- Excellent app for taking text, photo, audio and other kinds of notes
- Automatic syncing over the web between all devices
- Works on Mac/PC, iPhone, iPad
- Rich text editor can be frustrating
- Not GPS-enabled for location-based notes
Free (upgrades available)
Evernote is one of those apps that everyone who uses their computers and iOS devices for certain kinds of work ought to at least consider having in their arsenal. For writers, students, and people who rely heavily on notes in their work or daily lives, Evernote is a powerful productivity tool with intelligent features--though some recently added ones pose a few problems.
Evernote makes taking notes very easy. Just fire up the app, tap the plus button to create a new note and start typing. Beyond the standard text notes, though, you can also attach photos, audio recordings, tags, and locations to notes (it would be nice if the app supported the iPhone's built-in GPS, though, so locations could be super-accurate, rather than the approximations they are now). Notes are then stored in notebooks--collections of similar notes.
Rich Text Frustrations
Evernote has recently adding rich-text formatting to its note-taking interface and while this is a good idea, its current implementation leaves a bit to be desired.
The rich-text editor is designed to allow you to format text a la a word processor, add bulleted and numbered lists, include links, and more. That basic idea is solid. However, there's no way (at least no way that I could find) to turn off the rich text formatting or create a simple, plain-text note. This would be welcome because the rich-text editor has a few quirks.
For one, it automatically inserts a line space between each paragraph (not a terrible thing, but what about notes in which you want to group lines together to indicate a relationship?). There's also no way to create multi-level lists (lists with sub-points). While I don't look for a lot of editing or formatting features from a note-taking app--I do that kind of work when I'm editing documents--people who have specific note-taking systems or want to be be able to create truly detailed notes may find the rich-text editor limiting.
Syncing Across Devices
While the rich text features need some polish, Evernote's syncing system is excellent. Each time you save a new or updated note, it is automatically synced to your Evernote account, which all your compatible devices access. This means that if you create a note on your iPhone, the next time you launch Evernote on your desktop computer, all your notes will automatically be up to date without you needing to perform any syncs. Ditto notes created on your desktop or iPad or anywhere else you can run Evernote. Needless to say, this is a tremendously useful feature.
This kind of functionality, of course, requires an Evernote account, but they're free and easy to create. Each account offers up to 60MB of storage per month. Because most notes are just text, it's easy to store hundreds of notes without bumping up against the limit. One important thing to be aware of, though, is that since Evernote uses your web-based account to deliver your notes to you, if you're not online, you can't use Evernote on the iPhone or iPad.
Can't use it offline unless you upgrade, that is. For either US$4.99 per month or $44.99 per year you can upgrade to an unlimited Evernote account. In addition to allowing you to read and add notes even when you're not online, paid accounts raise your storage limit to 1GB, allow you to search PDFs attached to notes, and more.
The Bottom Line
Evernote has transformed how I take notes on my ideas and projects. While I used to collect tons of scattered text files and emails and then combine them into Word docs periodically, now all my notes stay in Evernote and are available to me no matter what device I'm using.
While the rich-text editor needs some revision, if you're a big-time note taker, don't let that stop you from checking out Evernote. It'll make your work easier.
What You’ll Need