Evernote alternatives for heavy note-takers
November 18, 2022 5:58 AM   Subscribe

I'm currently a heavy Evernote user and want to look at alternatives. We've had some good threads on notetaking/note management apps in the past, especially these threads from 2018: Notetaking app and Best note-taking app for serious note-takers? Since then, a couple of new products have entered the personal knowledge management market, like Roam, Obisidian, and maybe Notion. Details after the jump.

What is driving my search for an alternative? I recently got a new job with a very locked down IT environment and my work software is separated from my personal software - I'm now using OneNote in my day job and am now 100% Apple in my personal life. If I'm going to make a switch, this is a good time. Also, Evernote has been focusing on collaboration features in recent years, maybe trying to compete with Teams and ToDoist, and this week's news of the acquisition of Evernote by Bending Spoons gives me pause about its future (not for the first time).

I've been an Evernote user for 10+ years. I'm currently on a premium plan, and have a collection of 2700+ notes. My primary use cases for Evernote are clipping, annotating, and linking articles and book notes. Basically, a research tool in the Tiago Forte "Building a Second Brain" mold.

I'd like this thread to be useful for others, so I'm going to keep my requirements here general.
* web clipping (both from a desktop browser and via share button on a phone)
* tagging
* linking between notes
* capability to import an Evernote database without loss of tags and (ideally) internal links

I'm especially interested in hearing from users who are managing a lot of information (say, thousands of notes) and how you are using the tools. I'm also interested in hearing about other tools you might use to augment your notes database and how you use them. In my current workflow: raindrop.io for bookmarks (I just moved over from pinboard) and Standard Notes (used as a replacement for notepad in Windows and Apple notes on iOS). I've started using Scrivener this year to research and write 12 non-fiction articles in the 2,000 to 3,000 word range - so enough to scratch the surface of the research organization features there.
posted by BlueTongueLizard to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
I switched from Evernote to Craft last year—which I don’t see a lot of talk about, as well as the other note taking app I use on occasion, Milanote (which is more a visual approach, but works for my brain better).
posted by actionpact at 6:12 AM on November 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

I too use Craft, and I like it very much. But the big contender in the Mac environment is always DevonThink Pro. It has all of the navigation, organization, and retrieval features you will ever want.
posted by yclipse at 6:39 AM on November 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

A workmate introduced me to Notion and I've been using it for two months now. It allows for a lot of customisation and there are some excellent templates out there, which makes me happy for putting together little tracking systems. I use an Agile template Verve to manage separately my work and my home projects, and some other templates I've also customised. I like that it's very fast to draft structured notes with lots of moving parts anfd you can implement formulas and tiny plug-ins to more functions - or just type.

I would not use it mostly for document capture - mostly, I just save files in several large folders on my desktop which are backup to several clouds so I can search/add them easily. I got burned using Evernote which crashed and I was unable to retrieve stored files, so I prefer my docs and notes to be easily exported in their original formats.

Tagging and clipping on Notion is fine, much like Evernote.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 7:01 AM on November 18, 2022 [3 favorites]

I've always thought Evernote was garbage and never liked using it.

I use Bundled Notes on Android and on the web with my Macbook. The developer is launching an iOS version next year, I believe. For me, it replaced Keep, Simplenote, and OneNote.
posted by dobbs at 7:10 AM on November 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Obsidian is my favorite everything-note-taking toolset these days, but as more a large collection of DIY tools than unified-vision-type software does require extra steps to be aware of.

Migrating from Evernote to Obsidian may be of interest to explore--the Yarle tool it references was made specifically for Evernote users looking to get their content converted into the markdown format required, preserving links etc.

There's various community plugin tools for web clipping, but that bullet point is again a bit of a potential entry in the con column of pro/con with the DIY level.

Tagging is built into core Obsidian, and of course cross-linking and transclusion of notes is where its approach to things shines.

The Longform plugin has essentially replaced Scrivener for me--allows for both the basic drafting by freely arrangeable snippets, but with the added power of easy cross-linking with research/related non-draft notes that was the real missing piece for my patterns of use; Scrivener would necessarily have things like notes about a character in a story separated, but now seamlessly able to have the character names themselves jump directly to the associated notes making it all just a touch more seamless.
posted by Drastic at 7:23 AM on November 18, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: This year, I experimented with switching from Evernote to Joplin. And now, I've entirely switched. The only thing I miss is being able to email a note into Evernote. Joplin supports importing notes and notebooks from Evernote. Here is a pretty comprehensive guide to migrating from Evernote to Joplin.
posted by smyles at 9:06 AM on November 18, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Years ago I migrated from Evernote to Google Drive, and more recently I went from Google Drive (via Google Takeout and pandoc) to Joplin. Joplin has a lot of options for where your data lives, mine is in Dropbox. It's based on Markdown. Joplin also has a good plugin for Firefox which does a nice job of exporting the Web page to Markdown in your specified folder in Joplin (you pick that in the dialog, it's not constant).

The only caution I would give is that you can't really dump everything into Joplin like you might have been accustomed to with Evernote. But I do have a reasonably large Notebooks tree, and many documents in each. Documents can also be tagged and there is a Tag tree. But just from following the forum I get the impression it gets unwieldy if you just dump loads of docs in every day. I don't know this personally but I also gather there's an Evernote to Joplin conversion (as symyles points out above).
posted by forthright at 11:29 AM on November 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Apple Notes are also available through iCloud.com, it’s about 80% as good as the real Apple Notes.
posted by Null Pointer and the Exceptions at 9:50 PM on November 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you ask.metafilter, you did not disappoint with your suggestions! A couple of these applications were not on my radar screen at all. For future readers, a summary, a couple of observations, and what I ended up doing.

Summary of suggestions:
  • Craft - https://www.craft.do/
  • Milanote - https://milanote.com/
  • Bundled Notes - https://bundlednotes.com/
  • Joplin - https://joplinapp.org/
  • Obsidian - https://obsidian.md/
  • Notion - https://www.notion.so/
  • DevonThink Pro - https://www.devontechnologies.com/apps/devonthink
Observation #1 - every one of these apps has is Markdown aware or Markdown native. I didn't think to mention Markdown in my question, but that jumped out at me when I started looking at the suggestions. At a minimum, everyone has implemented a Markdown import/export. The migration cost to move between apps looks to be very light. Also, one of my Evernote pet peeves is no internal linking; Markdown solves that problem.

Observation #2 - if you are thinking about leaving Evernote, and your destination app doesn't natively support the Evernote file format, you can still export your Evernote notebooks and convert to Markdown, which should allow you to import to any of the above tools. The Migrating from Evernote to Obsidian blog post that Drastic linked above could be described as Migrating from Evernote to Markdown; the Obsidian step is just copying the resulting Markdown files into the Obsidian vault directory.

The best fits for me looked to be Obisidan and Joplin. For Obsidian, I installed the client and went through the migration with Yarle described in Migrating from Evernote to Obsidian. The author helpfully wrote a wrapper script for Yarle and put it up on github. It was pretty straightforward, for certain values of straightforward - you need to be comfortable running scripts from a command line and installing node.js as a pre-req. Once I worked out some permissions, I migrated a couple of notebooks and they worked first try with no errors. I went in search of a browser extension for clipping web pages into Obsidian. There isn't an obvious first pick and it appeared that the better best was to use a clip-to-Markdown extension like Markdownload I want to emphasize Drastic's comment that Obisidian is "more a large collection of DIY tools than unified-vision-type software does require extra steps to be aware of."

Joplin was a great out of the box experience. I was surprised to see that it is open source and driven largely by one developer - it is a very polished product. It understands the Evernote .enex files and you can import them directly. The editor uses native Markdown editing. The browser extension for clipping seems to work well. It felt like this one was the closest "just like Evernote" experience (and I mean the good parts of Evernote).

I'm not quite ready to abandon Evernote right this minute. I'll spend a few more hours using Obsidian and Joplin to clip and curate new content and get the hang of these apps. Based on what I've seen so far, I expect I'll be moving to Joplin sometime soon.
posted by BlueTongueLizard at 2:53 PM on November 19, 2022 [9 favorites]

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