Pocket notebooks used to be ubiquitous. Novel indexing systems were devised, miniature pens and pencils perfect for pockets were developed, and a variety of small notebooks for personal and work use proliferated.

But that was then. Today the notebook has been replaced by another accessory pretty much everyone has in their pocket: A smartphone.

Most people take their notes digitally in the modern age, and the reasons are obvious: No more messy handwriting, runny ink, lost notebooks, flipping through pages, or poor organization (of which I’m guilty).

With the right app the modern digital note is available wherever you go and whenever you need it. Like with Evernote.

Evernote is a note-taking app for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. It stores notes, lists, and other work in the cloud, giving you access to all of them no matter what kind of machine you’re using–you can even access Evernote using its web client on systems that don’t have the app installed.

Evernote is also a valid option for businesses looking for collaborative workspace software, although anyone expecting it to be a full-fledged cloud office suite like G Suite or Office 365 will be disappointed: It’s designed more for organizing collaborative work, exchanging ideas, gathering research, and managing projects.

TechRepublic’s Evernote cheat sheet is an introduction to this note-taking platform. The guide will be updated periodically as the app changes and evolves to meet new user demands.

SEE: Software usage policy (Tech Pro Research)

Executive summary

  • What is Evernote? Evernote is a platform-agnostic note-taking app. Notes can consist of typed text, handwriting, PDFs, website clippings, images, audio, and video. Notes can be easily shared and accessed on any machine that has a web browser installed.
  • What are Evernote’s key features for business users? Evernote offers a business tier designed to make enterprise-level collaboration easier. It offers the same features as a standard subscription as well as group pages called Spaces, along with several administrative features that make Evernote better integrate with enterprise IT systems.
  • Why does Evernote matter? Evernote may have been one of the first big note-taking apps, but it’s a far cry from being unique. Evernote still matters, however, because it isn’t tied into any ecosystems except its own, making it more accessible to more people.
  • Who should use Evernote? Anyone who wants a platform-agnostic ecosystem for note-taking and collaboration. That’s a lot of people, and an even greater percentage in the workplace.
  • When was Evernote released? Evernote has been available since 2008. Since Evernote’s initial release, a number of new features and partnerships have improved the note-taking app to keep it competitive against similar apps.
  • How can I start using Evernote? Evernote is free to download and use, but there are restrictions if you don’t pay for premium service. It can be downloaded from Evernote’s website and a variety of app stores.

SEE: All of TechRepublic’s cheat sheets and smart person’s guides

What is Evernote?

Evernote is a note-taking app for mobile and desktop operating systems. It is platform agnostic, allowing users with an account to view their notes on any device with an app–or in the case of unsupported platforms, a web browser.

Evernote is designed for the note-taker who wants a high level of organization options. The app allows notes to be tagged, annotated, sorted, and added to different notebooks. If set up well Evernote can take all the notebooks you use for different things and roll them up into one always-available spot.

Notes in Evernote can be typed, handwritten on the screen, formatted as a list, entered as photos and voice memos, and even clipped from web pages, images, and PDF files. Notes can be shared with other Evernote users, which makes collaboration easy, and paid tiers of Evernote offer features like PDF text search, PDF markup, offline note access, email forwarding to store messages in Evernote, business card scanning, and more.

Additional resources

What are Evernote’s key features for business users?

Evernote has a long list of features, but many of the more advanced features–particularly the features that are useful to businesses–are locked behind one of two subscription tiers, one designed for individual use and the other for the enterprise.

Evernote’s business tier gives users access to all the features of individual subscribers and adds one big user-centered feature called Spaces.

Spaces are collaborative workspace for groups or projects. Each Space has its own notebooks where all standard Evernote files and clips can be stored. Viewing a Space’s homepage shows a list of all notebooks in the Space as well as a list of recent changes made by the Space’s members.

Spaces can be accessed by non-members if they’re made searchable in a company’s Spaces Directory, which Evernote said is designed to “to leverage the knowledge, ideas, and insights of others in your business, no matter which team they’re on.”

Along with Spaces, Evernote’s business tier offers several other features not available to free users or individual subscribers. These features aren’t user-centered, and instead are focused on giving Evernote a higher level of integration in an enterprise IT environment:

  • Administrators gain access to a central admin console to control permissions, create groups, etc.
  • Single sign on for Evernote can be enabled by connecting it to Active Directory.
  • Evernote’s business tier is compatible with the System for Cross-domain Identity Management (SCIM) protocol, making it easier to provision new users and remove old ones.

Why does Evernote matter?

It’s easy to dismiss Evernote as unnecessary, especially given the existence of platform-integrated products like Google Keep and Apple iCloud Notes. That lack of platform integration is the exact reason Evernote matters.

Platform integration means that a coworker, friend, or client who doesn’t have access to that platform is locked out of viewing your files. Sure, lots of us have both an iCloud and Google Drive account, but there are plenty more who don’t.

SEE: The 10 most important iPhone apps of all time (Download.com)

Evernote apps are available on all major platforms, and even as a web app. Universal availability can make collaboration that much easier–a colleague would just need to sign up for a free account to gain access to shared documents.

Additional resources

Who should use Evernote?

It’s hard to think of a job that doesn’t require at least some time spent on the web or using the cloud for collaboration. Increasing digital collaboration can cause major headaches if everyone is on different incompatible platforms.

Evernote offers a system that’s available everywhere, making it ideal for collaboration and personal organization.

Businesses looking for collaborative space are in luck too–Evernote offers a business platform that brings all of its premium user features to the enterprise.

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What are the main alternatives to Evernote?

Unfortunately for Evernote, what it does is in no way unique; there are a large number of competitors, including Google Keep and Microsoft OneNote, that do most or all of the same things as Evernote. In many cases, the features behind Evernote’s paywall are available for free in competitors too.

Businesses looking for something more than a multimedia note-taking app will want to consider an alternative as well. Evernote offers business plans, but at the end of the day the multimedia note-taking app isn’t Google’s G Suite or Microsoft’s Office 365, and it isn’t built to be an office suite. Professionals aren’t always just sharing notes, images, and other files–they may want to share spreadsheets and databases or simply need a space on the web that acts like a typical computer drive. In that sense an Evernote business subscription may be redundant.

SEE: Comparison chart: Enterprise collaboration tools (Tech Pro Research)

In short, most of Evernote’s features can be found elsewhere except for the one that really matters: It isn’t tied into any major OS or ecosystem. If you’re looking for something that isn’t reliant on Google, Apple, or Microsoft, Evernote is definitely the way to go.

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When was Evernote released?

Evernote has been around since 2008–that’s a lifetime in tech terms. By 2011 Evernote had over 11 million users, and the app is now estimated to have more than 200 million users.

How do I start using Evernote?

Evernote can be downloaded from Google Play, the Apple App Store, The Windows Store, the Windows Mobile Store, and on Evernote’s website.

While Evernote is free to download and use it does come with a lot of restrictions: You can only sync notes between two devices for free; you can’t access notes offline; and you can upload only 60MB worth of content a month, which isn’t much if you use it regularly. That doesn’t even begin to cover the features you miss out on, such as PDF markup, email forwarding to Evernote, syncing across unlimited devices (free users are only allowed two synced devices), offline notebook access, and text search in PDF and Microsoft Office files.

For those using the premium edition of Evernote, the amount of content they can upload jumps from 60 MB per month all the way to 10 GB, a huge increase that makes Evernote far more practical to use.

Individual Evernote subscriptions cost $7.99 per month, or $69.99 for an entire year. Business plans will cost a company $14.99 per user per month, or $149.99 per user if paid annually.

Additional resources

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Catch up on the latest tech innovations that are changing the world, including IoT, 5G, the latest about phones, security, smart cities, AI, robotics, and more. Delivered Tuesdays and Fridays