Heads up folks! Great things are happening surrounding two of your favourite apps: Springpad and Evernote. Firstly, Springpad is doing something that has been long-awaited and needed — namely, adding a web clipper that is optimized just for Mobile Safari. They’ve also caught up with Android by finally giving us iPhone and iPad users a Quick Add button for the home screen.
More importantly though — and this is no slight to the awesome Springpad, but credit where credit is both due and needed — my friend and one of our most informative and helpful commenters, Daniel Gold, has just released his first eBook[affiliate link]! It’s about Evernote, it’s about GTD in Evernote, it looks awesome — and it’s only $5 bucks!
I will be testing out the new Springpad awesome for a full report next week, and will also read and review Daniel’s Evernote eBook. I’m already a bit biased in its favour, because I’m familiar with Daniel’s work on his blog and his many awesome comments here (where I met the man). In fact, he has been a major contributor in both inspiration and expertise to several of my posts on this blog. Nonetheless, I’ll be as narrow-eyed and judgemental as any good reviewer should be… :P
Last week, when it was still August (where the hell did the summer go?), Evernote released the mother of all iOS updates. There was a lot to it — a cool redesign, a lock feature for premium users — but the big deal was the inclusion of a rich text editor and the ability to access notes in shared notebooks.
The new features aren’t as robust as the desktop version of Evernote, of course, but are nonetheless dripping with the sort of awesome that makes you want to find your Irish roots and dance a merry jig.
Here are the highlights:
Rich Text Editor
The new editor allows for basic bold, italics, underline, bullets and the like, as well as strike-through, header text, highlighting and linking. You can also edit notes that were already created with rich text, which is great, but don’t think the append prompt is gone for good. If the note has too much fancy in it, even the new editor may not like it. There is a new option, though, that saves at least a bit of headache: the ability to simplify the formatting to be workable in the iOS apps. This way, you only lose some of the formatting, instead of everything.
Note: Checkboxes are still not able to be created in Evernote for iOS. You can check them, but not make them.
Tired of not being able to access a note or notebook that someone shared with you? Now that Evernote has added shared notebooks into iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, you can breathe easy. Note that I said access, however. You can only read them, not create new ones. Yet.
Another handy feature is the new ability to search within notes. Want to find a word or turn of phrase from your note? Now you can, quickly and easily. It’s no desktop search, but it’s definitely a good start.
This is only the tip of the update-iceberg. There’s a lot more going on under the hood and in the form of a new look and feel for Evernote’s iOS apps. If you haven’t updated yet, you should. Get the full list of new features here.
Thoughts on Evernote’s new iOS features? Head down to the comments!
I just confirmed with the CEO of Memonic that the crazy premium account deal ($3.33 Euro for 10,000 notes and 50GB storage) link works until the end of October. And it works for whomever, not just the Swiss/Germans. Translate the page from German and get it while it’s hot!
There’s been a lot of discussion on 40Tech about which is the best note-taking app. While the battle is generally between Springpad and Evernote, occasionally a new option steps in for a punch or two. This week’s contender has been watching, learning, and in many cases even improving upon the competition. I’d like to introduce you all to Memonic — there’s a reason it made App of the Week.
When it comes to note-taking apps, there are five key things to look for: how easy it is to get information into the app, organization and sharing features, overall usability, cross-platform possibilities, and personal preference. That last is a huge factor in user adoption. Depending on what you need your notes app to do, one or another may work better for you.
Evernote, for example, is well suited to those who just need a straight ahead, highly searchable portable filing cabinet. It can do many other things, true, such as be used for a GTD system, but portable (and searchable!) filing cabinet is what it does best. Springpad, on the other hand, is great for taking notes, but has this fantastic capacity for making certain types of notes “smart.” If you like to comparison shop, find good deals, or get value from what the people in your network are interested in, Springpad’s note-alerts system offers you something no other note-taking app can match.
Memonic doesn’t have the budget that Springpad or Evernote has. They’ve been bootstrapping their system for a while now, and when you consider that and then see what they’ve put together, I have no doubt you’ll be impressed. I was — and am. Just as Evernote and Springpad differ in their approach and target markets, Memonic has brought its own angle to the field: research and collaboration. Now, before the Evernote lovers start touting shared notebooks, and the Springpad-enamoured bring up the oh-so-very-cool Board, hear me out. Those are all excellent features — but if you want an app that makes it easy to share and organize notes on a project (or projects), easy to be notified when new notes and research snippets have arrived or been commented on, and ridiculously simple to gather information in the first place, then Memonic is the clear choice.Here’s why:
Memonic can be used as a central collaboration notebook for research, planning, and discussions on projects. You can create a group, invite a few people, and then get to work. The group gets its own page with its own activity feed, too, which makes it simple to be notified and to keep an eye on progress.
If you run into the ever-present problem of working with someone who doesn’t want to use the service, sharing notes with people outside of Memonic is easy, too. You can share via Facebook, Twitter, email, or a link, RSS feeds, and you can even embed notes on web pages — which is a nice touch.
Memonic’s group and contacts features are fully realized with the feed-like Dashboard. The Dashboard not only shows you a quick clip of everything you’ve posted recently, but it also shows the public posts of your contacts — which can be opened and read in full right from the dashboard itself. See something you like? Copy it to your own collection of notes, or share it with others via email, link, Facebook, or Twitter (or even copy it to Word) with just a few clicks.
The Best Clipper I’ve Come Across
I love the Evernote Web Clipper, and I like the Springpad Clipper even better, but both can get a bit irritating if you’re in a hurry. Memonic’s clipper does away with the click and drag highlighting and breaks each section of content on a page into regions that can be selected with a single click. You can do multiple parts of the page, or even the entire page in one go. When you’re doing a lot of web research, this speeds up the process immensely.
Quick content selection isn’t the only reason the Memonic clipper stands out over the others. The other big one is Gathering Mode, which is a little toggle switch that allows you to lock in your settings for where you want to put your notes — folder, privacy level — and save you the trouble of having to re-establish those settings for every single clipping. It’s awesome — and I have no idea why other clippers don’t do the same. The only thing I would like to see added to Gathering Mode is the ability to lock in tags, as well.
Finally, the Memonic clipper has a variety of other useful modes that can replace a number of other services with just this one:
Read Later mode that allows you to grab entire pages
Bookmark mode (which provides a nice snippet description as well)
Screenshot mode that attaches an image of the visible browser area
Write a note (to get to the note taking without even opening the service)
The web clipper works with all major browsers — and even works by bookmarklet with Safari for iPad. If that isn’t enough, there is also a clipper for Windows that allows you to clip content outside of the browser.
Clean and Simple Design — Across all Platforms
Memonic focuses on the minimal. The way notes are displayed in expandable windows that are neatly separated from one another is easy on the eyes and easy to use. The look and feel is distinctly uncluttered, and is fairly persistent across all versions of the app. And you can get Memonic pretty much anywhere: Windows and Mac desktop apps, iPhone, iPad, Android devices, and the web app for everything else. Mobile versions don’t have the Dashboard, unfortunately, but everything else you could want is there, both online and off.
For a small operation, Memonic is throwing around some important integrations, especially for the business set. Here’s just a few: Salesforce, SugarCRM, Confluence, Sharepoint — and guess what… they are planning to integrate with Evernote! That may seem a bit weird, but soon, all those who can’t bear to walk away from Evernote, but love the power of the Memonic clipper, will be able to use the super-awesome clipper to save content directly to their Evernote accounts. A nice, tidy little bit of genius on the part of Memonic, if you ask me.
If, for some strange reason, you need more than the promise of Evernote integration, well, Memonic also integrates a save button into Facebook so you can save your favourite photos, status updates, and wall posts. Want more? How about Google Reader integration so you can clip your favourite posts while reading your feeds? How’s that tickle you?
Memonic’s co-founder, Dorian Selz, and the rest of the team have worked their butts off on a bootstrap budget to put together one of the most robust note-taking apps I’ve ever come across — a definite rival for Evernote and Springpad if it gets the notice it deserves. The only issue I personally have with Memonic is that their free version is limited to only 100 notes and doesn’t have Gathering Mode. To get the full service, though, only costs $28/year — which isn’t bad considering Evernote premium is $45/per year — and Memonic doesn’t have any advertising to clutter up your experience. If you do a lot of research on your own, or as part of a student or business team, give Memonic a try — you just might love it. And there are discounts for students, too.
As you probably already know, GTD and Productivity are creatures that live somewhere deep in my bones. They speak to me, manipulate me, and generally run my life. Not in a bad way, you understand — even if they come across as a little obsessive, the little monsters really do have my best interests at heart. They’re the reason I’m always looking for new and inventive ways to refine and apply workflows. They’re also the reason that I’ve met some cool people who have their own little creatures that bitch and nag them into action.
During a recent conversation on Google+, with a circle of those people, we were discussing the benefits of both Producteev and Evernote as GTD tools, and how it would be great if they worked together. We decided to test out a means of making that happen, with Evernote as the ultimate collection tool, and Producteev as the magic task management/Google Calendar integrator.
Here’s what I proposed (have a read and tell me what you think):
The Gist of the Idea
The first thing to do is make Evernote able to send email directly to firstname.lastname@example.org. To do this, you need to register the email address that your Evernote uses (to email out a note) in your Producteev workspace(s). Now, any tasks in Evernote that you want to process into Producteev can be done directly from within EN.
The next thing you need to do is make sure your Evernote notes get to the right place in your Producteev setup. Producteev’s email2task functionality is fantastic. It incorporates a lot of simple language that allows you to easily do things like schedule a task from email by writing “Do this task tomorrow at 2pm” in the subject line (more on syntax below). If you are working in the Evernote desktop app, you can easily send out an email by selecting that option under Share, and then changing the subject line to reflect the appropriate email2task syntax. If you are in a mobile app, or unable to change the subject line for some reason, then you can simply change the title of your note to reflect what you want the email subject line to say.
These two steps make it possible to collect information in Evernote and share it with Producteev quickly and easily. Producteev can connect to Google Calendar, as well, for two-way sync (coming first week of February, 2012), which gives you the opportunity to finally connect Evernote to Google Calendar, if only by proxy.
Finally, using the Copy Note Link or Copy URL to Clipboard features found under the Note and Share buttons in Evernote, you can add the note’s own link to the email or note body, and leave an easy to follow link back to Evernote in any Producteev task you create.
GTD Use Cases for a Evernote-Producteev Bridge
You could manage your GTD system in Evernote, doing everything from collecting to archiving, but use Producteev during processing to set up automated reminders and Google Calendar events. You could also add in email or IM Producteev functionality to easily close and update tasks, including sharing and delegating without ever logging in to the tool itself.
You could also manage your GTD in Producteev and simply use Evernote as your main collection tool, as well as for keeping all of your reference material and archives in one easily searchable place. Producteev has many ways of inputting tasks, but Evernote can utilize voice, image, and text entry, as well as the clipper, and a crazy number of integrations, to collect and organize information.
Evernote has superior collection capability but no true task management functionality.
Producteev’s notes system and ability to add attachments simply can’t compare to Evernote.
When you send an Evernote item into Producteev, the body is converted to a note. Actually, you end up with several notes, as any images that Evernote uses in the background of the note are added as separate (and useless) note items in Producteev. HTML is stripped out entirely, and this will sometimes leave garbage code in the text of the Producteev note. See the image below (thanks to Daniel Gold for doing the first test run!).
Even though the Producteev notes are in plain text, the note itself is still in both tools. In Producteev, the notes system can be used to conduct a conversation around the task with others who have access to the workspace, or to leave additional notes for yourself if you are using Producteev as your main management system.
General Workflow & Syntax
Collect in Evernote
Process to Producteev via Evernote email-out and Producteev email2task syntax (with scheduled items going to Gcal, as well, for the visual calendar)
Manage tasks in Evernote with Producteev used only for scheduling and reminders OR
Manage tasks in Producteev and/or email with Evernote for archival reference
Syntax tips can be found here, but the basics are as follows:
today, tomorrow, days of the week, next week, specific dates (today 8pm, August 10 8pm, 8pm August 10 when combining date and time)
done (to register a task as being completed)
@ to assign a task to a workspace collaborator (@Michael, @Michael Lewis, @Lewis, @ML)
* to indicate a priority level using our 1-5 starring system (4* or ****)
# to indicate workspace name (#Personal)
## to indicate the appropriate label (##Marketing)
“” to add task notes (“follow up” or ‘follow up’)
/ to have the beaver run searches for you (/today for a list of all of your tasks due by the end of the day)
So what do you think of the possibilities of integrating Producteev and Evernote into one system that is relatively seamless? Thoughts? Concerns? Is this worthwhile? Let us know in the comments!
40Tech has a serious interest in productivity technology, especially as related to GTD (Getting Things Done). We love talking about workflows with our readers, sharing our own techniques as well as learning how you use technology to keep your life on track. As we’ve come to expect, grown-up geeks are fonts of information, and you’ve inspired us to invite you to post your genius here on 40Tech. The first to step up was Chase Mann with his combination of OneNote, Evernote, and Outlook for GTD, and now we are pleased to bring you the first of three posts by Nina Kefer. Nina is often mobile, and has put together three systems that she has tested extensively, using some of the prettier iPhone and web apps out there as her GTD hub.
First up: GTD in Awesome Note with a side of Evernote!
Beauty and Brains: Getting Things Done™ In Style
I have always been a firm believer in the principle of “Form Follows Function”. However, I do not believe that “Ornament is Crime”, as is often extrapolated by proponents of FFF. As long as eye candy isn’t at the expense of functionality I can’t see anything wrong with it. On the contrary, it actually helps me to Get Things Done because a pretty user interface makes me want to look at my to-dos and makes taking care of them fun. If my to-dos look bland or, God forbid, ugly, I avoid looking at them until I forget that they even exist. Thus began my quest to find a to-do system that is as beautiful as it is powerful. As a frequent international traveller, I often rely on my smartphone to keep my life organised, so I needed a system that was built around an iPhone app that stays in sync with the web and/or desktop of my netbook.
Part 1: Awesome Note
The first app I explored was Awesome Note, a note-taking-cum-to-do app that syncs with Evernote and Google docs. Notes created with Awesome Note are designed to look like real life paper notes that are kept in colourful manila folders. By default, the app randomly assigns one of fifteen available background patterns and a default font to each new note, but backgrounds and fonts are customisable, as are the colour, icon and default theme of each folder. You are limited to five folders per screen, but you can create as many folders as you like, arrange them in whatever order suits you best and then simply swipe through them from screen to screen. It’s a pity that GTD doesn’t offer more opportunities to sample the neat animation, like “turning pages” while browsing from note to note within a folder.
Being an Evernote front-end, Awesome Note’s functions, are very flexible. Every note can be transformed into a to-do, a check list, a calendar item, a page in a diary or photo album, or a birthday or anniversary reminder, simply by changing the view or type of note or by assigning a due date. You can also tag your notes and to-dos and use the built-in search function to look up tags or keywords. To help you keep on top of all the notes inside your folders, there’s a little notebook at the top of each screen that shows how many notes there are in total, how many to-dos are due today and if there are any unassigned notes waiting to be processed. Next to it, there’s a quick memo pad where you can jot down ideas, via keyboard or handwriting input, or draw a sketch. Lastly, you can share your notes and to-dos via SMS or email, send them to a compatible printer or lock your folders with a passcode. This may sound a bit overwhelming, but everything can be done with just a few quick taps.
GTD Setup in Awesome Note
Awesome Note comes with pre-installed folders, but they can easily be renamed or replaced and new ones can be created as necessary. For my GTD setup I created ten folders, five for each screen. Since the sync of tags between Awesome Note and Evernote is limited (more on that in a moment), I combined Next Action and Context to create five Action folders that I review daily. I placed those on the first screen, so I can see them as soon as I open the app:
On the second screen I placed the folders I review weekly or less often:
Working With Evernote
As my back-end I chose Evernote because it has both web and desktop versions and is generally more versatile than Google docs. Sync between the apps is speedy, but due to their different functionalities not really tight enough to use phone, web and desktop interchangeably. For example, Awesome Note’s folders appear in Evernote as notebooks that are easily identifiable by the prefix [aNote], but while Awesome Note allows you to arrange the folders in whatever order you want, Evernote automatically puts the notebooks in alphabetical order.
You can attach up to nine pictures to a note, but they will only sync from Awesome Note to Evernote, not vice versa, and due dates, status, font and background formatting don’t sync at all.
Finally, although both apps use tags, tags added in Evernote don’t sync to Awesome Note and tags added in Awesome Note are merely included as a footnote in Evernote. Fortunately, the powerful Evernote search finds them there, so there’s no need to double-tag. Since I do most of my GTD in Awesome Note and use Evernote web and desktop only for convenient text entry and backup, none of the above was a deal breaker for me. I just numbered my folders so they would appear in the same order on all three platforms and didn’t worry too much about the order of the notes inside.
The “No Category” Inbox
The “No Category” folder at the top of the screen is my inbox where I collect emails, tasks and ideas that come to me during the day, things that I need to buy or adverts I see on my way to work and want to follow up later. This is easy since notes that aren’t assigned to a specific folder automatically get dumped in there, no matter what screen you are in when the note is created.
Emails and URLs can be copied/pasted into the body of a note, photos can be attached from the camera roll or taken from within the app, and Google maps can be added. Alternatively, you can forward emails to Evernote and then sync with Awesome Note. Making a note read-only makes URLs, email addresses and phone numbers clickable, but unfortunately there is no option to link notes to contacts in the iPhone’s address book, so they have to be copied over manually. Quick memos that are saved as notes also end up in “No Category” (whatever you scribble down on the memo pad stays there until you either save or clear it). These are great for basic drawing. For example, you can ask someone how to get from A to B and then take the sketch with you or email it to a friend.
I review my inbox daily and process its contents according to David Allen’s GTD methodology:
If a task takes less than 2 minutes, I do it right away
If it takes longer or I can’t do it where I am I move it to the appropriate Next Action folder
If it takes more than two steps to complete I move it to Projects and create a to-do for the Next Action in the appropriate folder
Time sensitive to-dos can be assigned alarms. Awesome Notes uses local alarms, so you will be reminded even if data roaming is disabled or the phone is in airplane mode. If a task should be delegated to someone else it goes into @Waiting with a review date to remind me to check up on and, if necessary, chase the person I have delegated the task to. Lastly, things I may want to do at some point in the future are parked in Someday and anything that doesn’t require action is either archived in Reference or deleted. If a note is moved into one of the Next Action folders it is converted to a to-do and, if possible, assigned a due date. Additionally, while Awesome Note doesn’t sync with any third party calendar, every folder, including “All”, has a calendar view that displays the to-dos within that folder, marked with the folder’s colour.
Next Actions that have been assigned a due date pop up automatically as they become due. A red badge on the app icon shows how many to-dos are due or overdue; within the app this is shown next to the red tick box at the top of the screen. Additionally, I check the Next Action folders whenever I have a spare moment. For example, when I sit down at my PC I check if there’s anything else I could do while I’m at it.
In order to make my tags more prominent in Evernote, I start the title of a to-do that I want to be searchable with the appropriate place, person or project name. This has the added benefit of being able to search tasks alphabetically in Awesome Note. Usually I sort by due date, but if I’m going to contact person ABC I can alpha-sort the to-dos in my @Contact folder to make sure I cover everything “tagged” ABC. One tag per to-do is usually enough for me – a place tag for to-dos in @Errands, a person tag for @Contact, a project tag for @Computer and so on – and it only takes two taps to sort. Awesome Note does have a search function for both tags and keywords, but no saved searches, so this doubles as a quick-and-dirty search.
The project folder is reviewed weekly, or more often if I have extra time. Awesome Note doesn’t support sub-tasks or checklists, so I list the sub-tasks of each project in the body of the parent note, e.g. Project XYZ, and then cut/paste them into individual to-dos as I work through that project. I do the same for checklists or shopping lists. Alternatively, if you want to be able to check off each item individually, you can make a dedicated folder and create a to-do for each item.
Awesome Note may have been created primarily as a note taking app, but its to-do capabilities are powerful and lend themselves well to GTD. The limited sync with Evernote forces me to keep my setup simple and fuss-free and the cheerful design makes Getting Things Done fun. I just wish that tags would sync properly with Evernote, as they do with Egretlist, and that tasks would sync with the iPhone calendar.
Let me know what you think of Awesome Note’s GTD capabilities in the comments!
Nina lives in the UK and works in Financial Services. A frequent international traveller, she has extensive experience of managing life on the go. A trip to Japan opened her eyes to the possibilities of mobile phone technology and she has been attempting to achieve a similar level of connectivity ever since. This is her first technology article.