A Few Good Men, A Bug’s Life, Monsters, Inc, Finding Nemo, WALL-E, Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, Oprah’s media empire and the Super Bowl trophy all share one thing in common. The idea of them was first noted on a cocktail napkin.

Aaron Sorkin wrote A Few Good Men on cocktail napkins when he worked as a bartender at a Broadway theatre. Pixar executives imagined the idea for A Bug’s Life, Monsters, Inc, Finding Nemo, WALL-E, over a post-production celebratory lunch for Toy Story and sketched character images on cocktail napkins.

A brainstorming session set in a bar resulted in Shark Week and notes were taken on a cocktail napkin. Robert Ebert roughly mapped out for Oprah on a napkin the financial benefit of syndicating her show with ABC over dinner. Oscar Reidner, the head of Tiffany & Co. design, drew his idea for the Super Bowl trophy on a napkin for then NFL commissioner, Pete Rozelle.

Writing things down can change your life but gone are the days when you can rely solely on pen and paper to jot down and keep track of all your great ideas, to do lists or anything else that catches your interest or demands your attention. Evernote offers an impressive solution that is digital-age approved.

Evernote

Evernote is a cloud-based note taking tool developed by the Evernote Corporation, headquartered in Redwood City, California. It was launched in open beta on June 24, 2008. Statista.com reports that from May 2009 to July 2016, the app had an estimated 200 million users worldwide. Cnet.com reports that between 60,000 to 80,000 new users sign up daily.

What has attracted millions to this app is not simply its note-taking ability. In that respect, it’s far from unique with products like Microsoft OneNote, Google Keep, and Trello among others offering the same. What makes it stand out is the built-in features that accompany its note-taking ability.

Evernote Features

Note Taking

With Evernote, you can create notes from a variety of sources. They can either be typed, handwritten, or made using your device’s speech-to-text feature. They can also be created from drawings, emails, web pages, images (whiteboards, business cards, receipts, recipes, etc.), PDFs, or audio recordings.

Organization

Notes can be formatted to be viewed in a variety of ways including as tables, numbered or bulleted lists, or to-do lists where completed items can be checked off or crossed out. Notes created from images and PDFs can be annotated with lines, shapes, arrows, and more.

Once notes are created, they can be organized into separate “notebooks,” or added to an existing one. You can also choose to merge two existing notes into one, add links to other notes in a note, stack multiple notebooks to form volumes, add date and time stamps, or set up reminders. The app also lets you use tags and color coding to keep your notes and notebooks in order.

If you’re not sure what format you need Evernote also offers a wide selection of templates to choose from. They include templates for meetings, school-related activities, recruiting, real estate, marketing, and finance among others.

Retrieval and Searching for information

Cloud-based storage and Evernote’s synchronization feature lets you retrieve the current version of a note on a minimum of two devices. Synching is automatic but can be customized to factor in items like cellular usage and wifi connectivity.

Powerful search options make finding notes a breeze even for the least organized amongst us. You can search by creation or update date, by source used to create the note (e.g., email, picture, web clipper), or even where the note was created using latitude, longitude, or altitude among others. This app can also search for specific text on images.

Work Chat

Work Chat lets you send messages or share and work together with others on either a note or notebooks. You have the option to control permission levels (Can edit and invite (default), Can edit, Can view) and recipients do not need to use Evernote. Two or more users cannot simultaneously make changes to the same note. If this happens, the edits from one user will be placed in a notebook called “Conflicting Changes.” A link to a note or notebook can also be shared on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.

Presentation Mode

Presentation Mode is a feature available with a premium subscription. It lets you turn your notes into a presentation without using additional tools. It comes with a customizable layout editor and the ability to scroll through multiple screens, highlight content using the laser pointer tool, and your choice of display mode among others.

Web Clipper

Creating notes from web pages is done with the Web Clipper tool. This tool is set up as a browser extension, and it gives you the option to save information from the web in different formats. The article format option saves the pages main content only whereas the simplified article one saves only the text of the article in a highly readable format. A full page option lets you save everything on the page, a bookmark option saves a link to the page, and if you want to capture just a specific portion, you will use the screenshot. You can also highlight sections or add text and visual callout to notes created from web pages.

Working with Other Apps

Evernote is designed to play well with other apps. Their app center shows apps that can be used for business (Zapier, IF by IFTTT, CoSchedule, etc), productivity (Smartsheet, SaneBox, etc), education (Blinkist, Feedly Pro, etc), lifestyle (Pocket, IdeaPlaces, etc), or to simply help you go paperless (Scanner Pro, DocuSign, etc.).

Back Up or Export Your Notes

One of the main difference between the three subscription packages offered by Evernote is storage space. If you run into a space issue or want to remove some notes or notebooks you choose to automatically back them up or export them to an alternate location.

Security

Keep your notes and account safe with various security features. If you’re sharing a notebook with multiple notes and do not wish for all to be seen, you can make them private with a password. You’ll also be able to tell who has viewed or edited a shared note or notebook.

Subscription Plans

Evernote offers three subscription plans – Basic, Premium, and Business.

Basic Plan

The basic subscription plan is free. It comes with the following

  • 60 MB of new uploads/month.
  • Sync across 2 devices.
  • Clip web pages, images, PDF files.
  • Search for text inside images.
  • Share notes with friends and colleagues.
  • Add passcode lock to the mobile app.
  • Get Community support.
  • Access notebooks offline using the desktop app.

Premium Plan

The premium plan costs $7.99 per month. It comes with the following in addition to what’s offered with the basic plan.

  • 10 GB of new uploads/month.
  • Sync to all your devices.
  • Get customer support via live chat.
  • Access notebooks offline.
  • Forward emails into Evernote.
  • Search for text in PDFs and Office docs.
  • Annotate PDFs.
  • Present notes in one click.
  • Scan and digitize business cards.

Students are eligible to get 50% off a full year of the Premium plan. A valid .edu or .ac email address is required to verify eligibility.

Business Plan

The business plan costs $14.99 per user per month. It comes with the following in addition to what’s offered with the basic and premium plan.

  • 20 GB of new uploads/month + 2 GB/user.
  • Priority business support
  • Single Sign-on.
  • Central user administration.
  • Collaborate in a single workspace.
  • Automate user provisioning with SCIM.
  • Collaborate and share easily with Spaces.

Minimum Requirements 

Evernote is available for Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer (IE) 7+, Firefox, Opera, and Microsoft Edge (for Windows 10 or higher).

How to Get the App

To get started, create a free account at www.evernote.com. iOS users can download the app from the App Store and Android users can download the app from Google Play.

Summary

Pros

  • Notes can be created from multiple sources and stored in a variety of formats.
  • Impressive organization and search options.
  • Multi-platform support.
  • Synchronization cloud-based storage gives you 247 access to your notebooks.
  • Their website offers a large number of tips and tutorials to help you make the best use of the app.
  • Offers a web app that works in any browser.

Cons

  • Limited functionality of some features, e.g., tables cannot perform calculations like Excel.
  • Features for specialized tasks like project management are extremely basic.
  • Some enticing bonus features like annotating PDFs and accessing notebooks offline require a paid subscription plan.
  • If you want to annotate, crop, and rotate PDFs and image files uploaded to Evernote, you have to do it in one of the desktop apps.
  • Unused storage does not roll over.

Conclusion

It is said that if you wish to improve the quality of your life, you must improve the quality of your thinking. Once sure fire way to improve how one thinks is to start thinking on paper or its digital equivalent. Not only does it free up your mind for more high-level thinking but it also improves your focus and subsequently your overall productivity. Evernote lets you do that and more.