voice memos, and photos containing text. The application makes it easy for just about anyone to get their digital life in order. For those who are disorganized and have multiple machines, Evernote will do wonders. In place of a messy desktop littered with temporary files users will have a single program with a convenient search bar.

The Bottom Line:
Evernote does an excellent job at what it claims to do. Features such as OCR are especially unique as well as quite accurate and helpful. Synchronization is usually quick, and the interface is easy to navigate. Unfortunately, it will not be replacing dedicated tools such as Microsft OneNote or Word anytime soon. Those who are unsure about whether Evernote will simplify their life can give it a shot without spending a penny. Keep in mind that there is also a premium version of the service which offers uploads of any file format and 500mb per month of storage. While this service did not suit my personal needs, others may find it a helpful tool. The entire package is put together neatly and will not disappoint.


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