Evernote has long been an organizational staple for phone and tablet users, enabling them to take and personalize notes with photos, audio and tags, and sync them across devices. Whether you're taking notes on a lecture and simultaneously recording audio or just making a grocery list, Evernote syncs with all your devices, as well as with Skitch, so you never miss a beat.
After we installed Evernote on our iPad, the app prompted us to create a free account by entering our email address, a username and a password. We then received an email asking to download Evernote on our desktop, phone or other mobile device by clicking the given link. That way, all of our notes synced with all of our devices. In addition to iOS, Evernote is available for Android, BlackBerry, Mac OS X, Windows Phone 8, and Windows 8 and 7.
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When you first launch Evernote on an iPad, the top third of the screen is blank; after using the app, this area will populate with your most recently viewed, created or edited notes. To the left are three icons to create a new note, take a photo or use the iPad's camera to scan a page.
Beneath are green tabs for Places, Tags, Notebooks and All Notes, which reminded us of hanging folders. Tap one of the tabs to enter that particular folder (which expands to fill the whole screen), and tap the Evernote elephant in the upper-left corner to return home.
The All Notes tab displays all of your notes, which you can arrange by list or grid view, and filter by the date they were updated or created, or by title. The Notebooks tab compiles all of your notebooks into a grid view, so you can group notes however you like and create as many notebooks as you want. In this tab, a + button adds a new notebook, while a Trash button shows what's in your trash. The Edit button on the upper right lets you change the name of a note, delete it or share it.
Within the Tags tab, any tags you add to notes are organized in alphabetical order. You can sort them by name or note count -- for example, a tag you cite more often will be closer to the top. The Places tab shows a map with tags of where you've made certain notes. Tapping on the Grid button on the upper right brings all of your notes to the front.
On the bottom-left part of the interface is a small star that, when tapped, opens a Shortcuts sidebar. Here, you can view notes that you've tagged with a star; it's yet another way of getting to frequently used notes.
Of all of the note-taking apps we've tested, Evernote offers the most organizational features. We liked that we could search notes by several different aspects, as well as arrange notes in different ways, depending on which visual effect we preferred.
We also like that Evernote gives you tips on how to use the app. For instance, it tells you to tap the + button to make a new note and to tap the Info button on any new or existing note to assign tags.
At the top of a note, there are icons that let you insert an image or audio clip, trash the note, view info about the note, or search within the note for a particular word or phrase.
A toolbar between the note and the keyboard contains such functions as italics, linking, bullets and checklists. We really appreciated the toolbar; if we were typing a longer document, the highlighter tool was useful for making a piece of text stand out.
On the lower right are even more features, which allow you to do things like set reminders, add the note to the Shortcuts menu and export the note via text message, Twitter or email. Unlike on Notes Plus, handwriting mode isn't supported in Evernote -- which we really missed -- but a fourth icon on the bottom lets you export the note to Skitch, where you can further annotate the note.
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An Evernote Premium membership costs $4.99 per month or $44.99 per year. The perks of the Premium membership are offline access to notes; a boost in uploads to 1GB per month (the free version is limited to 60MB); and the ability to add a PIN to protect your accounts, view past versions of all notes, search within PDFs and let others edit notebooks. Although this is an expensive service, it's the only note-taking app we've tested that has the capability to let others edit your notes.
Typing notes was seamless using Evernote for the iPad; we formatted text quickly and easily. Inserting a photo from our Camera Roll worked well, and we took high-res photos from within the app just by tapping two buttons.
We recorded an audio note while typing notes -- a feature we could see coming in handy for students who want to record their professor's entire lecture while simultaneously taking notes. Audio came through clearly, and we saw no stuttering or lag in typing while recording audio. Evernote's recording feature merely inserts an audio clip into a note, but you can use the microphone button on the iOS keyboard for dictation.
Tagging notes is as simple as entering a topic, such as "food" or "study materials." Once a tag is saved, it automatically appears when you start typing it in another note. Use the search function by entering a term; Evernote highlights that word in yellow where it appears within the note.
We shared one of our notebooks by tapping the Share button within Notebooks. (First, tap the Edit button on the upper right, and then tap on which notebook you want to share.) Then, just select Invite Individuals. When we tried it, the invite emails sent instantly, and when we tapped Open Shared Notebook and entered the login info, it displayed all the notes within that particular notebook. However, users can only edit notes if they have a Premium membership.
When we opened notes on another iPad, they all were pinned to the exact locations where they were created, and zooming in on each flag was quick.
Content synced between devices instantly; we never had to wait for our most recent note to appear.
Although we wish it had handwriting recognition -- a feature many other note-taking apps have -- Evernote benefits from an excellent organizational structure and slick syncing capabilities. Although some compelling features -- such as offline access and the ability for others to edit notes -- require a paid Premium membership, Evernote for the iPad is an excellent note-taking app. It incorporates photos, audio notes and tags for easy organization and collaboration, and it keeps your life in sync with your phone, tablet and laptop.