Evernote for Windows Phone 7: Your Brain in the Cloud

I practically live in Evernote. The application serves as my outboard brain, holding all of the bits of information that I can’t keep straight in my own head. Evernote was one of the first applications that I installed when I first started using Windows Phone, and I put that little elephant through its paces for the sake of a full review.

So is this version of Evernote as compelling as the rest of the suite, or will this application be the one thing that an elephant pretends that it forgot? Let’s find out.

On Evernote

I’m a huge fan of Evernote, whether it’s on my Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android, or Windows Phone. I’ve even been known to use the web service from time to time, giving me a taste of the app on most major platforms.

Since I was familiar with the service to begin with I had high hopes for Evernote’s Windows Phone client. With all of the improvements that have been made to the iPhone and iPad apps over the past few months, I expected that Evernote for Windows Phone would be just as good as, or better than, the constantly-iterating iOS applications.

First Launch

Evernote’s first launch went much the same as I expected: after entering my login info I was prompted to wait while the application downloaded all of my existing notes from Evernote’s servers. There were a few WiFi-related hiccups during the download process, but I feel that I got a good idea of what most people with a decent (not astronomically high) number of notes could expect; it so happens that they should expect a little bit of sluggishness.

How much of this can be blamed on my own internet connection is unclear. I’ve noticed on each client that the sync process takes a bit longer than I would like, and I knew that I was really downloading all of those notes (their headers, anyway) at once, but it still felt slow. Be prepared to leave your phone alone for a minute as the download creeps along.

Taking Notes: The Basics

It’s right there in the application name: notes. While I use Evernote for a wide range of things from shopping lists to small notes and random information, the basic idea is simple: Evernote is where you should put all of your extra bits of information that you can’t keep straight on your own. Whether it’s a recipe, reminder, or to-do list, Evernote has you covered.

Evernote's default view, with Notebooks on one side and (a level deeper) the notes within.

Evernote's default view, with Notebooks on one side and (a level deeper) the notes within.

The basic idea for creating a note is relatively simple. You hit the little Add button at the bottom of the screen, select a title, and then move on to the body of the text. You can also have attachments, like pictures or audio notes, if you need that extra bit of information or want to capture a specific picture or sound.

When you’re done creating a note, Evernote sends it back to its web servers and then makes it available on all devices. Be careful with notes if you are going to end up leaving an internet connection, as Evernote only offers offline notebooks for mobile clients if you purchase the $5/month Premium membership. Generally this isn’t an issue, but it’s worth bearing in mind.

Taking Notes: Live Tiles

Okay, so you like the idea of Evernote, but you don’t want to launch the application, tap a button, and then tap another button in order to get to where you want to go. Evernote embraces Windows Phone’s live tiles, giving you quick access to creating new Voice, Image, or Text notes right on the start screen. Simply tap the type of note that you would like to create and get rolling.

Pick a template, hit a square; easy-peezy.

Pick a template, hit a square; easy-peezy.

Or, on the flip side of things, let’s say that there’s a notebook or tag that you view often. Instead of digging through the main application you can pin these to your start screen, giving you quick access to all of your recipes or your shopping lists.

By giving you this easy access Evernote is providing two things: less movement as you tap around an application, causing less friction between getting your thoughts from your brain and the application, and some time savings as you don’t have to wait for the application to sync to Evernote’s servers before you create a note.

Alternate Views: Maps and Recent

It’s a fact of life that you’ll want to check out different notes in different circumstances. What might be useful to you while you’re at your computer might not be nearly as useful while you’re at the grocery market and vice versa. You’re also likely to end up with a ton of notes, especially if you aren’t as religious about deleting irrelevant files as I am.

I'll leave it up to you to decide which is which.

I'll leave it up to you to decide which is which.

Evernote offers up two views specifically for this reason: Map and Recent. They work just the same as you would think based on their names; Map shows you where you created a note (provided you still have the location data for it) while Recent bypasses the notebooks/tags look of the main app in order to show you a condensed list of the notes that you’ve been interacting with.

Conclusion

Evernote for Windows Phone didn’t disappoint. I enjoyed the relatively sparse interface, and it managed to feel familiar to me as an Evernote application and unique to the Windows Phone operating system all at once.

If you’ve used Evernote on another platform you know the drill, but in case you haven’t: you’ll need to be a little patient if you aren’t going to spring for that Premium membership. Offline notebooks are handier than you may think, and you might find yourself hitting your monthly upload limit if you take as many notes as I end up taking. Consider the benefits of the Premium membership versus the cost carefully, as it might help you bring Evernote up from ‘useful tool’ to ‘must-have’.


Summary

Evernote for Windows Phone is the WP7-specific application that syncs with Evernote's servers, giving you access to all of your saved thoughts on whatever device you happen to be using.

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