I've just received a new iPhone (23rd birthday). One of the first applications I installed was Evernote. They bill it as an extension for your brain and it's likely I'll soon become severely dependent on it.

You see, I've got an organization problem. I don't want to keep things organized. It's not that I can't: there's a delicately balanced pile of incredibly important papers in my room, and if anyone or anything were to disturb them, I'd be screwed to the tenth. But, predictably, it's inefficient and highly error-prone. The main psychological barrier to me is that organization is basically a lot of wasted effort: it takes a long time (and lots of filing boxes, which I don't yet own) to sort and store everything, and I'm unlikely to need whatever it is that I'm organizing (so I would like to save time and not organize it). The drawback is that on the rare occasion that I do need it, I'm unlikely to be able to find it unless my collection is neatly organized.

Furthermore, I really have to limit the number of documents I keep, to prevent the stack of papers from overflowing. I don't keep receipts for more than a few days, for example, and thus I have no idea how much money I spend. I make efforts to keep old bank statements -- but the few times that I've needed to look something up, I was able to find ten or twelve old statements, but the one I need has never actually been there. I manage to successfully keep my passport and incorporation documents and such, but only barely. There's no chance in hell I can keep more frequently useful but less important things, like takeout menus from nearby restaurants, product warranty documents and manuals, CD-keys, and so on.

I think Evernote is about to change all this. It's a personal notes database. The notes are stored on their server. You can type notes in and search them out later. You can take snapshots with your iPhone and upload them, and the system recognizes any text in the snapshot and indexes it for search. This is an ungodly killer feature. It means that I just have to think "Gee, this might be useful info later", whip out Evernote and take a snapshot. I never have to decide whether I will actually use the thing. As long as it can be digitized, I can save it, and that's crucial.

I've often thought about using Spotlight on the Mac for this, but it's never clicked for me. No text recognition, no easy way to photograph documents for later use, search scope is too great (I don't want it to search every document I've ever edited -- most of that stuff I know I'll never need again). Evernote seems to perfectly fit the niche I have.

Oh, and by the way, it saves the GPS coordinates and date and time of your note. I'm really looking forward to using this thing while exploring the city. Find a cool looking restaurant? Snapshot its menu and hours, and look it up later. Run across free wifi? Take a note of its SSID, and come back to that location later.

I've only had Evernote for a couple days, so I'll report back in a few months and let you know whether it was as useful as I think it will be. Anyone have experiences with it?

I'm now on twitter -- lincolnq -- if you have other note-taking advice or software you recommend. (Twitter on the iPhone is another killer app, but that's for another post.)