Hicks

Using Evernote as a Design Scrapbook

I’ve used iPhoto, Littlesnapper, a combination of Leap and Dropbox, but of late, I’ve reverted to using Evernote as my collection point for design scraps.

Evernote

The Desktop > Web > iPhone ecosystem is lovely. I have my design collection everywhere I go (also possible with the dropbox method I used to use, but there’s no way of tagging on the iPhone). The desktop client collects images and websites (as PDFs), and the iPhone client collects snapshots of sketches, camera photos and images saved from mobile Safari. Then the two ‘collectors’ get synced together to become one big collection:

Diagram of using Evernote as a collector

Some more reasons why Evernote has struck a chord with me are:

  • I’m not restricted to single images, I can add PDFs, group images together (as a note), and add text notes.
  • I love the widescreen layout (above) where I can view thumbnails, followed a large preview of the selected item on the right – no need for anymore clicks or different screens to view it
  • Importing content is so easy. The context menu in Safari offers ‘Add Image to Evernote’ and ‘Add Page to Evernote as PDF’. The latter gives me a complete web page (not a print stylesheet version), and any links are still active (not so with a PNG). The former works so nicely compared to some apps that get confused by links around images (cough, Littlesnapper).
  • I’ve been experimenting with using a shared notebook to show moodboards/collected reference, and collaborate with clients, and this has so far gone OK. Would be even better if it was possible to layout images in a less linear way, and resize them, but that’s pushing the remit of Evernote.
  • I find that I can often remember text within an image (especially as I often save a lot of found typography). Evernote’s OCR technology means I can find these images very quickly, and is often faster than tagging:

searching image text evernote

I do tag as well, usually marking content type, dominant colours and sometimes a possible project reference and a star rating. I’ve also started using it for things like a Cheese Diary, where I take a snap of the the cheese label, to store it for later reference:

Cheese Diary screenshot

There are still some negative points about Evernote:

  • My main bugbear from last year still stands: Evernote makes it really easy to get all sorts of content in, but it still makes it tricky to get it out again in it’s original form. In particular multiple images can’t be exported easily – at least not without an Evernote branded border. It’s my data Evernote, not yours, and I resent the enforced advertising, especially with premium account. The ‘best’ way to do this is to export as HTML, and then fish out the images from the various ‘resources’ folders. Or drag and drop them individually.
  • You can’t select multiple items and add new tags. The only way currently is to drag them to an existing tag in the sidebar, which isn’t intuitive, or easy (depending on how many tags you have).
  • I would love to be able to restrict my view on the iPhone to a particular notebook.

Still, I love and use it despite these niggles, mainly because a lot of the things that niggled me last year (like thumbnails of images with loads of whitespace) have been fixed. Evernote development is ongoing and always improving, and I feel it’s a system I can put my trust in.