Sunday, 11 November 2012

my magpie habits finally virtualised

I'm in love ... with Evernote.

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.

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