I have been searching a long time for a suitable replacement for Evernote. My biggest gripe with Evernote is that it has an unintuitive user interface, and isn’t consistent across platforms (although that is getting better). For me, Evernote has been a junk drawer, but not a place for writing notes… in fact, I can’t remember the last time I opened Evernote and began typing a note.
To be able to replace Evernote, my new app would have to have have an inviting interface that works and looks the same no matter from which platform I am accessing it. In addition, it would need these qualities at a minimum:
- Reliability. (In my experience Evernote has this.)
- Nested notebooks (or folders). (Evernote is very limited here.)
- Tags, preferably nested. (Evernote has this.)
- The ability to capture many different kinds of files. (Evernote has this.)
- The ability to capture information quickly and easily. (Evernote may be best at this.)
- No data lock in. (Because so many other apps provide a way to import your Evernote data, this isn’t problem with Evernote, but the app itself is limited.)
- I need to get information out of it quickly and easily. (Evernote has this.)
- My notes would need to be available offline. (Evernote has this with a premium subscription.)
I believe I have found my Evernote replacement in Notejoy.
I’ve been dabbling in Notejoy for a couple of years, but it was only during the past year that the developers provided the new features that have allowed me to think of the app as my primary note-taker.
Side note: Notejoy is developed primarily as a way for organizations to share notes and to collaborate, but there is a “Solo” plan for people like me who just want to use the app themselves. That’s how I am reviewing Notejoy, not looking at the collaboration tools.
The Notejoy interface
A look at the screen shot above will demonstrate that Notejoy has an interface that will be familiar to anyone who has spent any time on a computer. The left panel provides access to your libraries and notebooks. All users get their own personal library, and then you can add libraries… the folders icons of which display a human silhouette. If you were using the app for collaboration, these would be your team folders. But you don’t need a team to create multiple folders for organizing your work.
You can also assign tags to your notes, and tags can be nested. Notejoy is the only note-taker I am aware of that provides both nested notebooks and nested tags — though I wouldn’t be surprised to learn there are others.
In each library you can create notebooks, which can be nested as deeply as you may want. I’d like to see the ability to add icons to these notebook titles that gave a visual indication of what the contents might be, but that isn’t important.
To the right of the library panel is the document or note panel, which displays the notes stored in whichever notebook you have selected. And to the right of the notes panel is the note text, or editor. This is all pretty standard, of course, but that is what I want.
Notejoy uses Markdown for formatting your notes. This is a plus, to me. You have most of the standard markdown controls:
- Three levels of headers
- Bold, italic, underline and strikethrough
- Ordered and unordered lists
A nice feature of the editor is that the Markdown is instantly rendered. In fact the whole editor experience is very similar to Bear, although I believe Bear might have a typewriter mode, which Notejoy currently lacks.
A focus mode allows you to hide the other two panels and focus just on the note at hand. And you can open your note in a separate window just by double-clicking on the listing in the note panel.
One oddity is that the formatting and tool bar is at the bottom of the editor. This isn’t hard to get used to and if you’re using Markdown you won’t need the tool bar very often.
Notejoy is not as well endowed with capture features as is Evernote. However, it does have the ability to email notes into the app, which to me is a crucial feature. Notejoy also has Chrome and Firefox extension for capturing web pages. On my Macbook I use Yoink to move data into Notejoy, so the lack of a Safari extension isn’t a problem for me, though I would welcome one.
The search box lives at the top of the note panel. Typing the word or phrase into the search almost instantly presents you with a listing of all notes across all your notebooks containing that string. Notejoy provides a number of search restricting operators, such as using the name of a notebook to limit the search to that notebook, although I must admit executing this has stifled me so far. Supposedly, you can search for text in PDFs, Word documents and even images that are stored among your notes.
Quick Find is a nice feature, which you initiate by typing COMMAND-J (on Mac) or CONTROL-J (in Windows). Start typing the name of a note and you can then choose to quickly navigate to that note. You can also quickly create a new notebook or note from within the Quick Find window.
Getting information out of Notejoy
Notejoy doesn’t have a robust list of export options. In fact, I believe the only way to export your notes is to Google Drive, where each note will become a Google Doc. This does ensure that your information isn’t locked in, but it is not convenient for sharing your information with others. But there are some other options. A new one added this year is that you can email a note directly from Notejoy. Don’t confuse this with opening your email app and attaching the text to the email. Notejoy actually has its own email engine from right within the app. I don’t even know if this is an advantage, but it is useful to me, because I rarely use Mail on my MacBook, preferring to access email services through my browser.
I am pretty ignorant about encryption, but here’s what Notejoy’s developers say about security:
All users use SSL to communicate with Notejoy’s servers across all clients (web, desktop, and mobile)
Data stored in Notejoy’s databases is encrypted at rest using industry standard AES-256 encryption algorithm
All data backups are also stored in an encrypted state
All images and documents attached to notes are also encrypted at rest on our cloud storage provider using industry standard AES-256 encryption algorithm
Encryption keys are stored independently from underlying encrypted data and files to further protect user data
Additionally, you can password protect individual notes.
Other nice features
While the topics above are my main concern, Notejoy does have lots of other nice features, including a host of keyboard shortcuts. Just press the question mark to pop up a cheat sheet.
You can “Star” frequently used notes for quick access from the library panel.
Notejoy integrates with Trello so you can link a card in Trello to a note in Notejoy. It also integrates with Slack, though I suppose that would be more useful when collaborating with teammates.
With the mobile apps, you can photograph a document and capture it as a PDF in your database. I have not tried this, so can’t comment on how well it works.
You can create image galleries, which may be more useful if you’re sharing a note.
Areas of weakness
Notejoy isn’t perfect. Some areas I’d like to see improved are the following:
- Wiki style linking. You can embed one note’s URL into another note, but it is a somewhat clumsy process.
- As I mentioned, Notejoy’s editor does not have a typewriter mode, which means your cursor will be living at the bottom of the screen in longer notes.
- Notejoy needs more exporting options
- The editor needs the ability to add tables, although I do not often need this feature.
The Bottom Line
I like Notejoy very much. The cost for a subscription to the Solo plan is nearly half the price of Evernote, though Evernote’s free version is a lot more robust than Notejoy’s. In fact, because of this, I still use Evernote as my junk drawer, saving email receipts and what not, since it is so easy. But all my composed notes are going into Notejoy, and I’ve been very happy with the experience.
Let me know if you’ve found a replacement for Evernote, or if you’re still quite happy with the long-standing note king.