Note-taking and note-syncing program Evernote recently updated its iOS apps and Evernote Mac app (beta) with a full point release, introducing a radical new design and less radical, but still interesting, features. In the Evernote iPhone app (free to download; Premium accounts from $5 per month), the design shows a more playful side of the otherwise plain-Jane app. Fluid touch-based operations, smooth graphics, and a more centralized main dashboard freshen up and already-outstanding app. Evernote’s raison d’être has always been “function,” with some of the most powerful search you’ll find outside of Google, and the new changes paint a layer of “form” on top. Evernote has long worn the PCMag Editors’ Choice insignia, and will continue to do so in this update.
Why Use Evernote?
Without the Evernote app, I’d be a lot less productive while I’m away from my desk, when the only device I typically carry is an iPhone 5. This free, straightforward note-making and –syncing app outrivals most competing apps thanks to its strong search capabilities, effortless tagging features, and simple organization. But the real key to its success and popularity is that Evernote synchronizes all your files by saving them to a cloud service, meaning anything you create or alter from your iPhone will be there waiting for you when you log into any other version of Evernote, such as Evernote for iPad, Evernote Web app, Evernote for Windows, and every other platform where it’s supported.
In a nutshell, Evernote lets you create all kinds of electronic files—text files, images and photos, audio or voice memos, and videos—and gives you access to them through a variety of interfacesLog into any of these access points with your Evernote account, and you’ll be able to read, write, search, and otherwise utilize all your files.
All your files are stored in a cloud-based system, meaning Evernote automatically manages version control. If you know you’re not going to have Internet access, you can save the files you need locally on your iPhone using a feature called offline notebooks (for Premium subscribers only), edit them offline, and send them back to the cloud later, at which point Evernote will update your notes to the latest version everywhere that you access Evernote. If you forget to sync your device in advance, Evernote gives you the option to work on a copy of the most recent version it has stored locally, or work on a blank canvas and append the changes to the stored file later.
What’s New in Version 5?
With the latest release, Evernote’s physical aesthetics come closer to matching its functional beauty. The once minimalistic color scheme has been augmented with fresher shades of green and a cardboard-like brown. The home screen shows interactive tabs that you can drag up or down and see what’s behind them as you do so. Previously, the app used a lot of black and white, and moved you through your notes and notebooks by opening new pages. It’s still not as colorful as Microsoft OneNote Mobile (free, 3 stars), or Awesome Note (+Todo), which lets you color-code folders in (Evernote has no such feature). Awesome Note, however, is a task manager and to-do list app, not a note-syncing app, but Evernote could still learn a little from its use of visual cues that help people stay organized. Other new features in version 5 of Evernote for iPhone include the more centralized homescreen mentioned earlier, which provides quicker access to notes and notebooks with fewer clicks.
A Places tab now gives you insight into the notes you’ve created in various locations, should you use the automated geo-location tagging feature. This feature helps frequent travelers find notes based on places where they first created a note. If a business traveler takes a picture of a whiteboard during a meeting in Tucson, she can find it later quickly by looking at Arizona on her map and pressing the number that appears over Tucson indicating how many notes she’s made there.
Making Use of Evernote for iPhone
I use a number of note-taking applications, and I do different things with each of them. Evernote is my preferred application for actual writing (such as blogs, essays, recipes, as opposed to to-do lists) and making notes about projects that go on for many months. I prefer Evernote for writing for two reasons. First, the Web and desktop versions of Evernote let me bring all those ideas that I started on the go into a full-sized desktop environment, where it’s more comfortable to finish, export, or cut and paste them into more standard file types (such as Microsoft Word). Second, the upload capacity—60MB per month for free, 1GB per month for Premium—exceeds that of many other apps, letting me store bigger files and more of them.
Evernote excels when it comes to searching your notes. Evernote can find typed text, as well as text that shows up in images, including handwriting. Let’s say you’re walking or driving by a new shop, and you want to jot down its name, address, and phone number. You can pop open Evernote and simply take a photo of the store’s window or awning where that information is likely to appear. Later, just search for anything you can remember about the business, either the first few digits of the phone number or the name of the business, and Evernote will find the photo. Although I’ve been able to stump Evernote’s OCR, it’s reliable on the whole.
To Go or Forgo Premium?
While Evernote for iPhone is free, a Premium account costs extra: $45 per year, or $5 per month. The Premium account applies across your entire Evernote account, so you get the Premium perks wherever and however you use Evernote.
Premium gives you three notable improvements over the free account: 1) the ability to search text in PDFs, 2) the ability to allow others to edit files when sharing Notebooks via Evernote Web, and 3) access to offline notebooks. (See the online chart for complete side-by-side comparison of Evernote free and Premium accounts.)
You can honestly do a lot with the free version, and I would only recommend upgrading to Premium if you’re so committed to Evernote that it will be your primary note-making and sharing app and if you intend to connect other applications to it, such as Awesome Note for to-do lists. I actually just recommended Evernote Premium to a friend who is planning a trip overseas. She needed a centralized place to store all her notes about the cities she’d be visiting, as well as the ability to read and edit the notes offline to save on her data roaming charges. I wholeheartedly told her about Evernote, and suggested she consider a Premium account, if only for the month or so that she needs the enhanced features.
Evernote’s leading feature is centralization—all your documents in one place, available any time—so it becomes more rewarding and more engaging the more you use it. The iPhone app, version 5, has been updated to make it even more useful to people who rely on Evernote everywhere they go. The new interface design makes Evernote look more current and adds more gesture-based navigation. This new design, combined with Evernote’s incredible search features, makes it our favorite iPhone app for personal organization and an Editors’ Choice. I can’t remember my iPhone life before Evernote, the incredible app that makes sure I never forget anything.
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Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc