by Scott Rhoades
I get the feeling when I write about software that many of your eyes (and just how many eyes do you have, anyway?) glaze over, while a small percentage of you feel the nerd node in your brain perk up and you get excited.
This week, though, I'm writing about something that you eye-glazers might really want to pay attention to, and most of you geek freaks already know about: I'm talking about Evernote, one of the most useful apps a writer can have in his toolbox this side of a comfortable word processor.
Imagine this: you're driving down the road and you see an old house or a bit of scenery that is exactly what you pictured for your work-in-progress. You hit the brakes, screech to a halt, and jump out of the car, smart phone in hand. You snap a few photos, then create a voice note explaining why the pictures are important. Because your phone has GPS, your pictures and note are tagged with the location where you took the pictures.
Or, you're sitting in some waiting room somewhere, perusing a four-month-old magazine, when a story sparks a story idea. You don't have your laptop, and you know how well you can trust your memory. But you do have your phone. So you open up Evernote, jot down a few notes, maybe even take a picture of the item in the magazine that set off the idea. By the time you get home, the note is already on your computer, waiting for you.
All of this good material is almost instantly available on every computer you own, plus your iPad and your phone, because you created all of them in Evernote.
Evernote is the Swiss army knife of electronic notebooks. You can create as many notebooks you need, each with as many notes as you need. You can attach sound files, photos, and several other kinds of files. (With the paid version, you can attach any file you want to attach.) You can use add-ons for most popular browsers to clip bits of Web pages that you want to remember. You can even synch up with some popular email and calendaring apps, like Outlook.
Everything you put in Evernote is automatically synchronized with your Windows and Mac computers (at home and at work), with your iPhone or Droid or Blackberry or Palm, and with your iPad, and is accessible on the Web. In other words, your notes are available everywhere, any time. You can even share notes with friends, even if they don't use Evernote.
You can use Evernote to store to-do lists, notes and ideas for stories, even your manuscript draft. Need a good, convenient place to track your submissions, always a tricky thing now that most queries are sent in email so you might send them from both work and home, while your old query tracker was only on your home computer. And you can use Evernote's "ink note" feature on your computer to sketch a map or an idea for an illustration. I only wish ink notes were available on touch screen devices. That would be really cool. (OK, it kind of is, with a for-pay iPad app called Inkiness, but the reviews aren't that great and it's not native to Evernote.)
Oh, and Evernote is free. You can get additional space--although the free version provides 60MB per month, more than enough for most people, unless you want to attach a lot of high-res pictures--and a few other features by paying for a premium account, but everything most writers really need is available in the free version. You can get Evernote for your Mac or Windows computers at www.evernote.com, and for your mobile devices at whichever app store or market you use. You'll want it on everything so it's always there for you. The Web site also has documentation, videos, and other information that will help you get up to speed quickly, although Evernote is easy enough to use that the docs aren't really necessary. They might help you discover a use you hadn't thought of, though.
So what are you waiting for? We writers often have our heads in clouds, so we might as well keep our notes in the cloud as well. And why not make your first note a copy of this blog post, to remind you why you got the thing in the first place.
If you are already an Evernote user, leave a comment and let the rest of us know how you use it, especially if you use it as part of your writing life.