App of the week: Evernote

Let’s start by making one thing clear: Evernote is not just an app. It lets you take notes, capture photos, create lists, record voice reminders, save documents (and more), and then store them all in the cloud so that they can be accessed on an iPad, mobile phone or computer, wherever you happen to be.

I love paper. There’s something about scrawling nonsense into a notebook and adding little doodles alongside to help you remember different points that’s hard to beat. So I have to admit that, when I started using Evernote, I was sceptical – especially as I’ve tried a few note-taking apps before, and haven’t really got what I needed from them.

Storing and searching made easy

While mountains of paper around your computer may sound like an organisation nightmare, there’s nothing quite like being able to grab exactly what you need at a moment’s notice to take into meetings. It’s also hard to beat that feeling at the end of the day when you take your pages and pages of handwritten notes and file them away in a binder.

The difference with Evernote is that it stores all those notes in a digital archive that is completely searchable – the Premium version even interprets words in images and PDFs and lets you search those. It also adds relevant tags, dates and locations to make fishing out files whenever you need them incredible easy.

As far as organisation goes, you can set up folders or ‘Notebooks’ that are based on whatever needs you have. Here you can buddy up relevant notes and documents for referring to later. So, if you’re in a meeting and want to make sure that your hastily typed notes are saved with the photo you took of the keynote slide, you can do. Or, like me, you can set up dedicated Notebooks that keep all notes on a specific topic together for when it comes to writing about it at a later date.

From pen to point

Making notes is unsurprisingly very easy. Within the app, it’s just a case of hitting one button in the top right corner and you can start typing.

If you’re using an iPad like I do, this is going to be easy because of the full screen keyboard. If you’re used to typing on a multitouch device, you might even find that using Evernote is faster than writing everything by hand.

If you’re on an iPhone, the ease of use is probably going to depend on the size of your fingers and ability to type more than a text message on the device. Still – even on the iPhone, if you’re taking a picture note or saving a document, it’s an incredibly easy user interface.

And when it comes to finding those notes again, the latest update (December 2012) boasts the ability to get to any note in two clicks or less – whether that’s via the new All Notes, Notebooks or Tags tabs or through the Places tab where you can zoom in on locations that your notes were created.

Sharing resources is a doddle

A big bonus of Evernote is how easy it makes sharing resources with other members of a team. For the writing team here, for example, it’s important to make sure we all have access to shared research. Within the iPad app, you can just hit the Share button (the same one you find throughout iOS) and you’ll be given options to message, Tweet, Print, Copy or Mail the note. Or, if you’re a Premium user, you can share a Notebook with other Evernote users and give them rights to edit existing notes or add their own. (EDIT: In light of the recent hacking of Evernote, it’s worth remembering that for secure information you should always opt for an enterprise-level solution.)

Am I converted?

Completely! I may not be able to link up paragraphs of text with hand-drawn arrows in the same way as I can on paper, but the organisation benefits far (far!) outweigh that. The ability to have everything in one place and completely searchable is a huge benefit to any workflow.

Let’s put it this way, this review started life as notes taken on my train into work this morning.

So where can you get it and how much does it cost?

Nip into the App Store or iTunes and you’ll find Evernote. And the best part is that it’s completely free – for the basic amount of storage, that is. This will get you started, but if you’re serious about note taking, you’ll want to upgrade to a Premium account for £3.99 per month or £34.99 for a whole year. Premium users also get access to notes offline, additional security, PDF searching, previous versions of notes and notebook sharing.

Alternatively, there’s a business version that, for £8 per user per month, gives you access to easier user and data management, access to shared company resources and more. Or for businesses, where extra security is needed to protect sensitive information, we’d recommend recommend opting for an enterprise-level solution.

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