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I have been an Evernote user almost since service inception. Throughout the years I have been on the roller-coaster ride of highs and lows, and lately have been fairly ambivalent about the service. It had never really done me wrong, but at the same time there was no single killer feature keeping me invested in the Evernote capabilities.

Late last year I signed up for a special premium subscription offer when Evernote was poised to add six months for free for those subscribing for one full year. So although I had no real need for premium capabilities, I figured why not – I can find a way to use all the exciting features – and hit the “pay now” button.

So here I am, six months into an eighteen-month subscription, and I do not find myself really enamored with, or tied to, any of those paid-only features. The following list is what comprises Evernote Premium, the first three of which are also part of the Evernote Plus middle tier:

  • Access notebooks offline
  • Forward emails into Evernote
  • Customer support via email
  • Customer support via live chat
  • Search for text in PDFs
  • Search for text in Office docs
  • Annotate PDFs
  • Scan and digitize business cards
  • Present notes in one click
  • Browse the history of your notes
  • See related notes and content

Looking at it today as I write this post, I see nothing compelling other than the following:

  • Search for text in PDFs (peripherally interesting)
  • Scan and digitize business cards (definitely)

Of these two features, I use and highly rely on the business card scanning via Evernote’s Scannable app. I love how simple yet effective it is at scanning business cards, finding the right data on the card (most of the time), and then allowing me to create contacts or connect via LinkedIn to people I meet.

In the many years I have used Evernote, I rarely ever had an occasion where I really needed to search for text within PDF files. It is just not something I value nor require.

A couple days ago Evernote announced some new pricing models and restrictions on free accounts. Since I am a premium subscriber, this has no effect on me currently. However, should I opt to allow my subscription to lapse, I immediately fall prey to those limitations, and this prospect does not make me feel comfortable.

At. All.

This got me thinking about my future, continued use of Evernote as my note-taking-and-storing app of choice.

I am first and foremost a Mac and iOS user. At work I occasionally do work from my corporate provided HP laptop. More often than not I find myself working from my personal Retina MacBook or corporate provided Retina MacBook Pro 15” 2013. So my usage requirements primarily revolve around the Apple ecosystem, although that does not mean I need to use their services. The important factor is ensuring whatever solution I stick with, it must be cross-platform – iOS, macOS, and web or Windows – so I can access my data no matter where I am or what device I am stuck using.

While I would not necessarily call these requirements, I find the following Evernote capabilities essential to my workflow. So any potential replacement solution should have at least one of these, but preferably most, if not all.

Web Clipping

One of the features I most use with Evernote is the web clipping capability via their web browser extensions. My favorite part of this feature is not the mere ability to save full web pages to Evernote, but to simplify the page, remove the unnecessary cruft, and save the important content for later consumption.

Business Card Scanning

As I previously mentioned, I live and die by Scannable. It is my most popular use for Evernote, outside of mere simple note taking. Is there really a valid replacement for this app for other Evernote-like apps?

Third-Party Access to API

Finally, I really enjoy how Evernote offers an accessible API. I have a number of IFTTT recipes that either save data to Evernote, or syndicate it out. AFAIK, no other solution offers this capability.

Folders and Tagging

While I do use Evernote’s built-in tagging system, I do not ever find myself browsing or searching via tags. As a result, tagging – for me – is just a nice-to-have addition. It is not a killer, must-have feature.

On the flipside, I thoroughly adore Evernote’s folder hierarchy. Folders can be nested within other folders, with notes inside those various folders, all for maximum compartmentalization and to simplify locating relevant data. This is one of Evernotes strong points. However, I do not find my use needing multiple nested folders, so long as there is some kind of basic folder structure in place.

Based on these thoughts, I came up with the following solutions:

  • Stick with Evernote
  • Migrate to Apple Notes
  • Migrate to Google Keep
  • Migrate to OneNote
  • Text-based Notes Saved to DropBox
Evernote. Sticking with this solution essentially means sticking with the status quo. It has worked flawlessly for me for years. If Evernote does start locking down the number of devices capable of accessing a single account, that could be problematic for me, and I do not want to be in a situation where my ability to get work done is dependent upon paying for a subscription.

Apple Notes. This is likely the smartest solution for my use case, primarily because I use Apple devices almost exclusively. However, Apple Notes has no ability to clip web pages stripped of excess cruft, is unable to scan business cards in the same manner as Scannable, nor does it have an API. The up-side of this is Notes does have a simplistic folder structure, but steers clear of the complexities tagging offers.

Google Keep. I used to be an avid user of Google products, and still do consume some of their offerings. However, I have tried to wean myself away from Google dependence because I disagree with their data mining position. Plus, Keep does not have a native macOS client, and is required to be accessed via the web.

Microsoft OneNote. This is likely the most true cross-platform application on the list. Overall, the UI is usable and the app is more than sufficient. However, I do not quite understand its syncing system, nor am I pleased with its folder hierarchy. Overall it is not a bad application, it is just that it does not seem to fit well with my thoughts on how note-taking applications function.

Text-Based w/Save to DropBox. Do I really need to go into how unwieldy and not user-friendly this solution is? While it is cross-platform, and allows for far more control over ones own data than the others, the lack of ease-of-use is off the charts. It is not worth the hassle to me.

Conclusion

As part of a test, this morning I exported all my Evernote notes and imported them into Apple Notes just to see how it would work. Export and import worked flawlessly and without any hitches. Although, I do notice some peculiarities with the imported PDF files, overall its not bad at all.

However, for some reason, I do not feel comfortable fully committing to Apple Notes quite yet. Already I miss the things I previously mentioned, and find myself yearning for those capabilities. So while I will continue to give Apple Notes a few more chances, I will also syndicate all my content on Evernote.

I really want to like Apple Notes since it has tight integration within macOS and iOS. This makes is highly attractive for those of us highly invested in the Apple ecosystem.