Quick Thoughts on Evernote and the Competition

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My Evernote Premium subscription just ran out, so it has come time for me to reconsider whether or not to continue using the service. Evernote hasn’t made any mis-steps recently, and I’ve actually found it quite useful at work.

Evernote Plus costs $30 USD per year, and would give me the offline access to my notes that I require. It has 1 GB of upload capacity per month, which is quite a lot for my needs. What it doesn’t do, however, is have the PDF annotation features, which can be handy in a pinch.

If I want everything that Evernote has to offer, I’m looking at Evernote Premium, which is about $60 USD per year. It’s double the price of Plus, but it does let me search all the attachments inside of Evernote, and provides a whopping 10 GB of uploads per month.

These really aren’t crazy prices as far as I’m concerned, but given the increasing number of subscription services I’m using, I thought I’d at least examine whether or not I could live without Evernote. $10 for Lightroom, $10 for Dropbox Pro, $10 for Apple Music, and $5 for 200 GB of iCloud Storage is quickly adding up. So I’ve decided to think a little bit about what makes Evernote so valuable to me.

The greatest things about Evernote are:

  • offline access
  • great cross-platform presence
  • attachment support
  • fantastic search
  • flexible tagging system

These features are present in some competitors, but I do think Evernote does strike a pretty good balance.

OneNote comes closest to Evernote in terms of cross-platform and attachment support, but it doesn’t do as good a job with fast syncing. Last time I tried OneNote in August 2015, I felt I had to babysit the syncing algorithm. I had to keep OneNote on every once in a while, or it just wouldn’t sync my latest notes to my iPad. What OneNote really has going for it is fantastic free-form notetaking. I can add drawings besides text, and throw atachments in-line with text boxes, or off to the side as a reference file. OneNote has also recently made it much easier to import notes from Evernote, which sounds a lot easier than what I did last time.

I think I’ll give OneNote another shot this year, but the second service I’ll try will be Apple’s own Notes app. It isn’t truly cross-platform because there’s no native client on Windows, and I do use Notes at work. However, there is a passable web app that could work well as a pinned tab on my work computer. The great thing about Notes is that you can copy and paste attachments from one note to another, and the built-in share extension really is a great way to append information to a running note. Notes is supposed to sync in the background, but in my experience it does about as well as Evernote in terms of reliability. Sometimes I’ll load it up and it’s completely up to date, whereas other times it will start a sync right when I load up. So it doesn’t feel like there’s a major advantage in that regard.

However, with WWDC coming up and an iOS 10 beta on the horizon, I think it would be prudent to try Notes out in early or mid June, just so I can see what kind of improvements Apple has cooked up for their own notetaking app. Evernote has been serving me well, but it’s good to see that there are some viable competitors out there in 2016. I’ll be holding off my Evernote renewal until I give these OneNote and Notes another shot.

[By the way, if you have any other suggestions aside from the two services above, do give us a shout in the comments!]


Thomas

My name is probably Thomas (yes, it is). I'll be able to help you figure out why Evernote isn't syncing, or recommend your favourite new RSS reader to you. That's partly because I am enamoured with the iOS ecosystem and hardware, but mostly because I'm Canadian.

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6 thoughts on “Quick Thoughts on Evernote and the Competition”

  1. Evernote have two additional specifications, not mentioned, but essential for me: 1) it’s not ownned by Microsoft, Google or Apple (yet). I don’t want all my personal information indexed by these companies. 2) It’s a paperless plataform. With Evernote’s automatic scanning plataform I can scan, store and index all paper received in one simple app, on the fly, with only a smartphone.

    1. Dirceu: good point about not being owned by those companies. It is tough to find completely independent and reliable services nowadays.

      As for the paperless platform: Evernote does do a great job with indexing stored files. You can just throw things into and search for them later, without even needing to really title them or add extra metadata.
      Subjectively, in my years of Evernote usage, I’ve really only used this feature a handful of times.
      I usually also title the notes properly, so I can always guess from the title what the contents might be.

  2. Having used Evernote since 2009 I went through the same decision process and rationale myself. When I made the jump to an iPad Pro I decided to give OneNote a try. I find the sync is near instantaneous across all of devices (iPhone 6, 2 x iPads

    1. That’s encouraging to hear, thanks for the feedback! I’ll be trying the MS Evernote importer soon.

  3. My wife and I each has iMac, iPad Pro 9″7 and iPhone 6S. TimeMachine router/backup. And we use Evernote premium a lot on all devices. We don’ store paper in binders any more. We use Scanbot as our preferred scanner app. And PDF Expert 5 for editing. In Europe a user guide for appliances usually is in 15 languages. So I use PDf Expert to delete 14 languages and save the result in Evernote. – Since I have a lot of data and perfect sync an an easy workflow and the fantastic search which even find all tect om scanned images of all my old LP record covers I would not even dream about dropping Evernote Premium. And with PDF Expert now supporting Apple Pencil on the iPad Pro things havecome even better.

  4. Like GuitarGuy, I was a dedicated Evernote user but the iPad Pro, Pencil and OneNote combination finally provides a credible handwritten note taking tool so I am converted – for now.

    Evernotes ink support is woeful which is a real shame given their OCR searching capability.

    No OneNote sync issues here either across iPhone, iPad, PC and Mac.

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