Evernote for Windows gets a new look and faster browsing

/ Updated: September 4, 2013 10:07 AM PDT
Evernote 5
Evernote 5's new, streamlined design. Click to enlarge. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Evernote for Windows is getting a major design refresh and a few features to make the app faster today with the release of Evernote 5.

The new app, which helps you organize personal and professional notes, pieces of websites, and your own files, is available on Mac OS X , Windows, Android, iOS , and Windows Phone. While the Mac OS X, Android, and iOS versions received an updated design months ago, Evernote for Windows has looked roughly the same for the last three years.

Evernote 5 supports Windows 8 all the way back to XP.

Design update
While the previous version of Evernote for Windows had a colorful design that looks at lot like the Windows 7 file system, Evernote 5 has a simple, flat gray scale design. While I am not fond of the mostly-white color scheme of Evernote 5 (I'd rather have the darker theme used on Mac OS), I do like the app's more streamlined design, which is easy and quick to navigate.

The design does away with the cluttered top menu bar, and puts only the most commonly used features front and center, including buttons to create a new note and to sync your content to Evernote's servers.

The note editor, the box that pops up when you click on a note, also gets a face lift. Instead of showing a same-sized box for short and long notes, the note editor will now fit to the length of your note and grow as your note gets longer.

One of the best features of the Mac OS X version of Evernote is that the app hides away your notebooks (collections of individual notes) on a separate screen, so you can view them all at once and manage them in one place. Fortunately, Evernote 5 brings that same look to Windows. Previously, all your notebooks were shown as a list on the left sidebar in the application.

The last significant design change is the new shortcut menu in left sidebar, where you can store the notes and notebooks you use frequently for easy access. You can drag any note, notebook, or tag to the shortcuts menu and it will stay there indefinitely. That's a welcome feature.

Evernote 5
New reminders in Evernote. Evernote

New features
Evernote 5 adds two major new features: reminders and smarter searching.

Reminders give you the option to pin a note to the top of a notebook, so when you open that notebook in any Evernote app, you see that note first. You can also move notes around based on priority, and add an alarm to remind you later.

Evernote is calling its improved search features the most dramatic improvement of Evernote 5. When you start typing in the search bar at the top-right of the app, Evernote will predict what you're searching for and start displaying the most relevant notes based on keywords.

Evernote 5
When you start typing in the search bar, Evernote will guess what you want and show you relevant notes. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

You can also save individual searches to the shortcuts menu, so you can use them over and over. Lastly, you can search any notebooks that other Evernote users have shared to your account.

Evernote 5's search features are the hardest to get used to, since the app will only search for notes that match your keyword in the notebook you're currently viewing. If you want to search all of your notes, you must click on "Notes" in the left sidebar first and then start typing in the top-right search bar.

While the basic version of Evernote is free, and includes all the features I've mentioned so far, you can pay $5 per month or $45 per year for Evernote Premium. That adds more storage to your account and adds offline notebooks, passcode locks, and collaboration options. If you're a Premium customer, Evernote 5 will also display related notes whenever you click on a note. That means if you click on a note for a lasagna recipe, the app might show a related note for spaghetti sauce.

First impressions
All in all, Evernote 5 features a pleasing, clean design, and is a solid, feature-rich improvement over the previous version of the Windows app. If you already use Evernote on Windows XP, Vista, 7, or 8, the app will automatically update to newest version. You can also download Evernote 5 for Windows from Evernote's Web site.

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