Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Bigger Brain! Leveraging Evernote

Twenty years ago when I entered the workforce, my modus operandi was to maintain a "brain book" - basically a 9x7 spiral project planner notebook. I entered information that I thought I would need to pull up in the future, as time went on I got pretty good at determining what information belonged in my brain book. Data entry was easy, finding the info - was not so easy!

As time progressed I replaced my brain book with a Palm Pilot, the Palm had decent search and data entry was OK, but it was missing a web component and the data was limited to text only.

Along came Evernote - the information "junk drawer", Evernote has Windows and OS X native clients, a web interface and now an iPhone application. Ubiquitous access to the information that you store in Evernote is the key to its usefulness. One of the best ways to think of Evernote is to compare it to your "junk drawer" of information with the caveat that mostly anything in that junk drawer is searchable (audio notes excluded).

Info In - the iPhone app lets you add text notes (this functionality will be more useful when Apple adds copy & paste to the Touch OS), pictures directly from the camera or camera roll and audio notes. You can also forward emails and documents to your Evernote account via an Evernote provided personal email address, for example email a PDF to Evernote and you now have access to it anywhere you have web access. With photos the Evernote servers will perform OCR on any text in the photo... taking a picture of a white board is an ideal use for this functionality, as the text is now searchable and you have a permanent record of the data on that white board. If you have a scanner at your desktop machine, scanning articles and uploading to the cloud is a snap! Getting data into Evernote is as simple as clicking a shutter button!

Info Out - the keys to a successful data storing system is having ubiquitous access to the data and having a fast, accurate search capability. Evernote answers on both fronts. With the iPhone app, as long as you have a data connection, you essentially have your complete information junk drawer in your pocket. On a laptop using the native client, once the data is synced down to the client, you do not need a data connection to peruse your information collection - ideal for those long flights. Evernote provides for tagging of individual notes, the ability to create static folders and to create smart folders. You can search across all of you documents, information retrieval is what you would expect from a first rate application.
The Cost? - The iPhone application is free, as are the client applications, there is a a free service that provides for 40 mb of data transfer per month, the free service will be good enough for a majority of folks, as 40 mb equates to 20,000 text notes or 400 mobile photos, although you may find Evernote such a useful tool that you may feel compelled to purchase the premium service. The premium option is $45 per year and provides for a data cap of 500 mb per month.
In conclusion, many folks have moved Evernote into one of the highly coveted "Dock" locations on their iPhone, I keep Evernote on the first home screen and find myself launching Evernote at least once a day. Moving forward - look for quick snippets on the blog of real world uses for Evernote, both stand alone and in combination with other cloud applications.


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