Evernote

Evernote is a free cloud computing program that lets you take notes on any subject using a large set of tools.  The Evernote website describes its product’s capabilities as, “Type a text note. Clip a web page. Snap a photo. Grab a screenshot. Evernote will keep it all safe. “.  That’s “step 1”. 

Step 2: “Everything you capture is automatically processed, indexed, and made searchable. If you like, you can add tags or organize notes into different notebooks.”

Step 3 is described as: “Search for notes by keywords, titles, and tags. Evernote magically makes printed and handwritten text inside your images searchable, too.”

The Evernote software resides in several places.  You install Evernote on all of your computers and many smartphones (iPhone, Android phones).  All of your notes are synchronized in the cloud at your Evernote account and then updated to all of your computers and phones.  You can create, read, and edit your notes in the online cloud application as well as on any of your computers and smartphones. 

While steps 1 and 2 let you capture your notes in many ways (they forgot to mention you can input audio notes too) and organize them, the real magic is in how easy it is to find anything in your notebooks.  You simply type any text into the search box and out pops a list of all of your notes that contain that text.  The text is even highlighted inside of each found note.  If you took a photo of a sign with the camera in your smartphone or any camera and attached that jpeg file to a note, then after a while the OCR recognition kicks in and the text in that sign is indexed even though the original jpeg was a picture and not text.  For example if you came upon a sign that said, “Cheap cigars, all you can smoke for one dollar” and photographed it, then after you added the jpeg file to a note, you could subsequently do a search on “cigars” (by typing “cigars” into the search-box and this note would be found.

This might not seem that big a deal when you only have a handful of notes, but as you use Evernote for years and have thousands of notes the magic becomes clear.  If you put your whole life into Evernote, you’ll be able to find anything by a text search for the words you remember, by the tags you added to the note, or by browsing the notes in a notebook.  At the moment I have two invoices from the plumber who came to my house last week.  I’ll scan each invoice into a jpeg file and add them to Evernote with the tag “Plumber”.  Then I just have to click on the tag plumber to find the invoices.  Or if I just want the invoice that dealt with “faucet” I can type that word into the searchbox and the note containing the invoice for that repair will come up.

Searches are for words you typed into the notes as well as words found in the attachments
Bandwidth =24 megabytes per month

Evernote lives in several places.  Besides the copy of your notes in the cloud, there is a version for your Mac or PC that is a fast way to get scans and jpegs into Evernote and also to search notes for specific text.  There are versions of Evernote for smartphones such as iPhones, Android phones, and other smartphones.  This lets you scan a document at home, search for specific notes (like shopping lists) using your smartphone, or even using the online (cloud) version if Evernote when you are using someone else’s computer.  I have Evernote on my laptop and have access to all my notes when I travel.

Premium account features

There are several advantages to having a Premium account.  One advantage is that your monthly bandwidth goes up to 500 megabytes.  I’ve been busy scanning documents and stuffing them into Evernote and I’ve yet to use more than 30 megabytes in a month in my premium account.  By the way, the cost of a Premium account is $45 per year.

I could probably live within the 24 megabytes per month limit on a free account, but I decided to get a Premium account because of one special feature it has.  While the free account makes text notes searchable (and also jpeg files that contain text in the image, and handwritten notes), it doesn’t make graphic PDF files searchable.  PDF files that contain text are searchable, but not PDF files that contain only graphics, such as scanned documents.  However, if you have a Premium account, then the graphic PDF files you add to Evernote are put through an OCR process just like jpegs.  So, if you have a 30 page printed document and you scan it into a PDF file, that document becomes searchable when you load it into an Evernote Premium account.  But it is not searchable when loaded into a free account.  I find this so useful, that I was willing to pay for a Premium account.

Another feature that some users will find useful, is that syncronization with the cloud happens more quickly for Permium users than for free users.  It’s just on of the perks for being a Premium user.  Another perk is priority tech support.

Uses of Evernote

Examples of use: shopping lists, reducing clutter (paper invoices scanned into Evernote), Scanned articles from magazines and newspapers, clipping all or parts of a webpage you find online for information you want in the future.  Many people take pictures of information with their digital cameras or cameraphones and later copy them into Evernote.  Any text content in the jpegs are searchable.

I put scans of all my blood work into Evernote; I can instantly find out if a questionable reading has happened before or see a trend in any of the tests.  As I mentioned, I put all the invoices I recieve into Evernote for future retrieval.  I had a hot water heater replaced and I scanned the invoice and put it into Evernote.  Sometime later, I wanted to recall how much the heater cost.  I searched in Evernote for “Hot Water” and that invoice quickly came up.

Conclusion

If you like the idea of putting most of the information in your life online and in an easily searchable format, then Evernote is for you.  Start with the free version and if you decide that the Premium features are valuable to you (as I decided), then get the Premium version for $45.  Whatever device you enter a note, it is quickly available on all the other devices you own that have Evernote installed because all copies of your notes are synchronized with the copy in the cloud.