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Creating the paperfree work environment with Evernote

Organization, Time ManagementEdward KiledjianComment

The Brilliant Idea

The fine folks at Evernote came up with a brilliant idea. They created a hybrid cloud-based solution to store all your personal digital information, making it available everywhere, on any platform and completely searchable.

I call their solution a hybrid-cloud solution because it is based on an offline-online model. All of your data is downloaded and available offline on their Windows, Mac and Linux clients. At the same time, it is available via their web interface or dozens of other mobile devices like Android, Iphone, Ipad, Nokia, RIM, etc. Your information is always synchronized across these clients and always available.

Evernote also gives each user a unique email address. Anything you send to that email address is uploaded to your default notebook and available within minutes.

What is a note

All information in Evernote is stored in a capsule called a Note. A note can be as simple as a line of ASCII text or as complex as a collection of Office files, videos, pictures or any other type of digital media you can throw at it.

Unlike other systems, Evernote provides a bunch of organization tools but doesn’t specifically force you to use any of them. You decide how to store your information and make it available. Their tools include:

  • Notebooks A notebook is a collection of notes.
  • Tags A tag is a way to logically group related notes together making them easier to find later. Evernote supports sub-tags, which means you can even associate one tag as a subordinate of another.
  • Saved Searches If you find yourself performing a particular search over and over then why not save it as a Saved Search?
  • Attributes Evernote automatically saves a lot of attribute information with each note (which can be used to fine tune searching). They save things like creation and modification dates/time, geotag information (when available), type of information the note contains (i.e. word file, picture), etc.

Did someone order some OCR

OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition and it’s on the Evernote menu. They have a sophisticated OCR engine that detects text in images and makes it searchable. As an example, you can take a snapshot with your smartphone of a wine label and upload it to Evernote. Their elephants will analyze the image, detect the text and make it searchable. I take a picture of every business card I get and upload it to Evernote. It makes the text searchable so it creates a digital Rolodex. If you have decent handwriting, it may even be able to understand it.

note: In this case OCR does not mean it converts text in the image to usable text you can copy and paste. In Evernote land, OCR is only used to make content searchable

As you can imagine, they prioritize detection for their premium users over the free ones. In my testing, a premium account had a new image indexed within 5-30 minutes (often almost immediately). In free mode, I once waited about 24 hours to have an image indexed which is really acceptable.

If you create a PDF from a word type program then it automatically makes the PDF searchable and Evernote includes this in your “in document” search results. If you scan a page and then convert it into a PDF, it usually does not have a searchable index (since it is a picture imbedded in a PDF container). Premium users also enjoy the benefit of their PDFs being searchable.

The Trunk

A discussion about Evernote would not be complete without mentioning The Trunk. The guys at Evernote realized that their users had lots of feature requests and that they would never be able to meet every requirement, so they built an API that partners could use to interface with Evernote.

There are already dozens of partner created products that work with Evernote and according to numbers presented by the company, many more are on the way.

The freemium model

In addition to the OCR differences between the free and paid users, there are also some other benefits to upgrading (which costs $5 per month):

  • 1GB per month Upload Limit (instead of 60MB for free users). This is not a total data size limit, it is how much new data you can upload. They do not limit total data size.
  • More filetypes. Free users can upload PDF and image fines. Premium users can upload any type of digital file from Office documents to videos and more.
  • More powerful sharing Every Evernote user has the ability to share a notebook with a group of users. Free users can only share notebooks in read mode whereas Premium members can share notebooks in READ/WRITE mode.
  • Priority Processing As mentioned above, priority for OCR processing is given to paid users. Paid users are also given support priority.

To be honest, most users will find the free version more than adequate for what they need to do. Even as a free user, you get 720MB of free cloud-based, searchable data storage per year (60MB per month).

My only wish is that they revamp their iPhone client to make it more powerful and intuitive. Overall, I give Evernote two thumbs up and a hearty endorsement. I am moving my digital info to their service and I strongly encourage you to take a look.


-Evernote Link

-GTD Using Evernote Link

-Evernote Essentials Link