Hands-On With Evernote 5 for Mac (Beta)

[Update: Evernote 5 for iOS is coming!]

The Evernote 5 on OS X feels like a real breath of fresh air. I downloaded the beta earlier today, backed up all of my notebooks using this quick script from Nik’s Crappy Blog (via @Viticci of MacStories), and then installed it. I haven’t had a lot of time with the app yet, but it feels like marked improvement over the previous iteration. Even the dock icon is sexier.

The What’s New page describes most of the good stuff, but my takeaway is how much clutter has been whisked away from the interface. The app feels more powerful and flexible than ever, but simultaneously much simpler to navigate. Toolbars and buttons are visible, but not prominent. That really goes for all of the UI chrome, which makes the content in the app stand out all the more. I’m not often one to comment on colour and shading choices because I never feel quite qualified enough to do so, but I will say that Evernote 5 features a set of UI changes that you really feel. It’s immediately noticeable how clean the app feels, how easy it is to glean information from a note, and how busy all of the previous versions felt. I really, really want these changes to hit the iPad app.

I also think it’s brilliant to have a recent notes and shortcuts section in the sidebar. There are a few notes in my Evernote account that I come back to every week, and it’s great to have them tucked right into the sidebar for instant access. This means that Evernote for Mac is easy to use, regardless of whether you prefer to conduct searches for content, or just browse.

The only feature I’m not terribly excited about is Atlas – which visualizes your notes and categorizes them by city or country maps – but that’s simply because I haven’t used Evernote in enough places to make the feature interesting. As of November 2012, my Evernote Atlas just looks like a big map of Toronto with a bunch of numbers hovering over my basement apartment. It’s a very pretty map, though!

I use Evernote for long term note storage of quick notes I send from Drafts, my own little cooking recipes, and troubleshooting details. It’s a utility that I enjoy using, but it’s also one of those apps that feels that it was simply built as opposed to being crafted, and so I’ve never really expected it to be drop-dead gorgeous. That’s why Evernote 5 has been a particularly delightful surprise to me – it has expanded its functionality while still somehow finding time to blossom. The beta seems to be working just fine, by the way, so if you’re brave and armed to the teeth with backups, download the Evernote 5 beta now.