creativity takes courage

Evernote, unfortunately it’s time for me to let go

By the very end of last year I decided to fully delete all my content from Evernote. This was a very weird and I would say sad decision for me, but I’ll tell why I did it and how I used Evernote.

I’ve been an Evernote user since 2008. I was no early adopter, but I loved this tool and used it everyday. I quickly became a paid customer and it eventually became an extension of my brain. However, a few decisions made by the company in the last year made me decide to “break up” with Evernote for good.

Now, let’s be clear, this is not new. For years and years other Evernote users have come to the same decision. You can see examples here, here and here.

Just the other day I started to think about all the use cases I had for Evernote. My thinking process is quite chaotic, but Evernote somehow managed to capture my crazy brain and turn it into something organized and dare I say – useful.

My list of use cases for Evernote is long, but I’m going to share just some of it with you.

Are you ready? Here are some of the tasks I accomplished with this simple, yet so complex piece of software:

  • Capturing random ideas and thoughts and organized those into categories, tags and notebooks.
  • Collecting links from the web (the Web Clipper was always on my browser).
  • Kept memories of everyday situations.
  • Evernote worked as my personal journal from time to time.
  • Saved interesting quotes and fun facts.
  • Saved meeting notes.
  • Saved notes from classes and courses I took over the years.
  • Recorded audio messages and reminders.
  • Researched inside my own notes (almost like a brain picking – easter egg unrelated link).
  • It helped me to connect ideas and save things I would research in the future.
  • Planned trips and organized travel guides and schedules.
  • Creating lists (so many lists!).
  • Saved information – phone numbers, business cards, names, addresses, etc.
  • Saved PDF files – bills, documents, books, etc.
  • Thought about new projects.
  • Helped me to bring up things from the past (almost like a time machine).
  • Writing letters and business quotes.
  • To Do lists (again, so many lists!).
  • Organized software licenses.
  • Collecting data for different projects.
  • Mapping where I’ve been and the things that were going through my mind.
  • Remembering everything (that was the point, wasn’t it?).

I’m sure I’m forgetting several things, but these were the main activities I relied on Evernote. Basically my life was in there. Now, let talk about the reasons why I sadly decided to “take my brain” out of this tool.

1. The company increased prices, but they are not really offering any new outstanding features. When I joined Evernote the top-tier plan costed $45.00/year. Now it’s about $70.00, but the features are pretty much the same.

What exactly am I paying more for now? For years the company was at the forefront of note-taking, scanning, search, reading, presentation and much more (even their apps were always featured first in every app store out there).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a web developer and I know that software is complex to build and it’s all about what you get from the platform (and I got a lot out of it). However, I think there should be a fare trade of money vs. features, especially if you (as a business) are raising prices.

I tried switching to the “Plus” plan for a year, but then I don’t get any of the OCR features for PDFs (one of the most important features for me). Moreover, I was getting some annoying notifications to upgrade.

2. The recent privacy policy issue. I know… Evernote pulled back on their strategy (but not entirely). Basically, users will have to opt-out if they don’t want Evernote to present them with these new machine learning features the company will introduce in the coming future.

This is a complicated issue for me, because it is directly related with trust. I always saw Evernote as a massive alternative to a world consumed by analytics and data mining. Let’s face it… a Google world. Evernote had a basic principle: we are not going to read your content. It is yours and it will always be like that. We are not going to use it to present you with ads and we are not going to sell your information to other providers.

The best example of how they committed to this strategy was with the Wall Street Journal partnership. Even though Evernote was “looking” at the content, the company did it in a very intelligent and elegant way, showing users the related content exactly when it was needed or it was appropriate. It worked really well for journalists for example, and it fits the overhaul strategy the company was pursuing.

But this new announcement for their privacy policy (and the fact they didn’t think it was an issue until the community revoked it ferociously) made me pause and think about their decision-making processes and their future as a business.

3. Phil Libin stepping down as CEO and eventually stepping down as chairman of the board was very surprising to me. Now, let’s be clear again, there are a lot of people (Evernote users) that were actually pleased when this happened.

But I was a fan and follower of Phil and his vision, and seeing him stepping down from these main positions was very odd and frustrating. His main idea that was very attractive to me was to build the “100 year startup”. That alone made me think that Evernote was fully committed with this very unique vision of productivity software for everyone, and specifically for knowledge workers, like me. Furthermore, I would not have to look for other software again. That was it, I would stick with Evernote forever, because it felt right.

I met Phil once back in Brazil, when the company was starting to expand there. He said something that stuck with me in that event. He said: “there’s a very specific power user for Evernote. These are people that don’t have a clear separation between their professional and personal lives”. It felt as if Phil was talking directly with me. I was their power user and that’s why Evernote felt like an extension of my brain.

But for some reason (added with those I just mentioned above) this “magical connection” has been lost over time. Furthermore, the trust I had in this company has faded, and it feels deeply sad in some weird way. It’s almost like loosing a good friend. I know, I’m weird. I don’t really care what you think of me.

I still haven’t found a replacement for Evernote and I think it will be very difficult to find just one piece of software that will work in the same way. I have tried all note-taking apps that are available out there, but none feels quite the same so far. Plus, I’m splitting my content into multiple platforms and it feels very messy at this point.

My hope is that in some way this website will fill in the gaps and will allow me to store and express some of the things I kept inside Evernote. But for the private content, PDF reading and many other useful features I loved, there’s still no real contenders so far.

If you are in the same boat as me (which I think it’s unlikely), please share some of your solutions or alternatives in the comment section below (and please don’t suggest OneNote).