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Review: Evernote Clearly

New York Times Article: “War of 1812 Bicentennial Disorganized in New York State”

Today, in addi­tion to enjoy­ing Thanksgiving, I have been tak­ing the time to look at Evernote Clearly, a browser plug-in for the Google Chrome browser that com­petes with ReadabilityInstapaper, ReadItLater, and the Safari Reading List.

As an exam­ple, I took a cur­rent arti­cle from the New York Times, “War of 1812 Bicentennial Disorganized in New York State,” clicked the Evernote clearly icon, and saw it trans­formed from the clut­tered expe­ri­ence with adver­tise­ments above and to the right of the con­tent, into a clean, crisp view of the con­tent I was inter­ested in. The dis­play of Clearly is stun­ning, in fact. Within the same tab that was active when you made the request, the Clearly inter­face slides over the con­tent. As a reader, you can choose from a sepia toned “Newsprint” view of the text (shown below), a mod­ern black-and-white pre­sen­ta­tion (called “Notable”), or a “Nightowl” ver­sion that is white text on a black back­ground and would dis­play well in the dark. These pre­sen­ta­tions are sim­i­lar to what is avail­able in the other offer­ings in the sim­pli­fied read­ing inter­face space.

Evernote Clearly “Newsprint” Display of “War of 1812 Bicentennial Disorganized in New York State”

But the real attrac­tion, for users of Evernote, is the lit­tle Evernote icon, on the right side of the Clearly inter­face. Click this ele­phant icon, and the con­tent is sent to Evernote for longer term stor­age, search, and availability.

As a long time user of Evernote, one of my pet peeves has been the dif­fi­culty of get­ting a read­able clip­ping of a sub­set of a com­plex page, such as what the Times presents. Historically, you had to either clip the whole page, and live with the clut­ter (and the search­able text such as the “First Federal” add above show­ing up in your search results for Federal records), or to man­u­ally try to select the cor­rect sub­set of con­tent. This was a dodgy propo­si­tion, with results that vary every time, and some­times one has to try a cou­ple of times, or man­u­ally edit the Evernote clip­ping to get it to read well.

One no longer has to do any off that when using Evernote Clearly. A sin­gle clip on the Evernote ele­phant icon on the right hand rib­bon, and a clean ver­sion of the con­tent is sent to your Evernote con­tent set in the cloud. Syncing your desk­top or mobile Evernote client soft­ware, brings the con­tent down. The fin­ished prod­uct looks like the image below. In typ­i­cal fash­ion, Evernote has auto­mat­i­cally cre­ated a title from the page title, and added time­stamps for cre­ation and update. Additionally, it has added the orig­i­nal URL as a click­able field, put it into the catch all folder (in my case, “Evernote”) and done a rea­son­able job of con­tent pre­sen­ta­tion. So far so good.

But what else would an Evernote user (who is still using ReadItLater and start­ing to exper­i­ment with Readability) need to ditch the other prod­ucts, and do all of this in Evernote with Evernote Clearly.

  • Presentation. The com­pe­ti­tion for this ser­vice really own the “read­ing list” pre­sen­ta­tion. Evernote touts itself as a “shoe­box for the mind” or a “shoe­box for the Internet”, and it can feel as clut­tered as a shoe­box full of clip­pings. Obviously, the multi-faceted search and orga­ni­za­tion capa­bil­i­ties mean you can find things. But, if I’m on a cell phone or a tablet, I might want to just see the arti­cles I saved to read later. A sim­ple tag or folder could gather this, and the mobile apps could sur­face up a but­ton to nav­i­gate right to this content.
  • Organization. It would be nice to have an abil­ity to con­fig­ure a spe­cific folder­ing or tag­ging scheme for con­tent com­ing in from Evernote Clearly. This is sep­a­rate from the pre­sen­ta­tion issue above, and is more of an issue for long-term cat­a­logu­ing and orga­ni­za­tion of clipped stories.
  • Cross-browser sup­port. Some of us use sev­eral browsers. I reg­u­larly use Chrome, Safari, and Firefox, and some­times use Internet Explorer, Flock, and Opera. I need to be able to do this from any browser. Hopefully, the tech­nol­ogy involved was standards-based, and will be portable to other browsers as they become more compliant.
If I get some of those fea­tures, even the gor­geous Readability prod­uct will have a hard time com­plet­ing with the sim­plic­ity of using a sin­gle product.


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