I try to pay attention to coincidence and convergence. That is, I try to notice when I’m exposed to new tools or ideas with relative frequency in a short (1 or 2 weeks?) period of time. Evernote hit my threshold a couple of weeks ago and I downloaded the app. I didn’t install it until today, though, after it popped up again yesterday. Well, I like it. Its core purpose is to keep your accumulated notes in one place, and I really like that idea. It reminds me of a personal wiki, but with more context. Of course, the next question for me is how is this better than Lookout or a similar search engines? I’m not sure yet whether it is. My big concern is that Evernote, by definition, introduces yet another step in my note management process. Right now, I just keep various text files in the My Documents folder and I can pretty much find what I want using either Lookout, or the ‘Search Files’ function in CrimsonEditor. I don’t have to be careful about assigning tags, categories, or other metadata to the text files. Evernote would have me take the two extra steps of drag/drop (or copy/paste) my file into its interface, and assign tags to identify the document. My hesitation with Evernote revolves around whether those extra steps are worth the effort. Time will tell.
I’ve still got a learning curve coming up with Evernote. One of the
first things I tried to do was drag an email message into the
interface. I assumed it would somehow put the whole text in Evernote
and datestamp it. All I got, though, was a cryptic message of "Subject
Received" and a datestamp. No text. Does this mean I have to open the
email and copy/paste the text into Evernote? Apparently. That’s a lot
of extra thinking that I don’t want to do.
On the upside, Evernote will accept way, way more than just your plain
text files. So if you decide that the app is going to be your personal
data warehouse, you can drop scanned images in there and all kinds of
other documents. In a way, it reminds me of Enfish, which I used for a
little while back in the day and really liked also. Another nice thing
about Evernote is the templating feature. There are several templates
available on the Evernote website, and they seem pretty simple to
build, so I’d expect to see a lot more in the future. Templates just
help with note creation. There are templates for ToDo lists (dated and
undated), shopping lists, and expenses. Evernote is also getting
ported to PDAs and phones, so if you become a user, you should have no
excuse for losing notes. Evernote seems to be aiming for ubiquity
(FINALLY! I was able to use ‘ubiquity’ in context!).
So here’s a first shot at some ‘best practice’ tips that may be helpful
with note management, regardless of your tool of choice.
- First, keep all your notes in one place (Hey! Michael Hyatt
Where’d he go, by the way? I love his blog and it’s been a month since
an update. A month!). If you’ve got a decent search tool, it
shouldn’t matter where you keep your stuff, but keeping everything in
one folder helps with backups, and a little bit with indexing speed.
‘My Documents’ works for me, most of the time. I say most of the time
because there are some times when I’m at home and wish I had a file
that’s on my work network. Or vice versa. I know that tools like
TightVNC solve this, but I haven’t spent the time to get it working for
me. Once you’ve got everything in one place, find a decent search
tool. Lookout does the trick for me, but others find Google Desktop to
work pretty well. There’s also a whole market of tools like Enfish,
x1, The Brain, and so on, which will do similar organizing, indexing
and searching for you.
- Another tip is to be verbose–don’t be skimpy on the notes, or it’ll
be more difficult to find them later. Expand on the ideas, and then
keep on expanding. The more text you have, the easier it’ll be to find
since you’ll be able to search on more words and phrases.
- Keep your notetaking tool open and available all the time.
CrimsonEditor is always open on my desktop. I find that if I have to
stop what I’m doing and wait for an app to open, I’m more likely to try
to keep that note in my head, instead of in a context list, or
something similar. And keeping it in my head doesn’t last very long.
Another option for getting your notes anywhere is Webnote. Webnote has the benefit of
being web-ified and available anywhere you’ve got a connection, but
it’s strictly text. It does have a nice visual element to it, and
since it’s web-ified you can share it with others. That said, I can’t
imagine how it would be useful to me so I haven’t done more than fiddle
around with the public version.