Over the years, I have become a big-proponent of two aspects of software: (1) That it is entirely web-based; (2) that it is as distraction-free as possible.
The first item has been an interesting transition. I used to like the secure feeling I got using a piece of software I installed on my laptop. But now, the fact that I actually have to install something on my laptop in order to use it seems quaint. I have, for instance, been using Google Docs almost exclusively for all of my writing over the past 2 years, and I love that I don’t have to install anything. I love that the experience is the same regardless of what computer I am using. I love the that updates are automatic since the application runs in the cloud.
More recently, I have been looking for software that does a good job of getting out of my way. Eliminating distractions is a key part of this. Outside of email, the two applications I use most are Google Docs and Evernote. Google Docs has an excellent distraction-free mode. And recently, Evernote introduced a revamped web application that is distraction-free. I like it so much that I’ve almost given up the thick client for the web application.
Here is what distraction-free Evernote looks like when I use it on the web:
I can just start typing my note, or drag a file onto the note if I want to attach something. Despite the clean, distraction-free screen, there is a still a lot of core functionality available when creating or editing a note.
As I type, Evernote is saving what I type so that nothing is lost. You can see this at the bottom-right of the browser window. I green checkmark indicates that the document is saved. While typing, a circle rotates around the checkmark indicating that what you are typing is being saved.
And while there isn’t much else on the screen other than the note, there are still a rich set of features available. I can easily tag my notes, or refile them to another notebook. I can set reminders, or share the note, all from the simple screen.
Formatting the note
The distraction-free mode makes it easy to format the text of the note. If you hover over the small toolbar to the right of the note text, it expands into several icons that allows you to do some basic formatting like add lists, indent text, add a checkbox or a table, or even an attachment.
Even better in my opinion, is the Medium-like feature that Evernote has introduced for formatting text fonts, and styles. You simply highlight the text that you want to format, and a popup format bar appears that lets you apply the formatting you want:
In addition to providing an elegant, distraction-free interface for capturing notes, the new Evernote for the web provides an equally elegant distraction-free interface for searching. Clicking on the search icon presents a simple search screen:
All of my saved searches appear in case I want to use those. But I can type anything in the “search notes” field to search all of my notes. It can be a simple search, for instance, searching for the term “analog”:
or it can be a more advanced search, using Evernote’s sophisticated search grammar:
Other distraction-free features
Many of Evernote’s other features are implemented in elegant, distraction-free ways in the new web client. Work Chat is available for those who share notes and associate discussions with them. Your Shortcuts list is available as a nice little pop-out when you click the Favorites icon:
Notebooks and tags are also available as pop-outs, making it easy to search for particular notebook or tag:
A few things are not yet available
There are a few things that I can’t do in the web client that I can do in the thick client. The most obvious one, to me, is the ability to add inline images to my note. I can easily drag files to the note as attachments, but I haven’t yet found a way to drag an image to the note and have it appear in-line the way I can do in the full client.
I also can’t change the create date of the note in the web client, something I do often after scanning in a document to ensure that the create date of the note matches the date of the document for easy date-searching.
Of course, I do have the full client installed, and can perform both of these tasks in the full client as needed, but it would be nice to see them incorporated into the web client.
How I’ve been using the web client
I started using the distraction-free web client in January, and haven’t looked back. I keep a tab open to Evernote in my browser, so that I have easy access to my notes, and to creating a new note when I need one. I’ve been using it for meeting notes, for logging various software development processes, for capturing notes from phone conversations. I like it so much that I’ve been looking for excuses to use it.
Of course, not everyone is comfortable with the web client, and that’s fine. You have to use what works best for you. But if Evernote managed to add just a few more features to the web client, I’d stop using the thick client entirely. (Although I’d still keep it around as it is useful in automating monthly backups of my Evernote data.)
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