Meet The New Evernote 4 for iPhone

The wizards at Evernote have done it again. They’ve completely overhauled Evernote for iPhone not just by adding a few features, but through a total redesign of the UI.

Today we’re going to take a look at what has changed and whether or not the update has made for a better or worse experience.

What Is Evernote?

In the incredibly rare case that you happen to be someone who has never heard of Evernote, it’s basically a digital drawer. Every scrap of information that you want to keep but have no idea where to put finds a home inside of Evernote where it is optimized for searching on several levels including tags, notebooks, and even OCR.

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Evernote

The best part about Evernote is that it is everywhere you need it to be. There is an Evernote application for Mac, Windows, iPad, Android, Blackberry, Palm Pre, Windows Mobile and of course, the iPhone. Each of these versions automatically syncs over the cloud with every other version that you log into.

If all that isn’t to good to be true, here’s the kicker: it’s free. The apps are free, the service is free, you don’t have to pay a dime to use this amazing suite of products. There are premium plans for power users but I would wager that most people will be perfectly satisfied with a free account (I certainly am).

Evernote 4.0

Since day one, the iPhone version of Evernote has been a great app. To be honest, I thought Evernote 3.0 was gorgeous so I was pretty skeptical when I read that they had redesigned the entire application! So did they improve it yet again or screw it up? Let’s take a look.

Viewing Notes

As soon as you open the new Evernote, you’ll see that it’s completely different. In fact, it appears they’ve fundamentally changed their assumptions about how most people want to use the app.

The old version had a strong focus on note creation. When you started it up, the first thing you saw was a screen with four options for creating different types of notes. After looking around for a second, you’d spot the button to see your current notes on the bottom.

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Evernote 3 (left) vs. Evernote 4 (right)

As you can see above, the new version has shifted the focus much further towards browsing current notes. Now the first thing you see when you open the app is all your notes sorted by the date they were created.

As you can see, the familiar scroll bar from the iPad version is on the right side, making it easy to quickly jump to a specific section of the list rather than flicking for minutes on end.

Also notice the little icon in the upper right corner with four boxes. Tapping here will take you to a new screen with three filters for note browsing: images, attachments and locations. Tapping on any of these will show you only those notes that match that specific data type.

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Filtering notes by type

Further Filtering

If you’re familiar with Evernote then you know that the simple combination of tags and notebooks can make for a very powerful organizational system whereby you can find just about anything in a second or two. The buttons along the bottom have been repurposed and now provide quicker access to drill down into your notes by notebooks and tags.

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Notebooks and Tags

Notice that the Favorites section is now tucked inside the Notebooks tab. This is important because on the iPhone, starred notes are the only ones accessible when you are offline.

Creating a New Note

Though the new Evernote has made a shift towards focusing on current notes, that doesn’t mean they slacked off in the note creation category. At the bottom center of the main screen is a bright blue plus button that you simply can’t miss, this takes you to a brand new and super slick “New Note” screen.

This new screen makes it a breeze to create new notes on the fly, allowing you to customize as little or much as you want. Everything is geared towards visual thinkers so you simply tap the big buttons along the bottom to add a recording, location, tag, image and/or to assign a notebook.

I instantly loved this new layout and the more I thought about it, the more I remembered loving it in another app a long time ago. I did some digging and it turns out I was right, the Evernote New Note screen is almost a direct clone of the old Tweetie app for iPhone!

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Evernote (left) and Tweetie (right)

It makes sense that the Evernote crew would use this app for inspiration. After all, it was so good that Twitter bought out Atebits and rebranded the app as Twitter for iPhone! They’ve since abandoned this particular screen so I don’t see why we shouldn’t get to take advantage of the great layout in Evernote.

Another great new feature here is the ability add and manage all attachments that are made to a note. You can easily view all the attachments individually, check out the full list, and delete anything you don’t want.

Closing Thoughts

Though I liked the overall look of the previous version of Evernote, it really wasn’t ideally suited for my needs. I do well over 95% of my note creation on my Mac and mainly use Evernote for iPhone to browse and view this information when I’m away from my desk. Any time someone asked me about something for which I had to refer to Evernote, I inevitably had to make several “hold on, almost there…” comments as I fumbled through the interface and tried to find what I was looking for.

Evernote 4.0 dramatically increases the speed at which I can locate specific notes. The key is quick access to both tags and notebooks right from the opening screen in conjunction with the ability to quickly drill down by note type.

Further, the new note creation screen has really come a long way because it doesn’t force you into a choice of which type of note you want to create like the old home screen did (shown above). Note types aren’t mutually exclusive so a system that is structured as if they were is simply confusing. The new system of creating a note and adding attachments as you go along is much better.

I think the Evernote team really knocked the ball out of the park with this update. As much as I’ve always loved the service, the old app had some serious flaws and I think version 4.0 addressed every one of them.

The one thing that I’d like to see is a few more search bars scattered throughout the app. I can use the main search feature to search everything at once, but it would also nice to search a collection that you’ve already drilled down. So once I tap notebooks, then the name of the notebook, there should be a search bar at the top of the list of notes within that notebook. Overall, this is a fairly small complaint and isn’t really enough the mar the stellar experience.

Give Evernote 4.0 a download and let us know what you think! Do you love the new interface as much as I do or do you prefer the old one?


Summary

Evernote for iPhone has been completely redesigned and drastically improves both how you search through your notes and how you create new ones. It was a risky move but we think they nailed it.

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