Some notes on Evernote

I have reluctantly come to believe that Evernote is the best note-taking app for people who want to keep their notes synchronized among various devices. I use a Windows PC at work, a MacBook Pro for home and personal computing, an iPad Mini and an iPad Touch for mobile computing.

The Evernote note editor window on my Windows PC.

The Evernote note editor window on my Windows PC.

There are other options than Evernote that would work to join these four devices in a note network — a notework? Two that come to mind are:

Simple Note

I could use Simple Note on my mobile devices, which can sync through the Simple Note server with apps on my PC (Resophnote or Cinta Note), and MacBook (Tinderbox or Notational Velocity).

Dropbox

I could use one of various writing apps on my mobile devices (Drafts, iaWriter) that sync to Dropbox, then use whatever text editors I want on the two computers.

These are just two examples. There are numerous others. But I’m finding that Evernote works best for me because there’s an Evernote app for everyone of the devices I own, although this advantage is dulled some by one of my reservations about Evernote (see below), and the synchronization among them has proven to be quick and reliable. In addition, I generally like the note editor in Evernote, which is among the more powerful I’ve found in apps that work on iOS devices.

Reservations

You probably noticed I used the term “reluctantly” earlier to describe my adoption of Evernote. I have a few fairly serious reservations about the app, including:

  • I’m not comfortable trusting one app, one company with my notes. I could live with it just being the software on my devices; that survives a bankrupt company (look at all the people who still use ECCOPro 18 years after the application was abandoned by its company). But Evernote users also rely on the Evernote company for the synchronization of notes. Also, you need to have a premium account to have access to your notes locally on your mobile devices. And it is notoriously difficult to export notes from Evernote in formats usable on other applications.
  • The user interface for Evernote is different on all my devices, so it is like using four different apps. Not a horrible problem, but not ideal either.
  • While the basic service is free, to make Evernote your primary notes app, you really should purchase a subscription to the premium service (in part for the reason mentioned above). I’m not a fan of subscriptions for software. I don’t mind paying annually for upgrades, but I don’t like a system where if I stop paying the subscription, my service is cut.
  • Reliance on tagging for organization. Tagging is very useful, but it is not an instinctive means of categorization to me, yet Evernote relies heavily on tagging for keeping information in order.

There’s also this: Evernote is very popular and I’m a contrary cuss. I don’t like using the same application that everyone else is using.

But the simple truth is that I’ve tried many, many apps on my iPad mini, and I’ve be disappointed with them to the extent that they make sharing notes across devices easy and reliable. Evernote works. It’s effective. So that will have to do for now. (Until Tinderbox for iOS comes out…)

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9 comments

  1. My reluctance has lead me to recommend it to others, but eschew its use myself. Text files, a markdown based wiki (trunk notes on iOS vim wiki on pc and Mac) work well– though I keep wondering if I’m being too curmudgeonly. For tasks I’m using asana– which has all the flaws of evernote– centralized service, data and format not really in my control, but it’s good enough (and te alternatives as far worse).

  2. Could you clarify what you mean by “you need to have a premium account to have access to your notes locally on your mobile devices”. I have full local access to Evernote notes on my WindowsPhone without a premium account. Is this limitation unique to iOS?

    I use Evernote as a collection point rather than a storage point. I transfer some notes I want to keep to a more permanent place. One of its touted features – photo OCR – I find rather useless because the text can not be copied and transferred to a text document, to the best of my knowledge.

    1. It is my understanding that without a premium account, you can only view your notes from a mobile device while you are online. In other words, they are not stored locally. Here’s what it says on the Evernote site about the advantages of a premium account:

      Offline notebooks: Take entire notebooks offline for easy access when you don’t have a network connection. A perfect option for when you’re traveling. Available on iOS and Android.

      Does that coincide with your experience?

      Thanks for reading my blog.

      1. Not at all. As I said I have full offline access. Does Evernote specifically state that this is a premium *only* feature? Funny, the quote doesn’t even mention WP.

  3. This feature is promoted as one of “ten reasons to go premium.” Perhaps I’m mis-interpreting what “offline notebook” means, although I can’t see how.

  4. From what I recall when I had an iPod Touch I used Awesome Notes which would store the notes locally and sync with Evernote when presumably back on line. Perhaps that is a way around it for you. What happens now if you access the Evernote app without a connection?

  5. I should have made it clear in my original posting that I have upgraded to the premium account. Thanks for the suggestion of Awesome Notes, but not necessary at this time.

  6. I had very similar reservations but decided to go for Evernote. As you noticed it provides best set of capabilities at affordable price of free.
    For me mobile clients are mainly for capture of ideas and notes. Perhaps tablet could see a bit more use. Desktop client is a critical aspect for me and I make sure that it’s as up to date as possible.
    I have a regular backup scheduled for my desktop database so should Evernote’s servers got wiped I always have a copy and can at least export the information from previous day.
    The good thing is that you can get all your embedded files as well as the notes in html format which means they can be indexed by Windows Search.

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