Welcome! This is the first part of a series of posts in which I will profile the apps and services I found essential to my first year as a law student. The first semester I restricted use to a laptop. After receiving an iPad 2 for Christmas, the second semester was limited to in-class use of the iPad and free reign while at home.
I encourage you, as Apple would say, to ‘Think Different.’
Evernote is a note taking service that goes beyond just text input. Evernote allows for pictures, documents, recordings, and more. To start, I created notebooks for each of my courses. Evernote allows the user to save notes, but they are logically organized into notebooks for storage. Evernote saves the data to your device (i.e., your computer) while also automatically syncing throughout the creation, or editing, of notes. The best way to think of Evernote is as one of those huge spiral notebooks with the different subject divisions. Evernote provides the notepaper and the pockets to store your notes as well as any handouts or slides the professor will post or share online (along with the occasional audio or picture note you capture).
I’ve seen a lot of my peers using Word or OneNote to take notes in class. One of the most beneficial uses I find with Evernote is the automatic online back-up of my information. I don’t have to worry about losing my notes with my computer. There are a large number of other benefits which I will get to with each of the individual Evernote clients.
If you don’t already have an account, I highly recommend taking the time and setting up an account. It is FREE. Evernote offers a variety of tiers for different services, but I find the basic (free) tier to be more than enough for my needs. Evernote has a web interface, desktop application, iOS app, Android app, and plenty of extensions to further the functionality of their services.
1: Desktop Client.
I will admit I had never used Evernote until I started school in the fall. I noticed the program came pre-installed on my Sony Vaio and opened it out of curiosity. The desktop client is very intuitive. The interface is slightly different between Windows and Mac OS platforms, but essentially the same tasks can be accomplished. I particularly enjoy the “data usage” bar that tracks your monthly progress as you save notes or upload documents to the Evernote service.
I have found the desktop client to be most helpful with class because it is the most easily searched. If you have ever taken a law school class, or any other type of class where the students are “on call,” you will understand the importance of quickly accessing information if put on the spot! Luckily, Evernote provided methods of searching within a specific notebook (subject) or the entire account. I even had (rare) moments where I could quickly pull in a case from another class and tie them together. When you’re put on the spot, any advantage is helpful.
PDF export and printing features provided the ability to quickly share and put together study materials for finals. I could e-mail notes to friends and study group partners whenever we were exchanging notes and materials. I couldn’t decide whether I enjoyed having the PDFs on my iPad for review or just the printed version of the notes. There is still something about studying with a printed copy of materials, but Evernote didn’t fail in that department. My notes would print with the title, date, and correct text formatting. Highlights from the iPad (see iPad review) would carry over to the Desktop client, so it was nice having those printed as well.
2: Web Access.
The accessibility of Evernote through any web browser provided the perfect solution when I found myself in a bind. I worked in the law school library, so I could sit at the desk and open up Chrome to continue taking my notes while reading without having drag out my laptop or iPad.
The features are definitely not the same as the user moves between different apps. For instance, the text formatting controls and image capabilities are more limited in the web app. This is understandable; however, I dislike the loss of drawing capabilities, highlighting (see the iPad app section), and other “note-taking” tools.
For what it provides, the web browser app for Evernote definitely provides universal access to your notes and notebooks while on the run from almost any computer.
Up Next: Evernote for iPad and iPhone, Android, and plug-ins!