Another Farewell to Evernote Post

TL;DR: I moved 15 years of notes from Evernote to Bear and replicated all of my automations/workflows using Shortcuts, Keyboard Maestro, and a couple of x-callback-urls

I loved Evernote.

I managed to accumulate 13,685 notes, going back to 2006, while building workflows and automatons to make Evernote sing as it helped me manage my professional and personal life.

Evernote was so central to my productivity, that I suffered through all of the many stages of bloat in the name of… I’m not sure what, but I know most of the featured I loved in Evernote existed over a decade ago.

I would look at alternatives, then settle for sticking with it and dealing with the slow overhead and weird UI changes.

Then, when they released released version 10 and stripped away many of the features I relied on, I moved some of my automations to the Legacy version that still supported AppleScript other features. Bummer, but as mystifying and disappointing as that new release was, it finally gave me the push to get out.

I had my eye on Craft, so I started tinkering with it and its workarounds for tags, which are an important part of my existing system. Once I set up something that might approximate some of what I do in Evernote, I set out to import my stuff. This is, of course, the biggest hurdle in moving from Evernote to x.

To shorten this long story, the best way I found to manage the export/import process was to first import my Evernote notes to Bear, then go from Bear to Craft. So I tested that on some of my notebooks, and it worked pretty well, even if it was a bit of a kludge.

But in the course of making the Evernote→Bear→Craft trips, I realized that Bear might actually work better for me. Most of the advanced stuff I was doing with Evernote was already taken away, so it mostly boiled down to needing a simple, responsive system that allowed for tagging and could be automated in some way. With Bear’s -callback-url scheme and support for Shortcuts, I was able recreate the core workflows I wanted.

I did have some hiccups with the massive import of all those notes, but I was able to get it done by batching them into multiple exports and importing each of them on the iOS app (iOS was key because the Mac version would not complete some of the imports).

I know there are lots of stories like this about loving/hating/mourning/escaping Evernote. I haven’t used Bear enough to know for sure where the landmines are, but I feel very good about finally getting out of Evernote. Mostly because I knew I would have to leave at some point, but leaving proactively feels better than having to do it under the gun.

Also, I am not trying to initiate a debate over Evernote vs. Craft vs. Bear. I like the way Craft is heading and that they are iterating so quickly. It just isn’t right for me at the moment. I’m mostly just relieved to have all my stuff as far as I can tell.

Wow. That was a lot of words.

11 Likes

Welcome to the Evernote Alumni.

For me, Evernote is the prime example of being locked into proprietary solutions where the feature set is completely out of your control, thus not future proof.

It’s like Google’s famous spring clean. You never know what thing they are killing off next. For something like a PKM, Archive or workflow-enhance productivity I can’t bother anymore to be at the mercy of others.

I moved my Evernote files to Devonthink and haven’t looked back. Actually now revisiting that archive and finding a lot of stuff that can be deleted. They were good notes at the time, but have no more value today.

4 Likes

Thanks!

Makes sense. I saved archives of all my notebooks, and also exported all my attachments to a separate archive to have direct access (search). But in the process, I decided to not import some of them because I didn’t need them to be in this system like I once thought I did.

That’s good because they’re not that different! :wink: All three hold your data hostage and only accessible from the app itself. They all promise to make exporting easy, and, as you’ve discovered, that’s often not true in practice. Or if it’s true for the newer apps, it will no longer be true when they go the way of Evernote.

Sorry to be polemical/snarky. It’s sore spot. I escaped Evernote circa ~2012. I nearly fell for Craft last year – man, that app looks so good. But I remembered the Evernote experience and I held back. It’s markdown files directly in a visible folder under my control for me from now on, no exceptions. I know I will miss out on so many nice features and so many great interfaces. But the last 15 years have taught me that no app remains good for a very long time – whether it’s Scrivener, Sente, Evernote, Ulysses… they all let me down eventually. Interoperability is the only safe way (for me).

6 Likes

Obsidian and NotePlan seem to save notes in markdown text files that don’t need the apps to use. Have you looked into those?

2 Likes

Is anyone here still using Evernote actively?

I’ve never used it, but it looks like an amazing feature set for the price. In another thread someone mentioned including Evernote stored content in Google results.

I did use OneNote extensively, but wasn’t keen on the endlessly horizontally scrolling notes which made printing/exporting nearly impossible. Most of my notes have a limited shelf life; I don’t create Zettelkasten.

This is a timely thread. I have just cancelled my subscription to Evernote (due to renew on 4th April), I have been an Evernote user since 2009. I now need to decide where I am taking my notes. I have DevonThink so that is an obvious choice but need to look at feature parity.

For the moment I will use Evernote free version until I have time to migrate my notes out.

1 Like

Yes, they’re both part of my routine. As are others like Zettlr, Nota, Panda (the standalone editor), Taio and iA Writer.
All used in turn to work on the same folder of over 2000 files.

With markdown notes and manuscripts there are many options. I wish I could say the same about other app-areas…

1 Like

Yes, I use it actively but only for shared stuff with my significant other.

I honestly think Evernote is still difficult to beat in terms of pricing and capabilities for its use case. What happened was that the use case shifted somewhere else.

For example, data ownership. That a lot of customers have succesfully migrated their data somewhere else is a testimony of how Evernote is open, for a definition of open from 2010. But these days the definition of open is “I want to have my files locally” and this is something I do not see possible with Evernote. Their new app has a 50 note export limit which is not exactly useful and was what made me jump ship for my 20k-ish notes.

4 Likes

It’s worth noting that you can export an entire notebook at once, even if the notebook contains more than 50 notes. Simply control or right-click on the notebook and choose “Export notebook” or “Export notebook as PDF”.

5 Likes

This is cool! Thanks Tim for pointing that out.

1 Like

I think it’s worth trying to understand what is behind this shift in attitude. I’m not sure I have the final explanation, but, for me, it goes roughly like this:

  1. With the arrival of the iPad and iCloud, Apple (IIRC on the insistence of Jobs himself, backed by Forstall or vice versa) wanted to shift the culture to an “apps have the data” vs “look for the data on the finder and then open it in an app”. Hence the whole concept of storing, say, Pages files within a dedicated and sandboxed Pages folder on iCloud. iOS, of course, didn’t even have a Finder interface for a long time.

(I was initially on board with this — my faith in Apple’s thinking at that time was vast. Yet I was just starting my PhD when all of that was happening and I cannot even begin to describe the headaches, the scattered documents — and probably the lost documents — that it caused me.)

  1. Third party app makers began to buy into Apple’s new philosophy. Others, like Evernote, were already adopting a model of “everything is behind our login page; you don’t need to see your files or know what they look like” so this change allowed them to slot right in with the new wave. After all, if you open, say, Ulysses and it gives you access to a folder of .ulysses files that, while technically on your hard drive, are invisible to you and inaccessible in any other (easy) way, or you open Evernote and it gives you access to data that is formatted in a way that only Evernote can decipher and is stored on their servers, what is the difference to you, the end user? Nearly none. So everybody went along for the ride.

  2. But then Forstall was out and (the two may not be linked, I’m just guessing/speculating) Apple began to backtrack on a bunch of its old credos, and it also backtracked on iCloud folders for Apps, leading to the current mess where you have both app-specific folders and those same apps can store data elsewhere. As someone who helps an elderly mother with iPad computing from across the Atlantic Ocean, I can tell you that frankly things were easier in the Forstall era — and not only because you say “look below the strip of leather, and turn the page like it’s a real book!”

  3. As the years passed and other OSes became relevant again, third party apps expanded, changed, got acquired, got merged, got split, raised their fees, added features, dropped features, rebranded, reworked their interfaces, or shut down altogether and people gradually discovered that, say, trusting Apple with your notes in the Notes app and your pages documents in the Pages iCloud folder is not after all the same thing as trusting some smaller third party company with the same.

  4. … so we’re back to square one. Jobs/Forstall wanted to simplify the file system out of existence but the project utterly failed. I put it down to two main reasons: a) not everybody can be trusted to become the keeper of your data and b) the need to share and remain interoperable, even across operating systems sometimes, did not go away. Which can all be summed up as: apps come and go, your data needs to survive the changes.

6 Likes

I mostly use Evernote as a PDF dump that I can search later. I’ve tried several apps over the years to get away from the big E but haven’t found anything I’ve liked.

Last time I checked Bear was more for notes/written text vs throwing files at it. Anyone have any alternatives they’ve been super happy with?

1 Like

This is exactly how I use devonthink now. I was a 10 year evernote user, switched to devonthink a couple of years ago.

2 Likes

Me. But I am evaluating whether or not that’s a good use of my $70/year.

This is 99% of my use case for Evernote as well.

2 Likes

That might have been me. I recently mentioned that Evernote could display results from my personal data when I did a Google search. This was a function of the Evernote Web Clipper which inserted results of a local search in the page received from Google. This happened locally so Google never saw this information. (But Evernote, like Apple, does store its data on Google Cloud.)

Tim,

Thanks! I’m coming up on my annual renewal also, and didn’t know I could export the entire notebook at once.

Question: Any recommendations or advice on the best format to use for the export? Looks like options are .ENEX, single page .HTML or multiple page .HTML.

Are links between notes maintained? Is formatting maintained?

I can probably research on my own, but would appreciate advice for someone that’s been there!

`You’re very welcome, @Lavan. Good to hear this was helpful.

Question: Any recommendations or advice on the best format to use for the export? Looks like options are .ENEX, single page .HTML or multiple page .HTML.

It really depends on what you plan to do with the exported data. I recommend doing some sample exports with your existing notes/notebooks and taking a look at the results.

If you control+click on the notebook, you’ll also see an “Export as PDF” option.

If you want other export options, consider installing Evernote Legacy. Unlike Evernote 10, Evernote Legacy supports AppleScript. This makes it possible to, for example, copy data from Evernote to DEVONthink with the tags preserved.

Some other apps/services also have Evernote importers, including Notion. I don’t have much experience with these other options so can’t speak to how well they work.

Are links between notes maintained?

If you export to, for example, HTML, I think you’ll find that links between Evernote documents are Evernote links. In other words, clicking on these links will take you to the corresponding note in Evernote (assuming it hasn’t been deleted).

Is formatting maintained?

The formatting should be preserved. I recommend doing some exports with your existing notes and notebooks to verify that you’re getting the result you expect.

I hope this helps!

3 Likes

Yes, I use Evernote every day and find it to be very good. The web clipper is excellent. You do need to spend a bit of time setting up your system otherwise it becomes a dumping ground, but that’s the same for any system really.

6 Likes

IMHO the best export format is ENEX. Both Bear and Devonthink can work off of that one, in case you need both formats. Otherwise, legacy Evernote itself will be able to best recreate your notes, even if it’s just for re-export.
That said, I could not yet find a solution other than evernote that is available on all my devices seamlessly (NOT devonthink) , have a clean scanner and a good web clipper that only extracts the relevant stuff. If you use all these features, why not then also store stuff there?
It will always be convenience vs data privacy, but as of now, I don’t see Evernote being in any way unreliable.

2 Likes