Note-taking and -syncing application Evernote (free to $45 per year for Premium) is one of those applications that you either get or struggle to understand its purpose. In brief, Evernote has a text editor, photo upload tool, and voice recording device, and you can use any of these core components separately or in combination, to upload content to your account. The program saves all your thoughts, notes, recipes, photos—whatever you upload—in the cloud so that you can get to them from your computer, smartphone, tablet, or really anywhere you have an Internet connection and a browser with Evernote’s Web app (which is the focus of this review).
With excellent features for organizing, finding, and editing all those notes, Evernote is a clear Editors’ Choice service, and the Web app is an integral part of it because it makes good on Evernote’s promise that you can get to your content from virtually anywhere.
Nothing has affirmed my faith in Evernote so much as testing the recently released Google Keep (free, 2.5 stars), a pitifully lightweight note-taking application whose relationship to Google Drive (free, 4 stars) is baffling. (Keep is entirely separate from all Google Drive content, yet it’s accessed via drive.google.com/keep.) Perhaps a more mature competitor to Evernote is Microsoft OneNote (which is part of SkyDrive). Evernote and OneNote are hardly identical in their feature sets, but they’re quite similar in basic functionality. Both have downloadable versions in addition to their Web versions. Overall, though, Evernote blows OneNote out of the water in terms of how and how well it helps you organize, find, and edit your notes. More importantly, Evernote integrates with dozens of other third-party tools, not to mention other useful apps and plug-ins under the Evernote umbrella (for example, Evernote Web clipper is a browser plug-in that quickly saves the contents of a Web page without making you copy and paste anything). The service just can’t be beat.
Evernote Web Features
Evernote’s Web app has three panes: one for notebooks and tags at the left; a preview or list view of all notes that meet search criteria in the center; and the full viewing or editing area of any selected note on the right.
The core features in Evernote’s online app mirror the basics of the desktop app and mobile versions, such as the Evernote iPhone app and Android app. As mentioned, you can type directly in the app to create a text note, speak at the app to record a voice memo, and upload images and documents. These three types of content (text, audio recording, and uploaded documents) can be combined in one note. For example, it’s possible to create a note about a wine you’re drinking that has a typed description, photo of the bottle’s label, and audio recording of your tasting notes.
As in all the other versions of Evernote, the Web account gives you access to a lovely set of organizational tools: tags, notebooks, and stacks, which are groups of notebooks. These tools appear along the leftmost side, and you can adjust the size of the pane by clicking and dragging on its borders. Click on any tag or notebook, and the center pane refreshes to show content in that notebook or which contains that tag. An additional text search bar at the top lets you further refine a search while also displaying selected criteria. For example, you could select a notebook called Work Meetings, a tag for “executive team,” and type into the search bar “project cryptonym” to find all the notes that meet all the criteria. Additionally, if you have any uploaded images that contain the words “project cryptonym”—even if they are handwritten on a scrap of paper or whiteboard—Evernote will find them and highlight them for you in yellow in the search results (see the slideshow for an example). This OCR feature isn’t foolproof, but it’s an incredible addition that’s available in both free and Premium accounts.
From the Evernote Web account, you can open a note and edit it, leveraging a good array of formatting tools, such as bold font, alignment options, and a variety of fonts to use. The Web version even has a button that lets you insert a checkbox for making to-do lists.
What’s more difficult to do in Evernote’s Web app—but entirely effortless in the mobile apps—is add a location. With a smartphone or tablet, Evernote can automatically log your location, whereas the online version requires you to type in latitude and longitude.
Evernote Premium vs. Free
Evernote Premium costs $5 per month or $45 per year and adds some noticeable perks to the free Evernote account. Free account holders can only upload 60MB of data per month, whereas paid users max out at 1GB per month, which comes in handy if you upload a lot of images and documents or clip a lot of Web pages. When Premium users enter search terms, Evernote not only scans typed content and images, but also hunts through PDFs.
Another perk for Premium users is offline notebooks, which isn’t a concern when using the Web app but does come in handy on mobile devices. This feature lets you save the most recent copy of selected notes locally on your device so they’re available to read and edit when you don’t have an Internet connection.
Premium users can give other users the ability to edit a note, adding collaboration to the experience. When you decide to share a notebook, you can to make the files viewable only, or both viewable and editable. You can require that they be an Evernote account holder or not. When you’re ready to share, one click sends a short email with a link to the files. (For additional details about Evernote Premium accounts, see Evernote’s information page).
You can do a lot with the free version of Evernote, and I would only recommend upgrading to Premium if you’re so committed to Evernote that it will be your one-and-only note-making app. Luckily, committing to Evernote is not a difficult decision. It’s easily the best note-taking app you’ll find, in part because it integrates with so many other programs and services, but also because of its thoughtful features and excellent search tools. The Evernote Web app is just one critical piece of this Editors’ Choice service. If you want to get organized, Evernote deserves your attention.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc