Writing Tools: Evernote

by Amber Lea Starfire on March 18, 2013

EvernoteLogoEvernote isn’t perfect, and it has limitations, but it’s probably my most-used app at this time for journaling, freewriting, capturing ideas, and writing blog posts. Here’s why:

  • The Evernote app is free
  • It’s on all my devices — my computer, my iPhone, and my iPad, AND in the cloud (the Internet)
  • It syncs seamlessly and automatically between all my devices
  • It’s easy to organize different notebooks for different purposes
  • It’s versatile, allowing me to capture web pages, research, pdf’s, photography, video, and sound recordings, all in one place

Of these reasons, the fact that Evernote syncs my notebooks to all devices and the cloud without my thinking about it or initiating the sync is the most compelling. If I write anything in Evernote, it’s immediately accessible to me elsewhere. For someone who is constantly on the run, this feature overrides Evernote’s weaknesses: it has limited formatting options (for example, I have no control over line spacing or number and bullet formatting); I can’t zoom in or out to change the view — if I want to see larger type, I have to change the font size; Evernote does not sync with my WordPress site, as MacJournal does; and I can group notebooks only into two levels. But these are limitations I’m willing to accept all for the convenience of that unthinking sync.

The difference is the cloud. MacJournal and many other journaling apps, though available on my computer and IOS devices, do not exist on the cloud. If I want to sync my devices, I have to open the app and tell it to sync. For example, if I create an entry on my iPad, it will not show up on my computer without first ensuring that both are on the same network and then launching a sync command. In contrast, Evernote syncs my iPad with the cloud version and the next time I open the app — on any of my devices or computer — my entry is already there and waiting for me to read, edit, or continue writing.

And, perhaps best of all, I can access my work from any computer that is connected to the internet. Evernote on the Web constantly updates all of my computers and devices with the latest versions of my notes.

Do you use Evernote? If so, how do you use it? If you’ve not heard of or used Evernote, try it out and then let me know what you think. Here’s the link: evernote.com.

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Note: I have no financial interest in Evernote and the statements in this post are purely personal opinion. If you would like to see an article about another writing or journaling tool — electronic or not — please leave a comment.
 

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Sharon Lippincott March 18, 2013 at 8:44 am

Great post about Evernote. I’m as hooked as you are. It took me nearly a year to grow deeply into it, but now I have a little bit of everything there — To Do lists, web clips, scribbles such as you mention, recipes… Yesterday I was chagrined to realize late in the game that I had neglected to run Grammar Check on the book document I’m planning to upload to CreateSpace within hours, and it found a distressing number of missing commas and a few other things. I used Evernote to log changes so I could make corresponding ones in the HTML eBooks files I did not want to recreate.

Evernote is simple to use, easy to open, and tags beat the socks off searching through umpty folders for who knows what filename.

Evernote has deep neural connections to my bio-brain.

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Amber Lea Starfire March 19, 2013 at 6:03 am

Sharon … ha! I love that last line: Evernote has deep neural connnections to my bio-brain. Surprising and funny and just right!

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Evelyn March 28, 2013 at 6:22 pm

I’ve been meaning to try Evernote, as I currently use just the notebook app that comes on all iPhones, etc. Does it work similar to that?

patsy ann taylor March 18, 2013 at 9:17 am

Thank you for the info on Evernote. I plan to look into it. Patsy

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Howard Veit March 18, 2013 at 9:19 am

I have used Evernote since 2008. When I started journaling last year, I didn’t use Evernote because of some of the weaknesses you sight. Rather, I started using Day One, which is an excellent journaling program and syncs easily and reliably using either iCloud or Dropbox. Day One is specifically designed for journaling, but also has weaknesses. You can only attach one photo per journal entry, for example, and the formmating options are limited.

After a month or so of using Day One, I decided to switch back to Evernote. I can access my journal on the Evernote website from any machine and I can use multiple notebooks for my journaling. You don’t have multiple notebooks on Day One. I have been very happy with Evernote. I like being able to keep my journals together with all my other notes in one place, rather than a separate journaling program. I can also attach files, such as mind maps, to my journal entries in Evernote.

One issue is security. Evernote was recently hacked. Although there is no evidence that anyone’s data was accessed, that is always a risk with a cloud-based journaling program. I don’t worry about that so much, but others might. Evernote is password protected, but that doesn’t mean the data isn’t available to modern day hackers.

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Amber Lea Starfire March 19, 2013 at 6:08 am

Howard, thank you for sharing your experiences with searching for the “just right” journaling program. It seems that no program is perfect … it would have to read my mind to qualify! Like you, I’ve researched and used a number of programs, coming back to Evernote for its ease of use and convenience. And yes, backing up or syncing through the cloud always has its risks. Evernote staff dealt with the hacking issue quickly and professionally, which was reassuring.

My favorite program for versatility and interface is MacJournal — I plan to write an article about MacJournal in the near future. Its only drawback for me is the lack of cloud syncing (it doesn’t work with Dropbox because of its file structure — or didn’t the last time I tried it).

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Barbara Toboni March 18, 2013 at 9:41 am

Thanks for the information. It looks like a great way to stay organized and have everything in one place. I have a few kinks to work out first. You’re talking to a girl who still uses an old fashioned flip cell phone. You’d never know I was married to a man who updates, fixes, and replaces computers!

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Amber Lea Starfire March 19, 2013 at 6:09 am

Yeah, it’s a pretty cool program. So, what are these kinks you’d have to work out? :-)

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Barbara Toboni March 18, 2013 at 9:41 am

Thanks for the information, Amber. It looks like a great way to stay organized and have everything in one place. I have a few kinks to work out first. You’re talking to a girl who still uses an old fashioned flip cell phone. You’d never know I was married to a man who updates, fixes, and replaces computers!

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Howard Veit March 19, 2013 at 5:19 pm

I haven’t tried MacJournal mainly because of the weakness you site regarding Dropbox syncing. However, I am beginning to question the need to use all of these ‘gadgets’ that require syncing.

I have an iPhone and an iPad, in addition to a laptop. I carry the iPad and iPhone around religiously, when I leave home. But, to tell you the truth, I might be just as happy schlepping my Macbook Air around. It is almost as light as the iPad, the programs I can use, MacJournal, for example, runs best on a computer, even Evernote has more sophisticated capabilities (merging notes, for example) on the computer, as compared to the tablet (iPad). The battery life on my MacAir is 6+ hours, which competes favorably with the iPad battery life. So carrying the light laptop and having full journaling capabilities out of the house is very tempting.

Syncing between the devices is easy these days, but being able to have full computer capabilities of Evernote, MacJournal, Curio and some other programs is starting to convince me to ditch the tablet and do everything on my computer, both at home and on the road. I realize that MacBook Airs are expensive, and may not meet everyone’s need, but I am starting to think about consolidating into 2 (MacBook Air and iPhone) devices rather than three, and make life simpler.

I know, I know…..I am a computer geek.

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Amber Lea Starfire March 19, 2013 at 7:34 pm

Howard, you sound like me . I’d probably do the same thing if I owned a MacBook Air. The only real drawback of the MacBook is that you’d need WiFi. One of the things I love about my iPad (and iPhone) is 4g and LTE … sometimes faster than WiFi networks. And yes, I could pay extra for my phone to provide a hot spot, but I suspect I’d be unhappy with the performance.

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Howard Veit March 20, 2013 at 7:08 am

Amber, an option is to get a portable wifi modem. I bought the Verizon version, but other carriers have them. They are small and very easy to carry around in purse pocket, etc. You can get 4G versions with great reception and speed. In a pinch, I have used my iPhone, but it is slower. With the portable Wifi hotspot there is a monthly charge (mine is $20), and it is another gadget to keep charged. Tradeoffs, tradeoffs. I do like having full portable computer capabilities out of my home, however.

Stephen April 9, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Sister apps to Evernote are also nice ways to expand the versatility of Evernote. Skitch is a sister app that let’s you do drawings or doodling e and then incorporate them into your note on Evernote. There is also vJournal which is a specific journaling app that loads your journal entry straight into your Evernote notebooks. Check them out as well.

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Rosemary Nissen-Wade August 5, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Do you have a Mac computer too? I use the free Pages app which is in the iCloud and so syncs automatically between my iMac, MacBook Pro and iPad, and which can be formatted. Pages docs can be saved in Word if desired.

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Amber Lea Starfire August 6, 2013 at 5:08 am

Hi Rosemary. Yes, I do have a MAC, and I occasionally use Pages — but it’s not my favorite, and not as flexible as Evernote for capturing notes, information, recording sound, etc. When I want to do more serious writing, I usually turn to Scrivener and Word. But if you like the Apple apps, the iCloud services are pretty cool. And they’ve gotten better lately. I particularly like the way all my calendars and to-do items sync across devices.

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Sue Rawlings August 9, 2013 at 3:33 pm

I got Evernote in July ~ Sam Lyttle recommended it…Love it!!! ~ I can now find what it is I’m looking for…Have used OneNote, which came with my PC…Had problems with finding things, but I continued using it for my writing and journal projects…Now I use Evernote for so many other things, like quotes, pictures, products I buy infrequently and whose names I can never remember. It’s a great addition to my writing tools…sue

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Amber Lea Starfire August 12, 2013 at 12:15 pm

Sue, I agree. Thanks for sharing your experience with us :-)

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Jean-Yves MESNIL May 8, 2014 at 12:03 pm

Hi,

Try pistachio with Evernote to publish your blog ?!

I use Evernote and Scrivener, two greats tools for my work. I write expert technical memoirs and I write in this moment a book.

Thanks

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Amber Lea Starfire May 21, 2014 at 10:50 am

Hi Jean-Yves, I checked out Pistachi.o and it looks very interesting, but it looks to me like another blogging platform. I already host my own WordPress blog, so I’m not sure how it might work with Evernote for me. But it might be a great way for someone to get started blogging.

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