By Betsy Finn, M.Photog.Cr., CPP
These days, it’s hard to have a paper idea book. Everything, it seems, needs to end up in the digital world at some point. Which is rough for me, because I have a soft spot for brainstorming, note taking, and list making on old fashioned paper. A year or so ago, I was cajoled into using Evernote by a fellow photographer and was pleasantly surprised about how useful the note-syncing app could be. Having digital notes and the ability to clip content from the internet, email, wherever—all saved to the cloud—was actually quite useful. But I was still pining over my nostalgic desire to jot down notes in a notebook, which obviously couldn’t be synced with Evernote.
But wait. Evernote added page capture technology so that you can photograph your notes, handouts, or printed documents to be filed away in the cloud. Initially it was only available for iOS devices, but this feature is now available for Android devices, too. The Evernote Smart Notebook by Moleskine has specially formatted pages to help Evernote render your notes, designs, and diagrams properly. It is less than half an inch thick, and comes in two sizes (pocket and large). The photos in this review show the large notebook, and I’ve included a pencil and cell phone in the photo to give you a sense of scale.
And there are even snazzy “smart stickers” you can put on your notebook pages that will tell Evernote to automatically tag the note with a specific category. I used one of the arrow stickers and the purple “work” sticker in this lighting diagram I drew. The stickers store in a pocket inside the back cover of your notebook, so you’ll always have them when you need them.
What’s more, you can customize the smart stickers so that the categories actually fit your needs.
The Evernote app's page camera will let you photograph pretty much any kind of document. I also tested it out on a few newsletters from my chiropractor’s office, as they were printed on color paper, which I figured would be tricky to render. While you’re capturing pages, the page camera will also show you how many captures you’ve gotten. In the screenshot below, from my smartphone, I uploaded four pages to Evernote. It did a pretty good job of rotating, adjusting contrast for readability, and cropping out the background junk.
Once scanned in and processed, you can see the pages as individual thumbnails within a particular Evernote app note. Clicking on a thumbail will allow you to view and edit the page.
Overall, I was pleased with the unlikely marriage of two opposites—technology and paper. I appreciate that the page camera function has been expanded to work with pages from other sources besides the Evernote Smart Notebook, as I will frequently jot down thoughts on whatever I can find. Now, I don’t have remember to copy down my great lunch idea from that paper napkin at the cafe; I can just take a picture of it with my phone, sync my thoughts to Evernote, and then toss the napkin.
The Evernote Smart Notebook is available directly from Moleskine in pocket (3.5x5.5, $24.95) and large (5x8.25, $29.95) sizes with either ruled or squared pages. You can also find them online at Amazon, Staples, or other large retailers. All purchases of a notebook include a three month trial of Evernote Premium. For more information, visit http://www.moleskineus.com/evernote-smart-notebooks.html.