The so-called ‘getting things done’ methodology is something that I’ve never been able to fully grasp. I am probably very opposite of that and am in a state of constant disarray. Probably not the best way to live, but I think I am doing OK. Problem is, though, that I cannot remember many things and needed a way to ‘organize’ the more important aspects of my life. The death of my father in law nearly two years ago drove home the need to have certain things in order and make certain information available to both myself, my wife and my son. Should something happen to us, there would be one place for him to go. Likewise, if something happened to my wife, I would know all of the information about our life. Same for her. So, how to accomplish this? Do I write something, I am, after all, a developer. But, I don’t wish to reinvent the wheel.
One day, while laid up with a back injury, I started playing with Microsoft OneNote. Whoa…this is it. So, I set up a personal notebook, created sections for each of us and we began to populate it. We were amazed at how much information that we knew individually, but not collectively. It was quite an eye opener. We keep everything in there now, including medical information and prescription history. I have a central copy of the notebook that all of the PC’s access. Each PC has a local replica of the notebook as well. Since I have a Windows Mobile Smartphone, I run the mobile version of OneNote and keep medical information there. When I go to my doctor, I can pull up all of the medication I have to take, and any other pertinent data. When I take my son to his doctor, I have his information as well. OneNote made it really simple.
Enter my professional life. I am a developer for a fortune 500 company. I deal with many aspects of my company and work on many projects at the same time. I wanted to use OneNote at work, unfortunately OneNote is not free and I ran out of licenses to install it on my workstation. I began searching for an inexpensive alternative.
I found several potential alternatives to OneNote, but only one really stood out: Evernote. I downloaded the free version and liked it. It was very, very close to OneNote. I liked it so much that I spent the $40 and bought the application. Not long afterward, I discover that there was also a mobile version of the application. Great! I setup up my ‘tape’, which is like OneNote’s notebook. I was pretty happy with Evernote. I could create templates, which was a tremendous feature, to record things like meeting notes, work schedules, script snippets and other important information. I could even replicate the databases. Wonderful. I even got several free upgrades. Even better. Then, Evernote went the wrong way with the upgrades.
Evernote 3.0 is a radical change from 2.2. Evernote 2.2 was versatile and very robust. You could do just about anything with it. It even had OCR in it: it would recognize text in photos. This was very useful: I could photograph a white board and then index it. Pretty darn cool. Unfortunately, that and most of what made Evernote 2.2 truly useful, went away in favor of Mac OS X and web features. The Windows version of Evernote was gutted. The mobile version was replaced with a lame read only version and the application lost much of its usefulness…and it’s loyal supporters. All along, the Evernote team maintained that the features-most of them-would eventually be restored. So far, I don’t think many of them have been. The character recognition, I believe, is the only one that has been restored. I am going to be wholly unfair now. I have not checked out the latest releases. After being fed a bunch of crap through the user forums and seeing little progress, I have pretty much given up on Evernote 3. I still use Evernote 2.2 at work, but we’ve recently gone to Office 2007 so I will be pushing for OneNote.
It’s too bad that Evernote took a big step backward. It is not often that a great product takes such a huge step backward, but Evernote did. Still, Evernote has value. For people who have never used the older versions, Evernote 3 is a useful application. You can synchronize with the web and access your ‘tape’ anywhere that you have internet access. There is an iPhone version that looks great. Clearly, Evernote was more concerned with having something that was more web centric and they were not worried about losing what installed base that they had because they knew they could make up the loss with people who are easily impressed with form over function and a ‘clean’ user interface. For me, this is unacceptable and LOSING functionality in favor of the web piece was step backward.
OneNote is superior to all of its counterparts. Hands down. Why Microsoft does not promote this product more is beyond me. The versatility of OneNote is, hands down, unsurpassed by any other similar application. Though it was originally designed for tablet computing, and still has tools built in for that, it works very well for mouse and keyboard. It also has indexing of text, images, video and sound.
For me, OneNote and Evernote have been a godsend. I am a bit more organized and feel more comfortable that important information will be easily accessed for my family, if need be. (You can password protect your databases as well.) Both applications are worth a look. OneNote is the industrial strength, get it done application while Evernote, in it’s 3.0 incarnation, is the warm and fuzzy, form over function application. If you use a Mac, Evernote is your only choice. OneNote is, for some strange reason only Microsoft knows, Windows only. And that is too bad. It is a terrific application and should not be a Windows only tool. Microsoft should not only put out a Mac version, but they also should let the whole damn world know about this marvelous product.