I am done with Evernote.
November 19, 2020 8:09 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for Evernote alternatives. Snowflake-y requirements in the details.

I've been a paying Evernote user for more than a decade, and I'm finally fed up with the constant backward steps in user experience that I'm looking for an alternative. I'm totally down for paying for an alternative, but it needs to meet the following criteria:

* Paradoxically, I do most of my notes handwritten, so the new service would need to support uploads of scans (PDF). Bonus points if the service has OCR support.
* Be cross-platform. For my purposes, talking iOS/iPadOS/Mac/Windows (though if it supports Windows via web, that's fine, too - probably switching that machine to a Mac at some point.)
* Robust note searching.
* Web Clipping, ideally with Opera and Safari suppport.
* Some sort of contextual organization, like Evernote's folder structure (I like to make folders for each client/project, then drop notes from meetings, etc., into those folders).
* Be able to import several thousand notes from Evernote.
* Ideally NOT be owned Google, Microsoft, et al - I don't want my notes' data harvested.

Send me your suggestions!
posted by po822000 to Technology (14 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Take a look at DevonThink. Mac app, offers a web interface to the documents in the most expensive version which is the only point-of-access for Windows. Offers iOS apps. Runs locally, so no data harvesting. It will offer to find related notes, can automagically categorize documents into folders based on what's already there.

Biggest downside is that it's not in the cloud, so unless you run a VPN into your home network, your access is limited to what you'vce synced to the iOS/iPadOS devices. Which isn't bad, it happens automagically once it's set up.
posted by neilbert at 8:34 AM on November 19, 2020

I'm not sure it satisfies all your requirements, but I've been using apple notes a lot. It is pre-installed on macos and ios and seemlessly syncs between devices. Also I believe you can access it through the web through icloud.com. Notes are stored encrypted as far as I know. I think it can store images, but not sure about PDFs. There are folders too. Don't know about the other stuff though...
posted by piyushnz at 8:43 AM on November 19, 2020

Microsoft OneNote hits all your requirements except for the last one.

However I would be surprised if they are doing anything nefarious with your notes. It's a paid product that gets sold to large corporations and other institutions that wouldn't be able to tolerate it. Look into the privacy terms yourself, but it seems like that's probably not the business model.
posted by vogon_poet at 9:37 AM on November 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

I would suggest Zoho Notebook


I've used it for a few years now on Mac / Win / iPhone / iPad / Android

Does not do OCR yet, but It does have some great features.
posted by I shot a fox in Skyrim and it made me sad at 9:42 AM on November 19, 2020

Adjacent to the note-taking program, if it doesn't have built-in OCR the OCR provided by the Rocketbook app is decent for (at least my) handwriting. (I do not know if they're using OCR from Google/Microsoft, though.) You do have to use their notebooks, but they're neat.

It either will add directly to a small selection of supported note taking apps, or email the text and image to you. Data goes app -> their upload/OCR servers -> your email/app, as far as I can tell.
posted by Anonymous Function at 10:42 AM on November 19, 2020

Apple's Notes app can attach/embed a PDF and even allow for 'editing' on say, an iPad; I don't think it does any kind of OCR, but I could be wrong.

I used scare quotes because (this was about two years ago), when I tried to mark up a PDF from Notes on an iPad, I ended up with some very odd combination of things that I really didn't care for. If I recall correctly, I ended up with PDFs that were marked up but the resolution dropped to the point of uselessness, plus I think I tried taking screenshots of unmodified PDFs and marking those up, but then not all of those images synced across all my devices (some seemed to flat out disappear). I haven't tried this again since then, so maybe those were one-time things or bugs that have been fixed.
posted by kimota at 2:40 PM on November 19, 2020

Joplin is a superb open source cross-platform note taking app worth trying out. Supports Linux/Mac/Windows/Android/iOS. You provide your own sync location (works with several including Dropbox, I use webDAV). There are several browser extensions for webclipping. You can attach files, use plaintext or markdown etc. Has an Evernote import function (i can't vouch for it, I fell out of love with Evernote many years ago). Best of all, you don't get locked in.
posted by quarterframer at 3:37 PM on November 19, 2020

Not sure about OCR, but I recently migrated to Notion and have been happy.
posted by hankscorpio83 at 4:11 PM on November 19, 2020

I've been down this path several times. I too was an Evernote pro user for 10+ years. I first moved to Bear, which is great for notetaking (if you like Markup) but not great for importing other file types. They can be embedded in notes but can't be notes on their own. Bear also has no OCR.

I tried switching to Apple Notes. I had high hopes and imported about 3000 notes, and Apple Notes just couldn't handle it. First it slowed down then it froze, over and over. Even after letting it sync overnight for a couple of nights. People who say Apple Notes is a good Evernote replacement must be talking about 500 notes, not 5000. Also - it's very, very difficult to get notes out of Apple Notes.

After checking out KeepIt (too slow), Notion (too confusing), Roam Research, Drafts, Microsoft One Note, and a handful of others, I ended up with Devonthink Pro. There are some pros and cons:

- I currently have close to 15k notes in Devonthink and it's very very fast. No delays anywhere, ever.
- You can add any file type (anything).
- You can create smart searches, filters, rules, etc. Very powerful.
- Great community of users and responsiveness from the company on their community boards.
- The app has been around for 10+ years and is in active development.
- You can download a demo that works for 150 hours so you can try it out.
- It's easy to get files out.
- You can INDEX files on your computer instead of importing them if you choose do.

- Their mobile app, Devonthink To Go, is currently terrible. The company says they are working on improving it but it's awful right now. I almost gave up because of it, but the Mac app is so much better than everything out there, I've decided to go with it and just wait for the upgrades.
- It's expensive. The Pro version is $200 and the iOS app is $14 plus $7 more for pro features. If it actually works, it's worth it.

Feel free to Mefi Mail me if I can help with anything.
posted by kdern at 6:57 PM on November 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

FWIW I have recently put my toes in the water of Joplin and similar to quarterframer above I jumped away from Evernote many years ago in favor of Google Drive. But now I am falling out of love with that, so I am moving into Joplin using my free Dropbox account for sharing (and therefore haven't used their Evernote=>Joplin conversion). I think it's worth giving a look, but only you can tell if it's right for you.
posted by forthright at 7:28 PM on November 19, 2020

I will say I was most intrigued by kdern's suggestion of DevonThink - but after viewing some Youtube and kicking tires, not sure if I can stand the mobile app given the cost requirements.

Gonna take Notion out for a spin and see where it takes me...
posted by po822000 at 2:05 PM on November 20, 2020

I love OneNote so much it hurts. I've been using it since 2003 and have 10s of thousands of pages in 8 notebooks, organized by subject. Pages within a notebook may be grouped into sections and sections may also be grouped. It gets my vote for best program ever developed for personal computers. Broke my heart when it Microsoft got rid of the stand-alone program, forcing users on to their cloud.

After checking into every app that seemed similar, I decided to stay with OneNote 2010, which is not connected to the 'net. There are always discs available on ebay for cheap.

It's hardly an ideal solution, but I truly believe the program is that good.
posted by she's not there at 7:17 PM on November 20, 2020

Apple Notes has OCR of scanned PDFs now – and it uses the first line of the text as the title of the note, which Evernote never implemented.
posted by nicwolff at 9:24 PM on November 20, 2020

I used to be an avid Evernote person, then tried OneNote, Google docs and eventually flat text files synced in Dropbox.

Now I recommend Joplin. I like it on my macbook, work ipad and personal android phone. Markdown took a little getting used to, but I find it really powerful with very little overhead.
posted by KevCed at 1:05 PM on November 28, 2020

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