Make a note of that… (part 1)

I’m a great one for scribbling notes. At any given time I probably have two or three A5 pads on the go with scribbled notes about everything from messages on my answerphone to music I’ve heard and might want to investigate further. One thing’s for sure, they are pretty random and finding stuff in amongst what quickly becomes irrelevant, isn’t always easy.

Simple, get some note taking software for the Mac. So now I have three applications on the go. Evernote, SOHO Notes 7 and MacJournal. Each very different while offering similar solutions.

It’s at this point that I thought I ought to make a list of some of my basic requirements, rather than let the software dictate what I do and how I do it. So here goes:

  • Easy to access – when a thought pops into my head and I want to scribble something down, I don’t really want to have to launch an application, navigate to the ‘new note’ section and start. Like everyone else in the world I want ‘instant ON’!
  • Notes containing anything – my notes might contain sound clips, pictures (perhaps grabbed from my pen/tablet or webcam), rich text (obviously) and maybe web pages.
  • Notes that I can lock away – if my Mac is stolen or goes in for repair, I don’t want personal information visible to prying eyes.
  • Notes that I can rely on – something that’s easy to back up and reinstate in the event of a disaster.
  • Notes that I can organize – folders and maybe even subfolders.

EvernoteFirst up is Evernote 3 Beta. Now I’ve been an Evernote user for a while now having used it in my Windows days, mainly for clipping web pages and the new Mac client is a bonus so I thought I’d try it. The interface is clean and uncluttered with the usual 3-pane view of folders to the left, lists/items top right and the contents of the selected item (i.e. the actual note) bottom right. It comes with a browser add-on so clipping web pages is as easy as clicking the ‘Clip to Evernote’ button and pages are rendered reasonably well. On the other hand, dragging a URL to a blank note simply pastes in the URL so the choice is yours.

Evernote uses ‘Notebooks’ rather than folders and there’s no nesting, although you can tag items to organize them differently. Unfortunately there’s no way to lock selected notebooks, and the username/password is used solely to allow syncing between clients. The sync feature works quite well between the OS X and Windows versions although there are some differences and it works best for plain text or web pages, rather than rich text and media (e.g. animated gifs from the Mac client get turned into static gifs in the Windows client).

It’s actually the rendering of web pages where I felt it lacked finesse. While some web pages were fine, quite a few got mangled completely which is a shame. Also, while it claims to support the iSight camera (I couldn’t test this), it didn’t recognize my Logitech web-cam even though iChat, Skype and other applications do. Also, if you want to add sound clips you have to record them outside Evernote and then paste the files back in.

In the end I like Evernote but feel that what it features in sync-ability, it lacks in the richness and flexibility of it’s note taking.


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