Evernote Brings Context, Work Chat And Presentation Out Of Beta

Evernote, now with over 100 million users and some 16,000 businesses paying to use its document sharing, note-taking and organising platform, is today turning on a few new features that add more interactivity and potentially time spent on the platform: Work Chat, an improved Presentation mode; and Context, a feature that suggests content from other parts of the web that may be relevant to whatever you happen to be working on in Evernote.

The three were originally introduced earlier this year during the company’s EC4 conference and they are now going by way of an app update. While Work Chat will be available to all Evernote users on all platforms (after the quiet launch of Work Chat for Windows last week), Context and Presentation are somewhat more narrow, limited to Premium, paying users, and initially just on Mac and iOS. 

(Note: Previously Work Chat was only available via Evernote‘s website/direct download or via the web client. Now the updates are being rolled out via the Mac App store and Google Play store. You don’t have to go hunting around EN’s site to get the update.)

They come on the heels of a recent Penultimate update, and they precede the launch a new product called Scannable, which is scheduled to be coming out soon and will let users scan and share documents more easily.

While a lot of Evernote up to now has been about how people can use the product to help their own personal organisation and note-taking, the introduction of the business tier in 2012 has been pushing Evernote’s credibility as an enterprise product, used not just for a employee’s own notes but as a platform for collaborating with others. In that sense, Work Chat is something of a no-brainer, expanding that concept with a feature that has become almost a given in many other enterprise platforms — sharing notes as well Evernote Notebooks in chats.

The idea is that Work Chat is a seamless way to start conversations with people while you are working in Evernote, not unlike, say, chatting with people while collaborating in a Google document, “without ever having to leave your workspace to send an email or jump into another app”. However, there seems to be a fine line between “simple” and “too easy to make a mistake” — for example, with some early users complaining that they have inadvertently started chats with coworkers when they haven’t intended to.

Will this eventually lead to updates that actually make it a bit less easy to share? Right now it seems to be more intentional than accidental. “Having an ambient knowledge of what your teammates are working on makes your team more open and connected,” the company writes. “It also makes starting a conversation with anyone super simple—all you need to do is click or tap on the person’s image to launch a new chat.”

Presentation Mode, meanwhile, is Evernote’s attempt to rethink Microsoft Power Point, with the idea that the work you put into Notes is more easily translated now into presentation formats, cutting down on some of the time that you had spent in the past simply importing data. “Our view is that it should take you about as long to put together the perfect presentation as it takes for your team to arrive to the meeting,” the company notes.

If Work Chat is about communicating, and Presentation is about laying out your ideas to others, Context is about looking outside of Evernote’s walled garden to bring in content from elsewhere to help inform and shape whatever else you are working on. As I wrote in the past, to me Context is perhaps one of the more interesting of Evernote’s updates.

Like Work Chat, the aim of Context is to make it less likely that you need to jump out of Evernote to do something. But it’s also an interesting use of the same machine learning that Evernote uses to help surface relevant documents to users within the app itself — indeed Context is developed on the company’s older Related Notes feature — and is also an example of how Evernote’s ambition is to be more than just a storehouse for your own ideas, but potentially a dynamic notebook for where you can do all your work.

For me, one of my more regular uses of Evernote is as a place to collect links for things that I want to read later, alongside notes to myself explaining why something has caught my eye (otherwise I move on and potentially forget). Would Evernote tapping into this and making it easier for me to do this mean I potentially use Evernote as my web browser, or Flipboard or Twitter replacement? For now, not yet, since the publications that are feeding into Context is still fairly limited (they include the WSJ and TechCrunch among others). But it points to one potential way the product could develop in the future.