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Evernote: The Free App That's Changing the Way the World Takes Notes

Updated on June 3, 2018
vsajewel profile image

I've been writing for about 8 years, primarily about internet safety and mobile technology like iPads, at vsatips my main site.

Evernote's logo is an elephant… Because elephants never forget.

 Evernote graphic I made
Evernote graphic I made | Source

Evernote's Explosive Growth

When I first wrote this post in 2012 I wrote "If I were the kind of person that made bold predictions, I'd predict that in the n st 10 years the umber of Evernote users worldwide will closely mirror the total number of mobile device users." in Feb. 2012 there were 23 million people around the world using Evernote. Less than a year and a half later that number had grown to 65 million. Now, in 2018 that number exceeds 220 million.

While my bold prediction may have been a tad bit 'overly enthusiastic' there are some really good reasons why I felt (and still do) so strongly that Evernote offers something so unique and just so 'right' that it couldn't fail to attract almost unbelievable numbers of users.

The only other 'app related venture' that's experienced that kind of growth isn't an app at all! It's the total sales of all apps in Apple's app store. Frankly, that story received a lot more press!

As more note taking apps entered the market Evernote's rapid growth did slow a bit. It hasn't escaped most aficionado's attention that outside of One Note, Microsoft's similar yet very different note taking service which predated Evernote, all of the other new market entries including apps like Google Keep, Apple Notes, and Dropbox Paper, along with many others flourish using technology that was pioneered by Evernote.

The 1st Blog Post of 2018 Written by Evernote's CEO

A Few More Amazing Statistics & What They Mean to Some Evernote Users

Craig Smith, a statistician writing for DMR states in his recent article “20 Amazing Evernote Statistics and Facts (March 2018)” that the estimated value of Evernote Corporation is $1 Billion.

He goes on to write "Lately, I have been focusing some of my stat posts on digital services that we tend to take for granted and rarely stop to think about just how massive they are. Here is one that I dare say just about all of us use and probably take for granted to a certain extent: Evernote.

It seems like Evernote has been organizing our lives forever. This highly customizable, multi-device tool is essential to clipping, saving and keeping projects on track. Personally, there is no way I could work a day job, keep my personal life on track and keep DMR (relatively) organized and updated without Evernote."

His implied assumption is that most people in the world use Evernote.

Which may lead you to wonder just why exactly Evernote is so popular. I think Steven Shankland, an author at CNET provides a description of Evernote that says it best. He says “Evernote is designed to make it easier to withstand the flood of digital information.

His CNET article entitled “How Evernote raised prices -- and still more of us signed up” states that as of October 2017 there were 220 million reported Evernote users worldwide. What's shocking is that “Evernote's subscribed users more than doubled over the last 2 years despite the fact that prices were raised by as much as 40 percent last year.

In Evernote's January 31st Blog, (shown in part in the image below) CEO Chris O'Neill shares some insight into why not as many Americans may be as familiar with Evernote as Craig Smith assumes...80% of Evernote users live outside of the United States!

He also shares some interesting stories about Evernote’s use and his promise for 2018.

Evernote's Pricing Structure

I Didn't Fall In Love With EverNote Immediately

When I first began using Evernote a few years ago, I had already tried a few other note taking apps. I wasn't blown away by any of them.

I tried out Evernote, thinking it would be equally abysmal. I was ecstatic to find I was utterly and completely wrong! The learning curve could have been shorter, and there weren't a lot of places to look for comprehensive instructions. Consequently that prevented me from truly realizing the full potential of the software.

All that has changed. If anything there is too much information available now, and figuring out where to turn and how to start is, unfortunately, still more confusing than it should be.

Many friends and relatives have asked me to show them how I use Evernote and how to get started with it.

It was during the most recent occurence of this that I realized I was spending a lot of time personally instructing them in how to get started with it. I figured that instead of recreating the wheel each time, I'd setup an Evernote Notebook with all the information I'd gathered, that I could share, whenever the occasion next arose. The frequency of these requests has been steadily increasing (due in part no doubt, to my unrelenting advocacy). Therefore I want to provide the most comprehensive information that I can, which in turn requires checking online for new articles and helpful blogs.

I Struggled to Learn to Use Evernote Effectively in the Early Years

The Evernote website didn't provide the training videos and FAQ sections that it has today. But even though those resources are available now, they can be hard to find. I spent a lot of time searching for a few key details that impeded my ability to integrate Evernote into my daily routine. I even searched for books and ended up downloading the 'Evernote for Dummies' book on my Kindle, which was one of the only ones I could find at that time. It was pretty good, but too much of it seemed to assume prior knowledge with Evernote:

EverNote's New Post-it Note Feature

My mockup of Evernote Post-IT's Using Foamcore Board & Post-It Notes.
My mockup of Evernote Post-IT's Using Foamcore Board & Post-It Notes. | Source

The Notebook I Use to Write This Article

This screenshot is one of 3 Evernote notebooks I created while researching this topic for my lens. It was an early screenshot, before I had gathered much data, and each of the entries you see represent on note in a notebook I called 'Ways to use Ever
This screenshot is one of 3 Evernote notebooks I created while researching this topic for my lens. It was an early screenshot, before I had gathered much data, and each of the entries you see represent on note in a notebook I called 'Ways to use Ever

Encouraged By Their Early Rapid Success Evernote Began Branching Out in Several New Directions in 2013

Many users believed that Evernote was focusing too much on the wrong things and not enough on their core product...their note taking app. In truth however, they were doing both...just not well because staff was were stretched a little too thin.

The New Online Evernote Store focused on 3 main products. A set of notebooks in which Evernote collaborated with Moleskin to develop. The Jot Script 2 Stylus for handwritten notes. And last was something really out of the ordinary...a Scanner that was developed to work with Evernote and to streamline many tasks that were still too labor intensive. The Evernote Scanner was based upon the best Scanner on the market at that time (and apparently even now!) Fujitsu's ix500.

I tried all 3 products out over the course of a year or two.

There was one standout in the group...Evernote's Scanner. To this day I have to say that while Evernote changed my life in many dramatic ways...that transformation was only completed when I received this Scanner...which doubled my productivity. But that's a much longer story for another day :-)

The Most Extraordinary Item in Evernote's New Store was This Custom Designed Scanner Based on Fujitsu's iX500 Popular Model

I asked for and received the Scanner in 2014 on my birthday. But there was one little hiccup with mine...in an effort to save money, my husband got the wrong one! He got me the Fujitsu iX500 not Evernote's enhanced version!
I asked for and received the Scanner in 2014 on my birthday. But there was one little hiccup with mine...in an effort to save money, my husband got the wrong one! He got me the Fujitsu iX500 not Evernote's enhanced version! | Source

Why Evernote's Store Didn't Last

Evernote's Store was intended to curate a few very helpful products which would increase user's productivity and enhance their capabilities within the Evernote app.

Selecting amazing curated products was a definite strength for Evernote!

Selling them, providing followup customer service, training materials and all the other things that goes along with marketing actual products, wasn't really their strong suit. Of the 3 products, the only one that was a true 'klinker' was the stylus. I returned mine as did many others. While the Moleskin Notebooks were great...I just never really ended up using mine.

Evennote's Stand Out Product...the Evernote Scanner

To this day there is a small community of Evernote Scanner users who are passionate about the scanner and who've loosely banded together to share tips and helpful information. I got involved when I created a YouTube video demonstrating how to solve some problems with the Scanner. I've also written a guide to its use at WordPress.

Evernote's Store Ultimately was Disbanded

But in the end, I think Evernote realized that they couldn't be all things to all people. as quietly as it had first appeared...the Evernote store disappeared. Before doing that, new homes were found for each of the products. For several years Moleskin sold their specially designed Moleskin/Evernote Notebooks before the product was discontinued completely. And Amazon took over selling Evernote's Scanner. That seemed like a natural move because Amazon also has their own inventory for this Scanner as well as the generic Fujitsu scanner that the Evernote model is based on. The Jot Script 2 Stylus was completely abandoned (personally I suspect because it never really worked!) and its accompanying app, Penultimate just sort of languished.

Moleskin' Evernote Notebooks

It Turns Out There Was an Ulterior Motive for the Evernote Store

Although Evernote's Store quietly disappeared...their need for capitol didn't. It slowly became obvious to everyone that Evernote's success was in part because of the magnitude of their generosity.

Evernote's management team was so focused on providing the absolute best note taking experience out there...because they were all dedicated users themselves. The free version of their app was unprecedented because no one else could figure out how to offer so much for nothing in return! But that model couldn't last!

Profits from the Store Were Intended to Bankroll Evernote's Future

Once Evernote's management team knew their store wasn't the answer..they had to come up with another plan. While difficult for them to do, they ultimately came up with the present plan offerings and pricing structure. Many users were initially extremely upset with Evernote, But 2 years later...seeing so many apps move to a subscription basis I think users now get it. Evernote wouldn't have survived without a source of funding.

Any experinced Evernote user who might closely examine their plans will realize that there are still many more features included in the basic free plan, and the incremental features for each higher tier are somewhat minor in comparison. i believe their choice was a difficult one and they did the best they could under the circumstances.

Whether Your a Beginning User Today or Were One 5 Years Ago, Evernote's Featuresy and Strong Consisitent Reliability Will Win You Over if You Have Even an Inkling of a Need for Note Taking!

Features Included in Evernote's Basic Plan in 208

These are the features included in Evernote's free plan following all the big change in 2016. The free features included are generous. They are more than enough for the vast majority of  Evernote users.
These are the features included in Evernote's free plan following all the big change in 2016. The free features included are generous. They are more than enough for the vast majority of Evernote users. | Source

2016 Marked Many Changes for Evernote

Say Hello to Colors

Looking back (from 2018) I realize now that 2016 was a watershed year for Evernote. In addition to introducing a whole new fee structure and pricing...(which enraged many long-term users) the app developer also surprised and shocked the world with a brand new and vastly improved Evernote...Evernote 8!

What made this launch even more surprising for me personally was that I'd been beta testing the ios version of the app for about 5 years at that point. Evernote treated their ios beta team differently than all others. We were a closed group who only got in following a rigorous vetting process. Despite all that, it's still clear to me now that app developers took measures so that we weren't aware we were testing anything special...but developer & tester interaction was at an all time high. Our needs and opinions were being sought like never before! And the final amazing product shows it.

So...what did this new Evernote include? It's hard for me to get beyond the #1 change which is COLORED FONTS (8+colors) in 3 SIZES. This was huge for me personally because I'm sort of known around the internet as being the person who published workarounds and tricks in order to use colored and different sized fonts in mobile versions of Evernote. (Windows and Mac versions always included this.)


All the New Plans | Plan Structure & Pricing

Getting Started Using Evernote | Outside Information

Back when I first wrote this Evernote didn't have a lot of great help and learning material for beginners. Which is one important reason why I wrote this guide. Today, while that information can still be quite helpful, new users are best served by beginning their learning right at Evernote's website.

There was and still is a lot of information written on blogs today about Evernote, how to use it, and ways to get started with it. I've scoured the current offerings and selected the best of the best for people who are considering using Evernote, and for those who are just getting started.

Links to free content available on the web

These first 3 links I consider 'must read' material for anyone brand new to Evernote.

1. This link is to one of my favorite blogging sites, and this particular blog is called 'The Missing Manual'. It's very detailed, with great diagrams, and completely free!

I read the 2 below about a year after I had begun with Evernote, and found them to be both helpful and somewhat enlightening.

2. This and the following link are from another great blogging forum, lifehacker, and both give some wonderful advice for new Evernote users.

3. In addition to just familiarizing you with the features of Evernote, these lifehacker links provide some great ideas to those new too Evernote for ways to go about structuring you data

This article compares Evernote's features and functionality to several other note taking apps:

Visually, this article offers a good side-by-side comparison between Evernote and Springboard

Evernote 8 App in App Store (ios)

Screenshot of Evernote 8 in ios App Store
Screenshot of Evernote 8 in ios App Store | Source

How to Create a Note

Every time you create a note, you give it a title (usually I just say what the note is about), then you decide which notebook to store it in (you can create a new notebook on the spot), and then you may type in a few key words (called tags in Evernote) that will help you find that note again in the future. If you don't do any of these things...don't worry...your note still gets saved! Evernote sets up a personal notebook with your name on it, and puts everything there, until you decide to put it somewhere else. And it will use a default title of 'note created at your location' until you decide to give it an actual title.

Because tagging can be an important part of the note creation process, and I found it a little confusing at first, here's a little more information about tags.

Adding tags to a note simply means attaching a few key words to a note that will help you to find it in the future. Most often tags are just key words you've used in the note that will help you to identify it in the future. Adding tags isn't absolutely necessary, and you won't lose out on the inherent benefits of Evernote, should you choose not to use them. So whether or not you start out creating tags for each of your notes is entirely up to you. This was my approach. When I began, I tagged every note. But over time I realized that I never actually used those tags for retrieving notes...so eventually I stopped (because it can take an extra 30 seconds to a minute per note to create them). Because Evernote's search capabilities are so very powerful, tags aren't necessary, but there have been many people who've come up with some ingenious methods for creating additional structure and organization through the use of tags.

Later on I provide a link to one really great example of this in the section where I recommend some additional books (specifically the GTD Book).

I really only use tags in special cases now. For example, if I can't decide which notebook to store a note in, I may arbitrarily store it in one, but I'll tag it with key words that will help me to find it by searching if I go to the wrong notebook looking for it. Another instance is if the information I'm storing is really important, and I know that I will need to access it in a hurry. Or if the subject matter is part of a larger subject that has many branches that are similar, but I need to differentiate this information from the larger group. Then I'll think up unique tags for it.

Video Training Resources

Video tutorials offer another way to quickly master the basics of Evernote. The Evernote team has developed a whole library of short instructive videos. Longer ones, which delve more deeply into feature rich layers, are also easy to find (and generally free)! I've placed a small video library here, to both instruct readers who are interested in learning more right now, and to show you the breadth and richness of the video training alternatives available to you. The videos I selected are all great resources for newbies. I limited my search to videos available from Evernote.com and You Tube, but there are more sources easily found through Google.

The best way I've found to search for You Tube material is by searching via the YouTube app on an Apple or Android mobile device (personally I prefer using a tablet because of the larger screen size). If you sign into it with a Google account, then you can tap on the plus sign after you viewed one, to save it to a personal playlist (you can create a new playlist at the same time), so you can easily access it again in the future.

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    • vsajewel profile imageAUTHOR

      vsajewel 

      5 years ago

      @ValerieJoy: Thank you for visiting and taking the time to share your thoughts. I was in a similiar place when I became aware of Evernote, and was really surprised that so many people used it. I try to stay on top of technology, and somehow this one slipped through the cracks for me. I downloaded it, but then didn't actually use it for quite some time for the same reason. When I finally did It took some time before it became my preferred method for taking notes...but now I use it for much more than that...and I think I'm still not entirely taking advantage of it's features. I'm still learning too!

    • ValerieJoy profile image

      Valerie Smith 

      5 years ago from New Zealand

      Thank you for this information. I had never heard of Evernote before reading your lens. It sounds as though it could be helpful with keeping track of ideas to use in future articles etc. I won't try it now though as I don't have the time at present to learn something new, but I will keep Evernote in mind for the future. Thanks again for a great lens.

    • vsajewel profile imageAUTHOR

      vsajewel 

      5 years ago

      @norma-holt: Thanks so much for your words of encouragement, I really appreciate it.

    • vsajewel profile imageAUTHOR

      vsajewel 

      5 years ago

      @Elsie Hagley: Thank you for reading me lens. I found that as I built up my note database, that I ended up using it more and more...it just kind of progressed naturally. I'm curious about what the challenge was.

    • vsajewel profile imageAUTHOR

      vsajewel 

      5 years ago

      @Seasons Greetings: Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I've kind of gravitated more towards tablets and don't use my computer much anymore. I never tried Linux, but my son does. Why aren't you using it now?

    • Seasons Greetings profile image

      Laura Brown 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I had a look at Evernote when it came out. But, I'm not getting into the mobile very much - don't even want another phone especially. So it isn't something I have a use for. I'd really rather go back to running Linux on my desktop than get into new mobile technology. It's funny how everyone assumes you have a mobile phone these days.

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 

      5 years ago

      this is a great introduction to a device not known to me before. Well done,

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 

      5 years ago from New Zealand

      Great review.

      I have joined Evernote and have basic ideas how to use it, but I have a lot to learn about it.

      I agree with you it is very popular, Ed Dale's, challenge in september used it.

    • vsajewel profile imageAUTHOR

      vsajewel 

      5 years ago

      @SusanDeppner: Thank you so much for your kind words! Please don't let the amount of information intimidate you...it's really easy, and my next lens will be step by step instructions to get started.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 

      5 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Wow, what a great review and resource! I haven't joined the Evernote crowd but when I do, I'll know exactly where to find the information I need to use it to the max. Thanks!

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