maciej łebkowski
Maciej Łebkowski

The rise and fall of Evernote

in Blog

The moment when Google killed Reader is fresh in my memory. It was at that time I realized it cannot be trusted. Except for my email. And payments. And documents. And calendar. And maps. And YouTube. And home entertainment (chromecast). Or as my default browser. But barring all this, I never trusted Google again, and I even changed my default search engine to DDG for a week

But that was not its first strike. A few years earlier, after a long process of enshittification, Google announcing it wil be closing Notebook — its all-purpose note taking, stuff-saving, research helper application. This was the final straw for me, and since then I switched completely to Evernote (which I was a member since 2009).

Evernote was great. A little buggy at first, it had its problems, but for the most part it was a featur rich application. I used it mostly for:

  • The web clipper: with one keyboard shortcut, I had the option to save any webpage, either in its rich form, just a text selection, or simplified view (think: reader view, plain text). I’ve saved tons of pages, and unlike a bookmark manager, I don’t have to worry that those site’s will go down at one point, since I have the content backed up, not just the links.
  • The notes could be well organized and searched: using a tree of notebooks to hold them, and tags to help. In addition, it was able to index PDFs and as far as I remember OCR the images
  • Skitch, a great screenshot with annotations tool. It was a standalone product, but Evernote fairly early acquired it and integrated it into its ecosystem (the screenshots were automatically saved to evernote)
  • Creating notes by email
  • Sharing notebooks with other people to collaborate on various projects

I was very satisfied with it, and it was one of the earliest subscriptions I was paying for proudly for many years. Until things turned for the worse in recent years. I canceled my subscription last year, because I found myself using evernote less and less. It was still a great value, but none of the premium features were useful to me. I still used the clipper, shared some notebooks with my wife, had tons of recipes and other notes I would browse on a weekly basis. But none of the premium features were appealing to me any more.

I also stopped using Skitch, since it was not running natively on the silicon macs. I switched to CleanShot X with a subscription from Setapp. It’s actually much more feature-rich, which is rather expected — Skitch aimed to be simple.

So I decided to cut the cost. I had to reduce the number of devices I used the app on to two: the web client and my iPhone. That was an inconvenience (for example, I often used it on my iPad), but nothing I couldn’t handle. Things were good for a period of time, until last month, Evernote put the last nail in its coffin: their free plan was reduced to one notebook and 50 notes.

I have over 2500 notes across dozen of notebooks.

And I don’t even have the mac version to export the notes. How do you even?!

After 15 years its time to move on entirely. Notion seems like the default choice: it’s where the cool kids hang these days. But interestingly, I’ve known about Notion almost since its inception, but never got to use it, and I am not really that drawn to it. Joplin seems like an interesting alternative — it does not lock you in, and you are the owner of your own data at all times. There is an option to use Dropbox as storage, which is a tempting solution, as I am a premium member already.

Dropbox itself has a competing product called Paper. I used it a few years ago for a project. It was nice, but nowhere near as powerful as Evernote was. My default app for quick notes, Bear, also has a clipper, but I just don’t see how it could act as a knowledge repository. The interface is just too focused on simple notes. Or should I just make it up with Google and switch to Keep?

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About the author

My name is Maciej Łebkowski. I’m a full stack software engineer, a writer, a leader, and I play board games in my spare time. I’m currently in charge of the technical side of a new project called Docplanner Phone.

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