November App Review: Evernote

App: Evernote
Developer: Evernote
Price: Free
Platforms: iOS, Android

I’ve mentioned Evernote several times before, both while talking about iOS widgets and Mac apps, so it made sense to write a full app review of it.  Evernote is an app I use every day, for all kinds of things, and it’s good at what it does.  I’m going to focus this review on the three things I primarily use Evernote for: memos, working towards being paperless, and school.


The reason I originally got Evernote was just for a simple alternative to the iOS Notes app.  I was generally happy with Notes, except that syncing took place through my IMAP email account, so that meant that changes didn’t carry over to other devices immediately.  I got tired of this and decided to give Evernote a try.  Honestly, if this is all you use Evernote for, it’s a little overkill, and the Notes app is actually simpler and easier to use.  However, it works well enough, and by downloading the app I was found out about its other useful features.

Like the document scanner.  I’m not a paperless fanatic, but I often find myself with a sheet of paper that I will most likely never need again, but I can’t quite bring myself to throw away.  I’ve taken to snapping a picture of these and putting it in Evernote, and then I can throw away the paper and stop worrying about it.  But here’s the cool part: Evernote’s camera isn’t just a camera.  If you take a picture of a document, Evernote will process the image, making the page white and the text darker.  It even does a pretty good job of removing your shadow on the page when you took the picture.  On top of all that, it attempts to OCR the documents, so that you can search them later.  I’ve found the searching to be hit or miss, but it’s still cool, and the scanner is great even without it.

The last thing I use Evernote for is for school documents.  Up until this semester, I was really just using Evernote for the two things above, barely tapping into its potential.  About a month into this semester though, I found myself staring at my Dropbox documents folder.  It was littered with all kinds of things – syllabi, teachers’ powerpoint slides, as well as documents I’d done myself to turn in as homework.  There was no organization.  I know I could’ve done that with folders, but it just didn’t seem as nice.  So I decided to throw all that stuff into Evernote, and I’ve been really happy with the results.  It’s great, because I have a pretty good mix of files from teachers, papers to scan, and just plain notes, and Evernote handles all of these together with ease.  I’ve got a notebook for each class I’m in, and Evernote makes it easy to keep everything all in one place.

Obviously then, I really like Evernote.  But I’ve been eyeing something else lately, the new iOS Notes app.  Notes finally are simply stored in iCloud, instead of on your mail server (an outdated system), so that fixes my aforementioned syncing problem.  The Notes app has also been updated to support documents, nicer looking links and pictures, and even drawing.  Not to mention, the Notes app interface is more straightforward than Evernote’s.  So I’m intrigued.  I’m not sure yet whether I’ll make the switch; I’m thinking I’ll try it next semester (instead of moving all my current school stuff over now), and see how it goes.  Even if I end up switching, though, I still think Evernote is a great tool for keeping things safe and organized, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for something a little more robust than the stock Notes app.  ••

September App Review: myHomework

App: myHomework
Developer: Rodrigo Neri
Price: Free
Platforms: iOS, Android

As I wrote last week, school is back in session.  As much as I don’t like homework, I get pretty bored during the summer, so I’m always a little OK with going back to school (just a little, mind you).  Now that classes have started again, I have a lot of assignments to keep up with.  I’ve got my regular reminders app for my todo list, but I don’t want to clutter that too much with schoolwork.  Enter the myHomework app.


myHomework is pretty much a todo list app, and it’s got all the basic features required there.  All reminders sync across iPhone, iPad, Android, the web interface, etc.  In addition to this, however, it’s got some specific features that make it work especially well for homework.  For starters, it’s geared towards having multiple classes.  You put in what classes you have, and assign each one a color code (I can be really OCD, so I’m a sucker for color coding).  You can even put in the class times and the app with make you a calendar if you want.  After that, it’s pretty straightforward.  To add homework, you give it a title and choose which class it’s for.  You can also set whether it’s a paper, quiz, test, or any number of other categories.  Finally, you can set a due date and a reminder date for push notifications.

The app has a bunch of different views and menus, but the most important two are Homework and Calendar.  Homework does just what it says it does, it shows all the assignments you have in the app, sorted by date (simply labeled “All”), class, priority, or type.  From this screen, you can swipe right to mark the assignment as completed or swipe left to delete it.  The calendar page is similar, but it breaks things down and only shows you homework for a day, week, or month at a time.  I like using the day view, because it helps me to focus on what I have to do now, instead of worrying about other stuff.  The calendar view can also optionally show what classes you have that day.  (There’s actually a third useful view, called Upcoming, that’s only accessible by clicking the Upcoming button in the widget.  That’s a shame, since I like that view a lot and it’s helpful.)

Now let’s talk about push notifications and widgets.  Right off the bat, the myHomework app shows a counter of assignments as the app icon badge.  I think badges are one of the most useful features of notifications; it lets me see, at a glance, every time I open my phone, if there’s anything I need to work on.  Here’s the part I don’t like about the counter.  The counter shows the number of assignments you have for that day and the next school day (so if it’s Friday, it shows all weekend assignments and Monday).  I don’t like this, because as I said, I have a tendency to get worried about tomorrow’s assignments, when they’re set as tomorrow’s assignments for a reason.  Oh well.  Aside from badges, the app can also give you push notifications for assignments.  I don’t use this feature often, but it works as you would expect.  After notifications come the widgets.  myHomework actually offers two widgets, one that shows the classes you have that day and one that shows the homework due that day.  I don’t use the first, but the second is super helpful.  I’ve written about how much I like widgets before, so this feature really makes the app useful for me.

myHomework also has some other, more advanced features.  They recently added a tutoring feature, which allows you to get live help with assignments.  I’ve never used this, so I don’t know if or how it works, but it’s an interesting idea.  myHomework also integrates with a companion app for teachers called Teachers.io.  This allows teachers to post assignments, which show up directly in their students’ myHomework apps.  None of my teachers use this, but it’s definitely a cool idea.

I’m a control freak, and I feel best when I’ve got everything organized and I know exactly what’s going on.  myHomework helps me to do just that.  Now if only completing assignments was as easy as keeping track of them…  ••