Take a Note--Or Lots of Them

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SAN DIEGO -- Whether on sticky notes, napkins, memo pads, or random pieces of paper, everybody takes notes--usually without the assistance of a computer. EverNote, a promising new application demonstrated at the DemoMobile show here, aims to change that.

(DemoMobile is operated by IDG Executive Forums, a sister company of PC World.)

Due for release in a public beta test next month, EverNote lets you type quick notes to yourself. But its notes can contain a lot more than plain text. It's easy, for example, to grab images or bits and pieces of Web pages or Microsoft Office documents and paste them into a note for later reference.

What's most unique about the program is the way it displays the notes you've taken--in a scrolling, chronological list that reminded me of a Weblog. (Another Demo attendee compared it accurately, if infelicitously, to an infinite roll of toilet paper.)

A "Timeband" shows the date that each note was created, and lets you zip back and forth in time to locate information. "You have this powerful way to use the slider to go anyplace you need," says EverNote CEO Stephan Pachikov. "For many people it's enough."

For those who want more, EverNote offers other information-taming tools such as Google-style full-text searching, the ability to winnow the list to items of a particular type (say, to-do tasks or spreadsheet snippets), and the ability to assign keywords to notes.

Your Own Handwriting

When used on a Tablet PC, EverNote permits the use of handwriting and digital ink as well as typed notes. However, it's not dependent on the handwriting recognition in Windows XP Tablet PC Edition.

"Our recognizer works in a fusion mode with Microsoft's, and gets better results," says Pachikov, whose career includes work on the recognition technologies in Microsoft's Tablet PC software and Apple's gone-but-not-forgotten Newton PDA.

One obvious EverNote competitor is Microsoft's OneNote, a note-taking application launched last year as part of the Microsoft Office system. But Pachikov contends that "the way Microsoft designed OneNote, it's a problem to find what you're looking for." He says that EverNote's array of organization tools make it easier to track down information quickly.

At first, EverNote will be available in versions for Windows XP and Pocket PC and Microsoft Smartphone-based handheld devices. A Palm version is planned for release shortly thereafter, and Mac OS, Linux, and Symbian editions are in the works. The multiple versions will talk to each other, so that you'll be able to view notes you took on your PC on a phone, for example, or sync notes you jotted on a PDA back to your desktop system.

EverNote's public beta test will let users try it for free; a basic version of the final shipping product will also be available at no charge. A fee-based edition will include advanced features, but just which tools will cost you is still under consideration.

"We're still deliberating on the business model," Pachikov says, mentioning the ability to sync notes between multiple copies of the software as one possible for-pay feature.

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