The Mac version of Evernote, the much-lauded free productivity software that combines notetaking and research tool – and keeps them in sync across different computers, tablets and phones – has received a major new update with changes to the interface and new options for searching and sharing one's notes.

Version 5 of the Evernote desktop software features dozens of additions, revisions, and fixes. Most notably, the screen now includes a lefthand sidebar, with a Shortcuts section that gives users quick access to a custom assortment of notes, notebooks, tags, and Saved Searches. The sidebar also includes a list of recent notes, and views of your notebooks and tags.

Evernote's overhauled the way Notebooks work in this update, integrating your own notebooks alongside Shared Notebooks that other users have let you access. Sharing's also been improved in the Note Editor--at the top of a note, you can now see how many people have access to the note you're looking at. Updates to shared notes are now organized more logically, so as not to inundate you as they arrive, and there's integration with Mountain Lion's Notification Center. (See the video below for a demonstration.)

The updated app also includes other new ways to view and access notes, including an Atlas function that allows users to browse entries by geographic location (top), and a new Card View that shows you thumbnails of notes containing images or previews of text notes. Evernote also now features "type-ahead" search that completes your inquiry with suggestions from your own entries, including related notebooks, keywords, Saved Searches, and more. There are also additional advanced options that you can use to help refine your searches further.

Thursday's update follows last week's revisions to Evernote's iOS apps. Evernote 5 is free in the Mac App Store – paid subscriptions will let you store more information – and is compatible with Macs running OS X 10.6.6 or later.