I'm looking at Evernote and OneNote to see how each handles the basic tasks of creating, collecting, organizing and sharing information and files.
In the first installment of the ten-task faceoff, we covered how to create notes, organize them and cross-reference them in both Evernote and OneNote.
Now, let's see how Evernote and OneNote stack up when it comes to uploading new files, clipping articles from the World Wide Web, and sifting items you've mailed into your info-hoard. A reminder, I'm using an Evernote Premium account ($50/year) and a Microsoft Office 365 Business subscription ($99/year). I used both of my personal accounts to run the tests. And -- this is key -- I'm using both programs on a MacBook Pro running OS 10.11.
TASK #4: HOW TO MOVE FILES INTO THE APPLICATION
There's no point in having an information-management system if it can't store all kinds of files, and there's no point in that tool storing those files if it takes some weird and specialized way to get the dang things into the app in the first place. Here's how easy or challenging it is to transfer files from your desktop (or any other folder) to Evernote or OneNote.
How to move files into Evernote
You can drag-and-drop right into Evernote -- each item you drag and drop becomes its own note by default. But what I really love is how I can highlight an item on my desktop, right-click the mouse, and send the item to Evernote.
The app automatically creates a new note containing the item you right-clicked on. It's a great way to send things straight to a digital archive. And while the right-click option sends the items to your default notebook, you can easily tag and file them from there.
Another perk of either the drag-and-drop or right-click methods of file uploading: Any information associated with the file is included in the note, and it's automatically titled with the file name. For example, I uploaded one of my favorite cartoons for future laughs and Evernote was sure to include the image's metadata, including the URL, in the note.
If you squint, you can see where the URL for the image is included.
How to move files into OneNote
You can drag-and-drop files but they'll be plopped into whatever note you have open at the time.
See how this just sort of took over the chunk of text I used to have there?
In order to create separate notes to contain separate files, you have to create the note first, then drop-and-drag your file into it. Then you title the note. There is no metadata included.
Like Evernote, OneNote also offers a right-click option, but the steps are different:
1. To save something from a folder or from your desktop, right-click on the item(s).
2. Highlight the "Share" option on the pop-up menu.
3. Select OneNote.
4. You'll then have the option to select which notebook you're sending the file(s) to, and the chance to write a note.
5. Share the items. The new note will show up in the selected notebook fairly quickly.
I appreciate the level of granularity users have when it comes to stashing their files in OneNote.
TASK #5: HOW TO CLIP ARTICLES FROM THE WORLD WIDE WEB INTO THE APPLICATION
I operate on a Zero Inbox/Zero Desktop/Zero Bookmarks approach; the less information I have in separate, local stashes and the more I have in one cloud-based, easily accessible hoard, the easier it is for me to do my work and run my life. So in keeping with the zero-bookmark approach -- and because searching for the content of web pages in an information-management system is much easier than trying to discern which bookmark did what depending on how it was saved -- I prefer to suck down all the useful content in a web page and save it. Here's how the two tools I used handled the task.
How to clip articles in Evernote
One of the strongest areas for Evernote is its browser plug-in. Tuck this into the corner of your browser and you'll be able to suck down the contents of a web page as a note in your Evernote hoard. The most appealing features of the Evernote browser plug-in: It suggests both a notebook and tags that might be relevant for the article or website you're saving, and it provides multiple formatting options, from "simplified article" to selection. (Don't worry -- you can still select the appropriate notebook and add tags if the suggestions don't work for you.)
Here, you can see I'm saving this article in the "Simplified article" format, the plug-in suggested both the notebook ("Work Smarter") and the tag ("collaborative work"), and I added a note at the bottom.
And what I like and appreciate about the web pages that are saved as notes: the URL for the original page is also included at the top of each note, and you can still click on hyperlinks in the saved website articles or content.
Once you save the article via clipper, the plug-in also displayed suggested "related" notes. This is very useful if you're on a research tear. But what I wish we'd see is a note or warning that can tell us, "You've already clipped this. You sure you want to do it again?"
How to clip articles in OneNote
By contrast, OneNote's browser plug-in is very bare bones: Even if you save a whole website, the HTML doesn't translate over to the note you'll save in OneNote, and I had to scroll to the bottom of the page to find the hyperlink the page was copied from. Moreover, I found that I often had to keep signing in to the browser plug-in — sometimes as I switched between tabs in the same browser window, sometimes as I switched between browser windows, sometimes if I let an hour lapse between taking notes in OneNote. Finally, there's no auto-suggested notebook to save things to.
You have to select the notebook in question -- not unlike Evernote -- but it would still be nice to have a plug-in that tries to be context-sensitive to new notes.
The other complaints I had: OneNote was slow to sync the updates between the OneNote application and the browser plug-in. I initially saved a few websites under one notebook — where they basically disappeared, don't ask me why — and when I decided to create a notebook dedicated to saving articles, it took nearly 20 minutes for the new notebook to appear.
I did appreciate the ability to write a note to prepend to the selected browser clipping; Evernote's browser plug-in lets you do that too, and it's handy for reminding yourself why you wanted to save that thing in the first place, or tying it to something else.
TASK #6: HOW TO EMAIL INTO THE APPLICATION
Email's a great tool and it can even be a great archive. But often, the communications that take place over email are part of a wider web of tasks or information. Here's where having a digital archive really helps. I currently use my Evernote as a backup archive for email correspondence I don't want wiped out by my workplace's periodic email storage sweeps, and I use it to compile a dossier on the writers I work with; I can forward all our correspondence to Evernote, upload the writers' first drafts and screenshots, and maintain an archive on my working relationship with the writer. For non-work-related email forwarding use: My family takes a few trips every year, and I find it useful to bundle up email confirmations for flights along with saved articles on travel attractions and notes I've written as packing checklists.
So I wanted to see: Would OneNote permit me the same ease of moving things from an inbox to a notebook? Here's how the two programs stack up.
How to email things into Evernote
First, find the email address that comes with your Evernote account. It'll be something like [email protected] and you find it thusly:
In Windows, you find it by clicking on Tools > Account Info. Your email address will appear next to 'Email notes to:'
On the Mac platform, you select Help > Account Settings.... Your email address appears in the 'Email Notes to' section. Or, if you're on an iPad, you'll tap your username to access your account settings, then select General > Evernote Email Address.
Now, that email address ([email protected]) is the email address you will send things to if you want to email things into your Evernote account. It's really cumbersome, so I recommend creating an alias for it in the address book of every email account you'll be emailing from. In my work and personal email clients, mine is listed as EVERNOTE. Then when I want to forward something from those account, all I have to do is begin typing "EVE" and autocomplete usually takes care of the rest.
The great thing about emailing into Evernote is that you can chuck your forwarded messages into different notebooks and assign different tags to them, all by monkeying with the subject line. I am going to give you the general syntax first, and then some concrete examples.
Here is the general formula for emailing things right into Evernote:
Email Subject: [Title of note] ![optional date for reminder] @[notebook] #[tag]
And that is a horrible example for anyone but our computer overlords, so here's how it works in real life:
Say you've got an email about an upcoming birthday party. You might forward the email from your Gmail to Evernote and change the subject so it's:
Subject: FWD: Mom's Big Birthday !6/16/2016 @celebrations #planning #birthday
And what happens is:
a. The email is automagically saved as a note in your "celebrations" notebook.
b. The email triggers an Evernote reminder to pop up on 6/16/2016.
c. The email appends the #planning and #birthday tags to the note.
d. The note is titled "FWD: Mom's Big Birthday."
Now, this assumes that you're using the "reminders" function in Evernote to surface different notes on different days. Let's say you're not. You'd just write:
Subject: FWD: Mom's Big Birthday @celebrations #planning #birthday
And you'd still have the note chucked into the correct notebook and labeled with the appropriate tags.
How to email things into OneNote
The set-up is so easy, I actually giggled in delight when I did it.
Step one: Visit your email settings page at http://www.onenote.com/emailsettings/.
Step two: Confirm all your user information and select the notebook you'll be sending things to by default.
This is so much easier than hunting down weirdo email addresses and setting up aliases in different mail programs!
Seriously, doesn't this look easy?
Then I stopped giggling, because the only email account I could send things from was the one assigned to me when I opened my Office 365 account, and that is the last place I need to forward mail from.
I poked around my Office 365 account, but my settings would not let me add any additional email addresses to link to either my Office 365 account or OneNote. So if you're on a single-user, $99-per-year Office 365 Business account like I am, you don't have an easy option to forward mail from a non-Office 365 email into OneNote. I know this is not the case for all OneNote users across all platforms -- but it's the standard for me as a single-user, $99-per-year Office 365 Business user.
I have to say, this email thing is a deal-breaker for me.
As I've written before, I like having all of my digital assets in one place, and one of the appeals of Evernote is how easy it is to chuck things into my archive from either my work or personal email addresses. OneNote seems to be framed on a different premise, one in which you work in a self-contained digital ecosystem with no separate assets associated with any other accounts. It's not a faulty premise per se, but it's not the reality of a lot of people who blithely switch between work and personal accounts.
(I found a workaround -- but you'll have to wait until part III tomorrow to see how to do it.)
Okay -- we've covered how to upload new files, clip articles from the World Wide Web, and sift items you've mailed into your info-hoard. The final part of the series covers how to search within your notes, how to hook third-party services into your info-hoard, and how to share your notes and notebooks with others.