Evernote 7 Gets My Most Improved Player Award

It feels like just yesterday when Evernote got a big 6.0 update. At the time, it was a pretty big hoopla. It was universally well-received. From top to bottom, 6.0 was to Evernote what iOS 7 is to the iPhone: a complete and total rethinking of how it works and how it looks. And, to be completely frank, I hated it. I thought it was slow and I thought it slowed down my process with unnecessary and ugly menus.

With the release of iOS 7, Evernote is once again getting another huge visual update. This time, Evernote’s release is version 7. Not only has it been redesigned, but the very basics of how people use the app has been rethought on both the iPhone and the iPad. And, to my surprise, I love it. Read on to find out why I plan on making Evernote a steady part of my workflow again.

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The New Design

Design is really important. We’ve heard all summer from Apple about how, when you design something, you’re shaping more than its feeling — you’re shaping how it works. And how it works is vastly more important than how it looks, but the two frequently go hand in hand.

Well, the way Evernote is designed vastly informs how it works. The iPhone and iPad work a little differently, but both aim to learn from you want to use the app and present an app uniquely catered to your preferences. If you keep todo lists all the time, Evernote wants to make those easier to take.

Evernote has been overhauled from the ground up to work better for you.

Evernote has been overhauled from the ground up to work better for you.

I spend a lot of time simply taking notes. The problem with the old Evernote was that it never made that kind of thing easy. When you opened the app, simply finding where you needed to be was difficult.

With Evernote 7, this changes. Now, the goal is to get you exactly where you need to be as quickly as possible. On the iPhone, this is done by presenting you with a menu when you open the app. A dock at the bottom of the screen lets you tap to type a quick note or take a picture, set an alarm, or write a list or todo list.

Easy access to these things are key to Evernote’s overall philosophy. The app has long been about becoming a trunk for its users to store all their information, but it’s never given them a way to do it. Now, it’s finally made that really simple. Interacting with everything is really quick.

Of course, the note writing interface is still beautiful.

Of course, the note writing interface is still beautiful.

What impressed me was that writing a new note seemed tailored to me. Evernote knew a lot about the notebook I wrote in the most and automatically set up the new note to be stored there, which I think is great. It makes things even faster. Changing that takes only a minute, but it’s fantastic nonetheless even if Evernote gets it wrong on rare occasion.

Making It Work On iPad and iPhone

The iPad redesign is especially nice, though. Evernote really breathes there. Whereas before, I used to feel that not giving the note the entire 10“ (or 8”) screen to breathe was foolish, I now think it’s smart. Because all the excessively textured elements are gone in iOS 7, it now feels like there’s more space on the screen. And because Evernote is spending more effort on making the design less intrusive, it feels like there’s more space to write.

This just looks stunning and has room to breathe.

This just looks stunning and has room to breathe.

Evernote on iPhone is meant to be a quick way to keep you organized, but on iPad, it feels like a place to work. Menus slide in and out on the screen and make it easy for you to keep organized, but nothing ever feels confusing. In fact, I’d argue the extra space makes everything feel much more livable.

Evernote on the iPad feels like a place I would want to live.

I like the way that this is layered and communicated to the user.

I like the way that this is layered and communicated to the user.

Some might argue that the colours are a little garish, and they’re a little more so on the iPhone. The green is a little excessive. There are some design cues that also seem a little odd, as if they’re remnants of iOS 6. The Notebooks and Notes menus don’t fill the screen from edge-to-edge, for example, which feels out of place on the new operating system.

But there is a sense of translucency and depth on the iPhone that wasn’t there before. Look at the way text is still visible beneath the quick note display on the iPhone. Evernote is following all of Apple’s iOS 7 guides here, and for the most part, it looks great. It breathes better, and feels more alive.

Extra Bells and Whistles

Beyond the new abilities to take a quick photo, make a quick note, or take a reminder straight from Evernote’s launch screen, there are some other great additions too. There’s a new Markup mode that lets you, well, “mark up” images and PDFs. You can also share notes with friends and family using AirDrop, a welcome-but-expected new feature.

I think the killer new feature, though, is one that many of us were probably waiting for: thanks to the background updating in iOS 7, Evernote will now sync automatically. iOS will learn the times you’re most likely to use the app and make sure you’re ready to go whenever you open it, so your updates are there for you.

These bells and whistles aren’t completely unexpected. In all honesty, most of the new updates in Evernote 7 are revealing of two things. The first is that Evernote is more than happy to take advantage of the new features that Apple provides, which is always a good sign. The second is that Evernote is willing to listen to users and always trying to incorporate new features. I’m glad they’re still doing that.

Back In Style

With Evernote 7, Evernote becomes a place I don’t just want to visit again — I want to live here. I slowly stopped using Evernote over the past year because I found it slow and painful to go through. It’s much faster than it used to be now, and it’s much more efficient to get work done in. The design has improved immeasurably and I’m excited about some of the new features, like the ability to quickly take notes and have Evernote know where I’ve been.

But most of the best features in the new Evernote are the ones that Apple’s building into the new iOS. Things like transparency and layers and depth all work really well for Evernote, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them attempt their own OS one day. At this rate of growth, as they become a place where more of us want to go to store everything, I can see it happening. I just hope they don’t lose their focus on great products in the progress. I’m glad Evernote’s back in full force after what felt like a serious misstep.


Summary

Evernote 7 is a vastly improved app that could become a goto home for many of us again, particularly those who lost interest with last year's big update.

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