Goodbye, Evernote

Since 2010, I’ve been a subscriber to cloud-based note taking and storage service Evernote. Back then, it was hard to beat Evernote’s value proposition: easy, multi-platform note taking and storage, delivering access to your information from virtually anywhere, on any device. With its support for embedded assets, like PDF files, it was a great place not just for note taking as such, but for storing documents that you might want to refer to later. My account has (well, had) hundreds of notes, from to-do lists, to random stuff I don’t want to forget, to meeting minutes, to PDF owner’s manuals for cameras and cars and printers and home appliances — all easily searchable. But this week, I pulled the plug for good, just ahead of my account’s annual renewal.

There are really two drivers to this decision:

  1. Cost. If I were to have allowed my premium subscription to renew in March of this year (2017), the renewal charge would have gone up to $60 — an increase of $15 a year from the previous $45 annual fee. I’m not sure what Evernote thinks it’s doing that’s so incredibly compelling as to justify a 33% increase in price in a single year.

    Compare this to the price of a Microsoft Office 365 subscription for a single user: $70 per year. For just $10 more than Evernote, you get access to the desktop versions of the entire Office suite. You get 1 TB of cloud file storage (pretty well negating the need for a Dropbox subscription in the process). Mobile use of the Office apps in their fully-functional mode. And an hour of Skype calling to landlines or mobile phones. And yes, it includes OneNote — which offers most of the capabilities of Evernote, plus some Evernote doesn’t have.

    What’s the better value here? The math is pretty easy.

  2. Experience. As most successful software companies would tell you, user experience (UX) is everything. What’s it like to be the user of a software application? It’s a combination of visual design and functional design, and I give Evernote a grade “C” at best for UX. The experience of using Evernote is very different between the web, the desktop application, and the mobile application. It’s hard to remember where things are located in one vs. the other, and where you can do this function or that function in one vs. the others. It’s as if the entirety of Evernote was developed by disparate development teams who barely speak to one another. The net-net is that using Evernote ends-up being a pretty high-friction experience for me, unpleasant and uninviting. I kept putting-up with it because I felt I had no choice. And I didn’t — until now.

Microsoft suddenly makes the switch easy

One of the reasons that people stick with specific cloud-based services is the cost and effort of change. When you have, for instance, a few gigabytes of data in a service like Dropbox, and getting that data moved to something like Box or OneDrive is anything but easy, one tends to stick with what they know. These services bank on that, and it’s been precisely the situation with Evernote for me.

Yes, I had my Office 365 subscription, and yes, I had OneNote, and yes, I started using it. But I kept Evernote in 2016 because there was no particularly easy path to get my notes out of Evernote and into OneNote. That changed in the past few months when Microsoft introduced its Evernote to OneNote migration tool.

The tool, currently exclusive to Windows users, allows you to easily and automatically move your notes to OneNote, complete with the embedded content. Once I discovered the availability of the tool, I decided to give it a go to see if I could save myself $60 this year.

The tool worked brilliantly, although not without a few burps. In its default mode, the tool migrates everything from a local copy of Evernote (which must be installed on the machine, and synced-up ahead of time), and drops it directly in the cloud storage of your Microsoft Office 365 account (you’re prompted for login credentials as part of the process).

The tool chewed on my notes for awhile, and provided a summary of the results. There were issues syncing a few specific notes, none of which were of great concern. And it was unable to process one specific notebook — which was a source of concern — due to some unexplained “server error.”

The way around that was to use a file-based import instead. Evernote has its own export format, ENEX, which is an XML-based, and you can easily output to it from within the Evernote desktop client on a notebook-by-notebook basis. I opened the application, picked the notebook that failed to sync, and output its contents to ENEX. I then re-ran the Microsoft import tool, and pointed it to the ENEX file. It chewed on that awhile, and succeeded in processing that previously problem notebook just fine.

The way that the imports are done could likely use an ability to be customized. How the tool did the organization is not quite how I’d have done it, left to my own devices, but the notes, and notebooks, all came across with acceptable formatting. I can spend as much (or as little) time reorganizing the notes as I choose to; my main interest was just getting the archival information over. Notes and/or notebooks I regularly use can certainly be moved around and fixed-up as I feel I need to over time. The rest? Just having it all extracted from Evernote’s grip was the main objective.

The nice thing is that you can use the tool, and decide for yourself if you like the result. If you don’t, well, you can certainly continue to pay Evernote their princely sum to continue to host your data for you.

For me? I’ve already removed my data from Evernote, and it was a pleasure to cancel my subscription, and my account, and I actually enjoyed saying goodbye to Evernote as I deleted each instance of their app across all my numerous devices. I won’t miss the irregular user experience, and I certainly won’t miss paying $60 for something that just doesn’t provide as much value as the company seems to believe.

Goodbye, Evernote. I used to love you, but we grew apart, and it’s time to move on.