Evernote: The Great Linux Tool Without a Pure Linux Client

screenshot of Evernote web interface

I know Evernote is hardly a new service. It also lacks a Linux client. Despite these two things, I still feel the need to sing its praises to Linux users.

Evernote is a virtual closet for all of your electronic scraps. Like a physical closet, it can either be jammed full of stuff with no rhyme or reason, or it can be organized to death. Evernote supports both methods.

For me, it’s been a great, central place to keep notes to myself.

Just a quick procedural note: I pretty much live in my calendar. Evernote is used for anything that doesn’t have a date attached to it. So specific posts are on my calendar, but amorphous post ideas are in Evernote. Articles I want to read later are saved in Pocket.

I discovered Evernote this summer. Whenever I go on vacation, I wind up with a bunch of assorted notes to myself. They range from articles that come across my radar that I don’t have time to fully process, to music, movie, and book recommendations, to ideas I want to follow up on. In the past, I’ve used email and paper to track everything, but my wife suggested Evernote.

Evernote has an Android client, so it was great for me. Anything I found on my phone I could easily send into Evernote. Plus, it was very easy to write notes to myself. As a result, when we got back from vacation, I had a neat list of links and ideas to review in one place.

screenshot of Evernote Android interface

From there, I just got in the habit of using it as the central place for all of my lists and drafts. I had been using SimpleNote, but the Android clients for it weren’t very good. I had also been keeping things in PBWorks, but there wasn’t an Android client for that.

In a lot of ways, there’s nothing special about Evernote. It’s just a centralized collection of text documents organized into what Evernote calls notebooks. The strength of it is the clients, which make it available on just about everything. And for me, the strength is also my commitment to using it.

As I mentioned earlier, there’s no official Linux client, although there is NeverNote, a clone for Linux. GNOME Notes also has some Evernote integration. But the browser extensions are really good, as is the web interface, so I’m not even sure I’d bother installing a client, even if one were available. Lately, I’ve been emailing a lot of stuff into Evernote and that’s also been wonderfully convenient (every Evernote account has a personalized email address that allows you to email content into it).

screenshot of Evernote web clipperEvernote web clipper in action

Evernote also supports two-step authentication using the Google Authenticator. In general, I’m gravitating toward services that offer that option, since security is always a concern (Evernote was hacked earlier this year).

Productivity is a funny thing. For many, it’s very easy to become obsessed with it to the point where you’re being unproductive. Evernote, with all of its features and versatility, definitely lends itself to that rabbit hole. I try not to overthink it and instead use Evernote as the one place where I keep stuff I might want someplace other than my laptop. I also try and check it every day, because I do sometimes send things there and then forget about them. But as I mentioned above, anything with any kind of due date gets thrown on the calendar. And this workflow works very well for me. But the reason it works so well is because I focus on the process and not the tool. I focus on what I want to do (keep track of my stuff) and not what I want to do it with (Evernote). It’s a subtle distinction, but it prevents me from becoming obsessed with mastering Evernote at the expense of actually getting work done.

There are lots of Evernote alternatives. When I looked at a bunch of these, I was surprisingly impressed by OneNote and wary of Google, a company that doesn’t always stick with its products. Evernote worked best for me but it won’t be the right fit for everyone.

Evernote is amazingly robust. I’m sure I’m not touching a lot of the functionality that’s possible, but for anyone who feels like they have a lot of electronic stuff all over the place (like in text files, Dropbox, and assorted email accounts), Evernote solves a problem. It’s not a Linux-specific problem, but because Linux people tend to jump around computers and devices, the Evernote solution will speak to a lot of us. If you’ve somehow avoided checking it out before now, it’s worth investigating. Even without an official Linux client.

You can follow Linux Rig on Google+ here, follow me on Twitter here, and subscribe to the feed here.