For the past year or so, I've been keeping notes in a plain text file saved in a Dropbox folder. I don't organize it at all, it's pretty much a dump of whatever I am reading, listening to, or written in my Moleskine notebook that I wanted to keep digitally.
It's a pretty simple setup, especially after I downloaded the Blackberry app. I can view this notes folder anywhere I have internet access, including my phone.
The problem with the Dropbox app is that it doesn't have any search function. If I'm looking for something specific, I have to scroll through the whole file, and now that it's getting to be a big file, it's getting to be a hassle.
So I wanted to upgrade to a note-keeping system. Specifically,
- I want to be able to keep my notes online.
- I want to track tasks using the Getting Things Done method.
- I want my notes to be secure.
- I want to be able to sync my notes and retrieve via the internet.
- I want to be able to work with my notes on my phone.
- I want to use tags, and be able to pull up notes easily via the tags.
- I want to have the option of sharing specific notes with others.
- I want to be able to store images.
- I want it for free.
For the past couple of days, I've been giving Evernote a try. I have been reading tweets and blog posts about happy Evernote users, but the last time I tried to figure it out (more than a year ago) it didn't seem very user friendly. So either they've fixed that problem, or I've become more saavy (probably a good deal of both).
The tags work great. Tags are on a list by alphabetical order, but when viewing a list of all of my posts, all tags for that note are clickable so you can drill down into all other Notes with that tag.
When the tags aren't enough, Evernote comes with a search function so you can find just about anything quickly.
I would highly suggest reading Daneil Gold's Evernote: The unofficial guide to capturing everything and getting things done. I've assigned GTD tags by urgency (!!today, !!ThisWeek), location (@work, @phone, @computer, @waiting) and by project (.christmas, .resume, etc.) I haven't had the need yet but if I interacted with others and needed input/response I would have another cluster of tags like #fred, #ethel, #lucy, #ricky. By searching for groups of tags, you can get a pretty thorough working list of things to be done:
- Searching "!!today" shows the stuff you want to do today.
- Searching ".projectX and #lucy" shows what tasks you've assigned to Lucy regarding Project X.
- Searching ".projectX and @waiting" shows what tasks for ProjectX are awaiting input/response from anyone.
- Searching ".projectX and @waiting and #ethel" shows what you are waiting for from Ethel regarding Project X. If you want to finish it today you can add the tag !!today.
- By saving searches, you can use them over and over again.
Evernote has launched a new function called Evernote Clearly. After running the install, now when I am reading a web page, I have a button on the browser that re-loads the page stripping off all the ads. You end up with a much more readable page that you can also adjust the font size. You can click on a button and beam that as a new Note directly into Evernote. Images are included, and all the links work (even if you just click-and-drag, when you paste into a new Note, the links work, which is nice).
Some other nice features:
- You can send notes to Evernote via email, and you can assign tags via email.
- Images are scanned for text, and they will show up in search (for Premium users).
- You can imbed audio files.
- The free version includes a monthly allowance of 60MB of data. After that, it's $5/month or $45/year.
- You can generate URLs for specific Notes. For notes written in my Moleskine, after I type them into Evernote, I run these URLs through tinyurl.com and write the ~7 character string (the random characters after "http://tinyurl.com/") in red next to my Moleskine notes. This way, multiple note-taking sessions will have the same tinyurl for the same subject.
- You can grab the note URL and clip it into Google Calendar, so if there is a note associated with a calendar event you can read it.
Evernote also comes with apps for the iPhone 4S and Kindle Fire that Santa's going to get me for Christmas.