When my kids graduated from college, I figured they'd ask me for lots of advice--which I was eager to give. Instead, all the truly useful advice in our family has flowed in the other direction.
For my birthday, in February, my daughter gave me a subscription to Evernote, a software-and-cloud combination that enables you to capture, save, organize, back up, retrieve and share all kinds of information--including golf information. (The basic version at evernote.com
is free; a premium subscription is $5 a month or $45 a year--a bargain.) My daughter helped me open an account on Evernote's website, and we downloaded the program onto my desktop, laptop, iPad and smartphone.
I'd been planning a golf trip to Ireland for a group of friends, so on my desktop I went to the home page of one of the courses on our itinerary, called Portsalon. I clicked the Evernote "clipper" button (a gray elephant's head in a little green box), which the program had added to my browser's toolbar--and, with a second click, I sent a copy of the page to Evernote. Then I turned on my laptop and opened the program--and there, in a "note," was the Portsalon page, with its links still functioning. Then I opened the Evernote app on my iPad, and Portsalon was there, too. And when I went back to my laptop and did a Google search for "1891"--the date Portsalon was founded, according to the page I'd clipped--the first result, right above the Wikipedia entry for 1891, was a link to my Portsalon note, in which the date appeared highlighted in yellow.
The real strengths of Evernote began to emerge as I piled up information--which I did by clipping Web pages and parts of Web pages; dragging Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, photographs and PDFs into "notebooks"; sending emails (with or without attachments) to an Evernote address I was given when I signed up; and typing notes directly. With my phone's Evernote app I took a snapshot of the jacket of a book about Irish golf courses, and within a few minutes the image had been synced to all my devices. Later, I used my daughter's MacBook Air to sign in to my account on Evernote's website, and all my stuff was there, too. And everything--including the name of the author printed on the jacket of the Irish book in my snapshot--was searchable, both within Evernote and through Google. Evernote is even pretty good at reading handwriting.
Evernote offers numerous ways to organize and manage a pile like that: by adding distinguishing "tags" to notes; by creating a comprehensive notebook or a notebook "stack"; by making master notes containing other notes or links to them. Experienced users--a number of whom have shared tips and insights on the company's highly instructive blog--seem not just to become more adept at manipulating the program but to rethink the way they store, use and share information.
Evernote's service has been around since 2008 and has evolved steadily. The company has formed partnerships with the manufacturers of a couple hundred gadgets, apps, programs and websites, all of which now work synergistically with it. My original golf buddy, Jim, has been an Evernote evangelist for several years. He uses it in combination with a Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500 sheet-fed duplex document scanner ($400 to $450 from a variety of online sellers) and no longer saves pieces of paper. I bought a ScanSnap, too, and it's now my favorite possession. When it's closed, it's only a little bigger than a large box of Kleenex, yet it will scan a 10-page magazine article (about Ireland) in full color in less than half a minute, and it comes with a free copy of Adobe Acrobat X Standard, an extremely useful program--which sells on Amazon for $275. The ScanSnap easily handles odd and mismatched pieces of paper, including that wad of wrinkly credit-card receipts you've been carrying in your wallet for weeks. It straightens them if they're crooked, scans both sides at once, skips blanks, and spits them out faster than you could drop them to the ground. And, if you tell it to, it will scan them straight into Evernote.