Brain Tickler Tools for Story Ideas – Part 2

Last week, I took a look at what I called “Brain Tickler Tools” – Notefish and Instapaper – tools that went beyond bookmarking but actually helped me create some kind of writer’s tickler file where I could return anytime and browse over content to get ideas for articles and blog posts. I promised to check out a few more recommended by the WWD community.

Evernote clip viewI have to say that my experience with two other apps – Evernote (still in limited beta) and Google Notebook – was quite different from the first two I tried. They didn’t work as well for me. Hey, I’ve got to be honest here but also should clarify my criteria for what “works well for me” means.

  1. This is just my opinion.
  2. I need things to be very intuitive.
  3. Because I don’t read instructions.
  4. Because my brain would explode if I did and starts to smoke when I try.

So in the name of saving my brain, I jump right into using an application and then see how often I use it. Does it become second nature to me? Or am I constantly having to think about using it and how to use it properly?

Here’s how the last week has gone using Evernote and Google Notebooks.

I found that every time I opened my browser each morning and then tried to save a clip to Evernote, it asked me to log in. Yes, I checked “Remember Me.” Yes, I used the password storage feature in Firefox. This was a momentary blip as I saved clips.

Evernote notecard viewWhat I do like about Evernote is that it uses a bookmarklet to facilitate clipping articles and blog posts to my account. Having a button at the top of my browser is just perfect – it is right there, where I can see it, access it and use it.

I can either highlight a portion of an article or post or clip and save the whole page. The options to do one or another is nice. Then I can either “Go to Notecards” or go back to the page I was viewing.

What I really like about Evernote is how they use a screen grab to show what I’ve clipped. I don’t know if it is a gender thing, but I’m really visual and I always use the Icon view in Mac and really prefer seeing a graphic or icon rather than text link.

Evernote’s marketing blurbs claim they can help you create notes, to-dos, brainstorms and reminders. You can also:

“…snap photos of anything from whiteboards to wine labels then email or sync them; clip web pages and have them stored and accessible in their entirety, even offline; write handwritten notes using digital ink or take snapshots of regular ink notes; record audio clips and memos to listen to later; Email or MMS notes from your cell phone to your personalized Evernote address.”

All I can say to all of those features is…say what?!? I am focused entirely on one capability – clipping web pages and storing them to access them later. That is my tickler file. I’m overwhelmed, even a little intimidated, by all the other features. But hey, that’s just me.

Google Notebook

Google Notebook app viewWhile I can espouse my newfound love of Google Docs, I’m just not getting Google Notebook in the same way. The first thing that makes is harder for me to use is that the “button” you click to save a clip is on the bottom right hand corner of my browser. That position just isn’t intuitive for me.

Also, since I’m on a Mac with my menu of application icons across the bottom of my screen, anything I have to click at the bottom of my browser means I may accidentally click on Twhirl or Skype or another application in the menu. Kind of annoying.

Google Notebook clip viewAt first, I was also confused about creating “notebooks” in Google Notebook – for some reason it seemed easier in Evernote. And while I love the plain vanilla text of Instapaper, for some reason seeing just text links in Google Notebook is a bit of a letdown after the elegant screen grabs of Evernote.

Big confession: While I was testing out Evernote and Google Notebook, I saved all the same clips to Instapaper every time.

Sometimes, the most basic apps work better for me than all the fancy, schmancy whiz bang apps out there. What about you?


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