LearnNote Taking Nirvana?


writes on August 7, 2009

A month ago my “partner in life” decided to get an iPhone 3GS. Over the last few weeks she has become the queen of the App Store and has introduced me to a number of apps that had passed me by. Some are more useful to me than others but the one I have been most impressed with is Evernote for the iPhone.

Evernote is a great little app that allows you to take notes either as text, voice memos or photos. Admittedly there are a million apps out there that do that but what really hooked me was the free desktop app (OSX and Windows) that goes with it. It’s very simple to use and allows easy access to your notes as well as a good writing panel. As someone who used to note take in text files it’s great having all my ideas in one easy to access app.

OSX Desktop App

Screenshot of Evernote

All your notes are seamlessly synced to the Evernote servers allowing you to take notes on the move and then have them available to you when you arrive at the office. It just works. There’s also a nice online app that goes with it for times when you don’t have access to your own computer.

Online Web App

Screenshot of the web app

The iPhone app, the OSX desktop app and the online web app are all very simple to use. It’s easy to tag your notes and you can have multiple notebooks. There’s also the facility to email your notes to colleagues as well as filter and search in a number of ways as well as Twitter integration allowing to send your tweets and Twitpic’s to your account.

The basic account is free and there’s the option to upgrade to the Premium version for $5 a month or $45 a year. This gives you more space, no ads (although they are not intrusive) and a couple more features.

If you use Evernote and have any pro tips or have another app that works for you then please let me know in the comments.

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Evernote, I just find it very useful.


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16 Responses to “Note Taking Nirvana?”

  1. Keir, thank you! I have been looking for a replacement for my old Google Notebooks and this is the ticket. It even imported all of my old GN information. This will help me overcome my abandonment issues since Google decided to pull the plug on Notebook. The fact that it also works on my iPhone/iPod is just a marvelous bonus. Please forward thanks to you PIL as well!

  2. I just started using Things for the Mac and iPhone. I love the ability to organize my tasks, projects and things to do. Evernote looks amazing and can fill-in the gaps but I feel some of the features are similar. Anyone using both?

  3. The ability to search text from scanned images, search/organized based on tagging or simply find stuff based on attribute (like notes containing unfinished to-do’s) was the game changer for me.

    Search results that bring up iPhone photos of whiteboards sketches? Awesome.

    Instantly PDF a note and email from my default mail client? Brilliant.

    It’s a great dumping ground for reference materials for specific projects (quickly share online, add voice notes from the car and so on).

    It’s one of those applications that just feels so “right” to use, you have to tell people to use it too.

  4. If you have a lot of scanned images with text content you want to be able to search, I guess Evernote be a great tool. For notetaking, not so much – for me at least. I tried doing some bulleted lists and headings, and after wrestling with their editor for about fifteen minutes, I gave up. If I can’t format rich text, I’d rather just use TextMate and save files in DropBox. Except for the text recognition part, there’s nothing much I can’t put in DropBox and have it indexed by Spotlight if need be. (And there’s an iPhone DropBox app coming soon too, although I probably won’t have much use for that either.)

    I’ve always had qualms about putting my stuff into proprietary formats and apps. It does not make me comfortable knowing that I’m entrusting my vital files and notes to the financial success of a (relatively) fresh startup. You might say that about DropBox too, but if they should fall off the face of the earth tomorrow, my files are still in their original state on two different hard drives: my private MacBook Pro and my Mac at work. If Evernote disappeared, what would happen to your database?

    • Keir Whitaker on August 9, 2009 at 7:04 pm said:

      Fair point – that said if you use the desktop app (which is sync’d to the cloud) you will always have access to your notes. If Evernote no longer existed you I believe you just would loose the ability to sync. You can also export your notes from the desktop app in either XML or HTML.

      To me as long as you can export your data from an online app then I really don’t have to many issues with using them but do understand why you might.

  5. I’ve been using Evernote on Vista for almost 3 months now. What I like best is it’s image recognition capabilities. Just take a picture of something and it’s saved and indexed. Usually, you’d have to browse through all of your image files to find the ones you want. With this, you can simply search for pieces of text contained in the images and it’ll find the right image for you! It has an addon for firefox browser, but it hasn’t been updated for version 3.5. The screen shot clipper is a nice tool as well as it lets you crop out parts of the screen and focus only on what you need. It adds the screenshot directly to evernote as a new note. If you copy paste text from the web, it fills in the source details automatically, so you don’t have to go back and find the sources for citation when you’re doing research. There are a ton of features with this program, wayyyy too many to explain in any review. For anyone that hasn’t tried it out, give it a try.

  6. Are there any linux clients available? There’s been an API since October 08 but I’m still not able to find a linux client.

    Anyway, great tool. I’ve used dozens of note taking apps and I’m glad I finally got one that is able to sync.

  7. I have been using evernote for the last year or so, and I have just started to realize it’s full potential. I read this article on the Evernote blog that shows you how to scan directly into Evernote. I am seriously thinking about going paperless.


    Plus they just added OCR for PDFs. That is dang useful!

  8. Phunky – I’m the same. I’ve been an on-off user of the web app and OS X version for sometime now. I love evernote, but never quite enough to fully adopt it into my work cycle.

    Although that’s probably more a reflection on me as opposed the fine app. I must check out the iPhone version at some point.

    Shame Keir didn’t include iPhone screen shots along with the write-up.

  9. I’ve been thinking about starting to use something similar for a long time now but never taken action. I’m currently using several simple text documents to keep track of my notes.

    • Keir Whitaker on August 7, 2009 at 6:12 pm said:

      That used to be me, text files all over my desktop. The biggest win for me is having all the notes in one place and instantly accessible on my iPhone too.

  10. I agree Evernote is a great app and a great tool for collecting inspiration together for projects when you’re browsing around lots of resources.

  11. I love the concept of Evernote but don’t think i would ever get in to the habit of actually using it correctly.

    Although i really should!

  12. I got lucky from this blog.. I can know about evernote…
    and I must tried this app.. thanks for your review…

  13. I’m with you Ryan – I’ve been using Evernote for nearly 6 months now and I love it. I scan everything in and copy it across, clip receipts and notes from safari, and take notes on the iphone while listening to talks.

    Definitely worth getting the premium service too.

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