Back in January, in a column about tech tools to use for live events. I mentioned Evernote and said that I could write a whole column about it. This is that column.
If you find yourself wanting to share documents, Web pages, photos, etc., with anyone, try Evernote. I’ve been using it pretty heavily for the past year, and putting it through its paces.
What is Evernote?
Evernote is an ecosystem of software that runs on a Mac or PC desktop, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, and even the Palm Pre/Palm Pixi platforms.
There’s also a Web-based version of Evernote that you can get to from your browser. You’ll be hard pressed to find this level of device-agnosticism anywhere.
There’s a free version that’s very well-featured and a premium version for about $50 per year. The usual advice for this sort of thing applies: try it for free and if you use it a lot pony up the $50.
Documents in the cloud and on your desktop
There are two primary, basic functions for Evernote: storage and note-taking. I’ll start with storage.
At its heart, Evernote is a "cloud"-based storage solution (which means they’re stored in a remote server that can be accessed when you’re online — no matter where you are).
You can put a document into it on one device, and then be able to access that document anywhere, from any other device you have that’s running the Evernote app.
For example, say you have a variety of forms and applications in PDF format that you typically need. You can put them into Evernote and then be able to access them from anywhere (your iPad, someone else’s Web browser when your laptop battery kicks out at the conference, your BlackBerry when you’re standing in line and a client calls requesting the form, and so on).
Simple and straightforward: a box of documents in the cloud.
One of the things that makes Evernote useful is what it does after you add a document, or note, to your Evernote pile. It makes a copy of each added document or note to your desktop version.
This sort of in-my-possession backup helps me feel secure that I can get all of this data out should something unfortunate happen with Evernote.
Everything I put into Evernote is not only synced to the cloud and to all my mobile devices, it’s on my hard drive in such a way that I can save the data with my usual backup procedures.
Your own document search index
Another useful thing that Evernote does is index all of the text in your notes. This includes any text in a photograph that you add to Evernote.
The search feature lets you then search through all your collection just as you would at a search engine — but for your own documents.
You can tag or categorize all of your notes as well, if that will be helpful for finding things.
The search feature lets you filter your searches by tag, date created, when it was last modified, what kind of things are included in the notes (audio, images, etc.) and the way you put the note into Evernote in the first place.
Which brings me to what you can do to get a note into Evernote. You can, of course, just drag something into your desktop application. But you can just as simply use the Web clipping tool (think "bookmarking" but with the ability to annotate, store and search all your bookmarks on all your devices).
You can also send an e-mail to your Evernote account and have something added that way. From your mobile device you can take photographs and make voice notes as well.
So you can store all sorts of things in Evernote and get to them from any of your devices. There’s also the ability to make new notes, including text, photos and voice. The text, and any words in photos, get indexed and become searchable.
One thing I consistently wished Evernote would do is add the ability to include Flash. Especially as I find a lot of useful tutorial videos that I’d like to store in my Evernote collection. Each note taken from the Web does include a link back to the source, at least.
The pro account will let you store any file type, including video formats, but won’t let you play them back in the app, which is another video-related shortcoming. So if you use a lot of video, Evernote will probably disappoint.
You can organize notes into different "notebooks." And you can give other Evernote users the ability to read (or with the premium account, read and write) notes in the notebook.
For example, perhaps you have a client you’re working with to find a home in a neighborhood you work in. You could create a notebook specifically for that client and include all the relevant forms you need for doing business, Web clippings from various news and points of interest in the relevant neighborhoods, photographs and voice notes from showings, and so on.
In this way you could build up a dossier of relevant media for this particular client. If you’re on the premium account, the effort could be collaborative, with the client clipping stuff he or she thinks is relevant as well.
Obviously, that’s only going to work with a client who doesn’t mind playing with Evernote. But the interface isn’t bad. And I’ve had (admittedly, not real estate buyers/sellers) clients who have thanked me for introducing the tool to them.
Evernote stores, syncs, searches and shares
There are probably as many different ways to use Evernote as there are people who use it. I’ve included a couple examples in this column and in a previous column about conference-related technology.
If you’re looking for a way to keep all of your important documents, notes, and Web bookmarks in one searchable package available to you whenever you have access to the Web, Evernote is the best thing going.
Gahlord Dewald is the president and janitor of Thoughtfaucet, a strategic creative services company in Burlington, Vt. He’s a frequent speaker on applying analytics and data to creative marketing endeavors.
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