Thursday, October 29, 2009

Check Out Evernote

Evernote is a neat little application that I run on my Blackberry and my desktop PC. On the Blackberry it allows me to type notes, and then synch them with the application on my PC. Handy for jotting down new hearing dates when I get them in court, brainstorms, etc., etc. Erik Mazzone likes Evernote too. Here is an article he wrote about it in Law Practice Today.
I am not, by nature, an organized person. I am in a constant battle against entropy over all of the bits of information (particularly digital information) that comprise my work life. Over the past year or so I have recruited a new ally in my war against chaos and disorganization: Evernote.

Evernote is a note-taking software program. For those of you who came of age in the '70s and '80s as I did, think of it as a Trapper Keeper binder for your digital world. You can stick all kinds of information in Evernote: emails, pdfs, word processing documents and spreadsheets, digital photos, even Twitter messages. The ability to store lots of different file types in one application means that users can organize by subject without having to remember that Word documents are stored in MyDocuments, bookmarks are stored in a web browser, photos are stored in MyPictures, etc.

Evernote has three different incarnations: it can be downloaded as a desktop application to either Mac or PC; it can be downloaded as a mobile application on a Palm Pre, Blackberry or Windows Mobile Device -- and yes, of course there is an iPhone app for it; and it lives on the web as a software-as-a-service application.

Evernote is a "freemium" service; it is available as free, but many of its best features are only available with the paid version. As of May 2009, of the more than one million registered Evernote users, around fourteen thousand pay for the premium service.

The basic organizational unit of Evernote is a Notebook. Users can create as many Notebooks as they need to organize their information. When you add data to a Notebook, the data gets stored as a Note. Each note can be further organized using Labels. There is no folder structure in Evernote, so it is a bit of an adjustment (at least it was for me) to start thinking in terms of Labels instead of folders. There is also an excellent search function in Evernote to quickly locate Notes.

Getting data into Evernote is a snap. In its simplest form, a Note can be text document that you type directly into Evernote; the interface is bare bones and similar Notepad on PCs. The terminology evokes the apt metaphor of writing notes on loose leaf paper in a notebook.

Beyond typing directly into Evernote, users can also add data in several handy ways:

1) Email: each user receives an email address and can email information directly into Evernote.

2) Clip from the Web: Evernote also features a web clipper "bookmarklet" (available for Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, and Chrome) that allows users to save a webpage directly into Evernote with a couple of clicks. Firefox has an Evernote browser extension that allows greater customization of the content to be clipped from a web page.

3) Drag and Drop: PDFs, Word and Excel documents can be dragged and dropped into the desktop as easily as they can be moved from folder to folder in Windows or OSX.

4) Scan: some scanners, such as the highly praised Fujitsu ScanSnap, can be set up to scan directly into Evernote. Setting the scanner to OCR incoming documents combined with Evernote's internal text recognition makes Notes easy to find.

5) Twitter: by following @myEN on Twitter and connecting it to your personal Evernote account, users can easily move content from Twitter into Evernote for reference, either through public tweets or private direct messages.

One of my favorite features of Evernote is its ability to sync across multiple machines and platforms. I use a PC at work and a MacBook at home. Evernote works equally well on both operating systems, keeps my information flawlessly synced between machines and backs up my data to the web.

Both the free and premium versions of Evernote synchronize across platforms and provide text recognition within the notes. Users of the premium version ($45 per year) also get a larger monthly upload allowance (500MB vs 40MB -- this applies to new data added to Evernote each month) to the Evernote web platform, the ability to text search within PDFs, SSL encryption, and no promotions or advertising. For lawyers who bristle at the idea of storing any data on servers not in their own office, Evernote does permit Notebooks to be designated as local rather than synchronized, though that diminishes some of the functionality.

So, what are some of the uses for Evernote? Personally, I use Evernote in a few different ways:

1) Projects: I create a Notebook for each of my projects and store all of the relevant support material in it, including emails, documents, PDFs and web clippings.

2) Article Archive: any time I come across an article or blog post I want to remember, I clip it into Evernote and Label it accordingly.

3) Medical Records: I scan and store all of my medical and dental paperwork into one Notebook.

4) Business Cards: I scan and store all of the business cards I receive into a Notebook; since the PDFs are text searchable I can search for a given name or firm, and also see the notes I write on the back of the card.

5) Travel Ideas: I clip articles, photos and ideas for future trips and into a travel Notebook; when I actually prepare to take a trip I create another Notebook to store my plane and hotel confirmation as well as any other data I will need while traveling.

I assume you already have a practice management software program in your office to manage all of the client and matter specific information - if you don't, do that first. Evernote is not a replacement for practice management software. It does, however, offer a solution for all of the information that is not related to particular clients and matters. Legal research, a document repository, articles that you've read online and want to keep - Evernote offers a place to store them all in one system.

Evernote does have some limitations: certain web pages (particularly if a user clips an entire page as opposed to an article) don't format nicely in Evernote. While it is convenient to store all of one's information in Evernote, Word and Excel documents are not as accessible as if they were stored in a MyDocuments folder (it requires several more clicks to launch a document).

All things considered, though, Evernote offers a great solution to help lawyers manage information and stay organized.
Please click here to read the original article.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

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