Culture, Technology — July 12, 2012 9:00 am

The Evernote Trapeze

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I am a trapeze artist with no net. Which is odd, considering the number of nets I have.

I have nets with catchy names, names no one had thought of before they wove the net, names thought up out of thin air because all the other good net names had been taken long before the weaver even thought to weave this particular net.

I have absurd metaphors.

Allow me to explain.

Composing this very column is a thing fraught with choice, you see. What device should I use? Which composition engine? I could call it a word processor, and I suppose it is that, but my, how outdated that term seems to me. What even is the “it”?


At the moment, it’s Evernote (catchy name, right?). Evernote is on my iPad. I have an account. I don’t remember the password, but I put it into my iPad once and my iPad remembers. Usually I compose in Google Drive, formerly called Google Docs. I can remember the password to my Google account, thank goodness.

Google Drive is your internet storage solution, with pretty full-featured editions of a word processor, a spreadsheet, a presentation composer. We call these things by the name Microsoft gave them: Word, Excel, Powerpoint. But now Google has its own, all conveniently located in Google’s cloud.

It’s helpful to have things in a cloud. Evernote is a cloud storage service, storing all my notes. I only have one, and Evernote composed that one: it’s called “Welcome to Evernote.” I don’t use Evernote all that much.

I’m not doing a very good job of explaining. This is all a little Holden Caulfield, but I bet it comes together by the end. I never read that book. I need to get around to that.

You see, my father loves his iPad, but he’s a busy fellow. He needs to work when he travels, but he likes to travel light. Often he’ll take only his iPad and a bluetooth keyboard on a trip, which allows him to compose emails and such quickly but affords him the advantages of leaving the laptop at home.

Well, my father accidentally left his keyboard in a hotel in Michigan when he was there visiting my brother. He called the hotel to see if they’d found it, but no such luck. Using the thing as much as he does, he went ahead and bought a new one. And of course, the hotel called him thereafter to let him know they found his old keyboard. Not needing two, he offered it to my brother, the local, to keep, but he already had one as well. He asked me if I’d use it if my brother shipped it, and I said yes.

I don’t use mine near as much as my father uses his. So little do I use it that I stare at it longingly from time to time, wishing my super sweet iPad-bluetooth keyboard dynamic duo had a bit more to… dynam. That’s not a word.

So when it came time to write this week’s column, I opted to go for it. Google Drive now has an iPad app, so I downloaded it and fired it up, all set to compose on my platform of choice with my fancypants combo of screen and keys. I climbed the ladder, took hold of the trapeze, and swung from the tower.

It was then that the net started to fade from view. Google Drive for iPad, to my astonishment, does not appear to allow you to edit existing documents or compose new ones. It seems to be solely a document viewer. Useful, but not for writing a column from scratch.

I tapped around and saw that I could open my Drive documents in Evernote. I thought, quickly, “well I guess I could type in Evernote.” So I opened Evernote and began to compose. That’s when the net disappeared entirely.

When you write a tech column, you do light to moderate research. You want to have a browser tab or 18 open to look things up as you type. On the iPad’s full-screen apps, that wouldn’t be a possibility. I needed to go grab my trusty laptop, the workhorse built for a task like this. I would have to let go of the trapeze, give up my dream, and fall back from the Post-PC era to the PC era.

And then I refused. “I can check facts later,” I thought. “I’ll think better if I’m not so distracted. In fact, this freedom I’ve found in restriction might make for a great column, especially with all the other alternatives I have a hallway away.” And then I thought of the trapeze metaphor. It ain’t great–we can be honest about that. But it sort of works: I’m on a wild contraption with serious disadvantages–by choice–and it’s thrilling. It’s fun. It’s freeing.

I don’t even have a word count feature here on Evernote, and my column is feeling pretty long, so I’d better wrap this up.

The thing is, for a task as simple as writing, we have an insanity of options. Drive. Word. Evernote. TextEdit. Notepad. Things you’ve probably never heard of, like Notational Velocity. Things I’ve probably never heard of, like pen and paper. I’m not going to count, because it would spoil the fun of writing this in unblemished stream of consciousness, but I’d bet on my iPad alone I could have written this thing seven different places. I’m glad I chose this one. It feels right.

But there you see: all those other options are safety nets, alternatives, backups. If this fails right now, I can do any number of other things to write this column.

But here, here in Evernote on my iPad and bluetooth keyboard, I have no recourse but to simply write. No fact checking. No Facebook breaks. No word counts.

I am here in Evernote by happenstance. Here, I am focused. I am only a writer. I am a trapeze artist with no net.

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  • I guess this post isn’t really about Evernote as a product, specifically. Regardless, I just want to say that it (Evernote) kicks serious ass. It is my net, if I may jump in on the high-flying metaphor.

    I’ve never used it as a word processor/composition tool, but as a bookmark-er/link organizer, I haven’t found its equal. Two thumbs up! (Unless you’re trying to keep your hands on the trapeze, in which case…I don’t know.)

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