Try to remember: Evernote vs. Springpad

The two best-known data collection apps go head to head.

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Functionality

Are you an information omnivore who voraciously gathers all types of data from disparate sources and doesn't care about categorization? Or do you precisely classify and organize your data so you can later see at a glance what you're dealing with? Depending on how you answered, you might find yourself more drawn to one of these tools than the other.

Evernote

While Evernote accepts a variety of media, it is less restricted and categorized than Springpad. Whereas the latter will actually change the format of a note depending on what you are entering -- a movie, a product, a check list -- Evernote offers essentially a single freeform entry point, and you decide what you want to do with it.

Whether that works for you depends on your own level of comfort. It certainly offers a freedom that may work well with many users -- you don't have to pre-decide what you want to enter, just create a new note and start typing.

Evernote vs. Springpad

It's simple to add a new note in Evernote: Just click on the "New Note" button and start typing.

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You can use Evernote's browser add-on or a service such as Shareholic to clip data from a Web page (the URL is automatically included in the note). You can also import graphics files from a scanner, camera or your computer. If you plan to regularly import documents from your computer, you can designate a folder on your computer as one where Evernote will automatically import anything put into that folder.

There is a certain amount of formatting you can perform with each note -- the usual stuff, such as changing the font, adding italics or centering text. You can also add checkboxes within a note for to-do lists.

However, because of this lack of specialization, Evernote forgoes some features. For example, you can't add any kind of alert to a note, which limits Evernote's usefulness as a task manager. And because all the notes are essentially treated the same, it is less useful to browse through than to search through.

Springpad

Unlike Evernote, which has a straightforward one-format-fits-all philosophy, Springpad offers a variety of item types. To add a new item, you click on a plus sign in the top-right corner of the screen; a drop-down menu lets you add a Note (if you want to type in text), a Task (to-do items that you'll want to check off later) or "Look it up."

Evernote vs. Springpad

In Springpad, you can type in a new note or search for Web info.

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This last lets you do a Web search -- type in your search terms, and you'll get results from a number of categories: product, place, movie or show, recipe, book, album, wine or person. Once you've found the item, it is saved to a format that (if appropriate) pulls in information from various Web sources.

For example, when I searched for the 1999 film Topsy Turvy, I got data on the movie from Netflix, the ability to add it to my Netflix queue, and associated links to Amazon, IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. If you mark the item as something you're interested in purchasing, you also get alerts when its price changes, or if it becomes available (and wasn't before).

Springpad also lets you add additional notes to your entries, changing the original note/task/link into the beginning of a topic. For example, if I've created a Task for something I need to do for a meeting, I can add a note to it about a question I need to ask during the meeting. You can also, if you wish, post the note to your Facebook account with one click, or send it out via email.

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