The clever thing about this is that Apple is essentially just making an investment, the return of which is people buying millions more iPads. It closely mirrors Apple’s previous strategy with creating the iTunes Music Store back in the early 2000s. The industries Apple disrupts are just feeding into more hardware/software sales for Apple.
I’ve decided to begin a new series on the joys of living a life devoid of dead trees. It’s an area I have intense passion about and it’s one that I happen to be somewhat on the cutting edge of, which I find surprising given the number of nerds I live around.
Paper is so straightforward for people, and that makes it incredibly difficult to want to give up. Paper is so simple. If you’re one of the (many) people who needs convincing that it’s worth going paperless, I can’t help you. Perhaps through reading my examples you’ll see how it will improve your life, but it’s nigh impossible for me to lay out in a concrete fashion the advantages of going paperless. It’s a liberating experience, but it’s not exactly something I can make a bullet list of. It’s a bit like an Apple product in that sense.
It’ll be another decade or so before I can be living a life where I’m not given things on paper whatsoever, but some time ago I did realize that I can take control of what I do with the paper I have, and I’ve decided that I’m going to get rid of it when at all possible. This can’t be done with quite everything (my original car title is probably one of those documents that’s a keeper) but it can be done with enough that I make a meaningful dent in the junk paper documents I keep around.
If you want to get a start on a paperless life, there are a few things you need:
- A computer
- Some portable device that you’re likely to always have with you (a laptop, tablet, smartphone, etc.)
- A scanner (not needed, but it helps) (I use Doxie myself, but it’s not mind blowing, so shop around)
You need some software things as well. There are two pieces of software/web services that I find indispensable to my paperless workflow, Dropbox and Evernote. I sure have had my share of complaints about Evernote, but on the whole it’s the only note and snippet management system that meets all of my needs well.
Other things you’ll want to have are an email service with a capacity that doesn’t require you to ever worry about deleting things. Gmail’s good but most email providers do a good job of this too. One of my tenets of being paperless is to never delete anything. You’ll also want a reliable internet connection and preferably a 3G internet connection that you take with you at all times. If you’re out talking to a colleague and they ask if you have that document you promised you’d give them, it’s awkward to not be able to give it to him just because you have no connection to your documents.
Dropbox isn’t a necessary tool in adopting a paperless life, but using it goes hand in hand with a paperless lifestyle. You want to be living in a mode where you can leave the house with just your phone or iPad or laptop or whatever and be confident that if you are stopped on the street and asked for some random document, you’ve got it. Being paperless means you always have all your documents with you at all times because you never have to make the choice of which ones to put in your bag.
Given the above tools you can begin your new life, liberated from the tyranny of paper. These are far from being the only tools out there and you may find that a whole different set of software and hardware tools works better for you. It’s all highly personal, but I can only speak from my own experience and what works for me. Get these tools and try them out (all the software stuff can be tried for free). See how they might fit into your life. In the next post, I’ll begin discussing how to actually form the habits you need to form to make being paperless a natural part of your life.
Peace out. Namaste.
Once upon a time, there was this little company that developed a simple product that allowed people to take notes on a variety of platforms and have your notes synced in the cloud. People loved the service, and though it had quirks, the company was doing work on making the product better and there was hope.
Evernote’s been continuing to grow by leaps and bounds. People (including myself) love the service and find it an indispensable part of their lives. However, the quirks and other random issues that plague Evernote (though each are minor) are finding themselves getting less and less attention from the company as they continue trying to grow and tell the world about the different ways you can use Evernote. While Evernote is great for 90% of its users who aren’t yet using the full breadth of the service, as users continue to use Evernote their reliance on some of these (half baked) advanced features gets a quick reality check as they (and I) find that Evernote is full of little gotchas.
First, let’s talk performance. You might use Evernote on your machine and think I’m crazy, that Evernote runs just fine. Get back to me in a couple of years once you’ve grown to really rely on Evernote and you’ve got thousands of notes. You’ll be pretty upset at app performance. My machine is no slouch. It’s a 27″ i7 iMac with 12 gigs of RAM. My laptop is a 2.66 GHz i7 with an SSD in it. Those machines both scream, but when you throw my Evernote notebooks at them, you’ll quickly find that the apps stutter when they shouldn’t. Want to clear your search and view all notes? Sure, that’ll be a 3 second wait and the app will hang. Searching offers decent speed, but the app is less than responsive if you edit your search terms as the app struggles to live update. Switching between the “Account” notebooks and your “shared” notebooks? Not much of a hang, but an unsettling 0.5-1 second wait for it to switch. On a $2500 computer with eight logical processor cores, that’s a hell of a long time to wait for an app that is just managing some data to switch from one view to another.
And don’t get me started on sync performance. Evernote only syncs a couple notes per second on the desktop (the mobile version downloads headers a lot quicker; why the desktop version doesn’t take this approach I may never know) so if you are in a situation where you have a large volume of notes to sync at a given time (say, 30 or more), be prepared to wait. If you’re syncing on iOS, don’t be surprised if the app just gives up and crashes after it tries downloading the headers. Not to worry, just try it a few times an eventually the app will not crash on you (well, for awhile at least). In the iOS app, hangs are standard operating procedure. Even using the very fastest hardware Apple has to offer, Evernote for iOS can’t handle it.
I’m not giving Evernote an unduly hard time for choking on my vast amounts of data, either. They ought to be able to handle it, primarily because they make this implicit promise in their blog, podcasts and in their numerous profiles of Evernote users. And they advertise you as being able to upload up to a gigabyte of data per month. There exists a whole other application type that handles the same volume of data that exists in the form of these individual richly formatted documents that have different attributes attached to them that can be searched on. Oh, and this data is synced daily across multiple devices of mine and is even pushed to my phone in real time. Oh, and it doesn’t just come from me; it comes from millions of different senders. It’s email! If Evernote were an email client and it handled messages with the performance that the actual Evernote app handled my notes (which are essentially the same type of data), Evernote would have no users.
Supposing I could put the performance issues aside (not gonna happen, but still), the app itself remains full of awful quirks, which is a more polite word for bugs. Let me name a few:
- If a note has a source URL, the Evernote app will truncate it on screen. If you right click and copy that URL, the truncated text gets copied, not the URL.
- Sometimes, the formatting of a note will be inexplicably wrong (often an indentation that won’t go away) and it’s impossible to fix this without just finding the note’s source file in the Finder and editing the HTML of the note by hand to get rid of the offending formatting.
- Non-alphanumeric characters are completely ignored in search. This is documented as the actual search functionality. Why? It makes Evernote a heap harder to use as a developer reference tool (especially back when I programmed in MUMPS)
- Dragging and dropping an image in the Mac client is very hit and miss. You can’t drag and drop an image onto a file open dialog or a Browse button.
Then again, there are behavior quirks that can’t quite be described as bugs, but rather are just holes in the functionality of the application that really ought to not be there. For instance, Evernote advertises that you can share notebooks and give others access to edit the notes. That’s all well and good. You’d expect to be able to manipulate these shared notebooks in exactly the same ways that you could a note of your own. But you can’t. You can’t tag notes that were shared with you by someone else. You can’t create saved searches for these shared notebooks. It’s inexplicable why.
While i’m on the topic of holes in functionality, let me take a moment to discuss Evernote’s asinine feature parity situation. I’m sure I’m missing a lot of things (partially because I’ve never even touched the Evernote clients for some platforms) but a few instances are listed:
- You can take iSight notes on OS X, but not Windows (and not on any mobile client I know of)
- You can take handwriting notes in Windows, but not OS X or any mobile platform (except for HTC’s custom notes app that integrates into Evernote which, by the way, is a third party app that blows out of the water anything Evernote’s ever produced)
- Up until very recently, you could check off to-dos in mobile apps, but you couldn’t create them. I’m really glad that’s been fixed.
- On any given mobile platform your ability to do things to shared notes is severely limited compared to the (also limited) desktop client. As of recently you can share notebooks in iOS in addition to accessing shared notebooks.
- Skitch is only available for Android and iPad, and the Mac.
- Evernote Clearly is only available for Chrome and as of very recently, Firefox.
- Safari users usually have to wait a few extra months to get extensions like a native Evernote extension and Evernote Clearly.
- Evernote Hello and Evernote Food are only available for iPhone.
- Evernote Peek is only available for iPad.
- You can’t geotag notes on your Mac despite there existing location services allowing for it.
- You can do rich text editing on Windows, OS X and web, but you don’t have access to all the HTML features that can be displayed.
- You can do rich text editing on most of the mobile devices, sort of. Depending on the platform you using you get about half of the tools available to you on the desktop.
This is just a small sampling of the feature fragmentation Evernote suffers from, and I’ll give Evernote credit where credit is due; several of the things I was thinking of have recently been addressed (even some in the list), but it’s happening far too slowly.
If you’re trying to use some specific piece of functionality and you’re wondering whether you’ll be able to do it on another device or platform, it’s a total toss up. To Evernote’s credit, they do a good job of implementing OS specific features when offered, such as how WP7 lets you actually do background note sync (I believe Android’s version of Evernote handles this as well).
I’ll be the first to say I love new features (in fact, I’m probably more demanding of new features than most users), and I’ll also be the first to say that it’s a hell of a lot of work to try to keep feature parity between so many disparate platforms (because I used to be involved with that kind of thing), but Evernote’s a few years old and they should be seasoned pros at this now, and if they aren’t, then it’s time for them to tap into that funding they have to hire really expert talent who can solve this problem for them. It’s no longer okay for them to act like this is some new phenomenon they’re experiencing.
Evernote is all too aware of all of the above issues, and if you ever listen to any of their podcast episodes you might dismiss me as a hypercritical lunatic who just needs to wait a few months for these little issues to get sorted out, because they readily admit that they have these issues and mention that they want them fixed too, and they sanguinely mention that we can expect to see some fixes/improvements soon. That would be reassuring, except the reality is that this mystical “few months from now” (or other vague mention of an ETA) never seems to arrive, and we only end up with an Evernote that has fixed too little, too late. And to add insult to injury, instead of beefing up their core product, they stretch themselves even thinner with new apps every month or so. Oh, you want better Evernote performance? Here, why don’t you use this new Evernote foodie app? What’s that you say? Shared notes behave really inconsistently with regular ones? Well, I’ve just got just the thing to fix it: a browser extension that removes distracting elements from web pages but isn’t that well integrated with Evernote; nobody’s ever done that before!
Worse yet, the longer I use Evernote, the more invested I become in it and the more expensive it will become for me to migrate to another solution. Sure, Evernote is adamant about making sure you always are in control of your data and indeed you can always export your Evernote notes to a custom XML format, but that’s pretty much like being given a toolbox for your car and being told “sure, you can fix the transmission yourself. Have at it!” I’m a developer and the amount of time it would take me to write something that could reliably convert my thousands of notes into notes that will work with another app is nontrivial; for a nonprogrammer it’s just not possible. Evernote’s attitude about this in general is quite sanguine. You tell them you want them to fix a longstanding bug and they’re all like “yeah, we’d love that too.” Well, then fucking implement it! That’s what my $45 per year goes to.
The tons of little quirks were forgivable back in 2008, when Evernote was this cute little startup that everyone loved and had just gotten funding and was in the midst of trying to grow. Problem is, Evernote’s a grown up now, complete with $70 million in funding, lots of staff, profitability, and all that jazz, but they still treat these issues coming to their attention with this cavalier attitude that isn’t excusable for a company with as many millions of active users as it has.
So please, Phil Libin, instead of your cute statement on how you’re more focused on the other 7 billion people on earth, why don’t you give a little TLC to the 20 million people whose business you worked so hard to get? The other 7 billion people are as neglected by you as they can possibly be.
PS: you don’t hear me complaining about OneNote. Know why? Microsoft is too busy worrying about the implications of a Mac version of what’s now PC-only to concern themselves with making money selling a Mac version of OneNote.
Anyone else notice how in the tech world, when the “future” of something is being discussed, usually that future is death? And usually, the words uttered from the company’s mouth is that
Well, this isn’t one of those posts. I’m not killing icanthascheezburger (seriously, it absolutely isn’t getting killed), but I am not happy with what it is right now. I was reading a blog I respect (I think it was Matt Gemmell’s blog) and he explained that the key to success with a blog was writing the content you wanted to read. That struck me, because for the most part, I’ve sucked at that. Instead, I tried targeting it toward a nonspecific audience I hoped I’d end up with (and don’t have now) and the remains are a blog that has probably a dozen readers (I’m honestly too lazy to keep track but a dozen sounds about right).
I’m going to brainstorm a bit out loud in this post (which is a bit of a bad habit I’ve gotten into in this blog, but I think it’s appropriate here) and pitch some of the ideas I have had for the blog and some of my inspirations.
First off, I think I’m going to turn comments off. I’m not doing it to partake of a fad that Matt Gemmell and MG Siegler started, but I’m doing it because it genuinely looks like a good choice. Managing comments is a pain due to rampant spam, and because of the way I broadcast my blog posts, it’s easy to have a Twitter discussion about it and get right in touch with me if ever you want to. It also enables other readers to have discussions with one another about a post of mine without feeling like they are trampling over a public forum to have their own discussion ground (not that this has ever happened on icanthascheezburger). But the most profound effect of comment removal is that it decentralizes the discussion of my posts. I see icanthascheezburger turning a little bit into something like Daring Fireball, a blog i follow religiously. Daring Fireball is itself a sort of collection of all the comments Gruber has made on all the sites he has visited. I find that a good deal more useful than having to visit every site and hunt his comments down because I care more about his thoughts than what anyone in general’s thoughts are on a particular article for the most part.
Now, for the content. I have found that a lot of my posts are long-winded and end up trailing off as I usually have gotten tired by the end and have made all my good pithy points long before and I’m just ready to go to bed. Some of my favorite posts of my own are the LGBT ones. They’re written as though something I would myself want to read, and when I look at the current blogs out there with the level of insight and timeliness they offer (DF, The Brooks Review, Frasier Spiers’s blog, Matt Drance, Matt Legend Gemmell, etc.) I think tech is going to take a back seat to LGBT topics. If I realize the vision I’m going for, I’ll be to LGBT what Daring Fireball is to tech. And I think that LGBT people are in far more need of a voice than Apple, Inc.
However, I am a technical person, and most of my life is centered around technology. I’m going to have opinions about tech, and I’m going to probably want to air them, especially in cases where I don’t think anyone else shares my particular sentiments about something. Given the plethora of really smart people I read/listen to (by the way, the 5by5 podcasts are phenomenal and you should listen to them), the number of cases I really feel l need to post on a tech topic is going to drop down a lot. I think I’m going to go for more comments of articles with original insight, shorter, pithy things to say, and I’ll save the longer reads for more rare topics (hopefully I don’t just turn into a DF clone).
I actually am going to become a blogger for Fullscreen, the company I work for, and I will be publishing a lot of technical ProTips(tm) there, which I may also include here. I’m particularly excited about sharing some of my tech ProTips with the world.
If you had a favorite post of mine, feel free to share it with me. I am not focused necessarily on growing readers here; I just want to make sure I am giving what few readers I have something worth reading. I’ve got several posts worth of content that I’ve written but just didn’t publish because I haven’t felt they were good enough. Expect those to get iterated over and published soon.
Finally, I am not making any promises for the regularity of my posts. I don’t want to flood anyone with posts, and I want the posts I do post to be great ones that you’ll jump to first in your RSS reader or Twitter feed or Facebook feed.
Much love. Namaste.