I’ve been irritated by Evernote’s strange treatment of text for a while now. I often start drafts on my iPhone and finish things up on my Mac. The thing is, any text that has been edited on an iPhone and then synced to the desktop is somehow fudged up and ends up as one giant […]
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My Plan to leave Evernote… [General]

My plan to leave evernote

I’ve been irritated by Evernote’s strange treatment of text for a while now. I often start drafts on my iPhone and finish things up on my Mac. The thing is, any text that has been edited on an iPhone and then synced to the desktop is somehow fudged up and ends up as one giant block when I paste it.
So last Friday I was all set to quit Evernote. I wasn’t going to delete my account, I was simply going to stop using it. Simplenote and Dropbox were lined up as the substitutes.
I was strangely torn up about the whole ordeal because I actually really like the way Evernote does business, but I really thought I had no choice: I was going to have to leave the service behind.

Evernote is hopeless! I’ll never be able to use it!

As I started the lengthy transfer process early Friday night, I decided to fire a rant to the JAiB team. The team tossed me a few ideas on how I could solve my “giant text block” problem, but none of them seemed to work. The notes in question were all in plain text (not a bold or italicized letter in sight), but it didn’t matter which app I pasted them into – they’d always come out as a solid block of text. Microsoft Word could apparently stip the text of its source formatting, but I didn’t want to load up a bloody word processor every single time I wanted to post something that was originally written on my iPhone.

Oh, maybe I can use it

Then Josh Gard came up with a tidy little solution: turn an Evernote text note into a bullet list, copy it all, and then paste it into a program that can’t handle bullet points (Notepad on PC, TextEdit on Mac). I tried the idea out and the text displayed perfectly. It’s still more roundabout than I’d like, but at least it lets me use text notes across different platforms (which is what Evernote is meant for, anyway – universal accessibility!).

But do I want to use it?
After I had thoroughly tested Josh’s solution, I started to think about whether or not I really wanted to stick with the service. Evernote makes a great “everything bucket”, but a lot of services claiming to do similar things have cropped up over the past two or three years.

Simplenote has been around for a while now, and it syncs quite nicely with a web client, as well as with several native Mac clients. Dropbox provides 2GB of free space and lets me upload any kind of file that I want to – and it even includes convenient download links for when I want to share something with friends. There were a couple of other services I had in mind: Synotes from Syncode, Appigo’s Notebook (syncs with Toodledo), and Sugarsync were all possible candidates, but there were always one or two things missing. The closest services really were Simplenote and Dropbox because they gave me all the great text and image syncing abilities I’ve enjoyed for years now. But as I played out the various use cases in my head, I still couldn’t picture myself moving away from Evernote.

Of desktop clients and meta-tags

I knew I’d really miss the tagging system and the great desktop client. The Mac version of Evernote seems to be the most up-to-date on desktops, and it’s something that I knew I could work with, thanks to months of experience. The desktop clients and Dashnote widget for Simplenote are gorgeous, but the clients are in beta, and the widget can’t search for text within a note.
Evernote’s meta-tagging system was equally indispensable, and it’s something that Simplenote still doesn’t feature (though there are possible plans for this, according to their site). I usually leave personal thoughts untagged, but most everything else in my Evernote account is tagged with some sort of keyword to help me find it quickly. The tags also make it so much easier to browse through my notes, which helps in those times where I don’t know exactly what I’m looking for.

Considering Premium?

The final bit of enlightenment came when I thought about the paid Premium accounts. I have been using Evernote for free for the past year and a half, and even though I had thought about upgrading every once in a while, I never thought I needed to. I still don’t need the 500 MB monthly upload limit (up from 40 MB), but the offline notebooks for iPhone (a big Simplenote advantage – local storage) and the ability to attach any file to a note (what Dropbox is for) sealed the deal.

So now I’m a $4.99/month Premium user, as strange and ironic as that is. I started the evening last Friday by packing my things up to move to another service, and by around midnight I was signing up for a month’s worth of Evernote Premium. It’s been about three days now, and I’m still happy with the decision. I don’t really need online file storage that often, but the ability to host files up to 25 MB on my account is definitely handy. The offline notebooks feature definitely seems to save some loading time on the iPhone, although Simplenote is still much faster at drilling down and finding a note quickly. I’ve also started cleaning my Evernote account a little bit by deleting all of the “untitled camera roll” notes, which contained app screenshots for older reviews. All in all, it’s been great getting all of my information in order.

I still feel strongly about the way Evernote completely mangles my iPhone-based text, but I’ll be writing the company and hoping for a fix in the coming months. However, I now know that despite this really silly technical problem, Evernote still feels like the best fit for me and my data. I would have missed the green icon on my Springboard, had I tapped on that “delete” button last Friday. It’s a good thing my plan didn’t work out.

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