Evernote. The Killer App for Tablets

One weekend in the not-so-distant past I started playing with Evernote, reading all sorts of LifeHacker-esque articles on how to use Evernote for super mega-awesome organization and note-taking, etc. I was so convinced that I would change everything to revolve around Evernote that weekend, that I went ahead and signed up for Evernote Premium after only a few hours.

Then I left Evernote dormant for a couple of months, except for occasionally clipping some URLs from Chrome into my “Bookmarks” notebook.

I honestly didn’t take any notes, Evernote was a place for interesting tidbits of information to die.

Then at one point, I bought an HP TouchPad, which I soon returned (after HP killed the line) and picked up an ASUS Transformer.

I originally avoided Android 3.0 “Honeycomb” because, and I’ve now experienced this first hand, Honeycomb sucks. That’s not a point I want to dwell on, while I’ve started to keep track of some gripes, at the end of the day, it’s just not a very polished OS.

Fortunately, Android has one saving grace:

Evernote!

Evernote.

The Evernote Android app is nearly perfect and combined with the tablet form factor, it goes from “kind of useful” to “cannot live without.” At the time of this writing, I have over 300 notes in Evernote, with a rate of about 2-5 notes per day.

Bookmarking and the Web Clipper

The tablet app combined with the web clipper browser extension has given me a cross between delicious and instapaper. Throughout the day when I find interesting links, if I need them for referencing later I will just clip the URL into my “Bookmarks” notebook.

If I find an interesting tutorial or article that I’d like to read later, I’ll clip the full article into the relevant Notebook. Later on the train, I’ll go read through the articles that I’ve clipped into Evernote on my tablet, which were synchronized to the device prior to leaving the office . (Relevant feature: Offline Notebooks (details))

Meeting Notes

I have never been one to bring my laptop into meetings, I don’t particularly care for it and I’m too tempted to get work done (zing!). Using Evernote on the tablet allows me to focus on taking notes and if need be, occasionally jump back to email or the browser on the device in order to double-check something that might be pertinent to the meeting.

Sure I could take notes on paper, but having those notes immediately available on other devices and copy/paste-able is pretty invaluable once you need to turn your notes into tickets in JIRA or feedback on an interview candidate.

Product Design/Competitive Analysis

As an Evernote Premium user, I can share notebooks with other Evernote users in a way that allows them to read and write to them. Using this functionality, I’ve shared some notebooks with various colleagues as we scheme and plot.

Using a shared notebook lets us compile notes from our various meetings and discussions on the subject, using Skitch for quick and dirty little diagrams. On top of that, any relevant information we might find about potential competitors, interesting APIs, etc, we can use the Web Clipper to clip straight into that shared notebook.

(Relevant feature: Skitch integration (details), Shared Notebooks (details))

Grocery List

Utilizing shared notebooks, I have a shared notebook between my wife and myself where we add to-do items to our grocery lists, add other notes that we might need to share between each other.

Being the domesticated house man that I am, I typically go grocery shopping, tablet in hand with my grocery list full of to-do checkboxes sitting shot-gun in the shopping cart. As I meander through the store, I check the boxes as I pick up various foods. Upon completing my trip, I add a picture of the receipt and the total price to the note. As time progresses, I not only have a clear idea of how our grocery needs have been evolving, but I also have a good idea of how much damn money we’re spending on all our fancy foods. (Relevant feature: To-do list (details))

Missing Functionality

Unfortunately, Evernote isn’t perfect and has a number of flaws which can take you out of note-taking-nirvana pretty abrubtly.

  • Shared notebooks have no notifications associated with it. The only way I know if you added something to a notebook is if you tell me, or I notice by chance. This sucks.
  • NixNote is a half-decent client for Linux, but doesn’t render rich text well at all and is a bit slow.
  • The Evernote.com web application is decent, but lacks many keyboard shortcuts and can get slow when you’re navigating a notebook with hundreds of notes.
  • The web app doesn’t allow you to create to-do lists as it does numbered lists, i.e. hit return and get a new checkbox list item, fortunately the Android app does this properly.
  • If you have a spotty data connection, the synchronization from the Evernote Android application to Evernote.com will screw up constantly and your resulting note will be full of “Conflicting save : timestamp” which you will have to later clean up on a more full-featured client (like the .com).
  • Evernote support is borderline useless. I’ve emailed them about a couple of the above issues, and I’ve consistently gotten back a templated reply, in one case, the support person clearly didn’t even read my email before replying.

There’s more good with Evernote than bad, I admire the approach they’re taking with the company and I’m pretty fond of their product (obviously).

If you’re on the fence about buying a tablet of any variety, I recommend purchasing a tablet coupled with an Evernote account, it’s really the killer app for tablet computing.