Have you tried Evernote Business

When you need to jot down an idea, check something off your to-do list or scan a business-trip receipt, free tools are plentiful -- think Microsoft OneNote, Google Keep, Apple Notes, Dropbox Paper and more.

But Chris O'Neill, chief executive of Evernote, the company that pioneered the technology, thinks it's worth paying for -- so much so that Evernote raised its prices as much as 40 percent last year. You'd think that might have scared people away, but apparently not. The company just announced that it's reached 220 million users, up from 200 million at the beginning of the year.

"We've more than doubled the number of subscribers over the past two years," said O'Neill, who took over as CEO in July 2015 after 10 years at Google. And although most people using Evernote stick with the free version, premium subscribers are at an all-time high, he said in an interview.

O'Neill, 44, dressed in a plaid shirt and sporting an Apple Watch, met me at Evernote's Redwood City, California, headquarters in a room painted the same bright green as the company's elephant-head logo. The room once showcased Evernote-branded products like Moleskine notebooks and Fujitsu scanners from the now-defunct Evernote Marketplace program. Now it houses awards and comfy chairs.

Evernote is designed to make it easier to withstand the flood of digital information. It lets you take notes but accommodates photos, voice recordings, website links, PDFs, checkboxes and other information, too. Your notes are synchronized across PCs, phones and tablets, and if you're not inclined to organize them by hashtags and folders, you can retrieve notes with a gradually more sophisticated search feature, too.

What Evernote is not, however, is an element of the services that tech giants like Google, Apple and Microsoft offer. That means Evernote doesn't dovetail with your email address book or calendar. It isn't simply built into your phone. But Evernote is happy being independent, with 60,000 to 80,000 new users signing up daily and a business that's generating cash if not necessarily profit.

Premium users appreciate Evernote because it's designed better and organizes lots of documents better than the competition, said Evan Tarver, an investments analyst at tech advisory firm FitSmallBusiness.com. But most of us work with others, and there Evernote isn't in the lead. "When it comes to pure functionality, such as sharing and collaborating on documents from anywhere on any computer, Google Docs is the best," Tarver said.

O'Neill sat down with CNET's Stephen Shankland to discuss Evernote's plans. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Q: Give me the Evernote sales pitch. Why should I be using Evernote?
Chris O'Neill: The mission goes back to our visionary founder Stepan Pachikov, who saw ahead of many others that human evolution is just simply not keeping up with technology -- the onslaught of information that's overwhelming our lives both personally and professionally. We address that fundamental, universal human need by allowing people to capture their ideas, anywhere, on any format and anytime, and keep them forever -- and then retrieve those ideas in the moments that truly matter. We instill a sense of peace of mind in this chaotic world.

But does Evernote just make a small dent in the problem? Even with the nicest of tools, we're still overwhelmed with information -- emails, instant messages, Slack channels, Google Docs sharing, social networks and other conduits for information.
O'Neill: I'm not here to suggest that we're going to completely solve this. What our users tell us is that they feel a sense of calm when they use Evernote. It's a very personal connection. It's not just a place where they keep things. It's an extension of who they are and how they think and how they work.

I am bullish, longer term. In five or 10 years, there will be a nice marrying of technology and humans so we can assist -- so you can feel organized without having to do the organization. Most of the things that we have today are good, certainly not great. But think of [Apple voice assistant technology] Siri

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