Evernote released version 5.6 of their Mac app today. Hidden behind a seemingly minor update is a series of important changes to the desktop app that make it faster to sync and that bring welcome new features not available in Evernote for iOS.
The Evernote blog has the details, but, to sum up, I've found Evernote 5.6 (public beta testing started a few months ago) to be faster and more reliable than before both in terms of sync and startup times. I've seen less conflicted copies of notes (they used to be a problem in shared notebooks) and there's a ton of other fixes and improvements in the note editor. For instance, images can now be resized and checkboxes are larger and easier to click.
Two of my favorite changes include an easier way to create tables inside notes…
…and the ability to look for specific notes with Spotlight. Here's how an Evernote search looks like in Yosemite:
Combined with version 7.5 for iOS (which added a great share extension), it's been a good month for Evernote on Apple platforms. I like that the company is making good on their promise of improving their apps throughout 2014.
I save everything into Evernote. While I’m almost religious about plain text and Markdown for my articles, anything else goes into Evernote: PDFs, screenshots, photos with GPS information, my shared shopping list, and any other note that has a visual component (such as formatting or hyperlinks).
I started using Evernote in 2009, and it’s become an external brain where I archive everything that I need to remember but not store in my own brain. Evernote suffered in its transition to iOS devices as it couldn’t be as flexible as the Mac app: Evernote is only as good as the ways it gives you to create notes, and the iOS app couldn’t use the best one – the clipper.
This is changing today with Evernote 7.5, which adds extensions for iOS 8 to let you save anything from anywhere with just two taps.
Version 3.2 of Evernote's Skitch, released last week on the App Store, has brought a welcome redesign that lets you easily pick the kind of image you want to annotate by swiping through screens. I've been using this version of the app for some time now, and I believe Evernote has managed to combine the best elements of the iOS 7 redesign with the speed and ease of use that used to be defining characteristics of Skitch.
I've re-recorded every video with new tips, tricks, and workflows. The Evernote iOS apps have changed drastically since the original version was released, so I hope you enjoy the free update.
My friend Bradley Chambers has released version 2.0 of his Evernote eBook (which I first mentioned last year) with updates for the new Evernote apps (the iOS one has changed a lot).
I like Bradley's book because it gives practical examples – for instance, the screencast on scanning receipts into Evernote shows a real receipt being scanned and uploaded with Scanner Pro – and it's only $4.99 on the iBooks Store.
In a seemingly minor update to their iOS client, Evernote added a few tweaks and fixes that improve the experience of using the app, especially for image attachments. In the Business Card camera mode, it's now possible to make a contact request to LinkedIn without leaving Evernote. If you're using LinkedIn as a contact management service and scan cards in Evernote, the new integration should be good news.
For my workflow, the new image picker is an even better change. Now, when picking an image to add to a note, the picker allows you to select multiple images at once to add them to a note in a single action. I use Evernote to collect screenshots from various sources, and the new picker speeds up and simplifies the process of adding attachments considerably.
Evernote 7.3.2 is available on the App Store.
I was curious to know more about OneNote for Mac, released yesterday on the Mac App Store, from an Evernote user's perspective, and I'm glad that Justin Williams wrote up his impressions so far.
I'm not switching from Evernote: I need some of the service's more advanced features (saved searches, shareable notes, web clipper) and, overall, I'm happy with it. I like Evernote as a company – I'm a fan of the business model and the idea of a service that can stick around for many years. I appreciate the work they've put into improving the apps and service in 2014: as I wrote in January, there are still things I would like to see, but the iOS app has improved dramatically since September.
I also agree with Justin's take on the API. In my limited experience with using the Evernote API in Python, I found it painful to simply send HTML to the service to create a new note or to try to retrieve HTML content from a note (Evernote uses a superset of XHTML called ENML, which has its own set of restrictions). Other developers I've talked to shared their frustrations with the Evernote API, especially for integration with iOS apps. One of Evernote's biggest advantages over OneNote is the rich ecosystem of apps they've built, but Microsoft's launch yesterday showed that they're not kidding with third-party OneNote support either. Perhaps Evernote should add the API to the list of improvements for 2014.
It'll be interesting to see how Microsoft will continue to support OneNote on iOS and OS X – they have an uphill battle against Evernote's frequent updates, but they're off to a seemingly good start with the Mac app.
With an update released today, Evernote is bringing descriptive, natural language-based search to its Mac client. The feature, which can be activated from Evernote’s search bar, aims at making it easier to find specific notes using a natural input system for note names and content, as well as more advanced filters for date, location, device, and attachments.
Descriptive search is, essentially, a refined interface for Evernote’s existing search system, which has long enabled users to find notes by combining tokens in the search menu. Instead of clicking to choose search options and combine them, you can now type commands such as “notes created this month” or “notes with images and created this year” and Evernote will display a suggestion based on matching search results for your account. Read more
When Evernote for iOS 7 was released in September, the app received a fair amount of criticism: the company had once again completely redesigned the app after users were still learning their way around the previous major redesign, there were bugs with sync and the note editor, plus several other minor issues that, together, didn’t provide a smooth upgade experience. Evernote listened and started working on iOS updates aimed at fixing problems reported by the userbase, which had resulted in low ratings on the App Store.
A few weeks ago, an article by Jason Kincaid highlighted some of the troubles he had with the Evernote apps, which prompted CEO Phil Libin to publicly address his complaints and, in the process, commit to making 2014 the year of prioritizing fixes and improvements to the existing Evernote experience instead of more complete redesigns and big feature additions. In January alone, Evernote has completed the transition to a new sync infrastructure that made sync four times faster for all users, and, today, released version 7.3 of the iOS app, which I believe shows a good thinking process by Evernote.
Evernote CEO Phil Libin:
Synchronization is now about 4X faster than ever before. This applies to any version of Evernote that you use. Sync now often takes a couple of seconds to complete, and when you get a new phone or computer, downloading your notes will take much less time. If you have a small account, you might not notice that much of a difference. On the other hand, if your account is large, or you’ve been using Evernote for many years, or you share notebooks with other users, or your entire company uses Evernote Business, you’ll see massive improvements. All four of these things happen to be true for many early Evernote employees, so the performance gains we’re seeing at the office are amazing. That explains the rejoicing.
The performance gains are noticeable for my account, which has over 2200 notes. This is especially good news for me as I use the Evernote apps a lot when I'm on 3G, and hopefully it'll result in better handling of large attachments as well.
See also: the technical explanation of what the Evernote engineers did.