Tag Archives: SaaS

Organizing Data and Information with Evernote

Evernote Application

Evernote Logo

What is Evernote?

If you have not tried out the digital organization and notetaking application Evernote yet,  I would highly recommend that you do.  Evernote is a suite of cloud and desktop applications meant to assist people in organizing the data and information in their lives.

Organization is completed through a series digital “notes”.  Notes tcan be text based, clips of webpages, web links, voice and audio data clips, videos, or images.  Organization is done through folders and tags, as well as through location, contextual text-based, and time-based attributes associated with the media saved in the notes.

Currently, Evernote is available on a variety of desktop and mobile platforms, including; MacOS, Windows, Linux, ChromeOS, Android, Apple iOS, and Blackberry OS.

What Makes Evernote Unique?

There are a number of notetaking and organizational productivity tools on the market today, but what makes Evernote unique is its ease of use and its organizational structure.  Evernote allows makes it easy for the user to store data from anywhere, including their mobile device, desktop, or laptop.

Because Evernote is with the user all the time, it is easy to store user specific information at any time and have that information available at the push of a button.  All data is stored locally on every user’s machine and backed up and synced through Evernote’s servers.

What also makes Evernote unique is its business model.  The company’s founder, Phil Libin, has stated that he wishes Evernote to be a 100-year company and adheres to a pricing structure that allows for a significant amount of free data usage before payment is required.  Their intent is that as users eventually become accustomed to Evernote and see the value that it has in meeting their organizational needs, they won’t have a problem paying for additional usage fees.

Currently, the ad-supported free version offers 60 MB of data per month.  The paid version (currently offered  at approximately $5/month) offers some enhanced features and allows for 1 GB of data per month.

The User Interface

The user interface is clean, simple, and intuitive.,  The screenshot below shows my personal Evernote desktop edition which I run on my Windows laptop.  The left hand side of the window shows the organizational structure of your notes, including the collection of your “notebooks” and the tags associated with each notebook.  In addition, the left hand side also includes the searchable file attributes and saved searches for your notes.

The middle portion of the window includes the actual notes and web clippings I have collected.  This particular screenshot is showing some of my “To Read” articles.  You have multiple options for how our notes can be displayed; List, Snippet, or Thumbnail.   I have the ‘Snippet’ option selected for this screenshot.  The far right windows show the contents of the note that is currently selected.

Above the main window you have the main menu bar, a secondary menu bar, and shortcut bar that allows for easy access to thing like opening and formatting files, syncing files, and accessing quick searches like notes that were collected from you mobile device or web clippings.

Evernote User Interface

Evernote Desktop User Interface

The web interface is similar to the desktop application, but has fewer capabilities, as shown in the image below.  From my experience, Evernote does a good job synchronizing between the desktop, mobile and the web versions. If you make a change one device (a smartphone for example) and access it from another device (a laptop for example), everything should be consistent across the devices.

How I Use Evernote

Although I am not a power user, I have found Evernote to be extremely useful in keeping track of many things in my online life.  I mainly use it for two purposes:  Notetaking and Article Clipping.  Because of its syncing capabilities I find it to be very useful for jotting down ideas, action items, and other lists on any device knowing that it will be backed up and accessible by all my other devices.

The article clipping feature is also very cool and useful.  I use the Google Chrome add-on to clip any article that I find interesting and then later access it on my laptop or tablet.  Its even available off-line if you happen to be somewhere where wifi or data access is not available.

Even with my limited use of Evernote I can see its potential in searching by any of the tags or attributes that are assigned to your notes.  I can see myself expanding my use of Evernote over time.

In Conclusion

Evernote is an interesting program that fills a need in the mobile world – the ability to create, access and sync  notes, pictures, articles,and  voice messages to yourself across all of your computing devices.  The management team of Evernote has a long-term strategy and a product that continues to expand in its capabilities.  I would highly recommend everyone check it out – let me know what you think!

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Tech Primer: An Introductory Guide to Google Docs

Introduction:

This post will be the first in a series of post on using Google Docs and its new interface.  As I’ve written about on several different posts including ones on collaboration, integration, and usability, Google Docs is one of the leading cloud based office productivity suites on the market.

It offers many features and strengths over its competitors, including fast processing times, sharing and collaboration capabilities, and a large base of existing users.  This introductory guide will provide an overview of the user interface for new users of Google Docs

Accessing Google Docs:

In order to unlock the power of Google Docs, you must first have set up a Google Account (unless you already have one).  You can set up an account by going to www.google.com and clicking on “sign in” in the upper right hand corner.  Google will then ask for information and an account will be set up for you.  This account will allow you to not only access Google Docs but will also allow you to access the numerous other Google products that they have.

Once you have an account set up, you can go to docs.google.com to start using your new Google Docs account.   When you arrive at the Google Docs homepage you will see a screen that looks similar to the one shown in the image below.

Google Docs Main Interface

Navigating the User Interface:

I really like the user interface.  It is clean, intuitive and easy to navigate around.  For user that have used Google Docs in the past but have not used it recently the interface probably looks different.  Google recently conducted an overhaul of all their services’ interfaces to become more uniform.

Moving around the user interface is intuitive and easy to learn.   In the main body of the interface are the files that have stored in your account. The main interface is housed within the traditional Google interface with the search box located at the top and the Google ribbon included at the very top of the screen.  In the screenshot above, you can see that I have two files in my Google Docs cloud storage, one spreadsheet and one document.

On the left hand side of the user interface are two red buttons – one that allows you to create a new file (CREATE) within Google Docs and an upload button that allows the user to upload other external files (like Microsoft Office files, Adobe PDF files, or image files).  I’ve had good success with uploading different file types.

Google Docs using a file management system that is based on tags and collections.  It does not use a traditional folder style file structure like that used by Microsoft or other software companies.   This can take some getting used to but for long time Google users or users that have Gmail accounts, it shouldn’t be much a problem. The file filters are shown on the left hand side of the screen.  Google Docs allows you to filter by owner, starred items, or by user-defined collections.

In the upper right hand corner above the main body there are two other buttons – the ‘Sort’ button and the ‘Settings’ button (that looks like a gadget or bolt.)   The ‘Sort’ button allows the user to sort files by priority, time, size, and owner.  The “Settings” button allows the user to change things like the display and time settings.

Productivity Programs of Google Docs:

The Google Docs suite consists of the following programs:

– Document
– Presentation
– Spreadsheet
– Form
– Table
– Drawing

The mostly wide used of the programs; Documents, Presentations, and Spreadsheets, provide intuitive interfaces and resemble that of other office desktop and web-based suites, (such as Microsoft Office, Zoho Office Suite, or OpenOffice).  The other programs; Forms, Tables, and Drawings are powerful tools that provide users with other useful functionality that can be integrated within the other programs.

Below is a screenshot of what a Google Docs spreadsheet looks like.   I will be providing more detailed posts on how to use each of the Programs of Google Docs.

Google Docs Spreadsheet

Google Docs Spreadsheet

Sharing Capabilities:

One of the great strengths of Google Docs is its sharing capabilities.  Since Google Docs is a cloud-based SaaS program, it is a naturally strong program for sharing and collaborating on the web.  Each of the programs within Google Docs allows the owner of the document to share the spreadsheet with other users.

Google Docs Sharing Window

Google Docs Sharing Window

Google Docs allows 3 sharing settings; 1) Public on the Web, 2) Anyone with the Link, and 3) Private.  “Public on the Web” allows for the most openness as anyone can search and find documents with this setting.  “Anyone with Link” allows additional control over who can view the documents by not allowing it to be searchable over the web.  “Private” allows the most control – only those users that the owner has granted permission to use are allowed to view or edit the document.

Google Docs Sharing Options

Google Docs Sharing Options

In Conclusion:

Setting up a Google Docs account is easy to do and provides a powerful and free office suite.  For long-time Google users, the transition to using Google Docs should be simple and easy.  For long-term Microsoft Office users, there may be a little bit more of a learning curve due to the unique file management structure and different user interface.

Overall, I find Google Docs to be a powerful tool that everyone should look into.  I’m quite impressed with it sharing options and responsiveness. Although Google Docs is not the only cloud-based office productivity suite on the market, it is one of the leaders.

Stay tuned for additional posts on how to use the programs within the Google Docs suite!

For more information, visit the following posts:

Comparing Cloud-Based spreadsheets
Comparing Cloud-Based word processors
Collaborating with Google Docs

Collaborating with Google Docs

One of the very useful features of Google Docs is the ability to effortlessly share files and collaborate in real-time.  In my tests,  I feel that Google Docs offers the best functionality for sharing.   Microsoft Skydrive has only limited sharing abilities and Zoho Office only has the ability to share with other Zoho users.  Google Docs offers sharing and collaboration with both registered and unregistered users which is a plus.  With Google Docs you have three sharing options available 1) Public, 2) Anyone with Link, and 3) Private.

The “Anyone with Link” option is provides the user with a the link that can be sent out to all other collaborators regardless of whether or not they are registered or not.  Under this configuration, each  user has a different color scheme is labeled with a name like “anonymous9001”.  To setup the “Anyone with link” option, a file must be created and then the  “File>Share” menu option must be chosen. Under the “Who has Access” box, the top line allows you to change the classification.  After you have changed the status, a URL link appears at the top. This link is what you will send to everyone that you wish to collaborate with.

The “Private” option requires a google account and then lists the people’s names that are editing.  The only difference between the “Private” and the “Anyone With Link” option is the naming convention for the collaboration colors.  Instead of showing up as “anonymous_xxx”, the user will show up as their Google account name.  The “Public” Option allows anyone to view the document, but does not allow anyone to edit it.

Overall, I feel that Google offers a great collaboration product.   Its sharing features offer superior flexibility for those wishing to collaborate.

-TW