For the past few years, I’ve been using three note taking apps side by side. Two of the three apps have stayed the same over the years, while the third has changed a couple of times. Why three apps? It’s partially a function of the strengths and weaknesses of the apps I use, but it’s largely a function of my brain liking to keep different types of data segregated into different apps. In my system, each app serves a different purpose:
Byword has long been one of my favorite text editors on the Mac, iPad, and iPhone. I like it for its simplicity, its effortless sync between Mac and iOS, and its Markdown support. (For a short primer on Markdown and its virtues, check down my earlier post on it.) Byword has recently become even more useful, adding support for direct publishing to Evernote, WordPress, Tumblr, Blogger, and Scriptogram. Read more
Could Google be launching a competitor to Evernote and Springpad? Google scrapped its Notebooks app quite some time ago, but according to a story on the Verge yesterday, it looks like the company might be ready to get back into the note taking app business. Would you give it a try?
I’m sure that Google will insert many hooks into its other services, that will make the app very tempting. Still, there are a couple of reasons that I probably won’t be leaving Evernote anytime soon. Read more
A recent article on Lifehacker has me wondering if I’m using Evernote all wrong. I only have two main notebooks in Evernote: Work, and Personal. There are a few other random ones that are automatically created by apps, such as the notebook that Scanner Pro, an iOS app, creates. I also have an “Inbox” notebook where notes reside until they are moved into one of the other notebooks. But by and large, all of my notes go into my two main notebooks. Am I in the minority with how I use Evernote notebooks? Read more
At this risk of sounding like a snob, I can say that user reviews of certain iOS apps seem to miss the mark at times, because of uninformed users. This often seems to occur with subscription-based apps, such as LastPass, where users don’t realize that a subscription is required to get the full features of the app. Other times, this happens when users don’t seem to understand the limitations of iOS, and the workarounds that these limitations require of developers. One example of this is EverWebClipper, an app that makes clipping web pages into Evernote much easier on iOS devices, but somehow has received many low reviews.
Put this into the category of “interesting, although I’m not sure I’d use it.” If your whole life is in Evernote, and you also keep a journal, then you may want to check out Ever Journal Free For Evernote. The app lets you input journal entries, which are then sent into Evernote in a “My Journal” notebook.
Last week I wrote about the World’s Most Awesome Paperless Filing System, which lets you drop a document into your scanner and have it automatically renamed and then filed away into the proper folder on your Mac. That system used Hazel, a Mac app, to rename and file documents that appeared in a folder, based on the contents of those documents. As I mentioned in that post, I had chosen that system over previous systems, one of which involved Evernote. If you want to use the automation of Hazel to speed up your paperless system, but still use Evernote, then you’re in luck.
So let’s talk. There’s been a lot of conversation around the web — and on this site — about possible alternatives for Evernote. Springpad was the goto app for many, though the most recent update has pulled them further away from that comparison, and drawn the ire of many users in the process. If you look at Springpad, though, as well as several other apps that offer services that are considered comparable to Evernote (Shelfster, Thinkery, OneNote and Catch, for example), you can define a general criteria for a note taking application that I think — no matter how odd it may sound — could also be met by Google’s latest cloud offering and the new face of Google Docs: Google Drive.
Stick with me. I’d love to have a conversation with you all about this.
First: What is Google Drive?
Google Drive is the latest cloud drive offering to hit the web jungle. It came out just this past week and has already been cited as a direct threat to Dropbox, Skydrive, Box, and all the rest. On the flip-side, it’s also received the standard Ahhhhh, Their Stealing My Private Information!!!!! treatment by the web media, as well — in this case, somewhat unfairly (more below).
Google Drive Features
Once you start using drive, you can say goodbye to the docs.google.com url. Your docs shall forever become a part of Google Drive. You’ll still be able to revert to the old Google Docs interface, for a limited time, but the default new dashboard is where you will start, and eventually end up.
Here’s the feature-set, in a nutshell:
Storage is low cost and in abundance. And it can take crazy large files, and allows you to view files most other services don’t. Sync with your computers and mobile devices (iOS coming soon) in the same manner as Dropbox.
5GB of free storage space — and Gmail goes up to 10GB
Additional space starting at $2.49/month for 25GB, $4.99 for 100GB — all the way up to 16TB (these also up your Gmail to 25GB)
Google Docs don’t count against your storage
10GB filesize limit per file
Upload up to 30 types of files –this includes Photoshop, Illustrator, movies, photos and more, as well as viewing of those files (graphic designers, rejoice! — and yes, this means movie and music playback, too)
Add and manage files from your desktop environment
Google Docs files (.gdoc, .gsheet, etc.) are actually shortcuts to their respective web editors, so don’t take up additional hard drive space on your PC
Offline viewing (offline editing is in the works, too)
Sharing, sharing, sharing! Collaborate! Individual files, folders, or your entire Drive…
Add a person, go public, or share a link — you can even give people without Google accounts editing capability
Send Drive links in Gmail to make sure everyone always has the updated version — no attachment worries
Or send Drive files as attachments, or even in the body of the email (classic Google Docs features)
Share photos and videos right from Google+
Easily view and manage files and folder shared with you
Collaborate on any type of file — comment and chat on any of your files, in real time
30 days of revision history
Search — including including OCR and Google Goggles
Filter by keyword, file type, file owner, and more
Search text in scanned documents
Find a photo using the search bar — Goggles can recognise objects in your images
Third-party apps. There are already several available on the Chrome Web Store, many of them free or freemium services. These apps will plug right in to your Google Drive allowing you to do all kinds of fun things. Some examples:
HelloFax lets you send free faxes right from Google Drive — it also has signature signing capability, as do a couple of other Google Drive apps like DocuSign
Pixlr and Aviary for Google Drive let you edit uploaded photos
SlideRocket can be set up to be your default presentation app
Revisu lets you share designs for feedback and track version history
Lots more available and lots more coming via Google Drive > Settings > Manage apps > Get more apps
Any of you starting to see why I couldn’t help but compare it to Evernote? More on that, below.
What About My Privacy?
Google’s Terms of Service states:
“You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.”
This is a good thing. But here’s where the confusion comes in:
“…you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones.”
At first glance, this is freaky — but the reality is that this is used so that Google can integrate Drive with its other services — for you, of course — and to provide the other functions of the service, such as OCR and image recognition. Of course, this also means they can use the content to better provide you with more accurate advertising, but this is something they do with their services already.
Bear in mind that they can also be compelled to give up your information to government bodies or law enforcement agencies if required to by law. This is a standard thing that applies to every online service that houses its servers in the United States.
What does this all mean? Only this: Google’s scary privacy points are, in this instance, not so different than any other online drive’s terms of service. Does this mean there aren’t potentially frightening possibilities; that it’s all really candy and roses? No. Not unless you consider that the candy and roses could be laced with Rohypnol, that is. But these privacy issues are simply the risk you take when you put your files and personal information online. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be concerned, just that you need to make the same decision, no matter what cloud service you use.
Next: Google Docs vs Evernote
Sync between devices (including mobile)
Keyboard shortcuts for quick launch
With tweaks (custom shortcuts)
Rich text editing
Easy organization by notebooks and tags
Yes, but with folders (no more tags)
Search within attachments
Third party integrations
Yes, with more on the way
Add content by email
Not at the moment
Only manual copy and paste works at the moment
NOTE:You can create desktop shortcuts to open new Google Docs files, and then add custom hotkeys to those shortcuts to easily open new “notes”. The same urls used for the shortcuts can be used to create a dropdown in your browser’s bookmarks bar, although one bookmark, loaded in the browser sidebar is a great option for Firefox. The URLs you need are in this Google Document:http://bit.ly/IIiHAo. I’ve also added the shortcuts I decided to use, while testing. If there’s interest, I’ll do a full how-to on this.
NOTE:You can also add Google Drive to the Windows Send To context menu by typing%APPDATA%/Microsoft/Windows/SendTo to a Windows Explorer window – press enter. Then open another Explorer window, create a shortcut of your Google Drive, then drag it to the Send To folder you just opened. Now, when you right click on a file, you will be able to send it right to your Google Drive (this is based on the Windows 7 OS and also works for Skydrive and Dropbox).
Where Google Drive Wins
Google Drive allows you access to a full office suite, from full document and spreadsheet creation to presentations. It will also allow you to handle files more easily, as well as have real-time, collaborative conversations within the files/notes themselves. For people who want to have a powerful suite that they can leverage in nearly the same way as Evernote, then Google Drive could be a very good option. The same goes for people who don’t like the new Springpad, but find that Evernote just isn’t enough for them.
Where Google Drive Lacks
The lack of speedy clipping is an issue for me. This can be overcome with some simple copy and paste, or with extensions like Send to Google Docs (turns a whole web page into a PDF and sends it to Google Docs), and will likely no longer be an issue once some enterprising person or business creates an app for just that, but for the moment it is a bit of an annoyance. Not a deal breaker, though.
The other thing is that it is just not as straightforward as Evernote. The workarounds I put together make it easier to get going, but I find that the keyboard shortcuts I created sometimes fail until I remake them in the shortcut’s properties. And as I’ve mentioned in posts before, Evernote is really good at the simple things it does: taking and organizing notes. Once you add all the extra power and options of Google Drive, then you run into the potential of it becoming unwieldy, unless you manage it really well.
So there it is, my curiosity and thought process laid out before you. Your turn now! I want to know what you think — feasibility, practicality of application, pure ridiculousness, et al. Let’s chat about it and see what we can come up with as a group!
It used to be that the biggest comparison Springpad had to contend with was “is it better than Evernote?“ Not anymore. With the newly realized vision of Springpad 3.0, the powerful and flexible digital notebook service now finds itself facing off against the hottest web service du jour: Pinterest.
The folks at Springpad have taken something their software has always been able to do — namely, the ability to collect, organize, and share stuff you find online — prettified it and opened up the social pipelines in a big way. It’s easier to explore for new and interesting content. It’s easier to connect with people who have similar interests. But it’s also easier do something that neither Evernote nor Pinterest can provide without help: make the things that you save actionable.
Jack of All Trades vs Focused Expertise
The greatest strength of Springpad is the same thing that has held it back over the years: there’s just so much — maybe too much — that you can do with it. Evernote and Pinterest, no matter how you use them or how many other services integrate them, each really do just one thing.
Evernote makes it easy to take notes and to search for and find them later.
They don’t sound all that glamorous when you boil them down to their base elements, but they don’t need to. Each service does its one thing extremely well — better than everyone else, in fact. There’s power in that. Simplicity engenders trust, niche marketing, yadda yadda.
Springpad, on the other hand, can do all of the following (and more):
Take notes and make it easy to find them
Visual bookmarking (socially-focused now, just like Pinterest)
Personal shopping assistant (finds deals for you and such)
Task management (including reminders and integration with Google Calendar)
Collaborative planning (including corkboard-style planning for the visually inclined)
Etc, etc, etc
To top it off, there are several tools in Springpad that make it easy to classify and organize the various types of information you might want to collect — everything from recipes, to bookmarks, to wine and product wish lists, tasks, notes, files, and more. You can do all of these things quickly and easily from almost any smartphone or computer. They even help you to find new things that you’re interested in, use HTML 5 to give you offline access, and allow you to work with multiple people on private or public notebooks — and they do it all for free!
With all of that — and for free — Springpad should be at the top of the heap, right? Unfortunately, the reality is that their quest to become the ultimate digital notebook — which I believe they are, all things considered — creates a product that some may find intimidating. The immediate impression is that there is too much to learn, and not enough time to invest in it.
But Wait! Springpad Might Have Found the Secret Sauce…
Thankfully, the new, more visual design of Springpad 3.0 takes a lot of that intimidation factor away. The new design introduces a sort of visual simplicity that is easy on the eyes, and makes you want to click through and explore. You can even explore the public notebooks without having your own Springpad account, searching through different interest categories to find everything from great design and gift ideas to awesome places to eat in the city of Boston (or wherever).
In these different notebooks, you can find images, videos, commentary, and more — and if you get an account of your own you can “Spring” your favourites into your own public or private notebooks, add alerts for price drops, add a task or reminder to make sure you remember to look at it again, and so much more. As I said, the information becomes more than just a note or a bookmark, it becomes something you can act upon, in an ecosystem that facilitates forward movement instead of a vague list of interests or a virtual filing cabinet you may never open again.
Springpad shouldn’t be compared to Evernote or Pinterest. Not directly, anyway. It’s become an entity of its own, a place where users are interacting with trusted sources, free to save and act on the things that matter most to them. Springpad 3.0 is a platform that can be easily adopted to suit your needs, be they a simple notebook, a place to find ideas, or a GTD task manager. It can even stand alongside of Evernote or Pinterest, should you want it to.
Go check it out. See what you think. We’d love to hear about it!
Today, I discovered the Evernote Clearly extension. Today, my life changed. If you’re a fan of saving articles for later — or just of reading them in an uncluttered, easy on the eyes format — your life might change too. Clearly brings all of the minimalist beauty of iReader and Readability, does it better, and then sweetens the pot with the ability to send a nicely formatted copy of the article to Evernote with a single click.
It’s awesome. You must try it!
A few screenshots of Clearly in action:
To make things even more fun, Evernote Clearly offers customization capabilities so you can set up your own look and feel, as well as some smooth transition animations, and the ability to preset a tag for the articles you decide clip to read later.
You don’t need an Evernote account to use Clearly, but if Evernote was trying to find a way to get free users to increase the likelihood of needing a paid account, they’ve definitely succeeded.
Clearly is currently available as a Google Chrome extension. Other browsers will be supported soon.