Evernote – for Human Memory

Evernote is one of the best productivity tools on the web. They bill themselves as the global platform for human memory. At least they limit themselves to humans. Whew.

In short, Evernote is a simple and elegant solution for capturing all the elements of data you encounter and need to store for potential future recall.  Physicians are inundated with information more than any other professional and Evernote can help.

So, you are wondering exactly what you can do with this tool? Here is a short list:

  • Capture notes – written and voice
  • Organize your photos
  • Clip information from web sites
  • Organize your PDFs and Microsoft Word files
  • Store receipts

That’s just a sample list based on the primary ways in which I use the product. It gets better…while you can sort of do all those with your file folders on your computer, Evernote stores things so they are available from any browser and virtually any device you might use (except a crappy old flip phone if that’s still in your repertoire). Further, the way in which the tool helps collect and organize your objects is far more elegant than the built in file/folder structure on computers…oh, and there is powerful search using tags and even recognition of words from handwritten materials.

Previously I wrote about my LiveScribe Echo pen….Evernote is the perfect compliment. It’s the chocolate to Livescribe’s peanut butter. LiveScribe files sync straight up to my Evernote account and make sure the results and not the tools or process remain the focus.

Last, I want to address the difference between Evernote and virtual hard drives like Amazon’s CloudDrive, Box.net or DropBox. Both categories of services specialize in keeping a given set of data in sync across multiple machines…they are virtual hard drives. If you were inclined, and your time is not worth much, you could make Evernote into a kind of a Dropbox or Dropbox into a kind of an Evernote. However, the differences are what make each designed for a specific job and I’m an advocate of using the right tool for the job versus spending your time monkeying around.

Dropbox’s focus is files. It’s also great for file sharing using the public directory. (It allows large file sharing – over 50mb – Evernote does not).  Evernote focuses primarily in textual and image content. Evernote allows more versatile and customizable organization in the forms of notebooks and tags (instead of just nested directories).  To summarize, I use DropBox to store my bulk files and I use Evernote to store materials I need to search, recall or use on a periodic basis. Those are just a few of the differences. The reality is these tools can be used differently depending on your needs, work habits.

I suggest you create an Evernote account and commit to using it for a few weeks. See if you have any desire to go back to file/folder structures on your computer after that.

LiveScribe Echo SmartPen Rocks!

I have been a note-taker since developing the habit in high school. For me, the process of taking notes is as much about getting engaged in the talk/conversation as it is for future reference. In the past few years I have tried to shift my note-taking habits from archaic pen and notebook to digital options.

The iPad was a nice improvement….but still it lacked. Often my notes have a doodle or sketching element as I try to depict something visual. I annotate, draw arrows etc. I also find it annoying to type while involved in a discussion…it feels very “court-reporter.” Bottom line, it’s still just a heck of a lot easier to do these things with a pen and paper than a finger and glass screen. But I refuse to ditch technology and take a whole step backward to kinda go forward….follow? Now I don’t have to.

I was recently in a meeting and a colleague pulled out a very sophisticated looking pen from his satchel. The topic of conversation in the meeting for the next ten minutes revolved around his slick contraption called a LiveScribe Echo 8MG Smartpen. I thought for a moment I heard a choir of angels singing from above…this thing is a great middle ground between old school analog note-taking and modern technology. The pen works with specifically designed note pads and records both what is being written in the pads AND the audio if desired! You simply connect the pen via USB port at the end of the day and your notes are uploaded to your computer.

It gets better. LiveScribe syncs with any number of programs…Facebook, Google Docs and the holy grail of them all Evernote. What makes this even better than just capturing a picture of notes and storing it on my computer is the ability to add tags. Now, if I really want to find something I know was noted in my tablet, it’s far easier to find than scrolling page by page.

Notes can be stored as .PDF files and audio even the audio recordings can be exported. You can even save/create a “Pencast”…which is a Flash movie of your writing overlaid with the audio recording. Genius. (Note: with a separate program called MyScript you can convert your clearly written notes into text.) It seems to me, these features are really valuable for consultants, attorneys and students to name a few.

The note pads come in a variety of sizes to suit your needs, or you can print your own “dot” paper as long as your printer is capable of 600 dpi resolution or greater. The 8MG version of the pen ran me $180 on Amazon.com. I picked up a replacement pack of ink cartridges for less than $10.

Thursday I am going to discuss a long-time favorite of mine: Evernote. The combination of the LiveScribe pen and Evernote is like the combination of peanut butter and chocolate in a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup.