Lilac and Lime

Contrasts in colour, contrasts in life – Mary Bruce

For-Evernote, or, The “external brain”

[Published in the OSALL newsletter of August 2013]


Five years in the digital environment is a milestone of Note for any software. Achieving this with little in the way of significant criticism or surges of upgrades and improvements (not necessarily the same thing) is even more rare. Yet Evernote first appeared on the public front as a beta product in June 20084 and doesn’t appear to have been challenged by a raft of similar products. This is not to say that there are no competitors in the field of electronic note-taking and archiving but the product has an unquestionably solid reputation.

Evernote aims to make notes from files (text to emails to pdfs), images, webpages or part thereof, sound and videoclips – you name it – available across platforms and devices, from wherever you may in future wish to access them. Notes can also be shared with others, but only if you choose to share the location – not by default.

While the product can be downloaded for use on a stand-alone device, its true value is in having notes that were created at one point synchronised and accessible from multiple locations. Many users find their requirements are more than ably met by the free version while a reasonably priced premium version offers more in the way of storage and sharing rights.

I first heard of Evernote from a well-known South African attorney who specialises in IT matters and his opinion was confirmed by the IT Supervisor with whom I work, Kerwin. Kerwin showed me how it took seconds to convert an email message into a note that would be searchable a short while later. He has used the product for some years and swears by it.

Text in images is OCRd (Optical Character Recognition) and indexed. Suggested applications of this functionality include taking photos of whiteboards, maps, wine labels which will be indexed and become searchable. One couple uses it to keep tabs on mutual commitments : as one makes a change so the other has access to new appointments, events, and so on. Another suggestion is committing travel documents in the form of tickets, maps, appointments and related information to a notebook.

Webpages can be saved either in their entirety or by highlighting relevant portions of the page. Saving the whole page will carry across text, images and links1.

Reminders can be set on a calendar and associated with the relevant note3. Apart from showing the note at the top of the list an email reminder will be sent and an icon will display until the reminder is signed off.

While I haven’t personally used Evernote I downloaded it yesterday and have no doubt that it is going to be one of the most useful applications at my disposal. The Getting Started1 feature is extremely easy to follow and inspires one to get going without delay.

Evernote was hacked in March of this year4, as has happened to numerous applications, but moves have since been made to improve the authentication process.

In making a comparison between Evernote and “competitor” Springpad, one reviewer suggests “Evernote is great for geeks and serious info-hoarders while Springpad is better for shoppers, cooks, soccer moms, and other average folks doing everyday stuff” 5.

Phil Libin, Evernote’s chief executive, is quoted as saying “we want to be their lifetime external brain” 4. Personally I am satisfied with my internal brain but do feel excited at the options this product offers.

Finally, if your credulity could do with a workout I hope you have heard of Dmitry Argarkov. He has, to date, got away with altering his credit card contract, sending it back to his bank which seems to have approved it without reading the small print, making use of the new and improved terms, and (audible twang from my internal credulity glands) been supported by a judge in subsequent court proceedings7. Presumably he anticipated a for-Ever[bank]note.

1 Evernote
2 Mastering Evernote basics. Evernote blog
How to : never miss a deadline with Evernote Evernote blog
The developing world gets unlimited digital storage. Quentin Hardy. New York Times. 13 August 2013
6 Online notebook smackdown : Evernote vs Springpad. Wade Roush. 16 April 2010
7 Man who created own credit card sues bank for not sticking to terms. Andrew Trotman. The Telegraph. 8 August 2013

Mary Bruce

Opinions expressed in this column are my own and not necessarily those of my employer.


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