evernote.JPGEver wish all your records, business contacts and discussions — in other words, your memory — were filed away in one program? A little-known Windows application called Evernote does just that.

Like ScanR (our coverage), Evernote lets its users to take pictures of things like business cards, receipts and white boards with their cell phones, then either upload them to a PC or email them through Evernote (the latter also being ScanR’s method). Image recognition technology is then applied to identify and create a digital version of text and shapes.

However, Evernote also accepts voice records, email, web clippings and other content, and organizes everything in a searchable database, making it highly useful for information-overloaded businesspeople.

If a user takes a picture of my business card, for example, then later searches Evernote for “Chris Morrison”, the service will find my name on the card, but also pull in mail, VentureBeat posts, recorded conversations or anything else they’ve stored. Although the system searches automatically, users can also assign tags to things.

The latest release opens up Evernote’s data to Google Desktop Search, allows users to edit or merge “notes” (the data the program stores, be it pictures or something else), and adds support for several other languages.

In a quick demo, Evernote’s search and image-recognition proved to be top-notch, recognizing words on a picture of a smudged taxi fare-card that I couldn’t even read. We’ve gotten Scanr to work well for us, but at least one other reviewer has complained that ScanR’s image recognition made “frequent mistakes” when trying to read the clear text on a business card. Like Scanr, Evernote has deep domain knowledge: founder Stepan Pachikov was the original developer of the handwriting recognition software on the Apple Newton.

But useful or not, Evernote’s growth is limited by its restriction to the Windows operating system. The next steps, CEO Phil Libin says, are to release a web version, and more mobile features to let busy users access their data wherever they are, on any device.

Another step is to open an API, allowing developers of other applications — from address books to a service like Twine (our coverage) — to pull in its data.

Libin said the first step, web distribution, will probably take a couple of months. If Evernote stays on schedule, that won’t give its competition much time. ScanR, for its part, appears to have been doing pretty well; the company’s mobile application has been downloaded 750,000 times, and it says about 20 percent of users are active (but wouldn’t disclose exact numbers). Evernote’s has 70,000 active users.

Evernote received about $6 million in funding from a large group of angel investors, in early 2006. The company’s in the process of raising another round of up to twice that amount.


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