Going paperless is an idea I have struggled with for some time. I’ve tried various applications and methodologies in the past only to be overwhelmed by the effort or dismayed by the lack of cross-platform support. Beyond the paperless ideal, data management, efficient note taking and good writing habits were also objectives for which I could not find workable solutions. My digital documents were scattered across different computers much in the same way my physical paper was carelessly stuffed in bankers boxes. I have been a casual Evernote user for some time and a Premium subscriber for about a year. But, it was not until the recent release of the Android application for my NOOK Color that I have decided to fully use Evernote as my organizational tool.
The ubiquity of Evernote is its most compelling feature. I use the desktop client on my Mac, PC workstation and laptop; and the Android mobile version on my tablet and phone. Certainly, it has become an indispensable application because I am never without it. In terms of utility, availability and functionality, Evernote is well-balanced: ranging from the built-out design of the Mac desktop client to the stripped down design of the phone client. I must admit though, the clean design of the Android tablet application on my NOOK Color is my favorite. Maybe it’s the combination of the tablet’s form factor with the modern aesthetics of the Android mobile version of the app. Thankfully, the kitschy design elements of the iPad app were not carried over to the Android app. Nevertheless, regardless of the device, Evernote is always open and in constant use.
There are a few caveats to be aware of when using Evernote on the NOOK Color: (a) since the tablet is not a GPS-enabled device, it has no location-based services. Which means you will not be able to take location mapped notes from within Evernote. On the top right bar of the app, there should be three icons: New Note, Map View and Search, but on the NOOK Color, Map View is missing (See Figure 1). The workarounds are to take location mapped notes with the phone app, or to manually set a location for a particular note; (b) Evernote installs its folder on the add-on microSD card, not the built-in memory card. If you choose to enable offline notebooks, you may want to install at least a 16GB card; and (c) currently there is no web clipper for the default browser. Although this would probably need to be a feature request, I do hope a web clipper is in the works.
Evernote is a feature rich application with strong third-party integration which is continuously being updated. (To read more about the recent Android update, please see Andrew Sinkov’s blog post.) It is the combination of this feature set that allows each user to tailor the application to their needs. And its asymmetrical structure permits such flexibility and customization as an organizational tool. Although I have not made use of all its features, there a few I would like to highlight:
- Notebook Stacks: My ability to create parent directories (Stacks) that contain sub-directories of notebooks is critical to keeping the notebooks pane organized. Doing so allows me to create vertical hierarchies of stacks with meaningful child directories of notebooks. Of course, I don't always make use of stacks for top level directories, but they are useful when needed.
- Nested Tags: Similar to notebook stacks, I am able to create parent-child directories within the tags pane. I simply select the tag(s) and drag and drop the selected item over a parent tag. When you have created a long list of tags, this is a vital tool to keeping the tags pane uncluttered.
- Twitter Integration: One of the most welcomed third-party features of Evernote is its integration with Seesmic, the suite of social media management tools. From within Seesmic’s mobile application, I am able to send twitter messages directly into Evernote. And with the pop-up contextual menu, I can file and tag the message appropriately.
- Search: The search feature built into Evernote is incredibly powerful. By using its advanced search syntax with defined operators you can contextually find notes by date, subject or file location. Evernote also allows you to save searches precluding the need for tags.
I have primarily used Evernote as a blog management tool: cataloging web clippings and drafting blog posts; while also using it as a repository for web receipts, registration information and snapshots. But, there is a great deal more I can use it for. And now with Evernote on my NOOK Color I can more aggressively use it to manage my paperwork and writings. Ryan Ireland outlined his experience with going paperless in a Cognition post and although he does not use Evernote, much of what he describes can easily be translated over. I also found Brett Kelly’s screencast on Learning Evernote helpful as a primer on using the application.
Ultimately, Evernote is just one of the many tools I am using to organize my documents and files. I use Dropbox for storage; LastPass and KeePass for passwords; XMarks and Delicious for bookmarks; and SyncToy and ChronoSync to sync folders and hard drives. Yes, Evernote is a powerful tool, but it’s not a magic lamp. Beyond its functionality and design, what is most useful is its portability. There are other productivity and organization tools, but they are restricted to a particular platform or are not easily accessed with my mobile devices. Evernote is an everywhere app which—for me—is ideal.