Synchronizing Your Notes Part 1: Why Consider Simplenote and Evernote

Matt Stauffer

A picture of a note going into a cloud, with Evernote and Simplenote icons

Now that we’ve talked about the basics of Getting Started with Cloud Storage, let’s talk about some specific ways we can store Notes (short-to-full length documents that are primarily text) in the cloud.

This is Part 1 of a 3-part review: Today, we’ll talk about why you should consider moving your notes to the cloud. Tomorrow, we’ll look at synchronizing your plain text documents with Simplenote. The next day, we’ll look at synchronizing your rich text documents with Evernote.

What’s the difference between Plain and Rich Text?

Plain text is exactly what it sounds like: Text, without anything added. No bold, no italic, no formatting, no pictures—just text. The value of using plain text is that it’s fast, easy, universally accessible and copyable, and displays exactly the same in every context.

Rich text, on the other hand, can be formatted with bold, italic, and other text formatting. Rich text can also include web links, images, and other special formatting. Rich text is less universally accessible, but has the benefit of allowing for greater control over the presentation of the text.

Why would I move my documents to Simplenote and Evernote?

While file syncing services like Dropbox and SkyDrive allow you to access your documents from anywhere you go, they’re still limited to the formats the documents were created in. What if the computer you’re using doesn’t have Microsoft Office? Or what if you want to make changes to the document on your phone? Many devices aren’t prepared to edit documents created by Microsoft Office or other proprietary programs.

Simplenote and Evernote provide universal access to your content. Simplenote does this by allowing any developer access to their servers; as a result, developers have created Simplenote-syncing applications on every major desktop and mobile platform. Evernote did the same thing, but created the applications themselves. Both allow you to store all of your data in their databases, but easily copy it out to Office documents or web sites or wherever else you could want to use it.

What sort of content can I keep in these services?

If you choose to move your content over to one of these services, you won’t be able to move every document on your computer over. For example, the specific (and complex) formatting of a prayer letter is relative to the size of a printed page; there’s no way to manage that specific formatting in either Simplenote or Evernote, so those files need to stay in their native formats.

However, the content of these sorts of documents is perfect for Simplenote or Evernote. For example, I have a Simplenote file where I write notes about ideas for my next prayer letter. I’ll often write out the content of every prayer letter in Simplenote, editing it from whichever device I have available. Sometimes I’ll be on campus working with students and think, “I should write about this in my next prayer letter!” Since I’m working with Simplenote, I can just pull out my phone and jot down a note about it. And since Simplenote and Evernote still work when you don’t have your Internet connection, I can work on turning that quick note into a story for my prayer letter when I’m waiting at an airport terminal or sitting on the bus.

In fact, I’m writing the content of this article in Simplenote on my iPad. After I’m done writing it, I can either copy the content over to our Content Management System and add the formatting there, or I can write it now using a format like Markdown that lets me add formatting to a plaintext document.

Tomorrow we’ll review Simplenote in Part 2 of the series, and in Part 3 we’ll review Evernote.

(photos from flickr users akakumo and photoshoproadmap)

By Matt Stauffer | Posted: Dec 29, 2010
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