Thursday, November 8, 2012

Review: Evernote Smart Notebook by Moleskine

The minute the news came out about the Evernote Smart Notebook, I knew I was going to have to have one.  And I was very pleasantly surprised by this great notebook.  It has already become one of my daily companions.

Made by Moleskine, the styling of this notebook is exquisite.  The eye-catching cover is embossed with various life and productivity symbols (including the iconic Evernote elephant right in the center), and it's definitely been a topic of conversation with everyone who has seen my notebook.  The lime green ribbon marker and elastic closure are perfect touches as well.

 (Turns out that it's really hard to get a picture that captures all the details of this notebook, including the beautiful embossing on the front.  So I tweaked the photo to bring the embossing details out.)

The paper is typical Moleskine notebook paper, which is to say: smooth and beautiful, but average in how it deals with various pens.  Wet-writing pens, including fountain pens, are always going to bleed through this paper, but there doesn't seem to be excessive amounts of feathering with it.

(I wrote the beginnings of this post in the notebook.  Seemed appropriate, somehow!)

The thing that makes this notebook worth the money is the included stickers and built-in tagging system.  In my testing, they work perfectly to help categorize pages in the notebook as they are uploaded to your Evernote account.  Here's how they work:  First you choose a sticker that suits the particular category of your writing.  (If none of the pre-assigned sticker categories do it for you, the categories can be easily reassigned inside the Evernote mobile app.)  I used the "work" sticker and reassigned it to my Evernote "Blog" notebook with a "pens" tag.  Then I took a picture of the page with a sticker on it.  I have to say that the "page camera" option in the Evernote app does not take beautiful pictures, as a rule.  For getting information into your Evernote account, it's good enough, though.  Perhaps the page camera will improve with later versions of the software.

Now here's the insanely cool part.  The minute I uploaded these pictures to my Evernote account, the system used the sticker to automatically put the picture into the correct notebook, along with the associated tag.  It's a completely seamless process, and it works REALLY well.  Now I have handwritten pages in the cloud, as well as in a physical notebook, which is a comforting thing from an OCD standpoint.

(It's kind of fun to stick the little stickers on the page.  They can go anywhere on the page and still work, supposedly, but I thought they needed to go in the top right corner.  Don't ask me why.)

This got me to wondering... do the stickers and the automatic tagging process work with pages from an ordinary notebook?  Interestingly (and understandably, for the sake of Evernote's and Moleskine's bottom line), the answer is no.  In my tests, pictures of pages from other notebooks went into my normal default Evernote notebook, even with the sticker present.  There is evidently a special code built into the pages of the Moleskine notebook -- it seems to be the pattern of dots that constitute the lines on the page (both in the ruled and grid versions).  I must point out that the company says as much in their promotional materials, and it is indeed true.

(The ribbon bookmark is a much prettier green and is much more striking than my crappy picture suggests.)

All in all, I can highly recommend these notebooks.  Right now, they appear to be available only from Moleskine (via their website).  The notebooks are not cheap, but for what they do and how they are made, I think they are well worth the price.  In addition, the notebook comes with 3 free months of Evernote Premium.  If you are already a premium subscriber, as I am, the code that is pasted in the back of the notebook simply extends your existing subscription by 3 months.  This is a pretty good value, and definitely defrays some of the cost of the notebook.

In short, fans of Moleskines and Evernote should take the next natural step and combine the two to help with capturing anything and everything that can be put on a page.

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