Can't Organize? Love to Organize? Either Way, Evernote Can Help.
What it is: Evernote is a note-taking tool that lets you store information online and quickly reference it from any Web-connected computer or mobile phone. You can clip parts of Web pages, save text, images, or even hand-written notes. It's a place "in the cloud" to store anything you might need to recall at a later date -- be it a to-do list, meeting notes, Web research, a picture of that wine label you took while on vacation in Napa Valley, or even more sensitive data like difficult-to-remember network keys.
What we like about it: We love that you can use it from pretty much any computer or cell phone. While the Windows and Mac versions let you access and save notes offline to be uploaded the next time you are online, there are also dedicated Evernote apps for iPhone, BlackBerry, Palm's WebOS, and Windows Mobile, not to mention a separate mobile site for cell phones. The regular Web site has a slick interface that easily lets you create and save notes, tag them, and divide them up into separate notebooks. There's also a plug-in that lets you "clip" content from the Web with just one click and then automatically upload it to Evernote. As if all that weren't enough, you can also e-mail or tweet notes to Evernote, where they will automatically be added to your collection.
What really impresses us, though, is the the program's robust search function. Can't remember the name of that little antique store you found on last fall's weekend trip to Vermont? You can easily search by dates or location (since any notes you create on your mobile phone can be automatically geo-tagged).
The various ways of interacting with Evernote make it the most versatile note-taking app on the market, but its real killer feature is how it handles images. Upload a photo of a hand-written note, a sign, or anything else and Evernote will recognize the text and make it searchable. So, instead of entering all the contact information from someone's business card into your phone or computer, you can just take a picture of it and search for it later.
Lastly, Evernote integrates automatically with document-scanning services like Pixily, which means you can easily keep track of receipts, important documents, or anything else you scan.
What we don't like: Sometimes Evernote feels a bit too complex for simple note taking, which might be better accomplished with pen and paper. (The mobile apps, in particular, can be sluggish if you've got a slow data connection.) Sometimes, even the Web site lags when switching views or searching for notes. Plus, it can take hours, or even days, for Evernote to recognize text in images.
Also irritating is the mobile version's inability to edit any notes that contain anything other than plain text. If a note has so much as a bold letter, it will be uneditable in the smartphone versions of the app.
Bottom line: Evernote is a great way to store all the little tidbits of information that need remembering, especially if you love to organize and tag everything in your life. That said, given the multiple ways it lets you search for your notes (dates, names, tags, GPS coordinates), Evernote is also ideal for folks who don't like (or are bad at) organizing their lives. It might not always be the most convenient or quickest way to jot down a note, but its availability on so many platforms and the fact that it's free give the program a leg up on many of its competitors, like Microsoft's OneNote. Note: Evernote's premium version ($5 per month or $45 per year) offers: the ability to attach spreadsheets, PDFs, and Word docs to notes; better encryption; and 500 gigabytes (about 250,000 text notes) versus the 40 gigabytes (20,000 text notes) available with the free version.
Download Evernote here, or visit Evernote.com.