Why Evernote Just Doesn't Work For Me

Evernote is a very useful, Swiss-Army knife kind of software application that provides users with the tools they need to collect all of the information from their online journeys. It is a boon to anyone serious about task management and online research. So why can't I get it integrated into my own work habits?

For some inexplicable reason, I have never been able to really truly integrate Evernote into my daily work environment. And it's not for lack of trying. Many of my colleagues recommend it, and since they are in the business of writing content for the Interwebs, what's good for them should be good for me, right?

Yet every time I try Evernote, it never seems to be quite all there for me. Even as a Premium user, which I am, at the urging of my colleagues.

Researching the Problem

Take research, for instance. I know that as I move around from site to site on the Internet, looking for material to source for an article, I can easily assign sites to individual notebooks in Evernote so I can come back to them later. The problem is, unless I am working on a really big story, "later" is usually "now," and I have all the tabs in my browser nicely open for me to reference.

I would like to be able to stick websites into Evernote's notebooks in "blue sky" mode, which is when I am just surfing around and might happen to catch my eye on something that I might want to come back to later. Except Evernote's integration in iOS Safari doesn't work half the time, which is too bad because iPad time (unlike computer time) is usually great for blue sky meandering. (Evernote does work very well on my Android browser, but honestly, I don't use my phone to surf around aimlessly much.)

Seeing a Solution?

I got really excited when I heard about Evernote's improvements to Page Camera, and was hoping to try them out to pull my written notes into text via Evernote's optical character recognition. I take written notes copiously (I own fountain pens and Moleskines by the dozens) and writing-to-text would be awesome with a cross-platform app.

But nope, Evernote's OCR, which pretty good, only indexes snapshots for note searching. There's no magical "here's your text" feature for me to cut and paste content into a story. You can export an OCR note to an ENEX file, but when you open the thing in a text editor, it's so heavily marked up you can't get the text out easily at all.

One thing Evernote does have, however, is a pretty good Dictate feature that I have used from time to time at conferences to catch longer interviews and presentations. I really wanted the OCR capability to work, but I suppose speech-to-text could be another option. I am worried about the monthly data limits on my Evernote account, though.

All Things for All People

Part of my continued firewall for Evernote usage has little to do with the app itself. One of the many uses for Evernote could be task management. Think of something to do, and make a note for it. But in this area, I already have a very good task manager, OmniFocus. In fact, OmniFocus' integration with my OS X machine and iPad means that I can capture a lot of information as I think of it or see it on a website, dump it into my OmniFocus inbox, and then sort it into a task category/timeframe later. That capture-and-figure-it-out-later process is part of the Getting Things Done process OmniFocus is really good for, and Evernote isn't quite.

While it may be obvious that Evernote and OmniFocus are not meant to do the same things, pointing out this difference speaks to a larger point about apps like Evernote that try to be all things to all people. That simply is very hard to do, and rarely works out for the best. It would be better, I think, for Evernote to do fewer things very well than many things just okay.

That may be the biggest reason why Evernote simply hasn't worked for me.

Image Courtesy of Shutterstock