Evernote

If you’ve not used Evernote before then, first and foremost, take it as read that you should. It’s one of those pieces of software that you probably don’t know you need until you’ve used it, and then once you’ve used it, you can’t imagine living life without it. Big words Caba├▒eros, but it has improved and streamlined so many areas of my life, reducing paper-burden and twitch purchasing, capturing anything and everything I need, parsing text and images to add references to the searchable database, that it is now firmly in my top 3 most used daily applications, as essential as email client X and web-browser Y. It’s one of a number of note taking applications, led by Evernote and DevonTHINK, that offer capturing, sorting, and referencing workflows, as well as┬árobust and comprehensive data storage, featuring image text and handwriting recognition software, and that are designed to make keeping track of all manner of information more straightforward and slicker than historically possible. The team at Evernote boil it down as follows:

Remember Everything: Capture Anything; Access Anywhere; Find Things Fast

which covers it nicely. My own workflow uses the iPhone and BlackBerry apps to capture notes on the go; take photos of book covers, music, games, whiteboard notes, magazines, and indeed anything I see and want to remember when I’m out and about; the Safari ‘clipper’, which is a single browser button you use to capture and store any web-page for future reference; the Mac client, which even features iSight support allowing you to capture video notes, God forbid; and the iPad app, which I mostly use to browse the database but occasionally to take notes. The data you capture is kept both locally, on your machines and devices, and in a encrypted cloud in a locked cage at Evernote HQ. When you capture information it’s synced to the cloud when your device has an internet connection, and then synced to your other devices the next time they connect to the cloud. In practice, it’s accessible, stable, quick, and generally with user interfaces well tailored to the devices in question, although I think the iPhone app could see some usability improvements. Nevertheless, the ability to capture, store and reference wherever I am is invaluable, and I wouldn’t be without it.

DevonTHINK is also worth a look, and I know some people prefer its deeper search functionality, and the fact you don’t have to upload to a cloud to parse images for text, but I personally have a bias towards Evernote for the opposite reasons. Firstly, I like the fact that it keeps copies of my notes in a cloud which enables easy access to all my information from iPhone, Mac, PC, web-applications, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, and indeed most all devices and platforms; secondly, the interface and workflow organisation, although lacking some of the power of DevonTHINK, is uncluttered and straightforward, which I prefer. DevonTHINK is also a more complex and less mature application, and as such does have a few installation and usability peculiarities. I wouldn’t let this stop you taking a look at it, however, as it’s still a quality suite of tools. Nevertheless, Evernote remains on all my shortcut bars and locked into the list of software I install first whenever I get a new machine, and comes highly recommended.

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