Today I’ll be reviewing the note-taking app Evernote, which is one of the very few apps that has changed the way I work, organise, take notes and store documents.
Background and purpose
Evernote is a cloud-based service which allows you to organise all types of media documents. You can access Evernote from a web browser, download the app for your smartphone or download and install the desktop application for your Windows/Mac devices. Evernote works in a similar way to Dropbox and google drive, and when I say similar, I mean you can sync and store documents, but Evernote is so much more than this. The purpose of Evernote is to organise your notes, documents and media files electronically.
Evernote is an electronic notebook, unlike google drive and Dropbox which are just purely file storage apps (although I have recently discovered that Google offers a similar service called Google Keep), Evernote starts by asking you to create a notebook. You can create multiple notebooks and these can also be stacked.
Evernote has been designed to organise notes and documents, but the application supports a lot of different types of media. One of the best features of Evernote is the tagging and categorisation feature, for example, say you find a great article online about Intellectual Property…you can use the Evernote snipping tool to capture the article, store it in one of your notes books, add notes and annotations to the snip then tag and categorise the note. For example, if I collected 10 different notes over the next month and tagged them all as “Intellectual Property” I can search for these tagged keywords later on and find all my tagged notes.
Alongside the free subscription, there are several paid subscriptions. I would HIGHLY recommend students take up the 50% discount for the premium service, at just £22 for the year! (at the current time of writing) and I’ll explain why in the next section. Evernote advertises the following features in all their subscription services:
- Unlimited total storage
- Notebook sharing
- Searching for printed and handwritten text in images
- Industry-standard security2 and text encryption option
- Passcode lock on mobile apps
- Image annotation
- Salesforce integration for personal notes7 (Evernote Business comes with integration for business notes also)
Apparently sharing and collaborating documents is another feature Evernote supports, however, I haven’t had any experience with this feature.
Review and Experience
There are two reasons to why I use Evernote and why it has changed the way I work. These are outlined below.
I have a free Dropbox account, however, over the past year, I have struggled to stay under my storage limit. I was taking screenshots and syncing them to Dropbox, then manually cataloging them…what a fool I was!! I started looking into buying more storage with Dropbox….but at nearly £80 per year (at the time of writing) my budget just couldn’t stretch to that. Evernote offline access is only available with a Basic or Premium account, but when you compare the cost of these (without discount £29, or £44 a year), it is still substantially cheaper.
I also wanted something I could use offline; Dropbox does keep offline copies of files and folders via the desktop application, but not for smartphones and tablets. This is really annoying as the only way to get around this is to upgrade, which is just not going to happen.
Accessing Files Offline
I am currently working full time and studying full time, it’s hard going and every hour counts. I need something where I can download all my PowerPoint lectures, podcasts, notes and have access to them whenever and wherever. There is no storage limit with Evernote, only an upload limit and this is where the premium account comes in handy, the upload limit is 10GB!
How I use Evernote
So, the way I use Evernote. I download all my university documents and sync them into my Evernote Notebooks; I have one created per module. I then tag all the documents and save them for later.
I am a traditional notebook and pen kinda gal. I love writing notes and scribbling down ideas, however during my last trip to university I couldn’t take my notebook or folder with me as it was so large it wouldn’t fit into my hand luggage. What was I to do? I took photos of all my notes, tagged them, placed them into my electronic notebook and synced them all with my laptop, phone and tablet. It did take time to setup initially, but now I don’t have to carry around notebooks and folders, everything is electronic.
So what I do now is listen to my lectures as normal, and write notes as normal. Once I’ve finished I then use my smartphone to take a screenshot of all my written notes (which takes about 2 minutes to do) upload these to Evernote and tag them. An even better feature to recognise is the handwriting recognition that the premium account comes with; you can scan your handwritten notes and (depending on how neat your handwriting is…) Evernote will recognise text which can be used in searches later. This means if I didn’t tag something correctly or missed something, I can even search my handwriting for keywords.
Benefits and Challenges
I will be using Evernote for my projects and note taking going forwards, I just wish I had found it sooner.
- 50% off for students
- The free account offers excellent functionality
- Unlimited storage
- Tagging and categorising documents is easy
- Using the smartphone app for scanning documents is quick and straightforward
- If you have a lot of documents to sync or scan, it can take time to initially setup
- People may find the £44 a year after the initial discount expensive
- Text recognition doesn’t always work