- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I’m not sure whether my reaction is the first stirrings of a huge crush or more the zeal of a fresh convert from demon rum who has claimed a spot “on the wagon,” but Evernote (www.evernote.com) is the kind of service that, properly understood, can induce the kind of heart pounding usually observed along the rail at Pimlico.

Here is that proper understanding: Evernote is a service, free or premium, that can take all your scraps of information and organize them. Permanently. You can then access these scraps — emails, PDF files, photos, music, short video clips, bits of text — and find they are indexed, either by the title you assign each item or from searchable text within the PDFs you upload.

One estimate I’ve seen has 34 million people, globally, using Evernote. Of these, a couple of million — this reviewer now included — are paying $45 a year for a premium account. The upgrade removes advertising from an Evernote user’s Web page and mobile-device applications, and jumps transfers to 1 gigabyte per month, up from 60 megabytes per month.

Your information is collected in “notebooks,” a fancy word for file folders, I believe, and this can be just one catchall notebook or you can have ones for just about anything you like. It can be aligned with calendars and to-do lists, as well as other needs: I have set up a notebook to hold receipts and records of “personal business expenses” so that come tax time, one part of that chore will be easier.

And how does a receipt get from paper to Evernote, you ask? Just use the camera on your smartphone. Or employ a desktop scanner. Or send (or forward) an email to your private Evernote email address. With any of these options, you have transferred information. Send it as a PDF (the Portable Document Format originated by Adobe for its Acrobat product line, but now available via many applications) and Evernote can recognize keywords within the document, such as “physically sort items from desk,” and find the document, even if you can’t recall the name of a specific note. Given that you can have as many as 100,000 notes and 250 notebooks, forgetting the name of one note is possible.

I’ve used Evernote on a smartphone, on a tablet and on desktop computers via the Google Chrome Web browser. In each case, the program/service/whatever has performed quickly and well, though there are a few seconds of lag time between sending a “note” via email and said note showing up in the database. If that turns out to be my greatest complaint about Evernote, then I shall be a happy user indeed.

As you might suspect, a cottage industry has grown up around Evernote. In part, that’s thanks to productivity addicts such as followers of David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” system, as well as influential bloggers such as publishing industry titan Michael Hyatt. Word-of-mouth has surely grown the Evernote user base, and the base feeds products back into the community.

I’ve used a couple of tools to master all the capabilities of Evernote, of which the most comprehensive that I’ve seen is “Evernote For Dummies,” by David E. Y. Sarna with Vanessa Richie. The $24.99 book is part of the Dummies series to which (full disclosure) this writer once contributed a volume. As it was back then, so it is now: The “Dummies” volume is comprehensive, understandable and entertaining. But I’m also reading Daniel E. Gold’s “Evernote: The Unofficial Guide to Capturing Everything and Getting Things Done,” a $5 title that focuses on the “Getting Things Done” experience. Mr. Gold’s writing is clear on the main points he attacks and is a good supplement to the larger volume.

For this reviewer, the whole Evernote thing is part of a quest — a lifetime one, in my case — to be better organized. Well, actually, to be organized, period. But just like the fellow who got on that wagon, I’ve got a good feeling about things this time around.

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