I love handwritten notes. The physical act of scrawling on a page helps me to process my thoughts and remember important information. When I’m sat outside or stuck in a crowded space, it’s also preferable to digging out my laptop.
I’ve adopted Evernote, but my account quickly looks neglected as I inevitably steer back towards a familiar pen and paper solution. Occasionally I’ll transfer all of my notebooks across, either by using Evernote’s in-app camera or simply typing out the most important parts. It’s not ideal though and for months, I’ve considered buying an Evernote Smart Notebook by Moleskine (our review).
Earlier this month, Evernote announced an upgraded version aimed at business customers. Although I rarely wear a shirt and tie, I jumped at the chance to experiment with the stylish jotter and see whether it could bring harmony to my disjointed and disorganized note-taking process.
The original Moleskine notebook is an icon of the writing world. The second that someone plucks one out from their bag, you know exactly what it is. The compact design, black cover and high quality paper are instantly recognizable. Many companies have tried to copy the classic Moleskine design, but few come close to matching or surpassing the original.
The Evernote Business Notebook maintains these high standards, while adding a few flourishes for the digital note-taking service. The cover has a curious geometric design, with the Evernote logo in the top-right hand corner. Meanwhile, the elastic band and fabric bookmark are bright green, giving the design some much-needed color and contrast.
At 13 x 19cm, it’s certainly one of Moleskine’s larger products. Even so, the notebook is small and lightweight, which means it’ll sit nicely in almost any bag or tucked under your arm. I had absolutely no criticisms about its design – this is a lovely notebook to use and carry around.
Private and public
For its new Business Notebook, Evernote has introduced a two-part system to each page. The top two-thirds are designed for public consumption, while the lower third is for private notes. The idea is that while you’re in a meeting, you can write the most important information up top and keep your own personal thoughts and reminders contained at the bottom.
The two sections are clearly defined with a line break and two symbols on the left-hand edge of the page. I normally scribble notes in the margins, but I quickly learned to link important additions at the bottom with an asterisk.
When you’ve finished writing, you’ll need to capture the page using the iOS app to sync it with your account. That’s right, at the time of writing the Android app doesn’t support the Business Notebook, although Evernote says support is “coming soon”. It’s a simple process in the iOS app though; just launch the camera feature, swipe across to the Document setting and hit the shutter button. I often write in a dark and dingy room (the harsh realities of working remotely), but I never had problems capturing the page. Black ink is certainly recommended, but in optimal lighting you can get away with other colors.
Inside the Evernote app, you can then find and open the page just like any other note. It’s worth emphasizing that these are simply scanned versions of the original pages; Evernote Premium can interpret words and surface them when you search inside its apps, but it won’t create a truly digital, typed-out version for you. This is where Livescribe really excels, although it’s a far more expensive option than Evernote’s Smart and Business notebooks.
By hitting the Share option, followed by Mail, Evernote will recognize that it’s from your Business Notebook and give you two options: share only the top section, or the entire page. You can only select one, so to email the entire page to one group and only the upper section to another, you’ll need to go through the process twice.
I was never frustrated by the experience though. Pages were clean, legible and cropped appropriately, and a few people were impressed that I had bothered to send over a handwritten copy. I’m not sure it has any meaningful benefits (other than proving it was your work) but who knows, the novelty factor might help you close a deal or land a promotion.