Personal KM: One-stop PKM
One of the struggles of handling personal information gathered from multiple sources is lack of central management. Finding a service that can meet many needs across devices, while keeping it all in sync, is difficult. Evernote provides the capability to capture content of interest, annotate and add metadata to it, optimize it for search, and retrieve it as well as manage it across devices.
Evernote, which has been available since 2007, began as a Web clipping service with Web browser applications, e-mail or device-based apps to input text, documents or images. A great feature for Evernote has been the ability to capture images and have Evernote OCR them to pull out text for ease of searching. The widespread use of cameras in phones to capture images of text (business cards, posters, brochures, documents, etc.) has helped Evernote grow. It is much like a Swiss Army knife that can do many things and has diverse functionality. Some people have favorite uses for Evernote, while others use all of its services as their one-stop, Web-based (cloud) personal knowledge repository.
Evernote has grown into a good platform and ecosystem around personal knowledge management (PKM). Initially Evernote's main service—the Web clipper that allowed easy capture of snippets of text, whole Web documents, notes and images with the ability to tag and annotate each item—was a great resource for those working across devices. As Evernote matured, the underlying systems for the freemium service improved as did the OCR and the added storage space of the paid accounts.
Evernote has a rather robust developer network making use of its open API. That has resulted in many software and application offerings built for and on top of Evernote. It provides "the trunk," which is the app discovery area on its site. Recently, Evernote has been expanding its offerings by paying attention to what has been popular around the Web, and built similar solutions or has bought applications and services that fit into the Evernote family.
Two recent purchases have extended the basic services of Evernote's capture of documents and note-taking. Last year Evernote purchased Skitch, an image capture and annotation application for Mac OS X and the iOS and Android mobile platforms. Following that, Evernote purchased the iOS sketching and handwritten note application Penultimate. Both services have yet to be fully integrated into Evernote, but it is easy to imagine more features.
Other extensions and applications Evernote has grown in house include a service called Clearly, which provides a way to mark a Web page to read later and in an easy-to-read interface. Clearly is similar to services like Instapaper (instapaper.com), Readability (readability.com) and others. The content for Clearly lives inside your Evernote repository, which has full search, but it also allows the ability to tag the content as you wish and aggregate it.
Evernote Food is an application for taking photos of your food and annotating them. Evernote Peek is a study aid that is for the iPad and allows you to use Evernote as a flashcard service where you put your study notes. Peek then can be used to flip back the iPad smart cover to the first fold to see a question, and the second fold holds the answer.
While Evernote has the capability to hold a wide variety of information, the glue that binds all of those elements, including sharable folders, is its search. Each device with an Evernote app can easily search the whole of the offerings. In the last 18 months, Evernote released Simultaneous Search as part of its Chrome and Firefox browser extensions. That pairs the regular Google search with a search of your Evernote repository and nests the Evernote findings at the top of the Google page.
All of those offerings are rather good. Few are better than similar products, but often something that Evernote offers fills a gap perfectly. Little by little, Evernote has a decent chunk of your information. Should it get everything you have? That is a personal decision. Many use it with other services for redundancy, which is often a good plan.