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Evernote

I discovered this gem about 13 months ago and it has been the anchor of my sanity ever since. (Well, please don’t let me misdirect the credit. My wife and family play a huge role in anchoring my sanity, too.) I was looking for something to manage a task list on my Android phone and stumbled upon Evernote.

At first blush I was not impressed. I was looking for a task list and I found a note taking app. The interface seemed simplistic and it just wasn’t what I was looking for. I almost dismissed it. But something urged me to take a closer look. I installed it on my phone and the desktop app to my laptop. Though I was not actively seeking a replacement for Microsoft OneNote, I was intrigued by the cross-platform synchronization capabilities. I was (and still am) a huge fan of OneNote. OneNote lets me organize my notes how I want and the content types are virtually unlimited. Evernote had limitations on content types and it only permitted tags and folders for organization. Still, the prospect of having all of my notes at my fingertips wherever I was won me over. That was something OneNote could not do for me.

I spent a day and a half migrating my notes from OneNote to Evernote. It wasn’t difficult for me to quickly create pertinent folders and tags for my content.

The folders were a little cumbersome for me. I found myself viewing all the notes by date and quickly abandoned my folder idea. I currently use only the tags to organize my notes. In a spirit of full disclosure, I do use two notebooks: one for the novel I’m working on and a second for the rest of my notes.

The second thing a quickly discovered — which was almost a deal breaker — was the fact that my notes were not stored locally on my devices. I had to have an active internet connection to view my notes. I could create content offline, but I could not view my notes offline. The feature cost me $45 per year. Dishing out the cash also bought me the ability to search my PDF files and upload more content each month, up to 1 GB. However, most months I don’t even hit 100 MB. Paying the money proved to be prophetic because in March of last year I bought an iPad with WiFi only. I find myself in too many situations where there is no internet connection. In the car, at the store, on a plane, etc. The ability to have access to my notes anytime and anywhere is worth the $45 per year.

In the early months, Evernote did not support check boxes. But that has been rectified in recent releases. Up until last month, I used Evernote for my task lists as well as my notes. I created a tag for task lists and had about 4 different lists for each sphere of my life: Home, Work, Church, and Other. I listed the tasks for each area in a note, prefacing each one with a “O” before it was complete and with an “X” after. Each morning, when I reviewed my lists, I’d purge the X’d entries.

Another thing that Evernote has done recently is provide a clipping app for web browsers. Notice the Evernote icon in my Firefox browser to the right. Clicking the icon prompts me to clip the entire page or just an article. It allows me to set a title for the new note and assign tags. This handy do-dad has been great for saving articles I want to read at a future date or pictures I want to save.

Evernote will also record audio. On more than one occasion I have hit the audio record button in a meeting. I can continue to take notes while Evernote records the audio. This would also be a great tool for a student in a classroom recording lectures.

I have a first generation iPad so I don’t have an integrated camera. But with my Android phone, I can open Evernote and capture an image with the camera directly to Evernote, again with the option to set a title and assign tags.

There is also the ability to share notebooks with other Evernote users. A colleague and I toyed with it for a few days, but admittedly, I don’t use share notebooks. There is also the ability to email notes to your Evernote. I use this quite a bit. If there is an email related to a project I’m working on, I will forward the message to my Evernote account. Attachments and all get stored into Evernote. I can specify the tags and title of the new note in the subject line of the email.

I use Evernote for everything. Keeping track of project, electronic user guides of products I’ve purchased, content I need to read or review, minutes of meetings I attend. I even record the audio of my children’s orchestra and piano recitals.

Do you use Evernote? What for and how? If you don’t, what do you use to keep yourself organized?

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