I’ve tried to regularly note down what I’m thinking, as often as possible, in notebooks for some years, inspired by one of my PhD mentors, Bill Lieb. He had a book called “Daily Thoughts” that I was blown away by when he let me read it briefly. At that time, I couldn’t imagine to have so many thoughts (something worth writing down, every day……?)
When I got my own office, I thought I’d do it on a whiteboard. The board is covered in writing, but it doesn’t update much. I’m not sure why. Perhaps the lack of a good rubber? Following the advice of a colleague, I was using the now-defunct Journler software on my Mac to try to do the same thing. I tried Evernote about a year ago, but didn’t get it. It didn’t seem very useful and I couldn’t imagine paying for something that lacked basic functions, like attaching files.
I started using Journler after development stopped, because it was so good, but now the gulf between Journler and modern, cloud solutions is widening. I was syncing across machines with Dropbox, which kind of worked, as long as I remembered to quit Journler before I left one machine to start on another. Then I got two journals instead of one, two trash cans. I couldn’t find out how to fix it, the Wiki was gone, and I started to wonder how much longer it would be until one of the increasingly frequent OS X updates broke Journler.
I looked at MacJournal, and then I looked at Evernote again. There’s a world of difference to the app that I looked at last year. Evernote feels solid and responsive. It syncs via the cloud and you get a vast amount of functionality and decent capacity for free. There are many ways to getting stuff in. The latest version, which is about to go into beta, looks even better. Michael Caruso has written a script to get Journler content into Evernote, but you need to get the ‘Premium’ version of Evernote. I transfered my paltry 30 notes directly, by hand, altering the creation date where it seemed important. It helped me to remember some old thoughts. It works great with the phone as well. Siri dictation works for notes – of course it’s hopeless for technical content – and notes sync gracefully. I’m able to note down thoughts on a conversation with a colleague during my commute, when I’ve had a chance to digest (but not yet to forget). Notes with images get great thumbnails, and the whole thing has a great structure.
I actually really enjoy using it, because it reduces the barrier to noting things down. The native app on OS X makes a difference. It’s snappy and looks great. I think I would use Remember the Milk and Glassboard more if they had native desktop apps. These are great apps on the phone, but as web-apps they are clunky. Browsers are actually horrible containers for applications. They’re good in an emergency, they are Swiss army knives. But they’re not the optimal solution. I think that Marco Arment (Instapaper) has said something similar. Evernote has a nifty web clipper that really does work smart. I imported some bookmarks as snapshots. That’s the information I want, and it won’t be lost in future by backend updates to someone else’s forum.
So, the bottom line is, give Evernote a try, even if you didn’t like it once before. It’s mature, and unbelievably good.