Writer’s Workshop: In Search of A New Assistant

No, I’m not looking to replace Mary, who’s more than an assistant. She’s the love of my life, and has been for over 40 years. No, I’m looking for something to replace Evernote.

I love Evernote, but lately I’m hearing rumblings that it might be on its way out, or at least things aren’t as good as they seem, and I’m concerned that one day they’re going to pull the plug on me. Besides, lately I’ve become less enchanted with it. The desktop software seems bloated, the browser version is less than adequate, and the iOS app is awfully slow and I hardly use it, anyway (maybe because it’s slow). It also seems to be gearing itself more for business and team use and that the changes that are being made to accommodate that are making it harder for me to use. Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like a person who loses a lot of weight and needs a smaller wardrobe.

Which is another thing: I keep a lot of stuff in there, and a lot of it is stuff I don’t actually need anymore. I have manuals for products I no longer have and programming languages I no longer write in. I have hundreds and hundreds of pictures that I’ve saved that really belong somewhere else (I’ve stopped putting pictures in Evernote in favor of putting them in Pinterest), articles I put aside that I’ve never looked at again because they’re about things I’m no longer interested in, receipts for payments I made for insurance, property tax, credit cards, etc. four or five years ago, and all sorts of miscellany which, if I were to look at it, I wouldn’t know what I was looking at or why I was looking at. I’m like the person that moves every few years or so because it gives them an excuse to clean up and throw things away or find new homes for them. Kind of like KonMari for my digital life.

And there’s the issue of cost: Evernote costs $80 a year. The replacements that I’m considering are either free or under $20 a year.

I heard lots of good things about Bear, and I gave it a trial run, and it was okay. One thing it had was Markdown support, meaning I could write notes in plain text and have it format them for me (boldface, italic, underline, put headlines and links in, etc.). It would be $15 a year, which would allow me to sync between my desktop, laptop, and phone (all of which are Apple). I started a free trial a couple of days ago, and the more I work with it, the more I can see it’s not what I’m looking for.

Another thought I had was to use the Notes application that’s delivered with all the Apple stuff I have. Big advantages are that it’s free, it syncs with all my devices, and the stuff I put into it is stored in my iCloud. Big disadvantages are no tagging and I have to cut-and-paste anything I want to save from the browser. It’s great for text notes, though, and I plan to use it for those.

My first several attempts at using OneNote crashed and burned: I found that, once I logged off, I couldn’t log back in. Well, I must have done something right this time, because I have it working pretty well now. Maybe it was using a Microsoft signon that did the trick. In any event, advantages are that it’s similar to Evernote (with some huge differences), there’s a migration path between the two, there’s a clipper for the browser that functions a lot like Evernote’s (and seems to work better), and there’s IFTTT support. Disadvantages are that tagging is a bit klugey and, like everything else Microsoft, it’s ugly, but then Evernote is, too.

So, I’m going to see if I can make OneNote work for me, perhaps in conjunction with Notes and iCloud. If there’s something you think I should know about any of the above, or have another alternative I should consider, I’d be glad to know it.

14 thoughts on “Writer’s Workshop: In Search of A New Assistant

  1. I have no clue about all these different programs. I am assuming this Evernote is for writing purposes? The cost seems way too high to me so looking for something else seems prudent

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    1. All of them are note-taking and document-storage apps. Evernote has been the standard, but there are cheaper alternatives out there and I’m concerned about the company’s future.

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    1. The thing is that most of what I store in Evernote are PDF’s, and so far I haven’t found an app that handles them as well. All of the alternatives the article listed are great as far as taking notes, and OneNote does the clipping well, but PDF’s remain a mystery. A thought I had was to store the PDF’s in Dropbox or Box and put a link to them in a note, but that’s a pain. Nevertheless, I’ll keep looking, and thanks for finding the list!

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  2. Well, sounds like an interesting process. I hope you find what works. I often hate how “someone” at whatever program I like somewhere suddenly decides it needs to be redesigned to make it “better,” maybe more like what’s trending or useful for smart phone and pad users…yada, yada, which results in a huge learning curve to figure it out. Better isn’t always better.

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    1. The more I look, the more I think I should just stay with what I have. A big sticking point for me is the way other programs handle PDF’s: I haven’t found one that does as good a job of it, and a lot of what I store are PDF’s. They’re all adequate as far as keeping notes, but not all of them handle attachments as well.

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  3. Best of luck in finding your perfect Evernote replacement! I can sort of understand the frustration. I wish I could help, but I don’t use Evernote and can barely remember to plug things into my iPhone calendar.

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    1. Evernote is so good at what it does that I’m thinking of just biting the bullet and staying with it. Rumors of their demise are just that, and so far I haven’t found anything that does everything it does for me. I save a lot of PDF’s and pictures, and EN is particularly good at handling them. I think I need to use it more than I have, to be honest…

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  4. I looked into Evernote, as recommend by Dan and choked at the price. I don’t much use Dropbox anymore, but I have it. (Well I use it at work plenty, but rarely at home.) I understand this desire for something to fill the gap. I hope you’ll share with us whatever you find that you like. Maybe hold on to it until you get something Goldilocks right.

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    1. Dropbox is good, especially if you’re working from multiple computers, though the price is steep. I have a free account with 4 GB of storage (they have ways you can add storage without paying). I’d actually like to move everything to iCloud. I’ve accumulated a lot of cloud storage that’s spread out all over the place (Amazon, Box, Dropbox, Google Drive); it’s a good problem to have.

      The Evernote replacement is going to take a whole lot more time than I thought it would. Evernote is just so good at what it does…

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