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New Evernote beta brings face-lift, drawing tools

Latest version of the text editor and archiving service brings new features to Windows users with an all-new interface that Mac users have been enjoying for months, as well as some things they don't yet have.

Evernote is giving its Windows desktop application a huge face-lift on Thursday. The new version of the writing and archiving tool has more in common with its Mac counterpart, borrowing features like thumbnail previews and a three-pane view that lets users quickly hop through notes they have saved in one of their Evernote notebooks.

The change may be jarring for some longtime Evernote users who have only used the Windows version, but for people like me, who use clients on both platforms--on a daily basis, the unification is welcome.

Old versus new versions of Evernote compared. Note that the new version has a thumbnail view. (Click to see full size.) CNET

There are some peculiarities though. At first glance the already anemic text editor is missing a few buttons that were found on the old one. Options such as indenting, or adding a bulleted list are still there, but now they're nestled into a right-click contextual menu instead of being buttons as they were before (and still are on the Mac and Web versions). In their place are the simple, but screen real estate-sucking, buttons for printing, e-mailing and deleting any note you're working on. Though unlike on the Mac, this group of options cannot be minimized. On a big, wide-screen monitor this isn't a big deal, but on smaller screens it means you have less room to view your work.

What makes up for that, is spell check--a long-overdue inclusion. Whatever you're writing gets the spell check treatment as you type, just as it does in versions of the program on other platforms. This may seem like a really minor addition, but if you're using Evernote as a primary text editor, this is important.

Evernote's Ink feature lets users draw out notes. CNET

Also quite cool, is a more easily accessible canvas mode made exclusively for Windows users with tablet PCs, which lets them more easily create hand-drawn notes. Users who don't have tablets could previously also access the feature by holding Ctrl+9 when in any note, although now it's its own type of note. Worth noting is that these notes cannot be seen on the current version of the Mac software, something that will be added in a future update.

All in all, this is a good update with some big changes that may take some getting used to for folks who haven't used the Mac version. Because of the many changes in this version, the Evernote 3.5 update is being released in beta, instead of an automatic update within the software. Windows users of the current version can download it from Evernote's site.

Correction: This article originally misstated the newness of the ink writing feature as well as the software's capability to index handwritten notes. Users who don't have tablets could previously also access the feature by holding Ctrl+9 when in any note, although now it's its own type of note.