Dear Evernote - A Little Heart To Heart
See the TL;DR at the end if you don't have time to read.
I do not wish to rehash issues that have already been discussed on other threads, but I am using those as supportive arguments. The topic of my post is not those issues, but rather a more general issue of "throw a little developer love in the direction of the Evernote PC client itself".
Let me say I love Evernote and recommend it passionately to friends and family on a regular basis. I use it throughout the day in my personal and business life. It is my off-shore brain. Once I preserved enough of my "mental juice" into Evernote, its usefulness increased exponentially. Indeed, epic note taking can be an overture to success.
With that said, I have some feedback for Evernote. I concede, I am just one individual with individual needs, but I am providing links to other forum threads to validate my feedback and I am hoping to get responses here; furthermore, what I have outlined below I believe to be general in nature and applicable to a wide audience (with one possible exception). Evernote started out as a note-taking application - a virtual hard drive for your brain to free up precious mental RAM, thus making you more efficient and effective with tasks at hand. Since then, Evernote has expanded its operations into multiple products and services. Nevertheless, at the core remains the Evernote application itself, in particular its epic search abilities which allow you to focus on content and not on trying to find content.
Unlike many of the posts which have been submitted which have focused on one issue and have said, "if Evernote had this one feature it would be great!", I do not wish to come across that way at all. Instead, I wish to say, "look - there is a population of Evernote users and potential users who would agree with me. It would help with retention and attract new users by polishing and adding some of these basic features. Don't develop peripheral products at the expense of your flagship product." I am sure I will get responses about how Evernote just isn't supposed to be the way I am describing - it's first and foremost a note-taking application, but I believe my points are, on the contrary, to make it more effective to that end.
Here are a series of arguments (in no particular order) I have in favor of improving the Evernote desktop PC client - and making it a priority.
- Add ability to resize images within notes. Here is a discussion thread on this topic. If a note-taking application provides the ability to embed images within a note, then the logical feature would be to resize the image (without changing the original file quality.) Otherwise, when you have 10 images in a note, you have a hard time scrolling through the images and seeing them properly.
- Add stronger table support within the Evernote client (for instance, the ability to sort on column). Here is a discussion thread on this topic. Tables and lists are intrinsic to note-taking! That's just how data is organized for the most part - in tables! Now, I don't think I nor anyone is asking for spreadsheet-like functionality. But some very basic table functionality would be nice. For instance, if a table has a column that you need to sort alphabetically or by date, that cannot be done in Evernote. I am an advocate of utilizing spreadsheets when the task calls for it, but some simple "Sort on Column" functionality would greatly improve the usefulness of tables. In fact, I find I rarely if ever use the tables in Evernote - because the reason I need the table in the first place is for sorting data. Thus, the point in having tables in Evernote is somewhat diminished. I usually just put a link to a Google doc I have - which works great, but sometimes it's just overkill for simple tables that would be better parked within Evernote itself
- Throw some Evernote love toward technical users! Here is a discussion thread on this topic. This is possibly not a basic feature, but then maybe it is. So, skip if you like, otherwise keep reading. The biggest example of this is syntax highlighting and code snippet framing. I wouldn't bring this up, but some of the professions that benefit immensely from meticulous note-taking are indeed technical - like programming. In fact, programmers are a population segment that understands the benefit of meticulous notes - just talk to a programmer who is working on a project with crappy documentation. I actually wouldn't be using Evernote had I not got involved with programming myself - it pushed me to the edge where I realized I couldn't do it without good notes. Imagine if mathematicians were able to save syntax-highlighted proofs and formulas in their Evernote! I think it would make the product more attractive to technology professionals. Heck, make it a Premium feature, I would pay for it in a heart beat. This doesn't just apply to programmers and mathematicians - but a broad audience as well. For instance, think about Excel formulas. Having syntax highlighting for Excel formulas would be a great way for financial professionals and stock analysts (among billions of others...) to record their own little Excel or Google Spreadsheet nuggets. I know this is easier said than done, but I am sure there are open source libraries that Evernote could draw upon to help minimize the workload. Again, I'm biased
- Formatting and cross-application compatibility with formatting. Handling basic formatting is important. Just a few text-editor and word-processor-like functionality tweaks could benefit Evernote and its users greatly. I am not saying it needs to be on par with the likes of Sublime Text or Microsoft Word - but I am talking about really basic stuff.
a. For instance, in any respectable text editor, you can select multiple lines, press TAB and all of them are indented without deleting anything. Evernote does not do this, but instead deletes everything in favor of the tab. Even Microsoft Word has this functionality built-in.
b. Pasting images from Evernote into Gmail, for instance, doesn't work. Note-taking for yourself is one thing, but you can't rely on others to take notes. So, if co-workers or clients or anyone asks you the same question over and over, guess what? You can make an email template in Evernote and just email them the answer without having to reconstruct your response each time. The problem is that if you have images in your note, they will not paste in the email, forcing you to always have a 3rd-party application open, like Microsoft Word, to do this simple task. (Although I say simple, I know programmatically it may be difficult, I mean simple in the context of the ease in which a note-taking can get information IN and OUT of the program.)
c. Detect and maintain tab level indentation when going to new line even when not using the built in bullets. See this thread on the topic. When creating your own bullets using dashes (-), Evernote does not detect the tab level and instead starts everything at Column 1, as opposed to defaulting to the current paragraph's tab level at carriage return. This makes it hard to deal with deeply-nested bullet points. A counter-argument might be, "well, why don't you just use the built-in bullet function?". This goes back to Evernote and its obvious lack of formatting grace. The bulleted lists are no exception.
- Add ability to zoom in and out on notes. See this thread. This isn't specific to some special user group. Evernote users want this functionality for the same reason all major browsers have it.
- Add ability to change Evernote theme color to a more eye-friendly theme. The Evernote PC client is... really white and can cause eye strain. See this thread. Some users have suggested changing background color for notes, this is not the same as having a dark theme. Also, the argument of "paper is white, and pen is black, why should Evernote be any different?". Sorry, that is not comparable. If a user really feels that way, then they would criticize Evernote for adding that very feature to Clearly, which allows you to invert the colors on a web page for night reading. A bright white computer screen emits light, paper simply reflects light. Looking a white screen is like putting black text on a light bulb, for indeed that is what it is! Much of the younger generation of geeks demand a softer theme. We value our eyes as assets because we're constantly on computers - they help us make the world a better place. Not all users feel the same way, but many do. Please recognize this.
- Fix the CTRL-Z functionality when pasting. See the thread here. Sometimes it's scary when pasting into a note and not being able to undo more than once any damage that was done.
- When searching within a note (CTRL+F), highlight contents of previous search. When using Ctrl+F (Cmd+F on Mac) in any major web browser, it first highlights the text of your previous search so you don't have to manually select all of the text to delete it when wanted to start a search "from scratch". In Evernote, the cursor is placed at the beginning (of all places) of your previous search, nothing highlighted. So you must manually select the text either with your keys or mouse and delete it before performing a search. It's just not the standard way that Ctrl+F works for searching and is a bit awkward. This is the stuff I am talking about. If Evernote can create a new product like Hello, then surely give the Evernote PC client itself a bit more love on odd quirks like this. Sorry, I couldn't find an existing thread about this issue. *Edit: Thanks to jefito for finding a thread on this particular issue here.
- Add ability to filter the tags list by # of tags and select multiple tags for deletion. This relates to tag management. Being able to delete unused tags can help remove confusion when the program recommends tags to you when tagging notes in addition to keeping your tags without bloat. See this thread.
In short, my replies to some possible responses...
"OP, why should Evernote allow the ability to resize images? I've never found that of use to me."
You're not the only one who uses Evernote, plenty of individuals would find this feature very useful. I don't criticize other peoples' requests just because I don't have need for that functionality, why should you mine based on that reasoning alone?? Evernote wants you to remember everything and has the ability to take pictures with their app. So, clearly they want you to be able store images in Evernote to derive usefulness. Much of this usefulness is diminished by over-sized images hogging the note real-estate.
"OP, Evernote is not a spreadsheet application. You can make tables, what more can you want?"
Neither is Microsoft Word, but it allows for table sorting. 'Wait! But Microsoft Word is a word processor, not a spreadsheet! It shouldn't allow that functionality!' Being able to sort a table based on a column is an attribute of basic data management and not specific to spreadsheets. Notes are repositories of information and basic data. The fact that tables even exist in Evernote are a tribute to this reality.
"OP, Evernote is a general application for a general audience - not for programmers or mathematicians or spreadsheet snobs. If you need to keep code snippets, keep them in GitHub"
This is true, however my main argument here is that this segment of society has just as much need for meticulous notes as anyone else and it could be in Evernote's best interest to do some market research here and realize just how much in need these technical people are for syntactical support. Again, I concede this is one of my weaker arguments and I have a bias in it because I dabble in programming myself - I just hope technical users can see the potential of what Evernote could be for them and that Evernote at least provides some basic code-snippet formatting in the future if not syntax highlighting (like having a code block frame so blocks of code are easily recognized for clarity and to help prevent you from editing them accidentally).
In conclusion, indeed Evernote is an information repository with a magical knack for retrieval and doesn't (and shouldn't) try to be a replacement for all other programs. My arguments above are examples and supportive evidence of how the Evernote flagship product, Evernote itself, seems to have taken a backseat on the development time line to peripheral technologies like Clearly, or Peek, etc... To the objection "Evernote is not a word processor," I say, "oh and it's an electronic flash-card system designed to work with iPads in tandem with an iPad cover in going through your flash cards?!" I am not saying I object to satellite technologies like Peek, but what hurts me is when development on the Evernote core client itself seems to take a backseat to these peripheral products and provokes thoughts of changing note systems (please don't hurt me) - very unlikely, but full disclosure, sometimes I do have these blasphemous, and perhaps vain, imaginations . Please, Evernote, don't forget your core. Don't forget to develop and really polish your desktop client. After all, by doing so don't you work toward accomplishing your original goal of making the storage and retrieval of myriad information quick, painless, and enjoyable? Isn't it what brought you where you are today?
TL;DR (gazumped's brilliant summary)
'fix what we have'
EDIT: clarity, typos and grammer..there's a lot of text + more clarifications
2014-10-25 - added example of improving Evernote's ability to manage tags.