Evernote – Your Unified Notebook [Mac]

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How do you keep track of the havoc of your online life? How do you quickly save an article for later reading? How do you make a note of a recipe or instructional to refer to later on a different computer?

We’ve been through this topic several times before, and discussed many ways of storing notes, documents and organising emails online. Rightnote, Springpad, Simplenote — all good solutions. But personally, I find Evernote to be the most complete package. And since we haven’t published a review of its desktop client yet, here it is.

What is Evernote?

Evernote is a compendium of services and apps aimed towards storing notes in the form of text, images, handwritten notes, webpages, emails, voice memos; on your desktop, mobile device and in the cloud. Evernote can be used by so many different platforms, including desktop clients for Windows and Mac; browser extensions for Safari, Firefox and Chrome; and mobile devices such as Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7 and Web OS.

The Mac desktop client

With Evernote, you can quickly store snippets of just about anything using one of the available tools like the browser extension or desktop client. Everything you store in your Evernote account will be automatically synchronised to the cloud, as well as to any other platform you’re logged in to. So if you have the Evernote app installed on your mobile device, your notes will be automatically retrieved from the cloud the moment you launch the application, allowing you to access them just about anywhere with an internet connection.

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The Evernote desktop client for Mac is pictured in the two screenshots above, and as you can already tell, it looks very similar to Mail. A list of all notebooks is displayed in the far left column. In the middle column is a list of the notes each notebook contains. And in the far right is the note itself.

The desktop client has very basic text formatting options, enough to get by. But more importantly, it allows individual notes to be tagged for swifter searchability. Along with that, you can also add voice memos, photos and attachments to your notes. Any images containing handwritten text will automatically be indexed, so you’ll be able to search their content as you would a text file.

By default, the desktop client syncs with the cloud every 15 minutes, but you can change that frequency in its Preferences to only sync manually, every 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or every hour. Syncing it more frequently will ensure that your notes get across to the cloud quicker and ultimately, to other devices. Personally, I would have preferred a more predictable “sync on file change” feature like SugarSync.

There are so many creative uses for Evernote — you can use it to store your receipts, turn it into a dedicated newsletter inbox, or as a remote clipboard to sync URLs, text and photos from your mobile device to your desktop.

Features and Plans

Evernote comes in both free and premium flavours. The free account supports 100,000 notes, 250 synchronised notebooks, 10,000 tags and 100 saved searches. Individual notes can be a maximum of 25MB in size.

If you’re just starting off with Evernote, the free account is quite sufficient. However, for an additional $5/month or $45/year, Evernote Premium offers several additional features:

  • Adds larger upload capacity to 1GB each month
  • 50MB size limit for individual notes
  • Offline access to notebooks
  • Group sharing and access to notebooks
  • Note history: view past versions of individual notes
  • Priority image recognition
  • Ability to search within PDF documents
    • Evernote also offers a flexible discounted, sponsored group pricing scheme for teams of 3 people or more. With this plan, the owner can add as many Premium users to the group at any time; and is automatically billed for the user’s Premium Evernote subscription. Additionally, another payment plan is site licensing, whereby a group with a fixed number of Premium users is set up and the owner is billed for a whole year at the beginning; with an expansion option set at blocks of 5 users.

      If you are already a Premium Evernote user before joining a group, your Premium subscription will be paused for the duration. After leaving the sponsored group, your Evernote subscription will resume and your notes will be brought over to your personal Evernote account.

      Your Evernote Email Inbox

      Every Evernote account is assigned an Evernote email address. You may easily send notes to your Evernote account in the cloud via email and they will be synchronised to your desktop client and mobile application.

      Forward flight itineraries, hotel booking, and other travel plans to your Evenote inbox; allowing you to better organise yourself with unified view of your emails with a common theme. Alternatively, you can choose to do the opposite — by making your Evernote email a catch-all inbox for newsletter signups and other editorials and have all of the unimportant emails directed there, your actual email inbox will be less cluttered.

      Sharing and collaboration

      Sharing notebooks is a premium feature but it is a useful one. It’s ultimately up to you to decide whether it’s worth paying for a premium account in order to allow others to view and edit your notebook.

      I’ve actually used this feature in the past and in my mind, it’s a simple solution for team collaboration compared to setting up a wiki or using a web-only service. Only one person needs to have a premium Evernote account for the entire team to share and edit notes.

      Evernote Trunk

      One of the main reasons I choose to use Evernote is because it’s supported by so many amazing desktop and mobile applications. Skitch, IFTTT and Evernote Peek come straight to mind. Evernote has an entire trunk of these apps waiting to be explored — seriously, Evernote Trunk.


      Maybe I like Evernote because I’m too familiar with it. But somehow, its ease of use, attractive features and integration with other application makes it shine above other note-taking applications I’ve ever tried.

      If you’d like to learn more about Evernote, download our in-depth manual: How To Use Evernote: The Missing Manual

      Is there a better solution to Evernote? If you know of any, please share them with us in the comments.

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