Subscription Review --> Attempting Life without Evernote

The other night as I signed up for Fastmail at $45 for the year, my wife asked me how much I paid for software on an annual basis. Even though I track subs within my bi-weekly budget sheet (bi-weekly because that’s the frequency of our paycheques), I have never really gone through them all at once. Instead, I typically do a quick review when something is coming up for renewal and decide from there. More often than not, I say “I can live without this - bye”, only to discover a week later I’m downloading that same app again. Why? Because a certain scenario I hadn’t considered popped up, and the replacement app takes 4 extra clicks to do something. As a MPU I of course deem this as unacceptable, returning my previous subscription app.

While going through my list there were some non-negotiables. 1Password, Backblaze, Fastmail (that I had just signed up for) :grimacing:, Disney+, Amazon Prime to name a few.

But then I arrived at Evernote.

I really love Evernote, but over the past year I’ve left and gone back to them on the rebound about three times. Here’s the cycle, which you can practically follow reading my previous posts on this forum:

Upon my return to Evernote from another app

  • I’m going back, no other app ingests so much information as easy. I don’t have to question where to send things because I know EN is the home. I can clip from the web, email into EN, annotate documents, capture images, files with OCR. It’s so ubiquitous.
  • Yes, this is amazing, so much easier than using a combination of other apps to store this information. One source of truth - I love it

3 Months Later

  • I feel like I only create about 3 notes a week in here, is this worth $100 a year?
  • To justify the cost I should put EVERYTHING in here. Yep, this is my new “everything bucket”.

3 Weeks after that

  • Typing feels clunky somehow, and even though the M1 app is fast, it still kind of – feels heavy to use.
  • I don’t think I want all my stuff in here, it’s good for holding scraps, but Obsidian is better for creating notes and as I’ve used it more, I actually DO really appreciate the linked thinking. I’ve used it quite a bit to help me through some thought processes.
  • For all the time I spend dumping stuff in here and organizing it, I hardly ever refer back to any of this stuff.
  • I had an impromptu phone call at work this week. I pulled my iPad out and tapped it with the Apple Pencil; took all my notes in Apple Notes. Wow, this is super fast and light. I like this a lot. I think I’ll switch to it.

2 Months after that

  • I don’t like how my notes are locked into this, and I don’t like how “saving a web page” just gives you a link within the note. I prefer the clipper. Also, why are images either tiny or giant, is there no in between?
  • When I used Evernote, I knew that receipt would be in Evernote, no questions asked. Now, did I save it to Notes? iCloud? Where the hell did I put it?

Rinse, Repeat.

This time around my reasoning is slightly different though. When I went through my years and years of notes and got rid of all the excess junk, I was left with about 530 notes. That’s peanuts, and none of it is life and death information. If it’s life or death, I put it in on my computer where it’s backed up to the cloud, Time Machine, and Back Blaze.

I guess where Evernote makes me do this to myself (try other apps) is in their $99.99/yr fee and the way the app is setup. I loved the idea of “Home” when it was launched but try as I might, I just don’t find myself using it. Ever. I don’t use tasks, and for whatever reason I just don’t trust it to be my “catch all bucket”. I mean, I do, but not to the point where I’m willing to trust them AND pay $100 a year for it. Something about that just doesn’t feel quite right. $50 a year in perpetuity – maybe. $100? That’s a tough pill to swallow.

And so my struggle continues.


Thank you for posting this! Whiile I don’t struggle with whether or not to use EN, what you describe is similar to my struggle between Apple Notes, Obsidian, DT, and Craft for notes. I laughed out loud reading your post because it hit so close to home. I feel much better knowing I’m not the only one struggling with this. Every app I try has its up and downsides.

I like Apple Notes (AN) for a lot of reasons but I don’t like the limited export options and the lack of backlinking.

I like Obsidian for a lot of reasons but it doesn’t share tasks from meeting notes to Reminders and trying to create tables in markdown, while doable, is hardly elegant.

I like DEVONthink a lot but the mobile editor is awful. I’d use DT for all of my notes and research articles IF they only had a decent mobile editor. I know I can use a third party editor and send the notes to DT and that may end up being my best option but, for now I’m sticking with AN. AN has deep system integration and is being constantly updated and improved. For now, it is good enough.

Who knows what tomorrow holds! :slightly_smiling_face:

At any rate, thanks for your transparency. Misery loves company! :slightly_smiling_face:


I completely understand this cycle. I go through the same thing with DEVONthink. I’ve exported and imported my data several times over the years. I stopped using Evernote probably ten years ago or more, but I go back and forth with DEVONthink. A lot of what I struggle with is that DT does a lot of things that I think macOS should do. Encrypted end-to-end sync, AI-assisted document filing, interlinking documents. Etc…

Just saying, I’m right there with you.


This perfectly sums up my relationship with Evernote as well. A while back I even commented on this very forum why Evernote is the app for me, and in a lot of ways what I wrote there is still true.

But now that my subscription is up for renewal, I’m having second thoughts.

Like you, I’ve been taking a hard look at what’s actually in my Evernote account, how useful it is to me, and where and how I’m likely to need it in the future. Just because I can forward every project-related email into my EN account doesn’t mean I’ll have a need for it later and frankly, even if I do, Gmail has a phenomenal search function.

As I go through my notes collection, I’m having similar conversations with myself over many of the things I’ve saved.

I also strongly dislike the home page, and don’t use the tasks feature, so I’ve been on the hunt for something simpler, but that still has many of the features I love about Evernote–like being able to easily clip a webpage or save an email or snap a photo of something I want to buy later.

What keeps me with Evernote is the (rather irrational) thought that I need access to all of those things in all places, and that I must be able to search within PDFs and handwritten notes. The reality is, I almost never use EN anywhere but my computer, I never save handwritten notes, and I rarely use the search function.

I’m glad you brought this up. It’s helped me clarify my thoughts around whether or not to renew.


This - 100%. I remember my high school English teacher asking us the question – “Is Romeo really in love with Juliet, or is he in love with the idea of being in love with her?”. This is me, but with apps LOL. Do I really and truly LOVE all those features, or do I love just knowing that they’re available to me.

The other issue with this is the environment I find myself in. Listening to MPU or Focused and hearing about certain tools I think – that’s the one! That’s what I need! But when I’m with my friends they all tease me about the apps I use. When I try to explain Obsidian or Evernote they look at me like I’m some mad philosopher and can’t imagine why people pay $50 a year to use a calendar. :rofl:


I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll probably never settle on one app.

I also got so sick of lock-in, exporting, importing, converting, that years ago I decided to use only apps that store data as plain text files (for notes – ephemera like tasks are different, and I use Drafts for composing – but not storing – etc.)

The result: I still bounce among apps (noteplan, Obsidian, nvUltra, The Archive, even BBEdit sometimes) – but without all the anxiety.

I’m just using different apps on the same set(s) of notes, not switching apps or workflows. If one works better for a given task, or I conclude it’s the better one overall for the time being, or there’s a new feature I want to try … I use it. For as long as it makes sense. Then I use another. Nbd.


About an hour ago I got a request from a company doing a deck for us for a platt drawing. I pulled up an Evernote exported notebook saved in Dropbox in 2015, imported it into my current Evernote, did a search, found the drawing, and forwarded it to the contractor. Deleted the imported notebook and done. I know there are other ways to do something like this, but it all worked just like it is supposed to.


I don’t think there’s any question Obsidian is better than Evernote. There’s over a decade difference between them… And that’s not to be confused with an old app vs a new app. In that instance, an old app can often be better, leaner, less over-engineered. This is an old app that has continued to have layers upon layers added to it, vs a new app.

There are over a decade of dinosaur code and legacy workflows that bog Evernote down and always will. But, for some people that also means up to a decade of notes they already have in Evernote. So it should really come down to how tied you are to data you already have in Evernote. If you’re just looking for the better workflow prior data aside, it’s 90% odds Obsidian is better already, and 99.9% Obsidian has better prospects going forward.

Aren’t these two apps best suited for two different purposes? Even allowing for a little overlap, I do not see how someone could substitute one for the other.


It’s a multi-app lifestyle for me, too.

  • NotePlan for its tasks, Daily Notes, and a growing number of frequently-updated lists and logs, all in beautiful Markdown format.
  • EagleFiler to save emails, clip from the web as PDF, and to store pretty much any other type of document.
  • Byword in which to copy and paste text from the web, format as Markdown, export as PDF if needed, or save to EagleFiler.
  • BBEdit for its on-the-fly scratch notes, to append yesterday’s Daily Note to my annual roll-up document, and editor of last resort for anything else text-related that comes up.
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100% in my view. Evernote isn’t amazing for writing your own notes, but Obsidian isnt amazing at capturing multiple media types, web clips etc.

Text based has limitations. Receipts, manuals,marked up images - I tried them in Obsidian and it was not an easy go. Never mind notes that get deleted leave their images behind in the file structure. And yeah, there’s a plug in for that of course, but every plug in ups the potential for future exports being “less future proof”. My view.


I suggest you give Upnote a try, it is almost as good as EN (the web clipper may be the exception).

The developer is very active and sync speed across multiple devices is amazing, especially if you have Windows and Android devices as well.


I found DevonThink to be better than Evernote in every way—but only if you’re 100% within the Apple universe. If you need to use Windows, Android, etc., DevonThink is not for you.

As for me, I’m quitting DevonThink too. Everything is in Obsidian and Apple Notes. I’m not committed to quitting DT though—if I see a need for it, I’ll go back.


My plan also. $50 a year for Obsidian sync (I’m an early bird) and Apple Notes for the “scraps”. That significantly reduces my expense while keeping the feature set in the same ball park.


I think there are a few uses of Evernote that cannot be totally replaced by apps like DEVONthink. One example is to take a photo on the phone (iPhone or Andriod) of the driving license and save that as a note. The OCR then make all the text searchable,

To be clear, I was a die-hard Evernote user and early adopter. Evernote was my everything bucket. I even used it for task management. This was before Evernote supported tasks; I just used a janky system of date and month tags.


Continuing on this same line of thought - I try to pick tools that are as easily and intuitively extensible as possible. Then, when I run into ‘workflow pains’, I can fiddle with my current app instead of having to move house. With Obsidian, this is easy - I just install a plugin (none with non-standard MD formatting though) or write a script.

Constraints breed creativity - it’s interesting what solutions you can come up with when you restrict yourself to having no app subscriptions.

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You sort of can, but it’s awkward. The easiest way is to share to DTTG from the Camera app, and let a smart OCR rule take care of it. The other main way is, from the DTTG app, plus sign, Media, New Photo, then save that. In DT, you can wait for a smart rule to process it, or long press on the created media and choose Convert > Searchable PDF.

The two annoying things are a) you’re losing the feeling of browsing images when you make PDFs of them, b) the search index doesn’t necessarily immediately update if you manually OCR in the app, or at least not reliably for me. Adding and searching images just not a first class workflow as it is in Evernote, even if the information technically has entered the database.

Same! I remember sitting on the bus to work planning my day simply using the task check boxes in Evernote, before the more formal task list function (which I haven’t used).

I really did feel in control but each time I go back now I don’t get that same sense of involvement or engagement from the app.


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when combined with membership level related issues that I had deleting my Evernote account yesterday, made me wonder if the creator is an Evernote user.