There are plenty of note-taking applications out there; we’ve reviewed a fair number of them. So what makes the new beta version of Evernote stand out? For starters, they support a good number of clients, all synchronizing the same data: web, Windows, Mac, Mobile web, and Windows Mobile. But potentially more important in the long run are their plans to improve your memory as time goes by. If they can pull off this plan, they’ll be in the position of offering value in the future based on actions you take today, which is a nice place for any business to be.
Evernote organizes your notes into notebooks, which can be public or private. Procedures may differ depending on which client you’re using, but you can add notes by typing in text, by clipping information from your web browser, by taking screenshots, or by sending email to your account. Notes can be tagged, searched by all sorts of attributes, and synchronized between various devices and Evernote clients.
But the real key to Evernote’s long-term success lies in their notion of “recognizers.” Right now the one that has gotten the most notice is their text-in-image recognizer. If you upload an image (whether clipped from the web or taken with your cell phone’s camera), Evernote will scan it for text – printed or handwritten – and add this text to the searchable text for the note. So if you capture a picture of a cocktail napkin from “Joe’s Lounge” you can find that picture in the future by searching for “Lounge”.
The text-in-image recognizer works very well. I was able to confuse it, but only with things like a picture of a road sign that was filled with bullet holes. On street scene photos, it managed to pick out text on buildings and even in neon signs – all in all a quite impressive performance.
But the real key to Evernote’s potential lies in their plans for future recognizers. The company is working on several of these, and when they’re ready to ship one, they also intend to run it over the entire corpus of data that Evernote users have already saved. For example, if and when they add facial recognition to the product, any faces you’ve ever saved should be recognized for searching.
It’s an interesting idea. If they can pull it off, then it makes sense now to start shoving everything you collect into Evernote – web clippings, scans of receipts, photos of everyone at every meeting you attend – with the hope that any time you’re trying to remember something, you’ll be able to find it again in Evernote. The game plan here is to make the service your offline memory. And unlike your real memory, it will just keep getting better as you age.