Note taking is a very basic, if not unglamorous function of smartphones, yet one that can be of extreme importance to anyone who is using their phones for business purposes. Note taking mobile apps come in all sorts of sizes and specs, from the most basic that just allow the creation of humble text notes, to the most lavish featuring attachments, filing, sharing, text formatting, to-do lists, cloud syncing and integration with other apps.
Evernote has been a popular desktop/cloud-based note taking application for a few years now. The mobile application arrived recently and is available on multiple operating systems and devices. The application’s long list of useful features has ensured it repeatedly tops the note taking app charts.
Note taking feature fest
•Note creation: Evernote’s note creation comes with some great features that push note taking beyond merely typing a few words on a screen: you can take and add photos, record and add audio files, create lists and task lists, insert links, add tags, format text and add locations.
•Note filing: Evernote files notes in notebooks which you can assign, create, delete or edit. Notebooks can be about any subjects relevant to your business such as projects, market research, campaigns, account management, prospects, business functions, product design or anything that requires note taking, information capturing or media creation (photos, video, audio). Notebook management is one area that can be further improved in a couple of ways: Firstly, Evernote only allows a single level of notebook nesting, a far cry from the multi-layered folder structure that comes with Microsoft’s OneNote (Evernote’s nemesis). Secondly, the application does not allow drag-and-drop editing of the notebooks, making editing a bit more labour intensive.
•Sharing: You can share each note via Facebook, Twitter or email. Sharing a note creates a unique URL which your audience can use to access your note. If, for example, you are capturing market information while researching on behalf of a client, you can email them a particular note that might be of immediate interest.
•Access & collaboration: Evernote is a great collaboration tool. You can set the access settings for each notebook which allow others not only to view it, but also to edit it and add new content. A team who are working on a proposal together, but are split between different locations can use a notebook as a whiteboard to collaborate and comment on thoughts, research material, or captured media.
•Flexible viewing: You can view notes as lists or thumbnails and you can isolate photos, attachments, audio files, or locations which can also be viewed on a map.
•Search and tag management: The application not only has a search facility but also adds an extra layer of taxonomy in note management by giving you the option to create and add tags to your notes.
•The Evernote ecosystem: Evernote has created an extensive catalogue of both native and third-party tools that greatly increases the value you get from the mobile application. The list includes a desktop application that allows you to work locally and not dependant on an internet connection, browser extensions for saving web pages, cloud storage for remote access and back up, as well as an array of extensions that further stretch Evernote’s capabilities.
Visually, the application is fairly well designed but it could do with more personality. The uninspired design language makes you think you are using your phone’s generic operating system and not immersed in a branded environment. In the past 12 months mobile application design has entered a new phase of increased individuality, featuring stronger branding that includes better use of colour, textures and custom buttons. Evernote could do with a fresh lick of paint – even the flawed Microsoft OneNote mobile application looks a lot better.
Evernote on the left, OneNote on the right
From a usability point of view the interface takes some getting used to it, not because it has been badly designed, but because there are a lot of features and only a small screen to accommodate them. No need to worry though, as repeat use will ensure that you quickly become familiar with the interface’s intricacies.
Not just for creatives
Traditionally, Evernote’s great visual-asset capturing features have made it a big hit with the creative industries. The latest versions however feature new functionality, such as handy text editing tools and even telephone call audio recording, which render Evernote a business tool of a much broader appeal.
As there are thousands of mobile productivity applications out there, the key question is whether Evernote can be the only note taking and information capturing business tool you will ever need. Despite its small number of shortcomings, the answer is yes.
(A version of this article first appeared on B2B Marketing magazine)