Evernote Mobile gets a facelift

IMG_0074 As my Twitter followers know, I’ve been pretty peeved with Evernote recently. The iPhone client version has decided that it absolutely, positively will not complete a sync with the Evernote servers on my 3G. I’ve done everything I can, even sent my log files to the company (no response as of yet), and all of my toubleshooting comes down to the same thing. Even after a fresh reboot of my iPhone, with 30MB of RAM available (the most a 128MB 3G ever gets after loading the mobile version of OS/X), Evernote will fight for a while and then either spit up the error message you see here or just crash completely and dump be back to the homescreen, the typical reaction when an iPhone app runs out of RAM. (The new iPhone 3GS seems to run Evernote just fine, but then it would; it’s got 256MB of RAM, or five times the free RAM on boot as the 3G has, 150MB compared to 30MB.)

The problem with this is that up until just a couple days ago, the mobile web version of Evernote wasn’t all that impressive.

en3mobweb_main_list This was a pain in the ass to use on my Windows Mobile devices, and it’s a pain in the ass to use on my iPhone. It’s a simple WAP-style page that doesn’t do much. But hey, it worked on my iPhone when the dedicated client didn’t, so at least it was something. I only used it for looking up notes, opting to email new notes to my private Evernote email address when I wanted to create something new. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked.

Well, now it’s pretty too.

Main Screen The new version of the mobile web Evernote uses some nice iPhone/Androidish CSS to look far more professional, more like a real app than a web page. It even sports some slick new menus that are both touch friendly and easy to use.

Main Menu Note Menu

It’s a webapp rather than a native app, but that really isn’t a problem for me. I’m already using the Safari-optimized Gmail instead of the iPhone’s Mail client for reading my Gmail, the Safari-optimized Google Reader instead of Byline, and iPhone-friendly versions of Google News, AP News, GoodReads, Wikipedia, the list goes on and on. Using webapps instead of native clients is a way to multitask on the iPhone without jailbreaking and running Backgrounder since you can have up to eight pages open at a time. And the interface for managing them even bears a striking resemblance to managing cards on the Pre.

Only one problem remains, really. There is a JavaScript-based clipper available for Safari Mobile that allows you to send whatever you’re currently looking at to Evernote. The JavaScript looks like this:

javascript:location.href=’http://www.evernote.com/clip.action?url=’+encodeURIComponent(location.href)+’&title=’+encodeURIComponent(document.title);

And it works.

Clipped

The problem, as you can see above, is that this script directs you to the full size version of Evernote rather than a mobile page. This is especially awkward when trying to tag what you just clipped.

Tagging

I’ve tried every variation I can think of to merge the JavaScript above with the URL of the new mobile site:

https://www.evernote.com/mobile/MobileSetup.action?noRedirect=true

And nothing seems to work. So for now, I’m dealing with the awkward clipping in Safari, but pretty happy with the rest of the Evernote Mobile Web experience. So much so that I’m really not even all that worried about the iPhone client. The mobile web version does almost everything I need, and for the rest—photos and other multimedia—I can email stuff to Evernote. All I’m really missing is the iPhone client’s offline favorites, but I’ll live.

Starting over (again)

I had just about quit writing altogether. I’ve been trying to build up enthusiasm for a number of different writing projects recently, getting just a little enthusiasm before losing interest in each. I had nowhere near the spark necessary to see an entire novel through to completion. Basically, writing wasn’t fun anymore, and it hadn’t been in years. And I’d gotten to the point where I was almost ready to give it up completely.

Yesterday I noticed on Twitter that one of my favorite authors, James Rollins (@jamesrollins on Twitter), happened to be here in Denver and was going to do a book signing at The Tattered Cover, Denver’s awesome independent bookstore. More to the point, he was going to do the signing on my side of town, at a store I didn’t even know they had. Seeing as how I didn’t have to take my oddly-overheating car all the way downtown, there was no way I could pass that up. I even happened to be reading his latest book (finished it today).

I’d admired Rollins for many years. Like me, he had no formal training in English or Literature, and continued his veterinary practice for many years before switching over to being a full time novelist. He writes exactly the sort of books I enjoy most, a mix of adventure and really interesting science. He’s one of the authors publishing today whose books I’ll buy as soon as they hit the shelves, sight unseen. I’ve got a number of interesting observations about the talk (which will be available as a podcast soon), but that’s not the point of this post.

After the talk, I walked up and had him sign my iPhone (getting his autograph in SimpleDraw, then sending a screenshot of that to my camera roll) and asked him my question. I told him I’d been a storyteller in one way or another most of my life, but that I’d started to lose the faith. Writing wasn’t fun anymore. What advice did he have?

First he told me to keep sending out queries. Subterranean, his first novel, didn’t find an agent until his 50th try. He’d send out ten queries to ten different agents. If he got back a rejection, he’d immediately send out a query to a new agent. If he got two rejections, he sent out two new queries, always keeping 10 in circulation. This is good advice, but in and of itself didn’t help much as I’ve already published all my finished works, and indeed did so a decade ago.

But the corollary to this first bit was what really got me thinking. He also said to keep writing, because once you were writing something new you weren’t quite so attached to what you’d already sent out, and it getting rejected didn’t hurt quite so much. I confirmed that this only really worked if you were writing individual stories, not an ongoing series in which everything you wrote was dependent on everything else, and you could be sunk if the first item in the series didn’t sell.

I thanked him, shook his hand, and wandered out of the bookstore with my mind racing. It occurred to me that I hadn’t really had a new story idea, well, this century. Or at least since Josh Curry and I were working on Heroes 101, back in 2003. Everything else I’ve done this decade, even my NaNoWriMo 2006 novel and my attempt this year at Script Frenzy, were ideas I had a long time ago and just finally got around to doing. I haven’t come up with a new idea, a character I don’t already know, in years.

And suddenly, I knew why writing wasn’t fun anymore. Because there was no sense of discovery, no suspense, no adventure. No matter which project I tried to work on, it was all well tread ground. I hadn’t finished any of these works (although I got 80,000 words into the sequel to Between Heaven and Hell, just a few scenes from the end), but I’d been picking at them for so long they were little more than bleached bones.

I need new stories, new characters, new ideas. And I’m starting to believe I can find that wellspring of creativity again. That I don’t have to keep clinging to ideas I came up with in my 20s. More importantly, I’m starting to believe I want to.