One key component in my organization mix are methods that allow me to easily take notes, record ideas, images, etc,. Traditionally, I’d use a paper DayTimer to manage written notes and appointments, a camera to capture images of ideas, locations, props, and so on, an audio recorder that allows me to record notes and thoughts when writing to paper isn’t appropriate such as when driving or being otherwise tied up. I don’t want to run to the office and boot up my laptop to make a simple note, nor to I want to carry around Daytimer, digital camera and audio recorder, and notepad. So its imperative that its small, light, available all the time, can hold a wide variety of information, and doesn’t tie me to one format or media.
When I had my Blackberry, I had some of this capability. It lacked others, but for the most important information I needed, it was always there on my side, or in my pocket. It worked, worked well, but just didn’t do everything I needed. For most of the data, I used SoHo notes on my laptop, desktop, and the data was available by web if needed. It also sync’d the data between the computers in the background, and without any intervention. It was a good solution as long as I was in front of a computer. But once on the road, it was all useless to me.
The Blackberry gave me some portability for some documents and data, but it wasn’t effortless. I needed to manually keep things in sync, and take care of transferring new files in and out of the Blackberry. It worked, but took effort, and was basically limited in function and file formats. My SoHo Notes had about 1,300 notes and was about 600MB in size, and there was no way the Blackberry was equipped to handle that.
Enter the iPhone. It had the potential to resolve all this, and add much more functionality, but only if SoHo Notes had an iPhone application to keep the data in sync. But they didn’t at the time. I loved the way it worked on the Desktop/Laptops, but really wanted to take it all with me on the iPhone as well.
So I went looking for similar applications and found Evernote. It functions much like SoHo Notes, but it had a very nice iPhone related application. It also automatically sync’d the data between the desktop, laptop, iPhone over the cellular network silently and without my intervention. I updated a note, added a photo, audio recording, web link, etc, and it immediately updated and sync’d all the other sources. It also handled images, audio, text, rich text, html, PDF, and so on. Just want I have been looking for.
With this capability, I can use Evernote to capture a great location I stumble across, and it will be filed in my notes with the GPS coordinates. I can also add any other related notes if needed. If its a business, resort, or other location that would have a website address, the link can also be added for immediate access.
When I get to the office, its there on the Evernote desktop application. While on location or in a hotel, I can access it via the laptop. I can also access it via the web via any computer by knowing the username and password for my account. When I don’t have wireless or am away from the Desktop/Laptop, I can still access it via the 3G or Edge celluar networks on my iPhone. So its literally with me all the time in a fast and conveniet way to access it.
Now that the availability is so high, and all the data is automatically synchronized, it has become so useful to me in my business and personal life. What it does for me is allow me to throw random thoughts into notes within the application and disperses it to all the other platforms all in sync. So I always have a wealth of information available to me at all times, and that is extremely useful to me.
Evernote startup screen
The above is screen that displays right after startup. It allows me to quickly create a new text note, take a photo and create a note with it inside, create a note with an existing photo (usually stored in the camera roll), or record a new voice recording and create a note with it. An interesting function that it performs with images, is that it will perform an OCR scan of the image and extract any text it sees and make that searchable. In most instances, it can extract text from signs, paper receipts, notes, business cards, etc, and such that the images will be recalled in a search that contains the word or words.
Selecting the Notes icon on the bottom bar, brings me to all my existing notes. I can recall them for review or modify them as needed. The Favorites star allows me to tag some notes as special for easy recall. I use the favorites to quickly access notes I use on a regular basis. And the account icon is for account related settings and info.
The notes can be filed in folders and reviewed as a list as shown above, or in a landscape ‘cover flow’ mode such as used in the iPod application and shown below. It can be textual in nature, a preview image of the document, a thumbnail of the image contained in the note, as a list, or icons. There are lots of ways to display the data to cover most peoples preferences.
Each folder is shown as a title bar in the list view, or as a vertical bar in the cover flow mode. Searching is typical of other apps, and the notes also show up in the Sportlight search mode. Very easy to navigate around, or search for your notes.
Note view showing the actual contents of the note. They can be any combination of HTML documents, PDF’s, a photo, voice recording, etc. They can be read landscape or portrait, zoomed in, shared, e-mailed, used for cut and paste, and so on.
Very cool and useful app. But in practice, how do I use it? Easy answer, but hard to boil it down to size without a very long rambling post.
Here are some of the ways that I use it on a regular basis;
I use it often to visually record a location, as it attaches the GPS coordinates to the image so I have a push pin on a satellite image map for easy reference in the future. I can also quickly e-mail these images or videos to my clients while I am still at the location and get their immediate feedback. The images and notes also serve to build a location library for future use. I also use it for memory aids, such as when drawing a lighting diagram on a napkin in the hotel bar, when seeing a prop that may come in handy in the future, to record a lighting or stage setup for future reference, clipping inspiration and ideas from magazines, billboards, or retail displays, and so on.
There is a folder that contains all the equipment manuals in PDF form for reference while in the field. Another folder contains all my vendor and industry contact information, rental equipment pricing and policies, reference data such as color correction filters, Rosco filter reference, part numbers for most common equipment items and vendor information for replacement parts.
Another folder contains all my business documents, such as model releases, usage agreements, standard terms and conditions, etc. These allow me to attach them to an e-mail, print them directly to a WiFi printer, or just reference them in the field and to cut and paste into text messages or e-mails.
Then I also keep a lot of short term information that I want to capture and use later. Something as simple as seeing an item in a store that I want to investigate further, I can just snap a quick picture of the shelf price tag with the item in view and have everything I need to later search on best pricing, technical specifications of the item, or just as a reminder on where I saw it if I wanted to go back later. I capture it and forget about it until I need the info again. I think of it as a photographic memory, since that’s basically what it is!
The above only scratches the surface of how useful this application is to me. The fact that the data is available to me whether I’m out in the field on my iPhone, at my desktop, traveling with only my phone and iPad, or that I can access it from any computer connected to the network makes it useful. If it didn’t have that seamless connectivity, it wouldn’t even capture 5 minutes of my time.
I prefer SoHo Notes over Evernote for many reasons, but Evernote has pushed it off its perch because of the connectivity. While SoHo Notes now has better connectivity, I had several problems with the syncing process and finally gave it. Also, the syncing was not seamless and automatic in the background, but would require me perform the syncs on a regular basis, and requires me to sync with each computer individually. No thanks.
Now that I have an iPad in the mix, Evernote is even more useful. The iPad along with the various apps I use and Evernote, and I can really get away with leaving the laptop behind when I travel. The iPad is much better for inputting text via the virtual keyboard, or when using the small and portable wireless keyboard. I can travel very light and still have excellent functionally. With the amount of time I’m on the road and not in the office, the combination of the iPhone, iPad, and the apps used including Evernote, really allow me to run my business just about anywhere. Thats a freedom that really makes my job a lot easier.
There is a lot more to this than will fit in one post. I decided to concentrate on Evernote since it really is the pivotal piece that is central to how I work. I’ll try to cover the other apps and processes that are useful in the field and based around the Apple iPad and iPhone devices.