Evernote for pastors

In my post on data collection apps that might appeal to pastors, I neglected to mention one of the best note-taking apps out there. Evernote existed as a desktop program when the iPad was still just a twinkle in Steve Job’s eye. It was created to compete with Microsoft’s under-appreciated OneNote on Windows, but eventually morphed into an even more powerful cross-platform note-taking software program. When I first bought a Mac in 2006, Evernote was a lifesaver in the way it seamlessly synced my notes between the family PC and the MacBook that I used for work. Individual notes are organized in notebooks and by tags and are fully searchable, making it quite easy to locate anything that you’ve previously stored.

But Evernote is a perfect example of an app that only met its full potential with the advent of smartphones and tablets. As handy as Evernote continues to be on my laptop, I began to use it much more frequently after I installed the free universal app on my iPhone and, later, my iPad (iTunes link). Mobility is the key to making Evernote an excellent “ubiquitous capture” tool as highlighted in David Allen’s GTD productivity routine. Any note or web clipping you add to one device is automatically synced with the others the next time you open them. No matter where I am, I can easily and quickly jot down a note that I can retrieve later. Add to the mix a built in camera on the iPhone or iPad 2 along with Evernote’s image recognition feature (Premium version only) and it’s like having a photographic memory.

Here are some uses for Evernote that might especially apply to pastors:

  • Store sermon illustrations, quotes, and ideas. Quickly write (or voice record!) ideas that come to mind during the week.
  • Make prayer lists. Add names as you make your visits and pull them up when you sit down for daily prayer.
  • Keep track of receipts. Snap a picture or scan the receipt when you get home.
  • Contact details. Add a photo to help you match names with faces.
  • Collect articles to be read later. Evernote has a handy clipping tool available for most browsers which allows you to – with one click – make a copy of a blog post or news article to be read at your leisure.
  • Make a to-do list. Checkboxes can be added to any note to make quick lists of tasks or anything else.

The free version offers unlimited storage “in the cloud,” but you can only upload up to 60 MB/month. This is more than enough if you only use Evernote to capture simple text notes. The Premium version, just $5/month, increases your monthly upload allowance to 1GB and permits any type of file to be added to notes — rather than just images and PDFs.

In my opinion, Evernote is one of the first apps that a pastor should install on his new iPad.