A Step Toward Ubiquitous Data

I have previously stated a desire to have what I term ubiquitous data; that is my data available wherever I need it. Having tried various tools, it was starting to look like Google Notebook was shaping up to be the best option at freeing up my data as I could capture and view info in a desktop and mobile browser. Well, unfortunately, Google have recently chosen to stop development on Notebook.

By chance, I had recently come across Evernote and my first impressions of it is that it is a strong contender to finally deliver on my desire for ubiquitous data. Evernote provides a full featured desktop app (goodbye SOHO Notes), a slightly less featured browser-based interface and (at least for now) a rather minimal mobile interface that is also browser-based (at least on the Nokia N95 — Evernote does not yet have a native S60 mobile client).

Evernote also goes beyond simple web clipping, tagging and categorization with features that allow you to upload photos/scans and do OCR on them. This is pretty cool — you can take an iSight image of a plane ticket or itinerary, place it in Evernote and it will not only be available through all the channels, but you will be able to search for information that is in the image (flight number, airline, arrival/departure city).

Evernote also addresses the link-rot concern by making a copy of the web content in addition to noting the URL. So if the original site goes away, you still have the data you were interested in. One consequence of this is that the page you capture doesn’t always look like the original because some styling information may be lost. I have also found that it doesn’t do a great job if you clip something out of Google Reader or Gmail — the resulting clip tends to lose most all of it’s formatting and just run together into one long ugly string.

Evernote is not without it’s pitfalls though. I rather quickly discovered that the sync mechanism needs some work. For example, if I clip something from the browser it goes into the default notebook. If I then create a new folder via the desktop client and move the recently uploaded note into it, the new notebook shows up in the browser but the new note still shows up in the default notebook. No amount of forced syncs or logging in/out seem to fix this. I have noticed that after a day or so, the notebooks seem to somehow get back in sync. An extremely useful addition to the browser clipping bookmarklet would be to allow the user to create a new notebook at the time that they are submitting the clipping.

The lack of a native S60 client really limits the usefulness of the mobile client for me as there are plenty of opportunities to snap an image of something I want to note and upload it rather than peck out a note manually. Instead I have to download the image to the Mac and upload it via the desktop client. I see there is an opportunity to use MMS to send an image via email from the phone. I’ll give this a shot and see how it goes. Otherwise, I would be happy to help Evernote alpha/beta test an S60 client when they develop one.

Overall, I am hugely encouraged by Evernote and will continue to explore it’s features and functionality. If only Evernote would create an easy migration tool for Google Notebook (and perhaps even SOHO Notes) users that would be a huge adoption aid.

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