The new Evernote is a vast improvement over the old Evernote.

Currently only available as a free beta for the Web app (not the desktop client or the mobile apps), the new version is so clean and uncluttered that it makes me want to take more notes, keep track of my day, post notes to social media, and attach more files to keep my day from spiraling out of control.

The trend of removing all distractions from the apps we know and love is a good one. I like how the new Web app auto-hides most of the tools as soon as you create a new note. There are faint gray icons at the borders of the screen, but otherwise you see only a stark white page and whatever it is you are trying to jot down. You can move your mouse up to the upper right corner of the screen and send the note to a social media site like Facebook or LinkedIn, check the info for the note (say, when it was created), and click a big obvious Done button to save the note.

Of course, all of the functionality still exists, and these advanced features are not buried in a sub-menu somewhere. They are actually all still available once you save the note, it's just that you don't need any of them when you are trying to think. It's essentially the equivalent of dimming the touchscreen in a car so you can focus on driving. Formatting tools for the font, text color, and indents pop up when you double-tap. A simple drop-down menu to the right shows a few more formatting options and a way to attach files (e.g., your business plan).

To tag a document--which is one of the great strengths of Evernote, because it means you can quickly find information when you search--you just go to the upper left next to the Tag field and start typing. The user interface is obviously intended for ease of use and reducing distractions, but it's just as powerful and useful as the old, more cluttered version.

Note management is also much easier. The new interface includes icons on the left side of the screen that are much more obvious. When you click a search icon, you see a simple, large field for typing a search term. Browsing through your notes, notebooks, and existing tags is also a matter of clicking a large icon on the left. Just about every click leads to a blank sheet with just a few options, so the distraction-free act of writing a note carries through to note management.

What does it really mean for business users? I'm a big fan of making information more accessible because there is so much of it all around us. I've been using Google Keep for quite a while now for that very reason. It doesn't do much, but it's clean and fast. I plan to switch back to Evernote, because there is just a cacophony of techie distractions. I'll jot down reminders to myself about interviews, list my projects in priority order, and even type up transcripts or get started on an article using the new Evernote app. Now the company just needs to revamp the client and mobile apps (for both phones and tablets) and I'll be happy.

What do you think? You can access the beta yourself--just sign up for an account or use your existing account. Evernote will prompt you to use the new Web beta.

Published on: Oct 3, 2014