Evernote — a Virtual Shoebox for Your Mac
Take a look at your desk or work space. Do you see little yellow sticky notes everywhere? Do you have "while you were out" slips on your desk? Do you have a bunch of receipts and notes that you need to file way? If you're like most people, you probably have at least some of these things on your desk at work. If you need to get organized, the free, cross-platform note-taking application Evernote could be your first step on the road toward sanity recovery.
Evernote is an application akin to a virtual shoebox in which you can store documents, images, web clippings and even audio files. Evernote is all about data collection and its potential uses are endless. Everything you add to Evernote is called a note, even if the document is several pages in length. You can add existing documents and PDF files from your computer or you can begin typing a new note in seconds. If you're browsing the web, you can use the Evernote clipper tool to capture any interesting website or text and create a new note from the selection instantly.
Evernote is completely free to use and store documents. Everything you add to your virtual shoebox is stored in the Evernote program on your Mac and then synced to the Evernote servers. Because Evernote also has an iPhone application and a website, this synchronization means that your files are always updated as soon as you edit them. As an Evernote user, you can access your notes and files through each of these three gateways: the Mac application, the iPhone application and the web.
The Evernote desktop application bears a strong visual resemblance to a desktop e-mail client. The application offers three different viewing options: list, column and box view. List mode shows your notes in a list at the top of the window and displays the notes in a large pane at the bottom. Column view displays thumbnails of your notes to the left and your notes in a viewing pane to the right. Box view features larger thumbnails to the left and a fixed width viewing pane to the right. This last option includes a drag bar to alter the size of the thumbnails, a convenience for users that prefer to see all their notes at once.
After you've selected a view, you'll need to become acquainted with Evernote's tagging system, which lets you tag every note with relevant search terms. Tagging has become ubiquitous amongst social media these days and users of Flickr and social bookmarking websites will feel right at home using tags to organize their notes.
Besides a version for generic mobile phones there is also an Evernote iPhone application, which is simple yet efficient. The application has a search bar at the top, a large column view with thumbnails in the middle and five tabs across the bottom. The tabs are: new note, notes, favorites, pending and account and provide access to the same set of features in the desktop application. The favorites tab is for any bookmarked notes. The pending tab shows new notes created with the iPhone application that have not yet been synced with the Evernote servers. The account tab displays important account information including the number of notes and total size of those notes and the account settings.
Speaking of account options, Evernote offers two account types: free and premium. The free account includes use of all of Evernote's features but a 40 MB upload allowance per month. The premium account costs $5 per month includes a 500 MB upload allowance. Most average users will stick with a free account since they will likely never come close to the upload limit anyway. Evernote claims that a free account user could upload approximately 20,000 text notes in a month and still come just under the 40 MB allowance but we did not test the capacity limits for the purposes of this review.
To give you an example of how Evernote works, let's say I come across and interesting article on fantasy baseball on a website I rarely visit. Since my draft is coming up in about a month, I want to remember the tips in the article on draft day. I can use Evernote to take a screenshot of the site, copy the text of the article and tag the note with relevant terms like "fantasy baseball, draft" and "tips." In a few weeks, I can search for "fantasy baseball" and find the article in time to have a great draft.
"But wait," you say, "can't I already do all that with my social bookmarking website?" you ask. Yes, you can, although using Evernote does have its advantages. With Evernote your files are stored locally so you never have to worry about not being able to access your files, as was the case with users of the social bookmarking website Ma.gnolia, which collapsed recently. (While it is possible to backup your bookmarks in an HTML file, not many users do this.) You also do not need Internet access to use Evernote, so you can create new notes and edit existing ones while off-line and sync everything when you do get online. An ideal setup might include both Evernote and social bookmarking, as the two compliment each other quite well.
Evernote is a great application for anyone looking to get organized. Evernote is free and can be used in any number of different ways (Windows, OS X, iPhone, web, generic mobile phones). If you're tired of feeling like you have too many different things to remember, give Evernote a try.
Developed by Evernote Corporation
Free / $5 US per month for premium features
- Free to use
- Syncs files between Mac, iPhone & website
- Tagging system means easy searching
- Handwriting recognition capability
- Monthly upload limit on free account
This review was written by Brendan Wilhide