Evernote has been a service I’ve loved and used for years. I spoke about it briefly in a previous week’s podcast and as promised, I am expanding upon that brief discussion here. I wanted to try and convey to those of you who haven’t used Evernote before, just how powerful a tool it is.
The first question I get from people is, “what does Evernote do?” I always say “it’s a great way to capture unstructured thoughts.” but that doesn’t do it justice at all. I recently read another article about Evernote where the author did a good job of capturing the “what can I do with Evernote” question. The simple answer is anything! For example:
A priest uses Evernote to compose his weekly sermon while one man uses it to keep track of his weekly sins. A veteran suffering from traumatic brain injury uses it daily to literally remember everything and is showing other veterans with similar disabilities how to do the same. A musician uses Evernote to compose songs, tracking snippets of melodies with audio recordings and jotting down lyrics and sketches as they tap him on the shoulder. A hairdresser uses Evernote to catalog before and after shots of her clients. During the hair cut, she lets them browse through the portfolio of looks on her iPad. A tempura chef in Japan uses Evernote to store all his recipes and images of his best dishes. A wife uses it to store up all the things she wants to tell her husband before he comes home from work. A piano teacher uses audio notes to record her students, and then shares these recordings in shared notebooks with the students’ parents.
Students keep track of their notes, teachers plan lessons, shoppers create shopping lists, travelers create trip plans and photo journals and journalists write stories.
You can see that whatever it is you do, whatever your info-capturing-note-taking needs might be, Evernote can help you with the task at hand. Of course, for me, the value of the Evernote service is not the ability to easily take notes. There are lots of other repositories I could use if I just wanted to capture notes. For me, the value is in the ubiquitous nature of that note-captured-information – whenever I want it, wherever I want it.
Let’s start at the desktop. I have Evernote installed on my personal Mac and I have it installed on my Windows PC in the office as well. It is a fantastic tool to bang out thoughts and capture ideas while sitting at your desk. I often use it when I am on a conference call to capture the meeting notes. I also use it when I want to capture quick ideas. What is great is that no matter where I may have started a note, when I am at my computer at work for example, all those notes are there too. I’ve take a series of screen caps to show this. For example, the first screen cap is showing a note I pulled together that outlined this post. I started that note on my iPhone. The screen cap is showing me looking at the note on my Windows PC (click to make it larger).
Of course, as I said, the strength lies in the ubiquitous nature of the tool and so that note that you see in the first screen cap, is available if I log into Evernote through any browser, or if I launch the app on my Mac, or my iPhone or iPad. That is very powerful. It means that I can capture info when it suits me and then view it how it suits me. If I’m getting on an airplane and I need to capture something, hauling out my laptop or even my iPad might be inconvenient while I’m making my way down the isle. To capture the info via iPhone though is a no brainer. I can type the info, dictate or snap a pic if I need to. The info syncs and then I can access it however I like later. The second screen cap, for example is showing the previous note, this time on my iPad though. It is this seamless access from one device to another that in my opinion gives Evernote its real power.
What is equally powerful are the multitude of third party tools and add-ins that leverage these core strengths of Evernote. For example, when I am browsing the web at my desk using the Chrome browser, I can easily clip a webpage directly into Evernote for access later. This is something I do often. I might see something that is of value to a client engagement or an internal project. Perhaps there is a thought leadership piece that I come across that I want to read in detail or reference later. I simply click the Evernote icon that is neatly tucked into the top right of my browser and like magic, the content is clipped for later reference from any device. That is incredibly valuable! The same scenario can be done in Outlook since a small Evernote button now sits in my toolbar. If I have an email that I want to just “put somewhere” for later reference, I clip it to Evernote.
These simply add-ins are just the beginning. Evernote is providing a framework for an entire ecosystem to develop around the platform. They call this ecosystem Trunk and the hooks being developed into Evernote are amazing. Numerous applications are hooking into Evernote, but so are actual pieces of hardware. For example, if you purchase (or already own) a SnapScan scanner, you can have it directly feed Evernote. Got an EyeFi card for your digital camera, guess what, you can feed those pics directly into Evernote.
The possibilities are endless and that is why I so often tell people, “Try Evernote if you haven’t already done so”. It has the potential to really change the way you work, share that work, re-access that work and ultimately, organize the unstructured thoughts and data we encounter each and every day.
If you have an Evernote story to tell, please share via the comments! I’d love to hear about it.