Category: Reviews


For a while now I have been using a little tool / service called Instapaper. It’s a free web site that lets you store Web links for reading later. I use it a lot as I am constantly inundated during the day with new stuff to check out online. A new application, a tech resource, that new funny YouTube or Break movie, a book I want to buy and so on. If I spent the time during the day to check these things out in detail, I wouldn’t get any work done. With Instapaper, I had a Javascript bookmarklet in my browser. If I saw something online I needed to look into later, I just press the little bookmarklet and a link to that page is automagically saved to my account. Then at night, or while I waiting at the dentist office or whenever I had time, I could go back and read up on all those interesting tidbits. While Instapaper is nice, it is very simple. Bookmarklet, and a white web page with links. Nothing wrong with that, just simple.

Yesterday I found a new site, Evernote. It’s like InstaPaper on steroids. Evernote offers the functionality of a bookmarklet that saves web links to a free online account, just like InstaPaper. But EverNote doesn’t stop there. First, it doesn’t just store the web page link, it stores the page itself. So you can actually just read that page right in Evernote. You can also store pictures and audio. When you save pictures, Evernote scans them for words and stores those as keyword with the picture, making searching more effective. You can also assign tags to anything you save for categorizing items and again better searching. Evernote also has tons of ways to store the things you need to remember. I already mentioned the bookmarklet, which they call the “Web clipper.” In addition to the clipper, Evernote also offers desktop applications for Windows and Mac with super simple and clean interfaces. They also offer an iPhone application, and an application Windows Mobile devices. With all these options, it’s incredibly easy to save almost anything from anywhere.

The best thing about Evernote is that all of this, 40Mb/month of storage, and the applications to access your information is all free. They do offer a Premium account for $45/year ($5/mo). The premium plan gets you 500Mb/month of storage, SSL encryption, priority image text recognition, better tech support, and removes the ads (which I haven’t seen any of so far). Oh yeah, and a free t-shirt comes with the premium plan.

So you’re probably thinking that Evernote sounds nice, but you’re not sure you would find it useful. Here’s a few idea of ways I used it and ways I’ve seen or read about other people using it:

  • Save Web pages that you want to read later
  • To-Do list
  • Save white board notes
  • Snap and save pictures of business cards, wine labels
  • Wish list tool – save items from online stores or pictures of products from real stores that you want to buy / receive as a gift (music, books, tools, etc)
  • Save Code snippets or commonly used math formulas
  • Save digital receipts for online purchases / bill payments
  • Store software serial numbers (although for security, you may want to go premium for this use)
  • Save important instant message conversations (you know the ones where your boss promises you a promotion!)
  • PDFs of documents to read or review

So, do you use Evernote now? Could you use Evernote? I’d be interested in hearing how you do or think you could use this service. Also, if you have better suggestion, I’d be open to hearing about it. Just keep in mind that in addition to being better than Evernote, it would have to also have a better icon (I love the elephant!)

Evernote Screen

I just saw the http://280slides.com/ site and thought it was pretty cool. It’s an online presentation maker that has been crafted to function and feel like Apple’s Keynote application. It works pretty well. I only had a few small things not work for me in Safari on Mac (Ben, start using Safari on the PC already! :) )

I was really blown away when, after posting the question on their support site, I found out that this app is NOT built in Flex or Silverlight or anything like that, but that it’s all JAVASCRIPT!! That’s right javascript! It seems that it wa sbuilt using a Javascript UI framework called Objective-J. There is a little more detail about that in Alex Le’s blog entry.

Also, if you want to compare this to an impressive Flex based presentation editor, check out SlideRocket.

Today, Apple Computer has released Safari 3.1 for Mac OS X and Windows. According to Apple:

“… this new version is the fastest web browser on any platform; Safari loads pages up to 3 times faster than Firefox 2 and up to 5.5 times faster than Opera 9. Safari 3.1 also executes JavaScript up to 4.5 times faster than Firefox 2 and up to 5 times faster than Opera 9.”

What does all that mean for you? Less time loading pages and more time enjoying them.

The Safari update is an automatic download option from the Mac’s Software Update program, and I assume the same for Windows. Or, if you’re new to Safari, check it out at the link above.

bee_icon.pngSo today I tried to use a new desktop tool for writing blog posts. I tried Bee, an Adobe AIR app that is posted on the AIR samples page. Bee is an AIR application built on HTML/Javascript using a number of javascript frameworks and libraries including Prototype, script.aculo.us, Spry, TinyMCE, and Walter Zorn’s Tooltips for Javascript. The interface and features of Bee are very attractive. In addition to being an AIR app, Bee is a FREE app. It connects to your WordPress blog and like most other tools it pulls down your existing posts and lets you add new ones of course. One of the other cool features is it also connects to your Flickr account and uploads pictures to existing sets there as well. Plus you can very easily add a Flickr image to your blog posts. That was to me a really nice feature. The interface is well done too. The two main states slide horizontally back and forth making getting to your information very simple.

BeePhoto.tiff
BeeBlog.tiff

So if this app is so great, why am I posting from my old faithful app, ecto? Well Bee has a few little issues that kind of make it difficult to use.

Issue #1: Bee repeatedly pops up a warning box telling you that due to some issues between Flex B2 and B3, you will need to go to the settings panel and log into your blog or Flickr account. While this is annoying, I was willing to close it. However, whatever this message alludes to, there is no way to log into your accounts in the settings panel. There is only the option to set them back up. This leads me to issue #2

Issue #2: Bee kept loosing the connection to my Flickr account. It seemed to remember my WordPress settings just fine, but every time I launched it there was no Flickr account set up. Again, while I guess one could live without the Flickr connection, it was to me one of the most appealing features.

Issue #3: Here’s the rub. While Issues 1 and 2 are things I would work around, this one wasn’t. Every time I tried to publish a new post Bee would either tell me it failed or just pop up the publich window and then close it. So not being able to publish an article is kind of a deal breaker here.

I posted the issue on the Bee forum page and hopefully somebody can give me some suggestions. I do really like this app so far, outside of the issues. I also like that its an AIR app and I like supporting that. Oh well I guess I got what I paid for here. :(