They say an elephant never forgets, which is probably why a stylized pachyderm graces the icon for my new favourite piece of software, Evernote.
Designed for absent-minded professors and type-A organizers alike, Evernote is an astoundingly limber digital information catch-all.
It can gather text notes, sketches, voice notes, photos, and web pages.
Then it processes everything to make stuff a lot easier to find later on.
And if that’s not enough, it shares everything you gather with every device you’ve got, automatically.
That last point is what sets Evernote apart from pretty much every other digital information-harvesting application out there. And I’ve used pretty much all of them.
On the Windows side you’ve got the great-grandpa notebook application, Microsoft OneNote.
The web offers Google Notebook.
Each of these applications is pretty cool, in their own way. But the major shortcoming they all share is the fact that the information you collect is trapped in a proprietary environment.
So Evernote slays them all simply by the virtue of its love for all platforms.
You can install Evernote on a Mac, or on a Windows PC. There’s a special client for Windows Mobile.
There’s a special interface for the iPhone and iPod Touch that works brilliantly. And the web site for Evernote supplements just about every other environment just fine.
The true beauty of Evernote is based on the fact that it plays nice with computing devices from all corners of the technical realm.
Because as soon as you add content to Evernote on one device, it’s almost instantly on all the others.
In a sense, Evernote is the personal Rosetta Stone of the information age.
After all, who really cares if Windows is better than Mac or the web is the ultimate new information environment?
Evernote just delivers all my stuff to me wherever I am and on whatever device I’m using.
And it does it with full respect to whatever platform I happen to be using.
From my experience, a “cross-platform” application is too often one that was developed for one type of computer and then was “ported” to another.
Microsoft Word is the perfect example of this. There’s just no escaping the fact that Microsoft Word on a Mac just feels like a Windows application.
Meanwhile, Apple’s Safari browser is infuriatingly disrespectful of the norms of the Windows platform.
Each of us has selected a computing platform to use because we like the way it looks, the way it behaves, and the way it engages us.
The developers of Evernote understand this, and so each version of their software is crafted to the idiosyncrasies of the target platform.
Like, there’s very nice handwriting environment in the Windows client that takes advantage of the unique capabilities of the Tablet PC.
And for the web, Evernote provides a one-click clipper bookmarklet for your browser that is uniquely capable of scraping the content you want from a web site and leaving the ads behind.
On my Windows Mobile phone, Evernote recognizes my voice notes and photographs and easily absorbs them. (In fact, it’s one of the few applications that functions properly in the rather laughable Windows Mobile environment.)
Meanwhile, on my Mac, it fully adopts the look and feel of a real, live Mac application.
Evernote’s crowning achievement, though, is what it does to your information as it shares it between platforms. The software deciphers your notes and literally “reads” them all to make it easier to find later.
For example, you can use Evernote to search for words that appear in photographs.
So, say you took a picture of a business card with your mobile phone. Transfer it to Evernote and you can find that contact again with a text search.
If you have a Tablet PC, like me, you can scribble notes into Evernote and they also become text-searchable.
Now for the bad news: Evernote is in private beta. This means it’s not available for everyone to try just yet.
However, I have a pile of invites to give away, so if Evernote sounds like something you could get some use out of, post a comment and I’ll send one your way.
Originally published in the Yukon News on Friday, April 4, 2008.