Evernote for iOS review: Fantastic note-taking with more extras than you need

Designed mostly for those who use Evernote at work, Work Chat is a way to send and receive messages in the app, instead of relying on email or some other means. It's useful for discussing particular notes and notebook, but the feature feels underdeveloped.

On the app's home screen, there's the Work Chat menu, which shows your existing conversations. While this is the most obvious place to create a new conversation, it's actually recommended that you do that from a note or notebook. You'll see the Work Chat icon above every note or notebook and simply tap it to launch a new conversation or open an existing one.

The app will share access to the content and let you add your own message. You control the sharing permissions, meaning whether someone can edit your notes or only read them. Within the chat, you can also send messages without other Evernote content attached, but Work Chat is really designed for talking about shared notes in the service.

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Work Chat lets you communicate about notes without leaving Evernote. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Work Chat is only useful for people who collaborate inside Evernote, since it lets you share messages about what you've saved in the service. If, like me, you only use Evernote for yourself, the Work Chat features are useless and best ignored.

Presentation Mode is a new feature for premium users only, meant to completely replace standalone presentation programs. It's designed for the desktop, but you can use Airplay on iOS devices to show off presentations on a larger screen from your iPhone or iPad. The best part of presentation mode that the app decides for you when to create a new slide in your note. You can adjust this of course, but it's a real no-brainer way to create a presentation that looks clean, simple, and shows off all of your photos, lists and text with little fuss.

It's a really neat feature that's unfortunately limited on mobile for the time being and only available if you pay for the premium Evernote service (more on that below).

Finally, Context is another premium-only feature that surfaces relevant news articles below your notes to augment what you've already saved or written in Evernote. I find it appears most often below other articles I've clipped, but it's also supposed to show up when your notes have keywords that also pertain to any news articles. Evernote partnered with Fast Company, Inc. Magazine, the Wall Street Journal and other publications for the articles you see in Context.

If you aren't a premium subscriber, you'll simply see related notes from your Evernote account below your current note.

Free versus premium

Luckily for anyone who doesn't want to spend money, Evernote's free service is robust, with plenty of features and few limitations. With a free subscription, you're not likely to run into any issues, unless you want to upload a lot of photos or other files into your notes.

If you need more storage space or want more features, there are two paid plans worth a look. The Evernote Plus subscription is designed for individuals and costs $3 per month or $25 per year. With it, you can upload up to 1GB of photos, documents, PDFs and other files per month (versus 60MB with a free account). You also get offline access, a PIN lock for the app to protect your data and the option to forward emails to Evernote to create new notes.

For Evernote power users and those who use it at the office, the $5 per month, or $45 per year, Premium subscription gets you the features offered in the Plus tier, the work-focused features mentioned above, plus unlimited monthly upload space for files, access to past versions of notes, high-priority status when you need help from the Evernote support team, in-document search in uploaded photos, documents and PDFs and many more extras.

Consider how you'll use the service and even try out the free version for a while before you decide to upgrade, since the Plus and Premium features aren't must-haves for now.

Final thoughts

Evernote can feel overwhelming at first, since there are so many possible ways to use it. But once you dig in, it can quickly become a wonderful digital file cabinet to be filled with photos, notes, files and more.

For keeping notes and saving webpages, I haven't yet found something I personally like better. That's because the design doesn't get in the way, I can organize my notes and notebooks in any way that makes sense to me and the search tools keep everything handy, even though I have hundreds of notes spread out over more than 50 notebooks. The system's sync feature keeps everything current too, so shopping lists I make on my computer appear on my phone, and reminders from my tablet appear on the desktop.

Give Evernote a try if you haven't already, but hold off on upgrading until you get a feel of how you'll use it.

What you'll pay

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