Evernote for Mac Reviewed (beta version)


Update (2008-05): The beta version was updated to 1.1, bringing support for PDF documents and some other minor goodies.  I’ve updated this post accordingly.  It also reflects the updated scores of Together 2.1.

In March, I was able to snag myself a TechCrunch invitation to try the upcoming Mac version of Evernote.  When I first discovered it in 2004 (for Windows), I soon became an advocate of Evernote for its organizational capabilities.  Evernote wasn’t perfect, but it was already a leader in the market and since then, it’s kept progressing at a steady pace.  Now that it’s starting to breathe on OS X, it’s time for a new testing round.

Today, I took a few hours to run Evernote against my web information collection test benchmark.  I’m now ready to share with you how Evernote, in its actual pre-release form, competes with the pack.

As this is pre-release software, please understand that Evernote will probably fare even better than now when it’ll reach Release Day.  Until then, here’s what I found.

Before jumping in the results, I feel the need to remind you two things:

  1. My tests strictly evaluate what I believe is important for web information collection purposes.  If you’re into organizing all your files, you’ll definitely have to forget Evernote for now.  Evernote handles PDFs and mp3, but not much else.
  2. My tests aren’t tailored to your own needs, nor to mine. Read my comparative review if you want to understand why and how.  Basically, a higher score might mean an application has more potential of supporting your needs, but it really depends on the exact nature of your needs so you’d better look specifically for what’s important to you.

Now, to the results:

  • comparison-information-collectors-2008-03-detail.gifOverall, with a global average score of 2.7, Evernote is already a solid competitor to all the other 8 applications I’ve tested. And since my benchmark isn’t yet adapted to some of Evernote’s innovations, it should in fact score even higher than that.  To recap the global scores, we have:
    • 3.1: Evernote (2.7 plus 0.4 for what my benchmark doesn’t count)
    • 2.8: Journler, Together
    • 2.5: Scrivener, Soho Notes
    • 2.4: EagleFiler
    • 2.3: DevonThink Personal
    • 2.0: Yojimbo
    • 1.8: Circus Ponies NoteBook.
  • Evernote’s collection capabilities are of a different type of breed.  It can’t capture anything as a web archive, but it achieves two things no other application could:
    • First, it never fails to capture the link of the page from which comes the item collected;
    • Second, it features the best consistency of collection features you could find now, with an unbelievable score of 16 out of 20:
      • 16: Evernote
      • 9: EagleFiler, Together
      • 6: DevonThink, Scrivener, Soho Notes, Yojimbo
      • 3: Journler
      • 0: NoteBook
  • Like EagleFiler and Yojimbo, it could use a bit more bells and whistles to help us navigate our items the way it pleases us.  Although it scores exactly like Yojimbo under this benchmark, I need to tell you its features should make it score at least twice better, because it brings some new ways of navigating that are truly useful but are not yet evaluated by my benchmark in its actual form.  In any case, Evernote could use some improvements to its user experience.  In its welcome thumbnail view, I’d like better quality thumbnails, and to be able to hit the space bar to bring a Quickview (like the standard Leopard behavior we’re now so used to), and to be able to interact with the thumbnails by right-clicking them, and finally, to be able to view and edit their tags just there, below each thumbnail.  Also, the thumbnail view highlights a lack of Evernote: no true collection of items as web archives – since it’s really a visual feature, it would be great to have our items look exactly like they looked on the web.  I sincerely hope the release version will bring important improvements here.
  • Evernote features the best integration of tagging in its interface.  That’s already quite an accomplishment!  If it would bring a few things from its Windows counterpart, most importantly the ability to dynamically filter the tag list while we intersect tags, it would come exceptionally close to being perfect.
  • Although it’s not completely reflected in my current benchmark, Evernote features the best and most useful overall search capabilities of any other application, thanks to its great general capabilities and, most specifically, to its ability to search through pictures for text, even hand-written text!  I know some people could argue for Journler’s or DevonThink’s specific search capabilities, but here I’m speaking of the overall search features.
  • Finally, Evernote features the best sharing capabilities of any other application.  All your items are automatically saved and synchronized on a secure web site, on which you have the option to publish items for the public.  You can even add to your collections from any computer on which you find interesting internet content.  Moreover, the web site is really quick and responsive, and feels a lot like the desktop application itself.

All in all, Evernote for Mac brings incredible competition into the domain of web information collection applications.  I see myself using Evernote over anything else for this purpose soon, although I will probably continue using some of its competitors for other specific needs.  Writing in Scrivener is something Evernote won’t compete with, for example.  Moreover, since the application itself will be free, Evernote will bring quite a new challenge to some of its general-purpose competitors.  Evernote will change the face of the market as we know it today.  I hope it will be both for the best interest of itself and its competitors; if it is, then we’ll also benefit greatly from that as a result.


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15 Responses to “Evernote for Mac Reviewed (beta version)”

  1. 8 Web Information Collectors Reviewed « Daniel mostly on Software Says:

    […] wolf that’s coming in the pack, and it already redefines most of what’s best.  Read this review to know […]

  2. Justin Says:

    What about online services like Backpackit.com?

  3. Jack Carlson Says:

    I agree wholeheartedly. After 2+ years of using EverNote I have yet to find another application that could replace it. I frequently use the highlight/right-click option to post snippets of text or registration codes directly to EverNote. It has revolutionized my web experience. As a blogger and writer, I have found that EverNote and TinySpell are two applications without which I cannot function.

  4. Daniel Jomphe Says:

    Justin: Online services may be great, but in the area I tested, I haven’t yet seen something as good as on the desktop. If it’s not tightly integrated into my operating system, I won’t use it. I want to be able to drag and drop in and out of my collections of items, etc., without having to upload a file to backpack’s servers, for example. And I never want to wait for any kind of page refresh or ajax trip before I’m where I want to be. It’s the kind of tool that needs to stay out of my way, but right in front of me at the instant I need it. I used to rely on diigo+del.icio.us for filing my notes and bookmarks (and still do for bookmarks), but these web apps would still need a very good desktop client. I haven’t seen one that’s as good as what I’ve tested. To me, Evernote is that – unification of web’s and desktop’s respective advantages.

    Jack: If you’re considering switching to a mac, in case you don’t know, OS X comes with a built-in spell-checker. Wait, if you’re into reading blog posts *and* leaving comments, you almost certainly already know that.

  5. Gordon R. Vaughan Says:

    Hi Daniel, glad to see you’re blogging again, hope you are well. I found this via the Evernote twitter.

    Evernote’s got a neat interface and you’re probably right that it’s a really strong choice if collection is your main criteria. My main criteria, OTOH, is organization and search, and I’m very happy with DEVONthink.

    I do wish DT could import better, especially import directly my 100s of old MORE outlines from Classic, and that it had some outlining capabilities itself. You’re also right deducting points in your other post/review for lack of tag support: this is such a powerful feature it should be in just about any software nowadays.

    I disagree, however, about the “dinosaur” interface – I was actually looking for an interface like that, with sidebars, 2 or 3-pane views, etc., and was amazed how few programs seemed to have a screen space-efficient version of that.

    Anyway, thanks for the reviews. I’ll make a note of them in DT (& a mention on my twitter, too).

  6. Daniel Jomphe Says:

    Hi Gordon, yes, I no more feel any kind of pressure re: blogging often or “I’m a failure if I don’t”. I’m now happily married with the pretty young lady I met in 2005 and I changed jobs in 2005 also, moving to Montreal City. Quite big changes in my life! And that’s not all… I believe you’re going well too, along with your family, and that would be really great.

    By the way, I went on your tech blog the other day to catch up with you. When I saw how much prolific in writing you are, I decided to come back later because I still feel “obliged” to read the essence of what a blogger has already written when I subscribe to him/her. I’m working on stopping to require so much out of myself. In any case, I wanted to read your posts about twitter, and I’ll definitely do it soon. I’m no early twitter adopter, and I fear following the pack might mean too much time on twitter for me. OTOH, it looks like it’s about the best way to informally exchange with geeks like me.

    Thanks for your opinions. You’d be right to say my evaluation of DT’s interface was really superficial. On this particular criteria, I evaluated at least as much based on my feelings than on the qualities of the interfaces. This being said, I’m interested to know how DT’s organizational and search features are better suited to your needs than the others’. Re: search, do you use often the “See also” feature?

  7. John Mather Says:

    EN looks very promising as you have pointed out. I’ve got a lot of stuff in EagleFiler files and I’m hoping there is some easy way to transfer it. I have the Mac app and have already loaded some new stuff in it but I’m still looking for an invite. Been chasing them all around the Net. They must be doing a good job of getting the buzz going.

  8. Daniel Jomphe Says:

    John: I just sent you an invite.

    To people who’d like an invite, show yourself at:

    danieljomphe+evernote … gmail …

    I’ll update this comment as soon as I have no more invites available.

  9. ` « Techno Bliss Says:

    […] If this sounds interesting to you, check out the article Jott Your Wat To EverNote Bliss by Brad Isaac over at lifehacker.com. Also, some reviews over at theAppleBlog and Daniel mostly on Software. […]

  10. Together and Evernote: Updates Reviewed « Daniel mostly on Software Says:

    […] Updates Reviewed First, let’s get Evernote’s business out now: I have updated my recent review to reflect its new beta 1.1 […]

  11. Sergio Says:

    Have you ever tried to EXPORT an Evernote clipping? It is not possible!. Second, the implementation of the source list is not quite standard. Those ugly (really ugly from a visual standpoint) horizontal bars separating the clusters of the sidebar, are really disappointing. Third, have you looked at the structure of folders of the library (in the Finder)? Four, EN RTF isn’t complaint with the RTF of cocoa services. If you copy and paste an RTF with a picture in it to TextEdit, it will not paste the picture.I think that what EN developers want, is that you can’t get out your data from it. I don’t think your 2.7+ 0.4 score isn’t far in that sense.

  12. Daniel Jomphe Says:

    Sergio: You highlight the fact that I didn’t evaluate these kinds of concerns. I hope to integrate them in the second version of my benchmark, if I ever come with it. In any case, I’m really thankful for your opening my eyes to these *rough* edges of EN.

  13. Brett Says:

    I was fully prepared to drop all my material into Evernote as well, until I realized I couldn’t get all my RTF files back out. Hopefully in a future release. Still using Yojimbo and 1Password for now…

  14. Saunders Says:

    I, for one, have yet to find anything for the mac that is as useful as OneNote for Windows. And I have tried them all.

  15. Daniel Jomphe Says:

    I own OneNote but haven’t much ever used it because I didn’t like its hierarchical organization. That said, it’s definitely true that OneNote allows a user interaction with content on a much higher level. Ms Office is definitely the killer app of the Windows world. :\

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