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Evernote Wants to Go Beyond Note-Taking

At its conference in San Francisco today, Evernote announced a slew of updates for its core iOS and OS X experience as well as a redesigned web app (currently available as public beta), a redesign of Penultimate, a new scanner app, and new Market products.

Harry McCracken has an overview of the announcements at Fast Company. He concludes with a legitimate concern:

As a pretty committed Evernote user–I have more of my digital life stored there than any one other single place–all of these announcements leave me both excited and at least a tad concerned. Profoundly useful though the service is, it’s never quite felt like it’s nailed the best, simplest, most intuitive interface for what it does. (The fact that it has a habit of radically redoing its user interface on a regular basis is presumably an acknowledgement of that.) Adding more features will only make it tougher to keep Evernote coherent and approachable.

I’m curious to check out the updates to the iOS apps (I use Evernote for work every day) and the redesign of the Mac app for Yosemite looks nice. I’m a fan of the web app: by default, it lets you write a new note with just a few clicks, but it packs most of the features available in other versions of Evernote. It was a much needed change.

I have my doubts about the contextual and messaging features Evernote announced, but they also have potential and I’d rather wait until I can try them. I’m not sure I’d ever benefit from links pulled in from the WSJ or LinkedIn while I’m doing research, but other sources would be welcome. As for messaging, it is going to be hard for Evernote to beat the workplace integration that’s being built by Slack, but I imagine it could be a nice plus for businesses that rely heavily on Evernote internally.

I liked the tone and message of the keynote. Phil Libin is a good presenter and he genuinely seems to be invested in Evernote as a product. Evernote is often derided for their frequent redesigns, but they have struck a good balance with iOS 7 in the past year (both Evernote and Skitch are now highly polished and functional apps) and the Yosemite update looks like a moderate refresh rather than a ground-up redesign. Evernote has insanely high goals – software for “your life’s work” is the new slogan – and a willingness to adapt to people’s ever-changing needs can be a good thing. The partnership with News Corp. seems a little strange, but, overall, the event was solid.

Check out the Evernote blog for details on Context, the new web app, and Work Chat.