I first heard of apps to organise clippings, etc, several years ago, from Steven Johnson talking about DEVONthink in one of his books. It sounded great, as I kept a paper commonplace book, and had an overflowing scrapbook, and wanted something more systematic to keep all those notes and thoughts and cuttings. However, DEVONthink is Mac-only, so I started keeping an eye open for something else.
During my intermittent reviews of applications over the next few years, I came across Evernote, which seemed to be another alternative that people really liked. But it too was Mac-only. So I kept looking, experimenting with the odd app now and then, but nothing really seemed what I wanted.
Last week, I was having yet another look around. This time, I was after something to keep an electronic laboratory day book, as my Word document version is too clumsy. There didn't seem to be anything specific, and I was wondering whether to use a new blog, but in my web trawl, I again came across Evernote. I noticed that now there is a Windows version, and an Android smart phone version. I looked closer. It seemed ideal for a clippings container. I decided to give it a try, as a commonplace book at least.
I downloaded it to my home machine last Saturday, and experimented with it for a while. I installed the Web Clipper app into Chrome, and started surfing/clipping. I downloaded it to my phone, and played around some more. It's got great searching capabilities, and a nice interface. I particularly like the way the bullet lists work -- tab to indent, and return to outdent again -- very natural for note taking (where I am an inveterate bulleter).
|my desktop version: snippet list on the left, detailed notes on the right|
On Sunday, once I had a feel for what it could do, I decided I would also experiment with using it as a lab book. I planned to use one note per meeting/seminar/lecture, plus a "day note" for all the other bits and bobs that need recording on a given day.
Back at work, I downloaded Evernote to my work desktop and my netbook. There I used it all last week, taking electronic notes in meetings, and during seminars. It was really smooth. For example, for one meeting I made a note that contained: what I'd done in preparation for the meeting; my notes typed in during the meeting; what I did to discharge the actions after -- all in one place.
Then I found the excellent blog of Jamie Todd Rubin, Evernote's "Paperless Lifestyle" Ambassador. This opened my eyes to many other ways of using Evernote -- not just as a commonplace book and a lab book, but for other notes, projects, and whatever, and for automating various parts of the process. I now have seven notebooks on the go, and more in mind. (Although I probably won't go completely paperless. But I am thinking of getting a faster scanner.)
I am seriously considering upgrading to the premium version, to get more monthly upload allowance, and some other nice perks.
Now all I need is for someone to port Penulimate to Android -- so I can scribble diagrams as well as textual notes in meetings.