I'm a great fan of taking notes. I've collected notes for years, mainly on technical topics. The main goal was to prevent the "I know how to do this, I've done it before -- but how did I do it?" phenomenon -- ie. to collect a log of solutions to technical problems I've solved on the job or in private so I could easily reproduce said solution without relying on my rather haphazard memory. Some of the notes are just crudely copy-pasted terminal screenbuffer with a title; with others I've been more elaborate, adding prose explanation, resource links, etc. This was accompanied by notes from meetings, presentations and the like.

My notes system used to be a desktop wiki for some time, but quirks in the software (and the fact that I mostly relied on "grep" to find stuff, and didn't need interlinking that much anyway) led me to keep the notes in just a bunch of text files versioned first in subversion and then git, which I synchronised over ssh to a server of mine from various workstations.

That has worked quite well for some time now, but there are some issues. For one, while on a workstation I can easily sync text files up, this becomes a little more cumbersome on a smartphone. I'd like a little more comfort there. Also, while on a notebook it's no issue to type eg. some text from a flipchart, I'm not quite fast enough to do this on a phone -- the more natural solution would be to just take a photo. Finally, I've come to realize that I don't use all that many git features for my notes, it's mainly a glorified backup and synchronization solution there. In short, I'm thinking of migrating somewhere else.

I've had an Evernote account for some time, but only barely used it. I'm now contemplating adopting it for all my note-taking needs. There's a few niceties I discovered in the past days about Evernote:

  • There's an API available, so migrating to (or from, as the case may be) Evernote should not be too much of a problem
  • Besides the Android and Web client, there's also a quite nice free Linux client available (Nixnote/Nevernote)
  • For my bunch of text files I relied on the filesystem for categorization, which is a bit limiting. Tagging notes with keywords makes much more sense
  • Text recognition for photos and PDF (to make them searchable) and speech-to-text are two features which I won't use everyday but which can come in handy
  • Also, there seems to be an Emacs mode for Evernote

So, I'm halfway sold. Still, I'm feel a bit uneasy relying on a proprietary external service, and I wonder if it's worth it. After all, my pile of text files served me well; they were reliable and I was fully in control. And another issue is whether it will put up an additional barrier to usage. Something I've come to consider as crucial for my note-taking is that it must be as easy and fast to use as possible; otherwise I will omit some of the most important notes (that service I finally managed to set up at 11pm after hours of head-scratching and swearing -- if taking a note about the process is the least bit of effort I won't do it). I hope that using Evernote won't impede that.

Do you use Evernote? Any thoughts, pro/cons? Should I take the plunge?