Try to remember: Evernote vs. Springpad

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

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Springpad

One advantage that Springpad currently has over Evernote is the ability to send alerts when (or before) tasks are due via email and/or SMS. If you're going to use your application as a place for to-dos, especially those with deadlines, the ability to send yourself a reminder is a real plus.

Evernote vs. Springpad

Springpad's Board makes it easier to check your notes and tasks with a single glance.

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Another thing I found useful is a sort of alternative UI that Springpad offers called the Board. This is a virtual bulletin board that lets you arrange notes, links, tasks and so on under labels for easier browsing. It's only a single page, so you can fit only a limited number of items on it, but I found it very helpful for scanning my daily tasks.

Mobile apps and add-ons

To capture all the data you come across in life, it makes sense to extend these applications beyond the desktop. Both offer mobile apps for a variety of platforms as well as handy browser add-ons; Evernote also integrates with several third-party hardware and software products.

Evernote

Evernote offers mobile apps for iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Palm and Windows Mobile devices. The Android version has a nicely simple interface that lets you quickly add text or a snapshot to your Evernote account; you can also search your existing notes. A widget in the form of a toolbar lets you add a note or a photo from your home screen.

Evernote vs. Springpad

Evernote's mobile interface.

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Because most of the data is kept on Evernote's servers, mobile users with free accounts can't search for existing data when offline (they can add data, which will be synced when they're online again). Premium users can designate "offline notebooks" whose data will be saved locally to their phones so it can be read without needing an Internet connection.

There are also extensions/add-ons for Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari -- and a bookmarklet for other browsers -- that let you clip data from Web sites and save it to your Evernote account.

Evernote has obviously worked hard to create relationships with a range of other vendors -- for example, I recently reviewed a mobile scanner that can send scanned data directly to Evernote. In order to make it easier for its users to find these products, Evernote has created what it calls the Trunk, a Web site that advertises and links to a variety of hardware and software products that work with Evernote.

Springpad

There are apps for iOS and Android devices; there is also a mobile Web app.

Evernote vs. Springpad

Springpad's mobile interface.

Click to view larger image

The UI for the Android app highly resembles that of the Web application; it features the same icons for your notebooks on the front page. Click on one of the notebooks and you get a list of your items, listed in order of entry (you can also sort by name, type, etc. just as in the Web app). Click on the specific item listing to see the complete contents of the item; add a new item by hitting the plus icon at the top of the display. The information is not available offline.

Springpad offers several widgets that you can put on your Android home page for quick item entry; for example, its toolbar lets you quickly add an item by typing in text, taking a photo or scanning a barcode.

Springpad extensions are available for Chrome and Firefox; if you use Safari or Internet Explorer, you can use a "clipper" icon that lets you quickly save data from Web.

Bottom line

I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to pick an absolute winner on this one -- in fact, I currently keep both of these applications active on my machine.

Evernote is excellent for saving data for the long term, such as meeting notes that you may need to access months from now, business cards from the latest trade show, or the measurements of a room in case you happen upon the perfect piece of furniture. The fact that your data is available online or off is a real plus, and the company is constantly pushing to make itself more useable -- there are upgrades to one or more of its Web and/or mobile services every few months, and it has associated itself with variety of consumer and business hardware/software products.

However, it is not as social-network aware as Springpad, and its entries aren't as specialized. In addition, Evernote's lack of alerts can be a problem for those of us who would like to be reminded about some of the information and tasks that we enter.

Springpad, on the other hand, is very valuable for the short term. If there's a book or movie I hear about, I can enter it knowing that I'll be notified should the book come out in an e-book version, or the movie become watchable on Netflix. I've begun using it as a task manager as well; it is far more flexible than many dedicated task managers such as Remember the Milk, and its virtual Board lets me take in the projects and tasks that I'm working on in one glance.

However, the fact that it doesn't have a local client, and the two days that it was down recently, made me a bit nervous about using Springpad as a complete long-term solution. (Note that you can save your data as a backup.)

So for now, I use both -- and wait to see if one of the two will eventually become the perfect solution, or if a new application will emerge that will handle all my digital info needs.

Barbara Krasnoff is reviews editor at Computerworld. When she isn't either editing or reviewing, she blogs at The Interesting Bits ... and Bytes; you can also follow her on Twitter (@BarbaraKrasnoff).

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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