Searching is one thing. Organizing and using the information you’ve found is quite another challenge, but a personal information manager called EverNote can really help.
We’ve seen the emergence this year of desktop search tools, personal web tools, and other services that are all designed to help you cope with information overload.
Problem is, you still have to remember how you saved information, and use the appropriate tool to recall it. Most of the tools I’ve reviewed in SearchDay over the past few years are really useful, but none go quite far enough—I still finding myself using multiple tools and ultimately getting frustrated at not being able to find what I’m looking for from time to time.
I’ve been testing a new type of personal information manager called EverNote, and I’m quite impressed with its capabilities. EverNote is fundamentally a personal workspace that automatically organizes information for you in a number of ways, making it easy to track down later.
EverNote uses a simple metaphor—an endless roll of virtual paper, very similar to the interface you see with many blogs. You create notes on this virtual roll, by typing, cutting and pasting, clipping web pages, or even hand writing notes if you have a pen device for your computer and are using the “plus” version of the program. When you save a note, it’s automatically timestamped, allowing you to easily navigate through your notes using the “timeband” displayed in a pane on the right side of the screen.
EverNote’s search function is very fast, and generally quite accurate. Even better, EverNote automatically categorizes your notes using built-in categories. You can also manually categorize notes, which is a far more flexible approach than saving information into folders. An explorer-like pane on the left allows you to explore your notes by category.
At its most basic, it’s a great research assistant for helping you organize all of the information you come across and want to save. Simply highlight text or images on a web page you want to save and click the “clip to EverNote” button on your browser and that content is automatically saved to a new note. If you’re using Internet Explorer, this button is created when you install EverNote; Firefox users need to download a free extension to enable clipping.
EverNote also automatically adds a link to the source web page at the bottom of the note, and all links within the copied text are maintained; double-click these links from within EverNote to open the page in your browser.
EverNote’s is also an excellent replacement for a basic word processor. I find EverNote particularly useful for my day-to-day work with SearchDay. Quite often, to create an issue of this newsletter, I’ll visit a web site for information, exchange email with people, take notes during a telephone briefing, and so on. Keeping track of all the snippets of information generated during these activities can be a pain, but EverNote makes it a snap—in fact, I wrote this review within the program.
This is especially true as you begin to add your own categories, and tune them with built-in filter tools that are meaningful to you. EverNote’s search feature is quite fast, and works well with categories. Advanced search commands, such as Boolean, phrase searching and others are also supported.
There are a number of templates available for different types of notes. In addition to default text notes, templates format notes for different purposes, such as a phone message, contact info, to-do lists, expenses and others. These templates have additional fields and check boxes to further help you organize the notes, and they can easily be exported to other programs such as Excel, Outlook and so on.
EverNote provides encryption for notes that you want to keep private. This makes it ideal for storing passwords and other personal information that you want to always have at hand, but don’t want others to be able to access. You can also lock or unlock notes for editing.
EverNote is one of those rare programs that packs a ton of functionality into a very straightforward, easy-to-use interface. You can be up and running with the program with virtually no effort. But as you begin to use the program, take the time to explore some of its rich features. This exploration will pay off as you begin to organize varied types of information using different categories and note formats.
EverNote is available in several versions. The free version has most of the basic features I’ve described here. EverNote Plus is the fully-featured version that includes handwriting recognition software, the ability to synch with a pocket device such as a Palm or Pocket PC and other features. EverNote Plus is free to try for 30 days; you can purchase the program for $US 34.95. The program works on Windows; no Macintosh version is available.
Requires Microsoft Windows 2000 or XP.
Also be sure to check out the EverNote User Forum, which offers help, additional templates for download and other information.
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