Is Evernote Still the Best? Will It Ever Be Again? Photo by Inbetween Architects on Unsplash About three months ago, I wrote an article entitled, Why I Think Evernote Is Still the Best. It was (and still is) a very popular article, and I got mostly positive feedback. So what happened to Evernote? It’s hard to say. Hubris? Arrogance? Or an honest attempt to improve a legacy app and bring it into line with the competition. A few days ago, Evernote made available version 10 of its popular note-taking app. The release was met with everything from wild applause to outright disgust and hatred. Why the disparity? Well, for one thing, there are many different types of users out there. People that actually use it as a simple note-taking app were probably pleased. It had a more modern, cleaner look and, of course, it took notes. But many of us that have been using it for a long time, ten years in my case, used it for much more. We used it for what it was truly designed for, a document storage and retrieval system. Sure, some of those documents were simple notes we type on the fly. But many of us used it as a full-fledged paperless environment. And at that, it excelled. This new app, not so much. As I said in the other article, I occasionally go out and try the competition. In my mind, that is primarily Notion, OneNote, and Nimbus Notes. There are others, including relative newcomers like Roam Research and Joplin, but they didn’t really click with me. A lot of people are excited about Roam, especially backlinks, which apparently, Notion now has. But, I’m not sure what that even means, so I wasn’t as attracted to it. I’ve never gotten up in the morning, poured some 2% milk over a heaping bowl of Post Toasties, and said, “Man, if only I had me some backlinks.” So, for various reasons, those three were the ones I focused on. The problem is, they just didn’t have key features that I relied on in Evernote. For me, the most important of these and a deal-breaker was the input folder. None of the others had it, so I stuck with Evernote. Now, they’ve taken it away. The input folder is a simple concept but was vital in my workflow. Any file that got put into a particular folder on my hard drive was automatically and immediately uploaded into Evernote. Apparently, this is a Windows-only feature, so maybe Mac users aren’t as disappointed as I am. (That’s not the case as apparently, the new IOS apps are a disaster also). But it has been my primary way of getting data into Evernote for years. Email attachments get saved into that folder. Everything I scan goes directly into that folder. But here’s the thing that I think has everyone so upset. For ten years, there has been a feature request section in the Evernote forum. And long term users have requested a lot of things. Several of those things were extremely popular and asked for a multitude of times. Then two years ago, Ian Smalls, the new boss, began working on a new version of Evernote that was going to be better and faster. That app was finally released into a closed and then an open beta. During the beta process, veteran users made suggestions and requested changes and features. Almost everything people have been asking for from the early days of the forum right up through the public beta was ignored. But that’s not the worst of it. They not only didn’t add much new stuff, they took away a lot of the old stuff. Like the input folder. For me, the main differentiating feature between it and the competition was now gone. They also broke or removed other features that have users up in arms. To be fair, Evernote is trying to explain what it did and why. They needed to get the platform pared back to common ground so that all systems’ development could proceed on a level playing field. The problem is that all Operating Sytems aren’t the same. What’s easy in one system is problematic in another and vice versa. So they had to get down to the least common denominators. Least being the operative word. Now they can build and move forward. But the problem with that is, it took two years to get here. Two years! And this is the result. So, how long do we have to wait for missing features to be returned if they ever will be, much less the ones we’ve been clamoring for the last decade. So now, the forums are full of three basic camps. Long-time users who are pissed, canceling their premium subscriptions and jumping ship, cooler heads with a wait and see what happens attitude, and the people who think everything is fine and the new version works great. I suspect that the last group has only used a small set of Evernotes power, and thus, nothing has changed. For people in the second group, the legacy version still works and can even be installed side-by-side with the new version. Side note, the legacy version is 6x — they jumped all the way to 10 for some reason, most likely marketing. Then, there is the first group. They are angry, they are vocal, and they are leaving. They are all over the forums, including Evernote’s own, discussing what they are moving to and how. I have no idea what percentage of users are in each group, but the first is the most vocal. And most of them are long-time premium subscribers. I suspect most of the third group are free users. I fall squarely astride the first two. Wait and see or taking action sound like two separate things, but you can do both. I’m not deleting my account or canceling my subscription yet. (Easy for me to say because I’m only six months into my last payment) So, I will keep checking on the new app and watching the forums in hopes they can fix this mess. But I’m not standing around either. First, I finally jumped into my long-time planned, never executed process of cleaning up Evernote. The beauty of Evernote used to be the ease of getting stuff in, but that also led to getting a lot of things in that didn’t really need to be. Also, a lot of stuff should have had a short shelf life that’s still sitting around. Because, why not? So, I’m not done, but I’ve paired by 12K notes in half. First, using their import process, I put a copy of everything into OneNote. More on that later. Now, I had a backup of everything. Being an Office 365 subscriber, I have 1Tb storage there, so that just made sense. Next, I purged all old and archival notebooks from Evernote. That took care of about 25% of my total volume without impacting my day to day use at all. I hadn’t referenced most of that stuff in years, and I had the copy in OneNote if needed. Next, I did a quick scroll through, deleting things that are no longer relevant. I also got rid of most forwarded email. Months ago, I decided to start using my email system to organize my email, only sending to Evernote things that had long-term relevance and use, or those things I didn’t want to lose track of. Finally, I spent time in each notebook, scanning each note and deciding two things, do I need this and where and how would I use it. That is where I began my evaluation process of an Evernote replacement. Again the three I looked at were Notion, Nimbus, and OneNote. Apparently, there has to be a capital N in the name for me to consider it. Back about the time I wrote the previous article, I began building systems in Notion. They had improved their free plan, as opposed to Evernote, who crippled theirs. I wasn’t looking at replacing Evernote at that time, but Notion is just better at some stuff, and I wanted to take advantage of those features. A few things, such as books, movies, and recipes, got copied from Evernote to Notion with the intention of those things getting permanently ported over. I had an account at Nimbus from evaluating them a couple of years ago. It also had a copy of my Evernote data as it existed at that time. For anyone unfamiliar, if you are looking for an Evernote replacement and you don’t want the pain of learning a completely new system, Nimbus Notes is your guy. It’s very similar but has added a lot of the features people have wanted in Evernote. They have also added many features that attract people to Notion. And of course, I had a copy of OneNote/OneDrive from being a Microsoft customer. So, as I evaluated each notebook in Evernote and continued to purge things that weren’t current, I also began porting them to all three. I wanted to do some real-life testing of the three systems and see which one(s) I might want to move to. The import methods are fast and straightforward; either point to a notebook in Evernote or export a notebook as an .enex file and import that. Of course, you can import your entire Evernote, but except for a quick archival copy like I did, I wouldn’t recommend it. I’ve only been at this for a few days but wanted to give you my impressions so far. Before I delve into the individual programs, I should let you know a couple of things. I am a Windows/Android user. Second, concerning Android. All three have Android apps, and before I got much further, I wanted to test their search capabilities. That’s how I use Evernote 90% of the time on the Android. I think of something, I search for it, and find it quickly. The good news is, all three performed just as well. Nimbus had a slight edge, but from touching the icon, typing in a search term, to seeing the results, all apps worked in 15–20s. I’ve read horrible things about Notion, and it used to be worse, but whether it’s because of their recent update or my new phone, it was just as speedy as the rest.