So, what is Evernote? It’s a note-taking app designed to collect and organize text, pictures, videos, and audio recordings.
These notes are then backed up to the cloud. This allows the user access to their notes from any platform.
But why do people use it? How do people use it best? And is it best for your purposes?
What is Evernote?
No two workflows are alike, but Evernote could help keep you productive and organized.
First, Evernote is relatively easy to use. There are tutorials everywhere because of its popularity and wide user base. With a shallow learning curve, you won’t have to take much time to understand the app.
Evernote organizes your notes into Notebooks, which are essentially file folders.
The notes themselves are text files with a standard blog-style GUI for formatting text, inserting images, or putting in basic code blocks.
The two most useful features are note tags and the Evernote Web Clipper browser extension.
Note tags work like the tags in a blog post or like a hashtag. This gives you a second method for organizing notes. The tags are useful for searching through notes and categorizing them for later use. All notes tagged with “biology” or “research,” for example, can be found and searched through, no matter what Notebooks they might be in.
Now let’s get into the Web Clipper, one of Evernote’s most useful features.
What is Evernote Web Clipper?
Evernote Web Clipper is a browser extension that copies web content directly to your Notebooks. It’s hard to imagine using Evernote without Web Clipper.
Once installed, Clipper lets you grab images, text, and even whole web pages. These can be sorted into whatever Notebook you choose. You can also add tags when you clip.
Why would you do this? How is it useful? Well, for one, you can grab simplified versions of web pages and send them to your notes. If the web page is one you need to look at frequently for research, it’ll save you time. It’s also useful if you need to access the info on that web page while you’re offline or traveling.
If the website in question is littered with annoying ads and pictures, the Web Clipper can strip them out.
Being more productive with Evernote
Anyone who needs to save a lot of information, access it anywhere, and organize it for reference would find Evernote to be handy.
Students can organize their classes into Notebooks. Ideally, they’d store all of their class notes there, accessible from their laptop or their phone. They could use the tagging system for easier studying later on. If you learn a test is on three specific topics, you can sort your notes by those topics by searching the tags. And since the notes are stored to the cloud, you won’t lose them. And depending on the price tier you choose, you could share them easily with other classmates.
Teachers could get similar use out of Evernote by sorting their lectures by topic. Teachers could also open up a Notebook for each student or each class. Then, all personal notes on the class or individual could go in the Notebook. Professional development could also have its own Notebook. That way, all of the lectures or classes you attend could be saved and sorted later. Those training notes could then be shared with colleagues.
Writers of all stripes are perhaps the most obvious audience for Evernote. Research gets a Notebook. Article, blog, or book ideas get a Notebook. Timelines, characters, persons of interest, word-building all get a Notebook. And the mobile nature means Evernote is always close at hand. Get an idea, jot it down, save it to the cloud.
Lastly, though it requires some extra work, Evernote can be synced with your calendar. This could help your productivity by tying your notes or reminders together with actual dates. You can also set it up so that your calendar events all go into a Notebook automatically, allowing you to take notes on the meetings during or after the fact.
Those are just a few use cases you might want to consider. Before you do, let’s take a look at the pricing structure.
What is Evernote’s price and what do you get?
Before you spend a dime on Evernote, consider checking out the free version, which is serviceable and allows syncing between two different devices.
If your needs are more complicated, should you pay money for Evernote? Is it worth it? Let’s take a look.
The pricing plan is relatively simple to break down.
What comes in the free version of Evernote?
The free version comes with cloud syncing between two devices. One mobile sync to a phone, one sync to a work or home computer. Simple and easy, and it has all of the full note-taking features described above.
The limits on storage and uploads are pretty small. You can upload 60MB of data a month, with a 25MB maximum size for each note. This isn’t a ton of bandwidth, but for more text and simplified website clips it’s sufficient. PDFs and image-heavy notes, which use more data, will run into this per-month cap and even the individual note cap.
Also, your notes can only be made available offline on desktop or laptop. For travelers or those with spotty connections, this might not work.
Features of Evernote Premium
The Premium version of Evernote runs $7.99 a month and adds a few more features.
The note-taking features are the same as the free version. Other features are expanded.
First, the upload limit increases: 60MB a month for the free version becomes 10GB for Premium. Note size jumps from 25MB to 200MB.
Probably one of the most useful added features is app integration. So if you want to combine your Evernote with Slack or Google Drive, Premium will allow you to do it.
The Premium edition lets you scan documents or business cards and forward emails directly to Evernote. You can also make notes and search through the PDFs you add. Sharing options are more robust, and you can make presentations out of your notes.
Premium Evernote also comes with AI suggestions that relate to your notes. This AI takes the content of your notes and suggests possible web pages that seem relevant. The suggestions aren’t always useful because the AI isn’t terribly robust. The signal-to-noise ratio of useful web page suggestions to unrelated links largely isn’t worth it for this feature alone. You could end up spending more time ignoring the AI’s nonrelevant suggestions than taking them.
So, is Premium a good buy? If you’re uploading a lot of very large notes, maybe. If you need to pull files from Google Drive into Evernote, possibly. If PDFs take up a large portion of your notes, and you need them searchable and annotated, probably.
It also may be worth it for offline access on both desktop and mobile platforms.
Features of the Evernote Business version
Evernote Business has all of the features noted above, plus team collaboration and team administration features.
The pricing is a little bit annoying because you need to have at least two users. And the $14.99-a-month price tag is per user. So if you’re just looking to expand your account with business features and more bandwidth, you’re out of luck.
The team and sharing features are what you’d expect. Anyone on the team can share and collaborate on notes. Permissions are assigned by the creator of the note. An assigned admin has greater control and access to notes, Notebooks, and sharing permissions.
The monthly upload starts at a flat 20GB overall, plus 2GB per user.
Is it worth it? Probably not, but to answer that question, we have to look at the alternatives on the market.
What is Evernote’s competition?
Of course, Evernote isn’t the only note-taking app on the market. There are plenty of Evernote alternatives that do the job better, depending on the features you prioritize.
Let’s take a look at some of the alternatives to Evernote.
Bear is a popular note-taking app but is available only for Apple devices. There may be a web version in the pipeline, but that’s not something we can judge at the moment. But if you’re taking notes on your iPhone, Mac, or iPad, Bear is a solid choice.
It’s free unless you’re syncing between devices. Then you’ll have to choose to pay $15 every year for the privilege. Still, if you do math, that’s cheaper than Evernote’s Premium addition.
You can tag notes in Bear with keywords, just like in Evernote. Bear uses a hashtag system instead of a separate tag field, so it’s a little faster. The text notes and Markdown compatibility are comparable to Evernote and its Codeblock functions. It doesn’t have Evernote’s sharing or team collaboration tools; it’s designed for one user.
We’d recommend Bear for single users who just need to take notes. It’s elegantly designed and fast, suffering from none of Evernote’s general feature-bloat problem.
If you have simple needs and are already invested in Apple architecture, Bear is a solid alternative.
Microsoft’s note-taking software is a relatively new offering and is part of Microsoft’s Office suite.
OneNote can be accessed via browser or through the desktop or mobile app. It’s more free-form than Evernote and might appeal to note-takers who enjoy less structure. The notes are organized into notebooks, like Evernote. The notes are backed up to your OneDrive instead of a separate account, like Evernote. The similarities end there.
Instead of traditional pages, each individual OneNote scrolls sideways or down infinitely. Think of it like a digital reel of butcher paper. You can throw images into it alongside the text, with each block of text independent from the others. You can also draw over or around your notes.
OneNote works fine as a text note-taker but shines as a loose brainstorming tool.
However, OneNote isn’t free. It comes packaged with the other Office products in Office 365. Microsoft has a complicated pricing schema, with ongoing or subscription prices. The price also changes based on the home or business versions, but you’ll pay anywhere from $8 a month to $12.50 a month, depending.
Google Keep is a free note-taking software that comes with your Google account.
Keep has an interesting format: when you log in to Keep, you’re given a kind of digital corkboard. Your notes will appear as small boxes on the corkboard and can be arranged as necessary. You can also pin certain notes that you use frequently. They’ll show up at the top of the screen.
You can change the color of the notes, add labels, or add reminders right from this corkboard. You can also add drawings or images with a click of an icon.
Sharing is also pretty easy. You can add a collaborator to any individual note—it sends them an email invite.
It isn’t the most robust note-taker, but it is free and has a solid visual presentation. It’s also mobile-friendly.
Our only real caveat here is to be aware that Google has a track record for abandoning software. This may be relevant only if you’re thinking of adopting Google Keep for a large company or for mission-critical notes. If Google Keep is for your personal use, it’s probably not a big deal.
Is Evernote the best fit for you?
What is Evernote’s defining, most persuasive feature? That depends on what you’re trying to accomplish and how you take notes. Do you want to share your notes with team members?
And, lastly, consider your budget.
If you want to spend as little money as possible (ideally, nothing), Google Keep and Evernote’s free versions are solid choices. Evernote has more features but is bloated. Google Keep is faster but also simpler.
If sharing your notes is more important, Evernote Premium and Bear have robust collaboration options.
If you’re a visual person who enjoys more physical-looking notes, Google Keep and OneNote fit the bill.
As you can see, Evernote isn’t the only game in town. It’s not even the best game in town. But it is pretty versatile and well-supported, and it works fine for many people.
Check out our full review of Evernote for a more detailed breakdown of what Evernote does best and where it needs work.