I had never heard of Evernote until enrolling in this Digital History class so the spring semester has been a personal crash course in the program/app. Having a Chromebook as opposed to the traditional Mac or PC platforms has added to the adventure. Now that I had a few months to play around with it, I feel like I can contribute to the conversation of its strengths and weaknesses and best/worst features.
Cloud storage has been the emphasis of the last several years and was one of the reasons why I decided to purchase a Chromebook. Having access to updated files on any device has been a great advantage to this new trend in computing. Evernote takes advantage of this trend, allowing its users to take notes anywhere and accessing them anywhere.
First, let’s begin with the basics. Evernote is a great note-taking tool. Outlines are easy to create and its toolbar features mostly everything you could ever need. It allows you to include outside links, create tables, and even attach files. The toolbar even includes “to-do” boxes. What this does is allow the user to create a “to-do” lists, complete with little check boxes that can be checked off as you continue with your research. This has been one of the features I have used most often as I put together my exhibit. It has kept my research organized and allows me to map my progress.
Additionally, each entry in a notebook can be tagged with appropriate words so that notes can be sorted any which way by the user. This is great for those of us who want to save hundreds of sites. Like a pile of note cards, the information you had one day could be buried to the point of its disappearance from your research. If tagged properly, however, notes are easily retrievable and organized.
A user can also have unlimited notebooks and each notebook can be subdivided into smaller notebooks. If one so desires, the notebooks can be shared publicly which encourages researchers from around the world to network with each other.
The greatest strength of Evernote, however, is its “web clipper” that allows you to save any website you may stumble upon on any device. This is great for the researcher who is on the go often and has limited time in front of a computer. If an interesting source is discovered on your mobile device, you can “clip” the site and return to it later when you have the time to fully examine it. It is also beneficial for those of us (all of us?) who end up surfing the web and researching on multiple devices – whether they may be cellphones or work, library, or home computers. Evernote’s web clipper allows you to store all sources in one spot that can be accessed from anywhere.
There are numerous add-on apps for Evernote that I have not personally had the opportunity or time to try out myself. However, one of the more popular ones is called Skitch which allows users to add shapes and text to images and save those images in various formats. This can be a very useful tool for a variety of reasons.
As with everything, though, there are drawbacks. The interface at times seems buggy. Again, I am using a Chromebook and cannot speak to Evernote’s compatibility with Apple or Windows operating systems, but I have had frustration in editing my notes. When I hit the backspace button, the cursor seems to randomly move around the screen at times and delete text that I had no intention of deleting. Another frustration, to me, is the lack of an undo button. Short cuts are great (ctrl + z restores lost text), but the undo/redo buttons are simple additions to any word processing toolbar. I have read that these buttons are available in Evernote for Mac and PC so why would they be excluded from the Android OS?
Another drawback has more to do with a user’s personality and discipline. I find at times that I overuse the web clipper and tend to be lazy in going back and truly studying my sources. The clipper has encouraged me (and others who I have talked to) to save so many sources for later that time does not allow me to rummage through all of them. As I have previously mentioned, the web clipper itself is a useful feature, but it is no different from the bookmarking feature of web browsers in my use.
Overall, I would say Evernote is a very useful tool for note taking and sharing notebooks. I may continue to experiment with it in the future when doing research for other classes, but it will probably be on a more minimal frequency than I am using it now.