Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Some specific uses of Evernote

I've been using Evernote for a while now, but mostly as an experiment to see if it really helps me remember things I would otherwise have hard time remembering, or organize loose, unstructured pieces of information I had hard time organizing and finding. In the last few months I've found two clear uses for it.

1. I take pictures of people's business cards and store them in Evernote. This lets me throw away the paper copy of the card. In the past I felt uncomfortable throwing away business cards, because "you never know when you'll need this person's info again". I tried storing those cards in business card holders, but those (a) fill up very quickly, (b) take up space, (c) it's not practical to carry them with you, which means if in the middle of your workday you suddenly thought you'd need someone's contact information, you'll have to wait until you get home to look it up, and then remember that you meant to do it. Most importantly, (d) paper cards are not really searchable the way computer information is. Since Evernote indexes the text in images, and your notes are accessible from anywhere via a web browser, storing them in Evernote is definitely a win.

At least in theory. In practice, I never needed to retrieve the info in 99% of business cards I collected over the years. So I can't really say Evernote made things easier for me in that respect. What it did is eliminated my pangs of guilt when throwing away the cards.

2. Looking up calorie content of restaurant dishes. When I eat out, calories are an important consideration in my choice of food. Most restaurants don't list the nutrition content of their dishes on their menu (one can only hope Austin will become like New York in that respect one day), but they often list it on their websites. I go to websites of eateries that appeal to me, and clip their nutritional information into Evernote. When I get to the restaurant, I can access it either through the web (if the restaurant has WiFi) or locally on my laptop in the Evernote for Windows application.

As always when I evaluate any kind of technology, I compare the ways I do things with it with the ways I would do them without it. Without Evernote, I would have to manually save those web pages to disk. That can get complicated if the information in a web page is contained in images (nutrition information is often presented as an image, like a label on packaged food). Also, without Evernote my notes would not get automatically synchronized, hence wouldn't be accessible from any computer I am at, including my smartphone.

Accessing the notes is not always convenient, though. If I want to look them up on my computer when I walk into a restaurant, I have to wait for the laptop to come out of hibernation. That takes a few minutes. Alternatively, I could access them from my mobile phone over a web browser. The mobile version of Evernote website is rather limited in its functionality. It doesn't show the notebook structure, it only shows the notes in the reverse chronological order. That's not very convenient, but the search function helps a lot, making it a decent, though imperfect, way to access the notes.


Troy Malone said...

Are you using a special lense to capture those business cards? My iPhone stinks at close distance images.

Check out our integration with Evernote, I think you might like it: http://www.vimeo.com/2024523

Elze said...

I'm not using a special lense, just my point-and-shoot camera. Can't say it has had troubles capturing text at close distances. A phone camera might be a different matter, since they are not really designed for quality photography as standalone cameras are. On the other hand, my AT&T Tilt phone camera also does a decent job of capturing close-up images of text.