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Evernote, the bug-ridden elephant (jasonkincaid.net)
451 points by ssclafani on Jan 4, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 246 comments

I've been an avid Evernote user since the beginning (one of the first few thousand users). I use it to record all sorts of ideas, thoughts, notes, reminders, research, and references.

One year ago, my girlfriend was using Evernote (on my suggestion) to write her travel journal on our trip to Southeast Asia. I saw her note sync a bunch of times (the iOS app shows a little blue arrow when it's uploading). But one day she opened it and the note was gone. I contacted support but they couldn't do anything. (They offered her a year of free Premium service and "apologized for the inconvenience".)

Since then, I've stopped recommending it to people because I don't want to feel personally responsible if they lose notes too. I also have a tinge of doubt every time I record important information. My biggest worry is Evernote quietly losing a note, because once I record something in Evernote I typically push it from my internal memory.

On top of that, their iOS app is incredibly slow. When I want to quickly jot an idea down, it's very inconvenient.

I've started using SimpleNote lately, which is far faster, but I don't know to what extent I should trust it to keep my data safely.

This happened to me early in Evernote's rise with a very important note. I don't know, shame on me for trusting software I guess? I kept using Evernote for awhile, but gradually I fully transitioned to OneNote which fit my graduate school needs a bit more, and ultimately became more pivotal to my life. I'm now one of the biggest OneNote advocates, a rarity for me with most software I like.

OneNote is fabulous. The way you can do multi-user stuff with just a shared folder is so much better than the cloud.

I use it at work, I would love to have it at home but it is not available for OS X which I do not want to understand why

MS Word on OS X has very OneNote-like features, just choose the Notebook view. I haven't used OneNote proper in a very long time (2007?), but notebook view Word 2011 does automatic lists and you can even doodle.

Might be worth a look.

You can use the web-app version of OneNote on OSX. There is also a third party client called outline (http://outline.ws) which now supports writing to OneNote files.

I love it! It's one of the things that keeps me using Windows. I think its just too heavy for casual users and mobile support is meh. But it's not the kind of software I'd use on a mobile device really.

Exact same thing happened to me last week, took notes on a one hour video, clearly saw the online app sync on multiple occasions, after closing the note, only the first 15 minutes of my content was saved. Incredibly irritating.

I tried Evernote as well, and it always felt bulky. I've since migrated to Fetchnotes (http://www.fetchnotes.com)

I dislike hearing software described using broad adjectives like "bulky" without supporting analysis. Does this mean it contains features you find useless? (Which ones?) Do you find the interface unintuitive? Or does it run too slowly? One person's "bulk" or "bloat" or "cruft" is another person's key feature, so it seems to me it is important to specify what exactly the bulk consists of. Without more detail, it's akin to an ad hominem.

Ah. Let me explain the "bulk" of Evernote.

1. iOS: App has always been slow! Syncing takes time(should be seamless), animations hang up in between and there is sometimes seconds of gap between a tap and result. When you search, it takes lot of time (I have iPhone 4S and iPad 4th gen, same on both, so not a device issue!) A handy feature is document mode for taking pics but it chokes on multiple images. Many times, it crops images randomly and throws them out of order.

2. Windows: Features and apps are not well thought out. They have Skitch for screnshots but it sends screenshots ONLY to default notebook. I want to keep them in a different notebook but it won't let me customize. The editing is very hard and you can't paste HTML text reliably. Windows client has many good shortcuts for sure, but it also has unusual behaviour like tab not taking you to next relevant field (enter a note title, hit tab, suddenly you have selected the notebook!)

3. Web: Web clipper has improved in latest version but still has lot of issues like not syncing PDFs and images(happened twice to me, had to manually copy image). Going to PDF (Chrome) and then Saving it will not work. It will sync indefinitely. But right click the link and boom, it syncs!

While I appreciate the features, they are bulky in the sense that sometimes, they get in the way and don't let me take notes quickly. In fact, I have setup a different app(Drafts) on both iPad and iPhone to take notes in Markdown and then save to Evernote, saves me from lot of headache and data is never lost as it is at different places.

Edit: Formatting.

You took the words right out of my mouth.

The Fetchnotes site is so slow I migrated away from it before it even loaded. I went back to see what SaaS app could possibly have such a slow website and components were trickling in one at a time.

Hey! Alex from Fetchnotes here — we actually JUST released a new web app that is way faster. Check it out and let me know if it's still giving you trouble: www.fetchnotes.com

Sometimes you'll get hosed because of the attachment upload limit, which does not degrade gracefully. Originally, it just logged that you couldn't sync. When they did add a notification, it was something along the line of "sux2bu [ok]".

I know the Mac App Store and download versions are different (never install the MAS version, just add the download version to your puppet setup.). As the Windows and iOS versions are obviously different as well, I have this feeling there's a bunch of #ifdef hell in their builds that doesn't get tested well before releases.

Their iOS app has always been this slow. However, sync across platforms is quite important to me. So, I have set up Drafts for fast note taking and shortcuts to send notes to relevant notebook.

Since notes are saved in Drafts as well, there is very low chance of losing them. Plus, Drafts has markdown support!

I am sure you'll find this setup better for notes!

As a paying user for years, I've had Evernote lose data many times -- sometimes important, irreplaceable data that I hadn't yet had time to back up elsewhere.

Evernote is some of the very worst software that has ever survived more than a few months on my computer without being deleted. Horrible show-stopping crash/data loss bugs are the norm, and have been increasing steadily as they add feature after feature with apparently no quality control at all.

Fundamentally, the job Evernote does (for me, but I assume also for most users with thousands of notes) is too important to delegate to a halfassed vc-backed startup that flies its engineers economy and has never heard of an integration test.

But replacing it isn't yet possible. It syncs across all platforms I use, does OCR of everything in both Japanese and English, including handwriting and text in photos, works out of the box with all my paper document scanners... There's just nothing else on the market (or if there is, PLEASE TELL ME!!) that does all that.

So Evernote hasn't lost me as a customer, yet. They've seemingly made a spectacular effort to do so, but... Life without Evernote would still be, on balance, more painful than with it.

But life with it is indeed pretty fucking painful, too.

I don't understand how you can lose important irreplaceable data but still continue to use the product. Evernote lost a set of conference notes for me. It wasn't the most important thing in the world, but it was something I went through the effort of capturing and then wasn't able to get to when I needed it. That was enough for me. If I can't trust it, it's useless.

OneNote is getting seriously good now and syncs to android and web.

Still waiting for a native linux client though :-)

I knew things were going south with Evernote when they added a store that sells fucking socks and backpacks while the Mac client still couldn't edit existing tables in documents. The table editing limitation was eventually fixed but much more serious problems have since cropped up.

Sync issues and the unusably slow iOS client caused me to drop it for personal use a few months ago, now it's relegated to only work notes with the desktop client. For this really basic purpose it's alright, it has a few major annoyances and the interface has gotten much worse over the years but it'd be too much effort to migrate to something else and keep my tags/notebooks.

This is not a healthy relationship I have with Evernote Corporation. I committed to their product but they didn't commit to me.

I use DEVONthink Pro Office from www.devontechnologies.com to collect, tag and organize snapshots of web pages (either as webarchive, pdf or instapaperized pdfs), referenced OmniOutliner documents containing more complex notes, ocr'ed screenshots and other research stuff. It is more a conventional or even traditional app than a cloud based service. Imported that .enex file when I left Evernote.

Use time machine or something like time machine to back up your data. Then you can recover it when Evernote craps up later.

I've tried Evernote for a while with various strategies. Time machine saves you if you have an always on machine with Evernote permanently syncing. If you can't have that setup, for everything you do on the go or not on your mac, you won't have a back up.

Depending on how you do it IFTTT can help save notes to other services (you have to save the note in authorized notebook if I remember well) but it's still a PITA.

Globally having Evernote feed another system reliably seems to be really tricky, as nowadays having two cloud based system play nice with each other is usually a world of hurts.

I remember the day a year and a half ago when I went out apartment hunting in a new town, looking at my notes on apartments in Evernote's Android app. It was a complex note, with lots of text in deep hierarchies of bullet points. At one point I tried to edit it, and after a few visual glitches, the text of the note disappeared. Then it synced, and there was no undo or history option in the app as far as I could tell.

I was able to get the note back by driving back to my hotel, retrieving my laptop where the note was cached, and opening Evernote while offline to ensure it wouldn't sync and wipe out that copy. Pretty frustrating. I've learned some tough lessons about cloud services and free stuff.

I use nvALT (http://brettterpstra.com/projects/nvalt/). It's a Notational Velocity fork that syncs with SimpleNote. Since it saves the notes in text files, I have put them in a Dropbox folder. The notes directory is itself a git repo which is committed every hour with a cron job on my laptop. It's actually working out pretty well. I have double backup (Dropbox and Simplenote) with infinite versions through Git. If any one of these services loses my notes, I still have them on my laptop. I could also push it go Github, but I haven't gone that far yet.

However, this setup doesn't do pictures and audio notes, but I don't really need them very much.

I don't think it's a good idea to store a .git folder in Dropbox. Dropbox doesn't know how to resolve conflicts deep in git internal files and will break your repository.

I love nvAlt though. Been using it for years and never had any data loss.

I actually had my entire workspace in Dropbox for the fear of losing data, and Dropbox handled git fine. As long as the files are small enough, Dropbox does a great job of getting the file up as fast as possible so that conflicts generally don't happen.

Still risky though.

Since most of my changes to the notes happen on one device (my laptop), I have never had any conflicts. Using nvALT on different computers sharing the same notes folder through Dropbox does have some problems which the nvALT website recognizes as well.

Someone should realise that "syncing a doc to nothing" is 99.9% of times, the result of a bug

Nobody does that, they delete the doc, they don't erase the contents of it

Generally true but my grocery shopping Evernote note is an exception: I erase the contents and add some new content.

I'm hoping someone does a cloud service for note syncing using a code control back-end. I would really love to be able to look at the changes and rollback a change or delete.

Microsoft already has. OneNote supports page versioning, edit history, and deleted pages go into a 'Recycling Bin' for 30 days before being deleted permanently. If you sign into OneNote with a Microsoft account, you get auto-syncing to SkyDrive.

They also have pretty snazzy Android and iOS apps for OneNote, although IIRC the mobile apps require an Office 365 subscription.

Out of everything that comes out of Redmond, OneNote is definitely one of the best consumer products.

Though OneNote lacks the integration of Evernote. Evernote is integrated with many services and apps (IFTTT, Drafts, many other writing apps) which OneNote lacks.

What I'm using: org-mode + MobileOrg[1] + Dropbox, and a few times a day checking my .org files into a Bitbucket private repo.

And it's all free! Though obviously you could use paid Dropbox and Bitbucket/GitHub accounts as well.

Until fairly recently I used OmniFocus and Evernote, in conjunction with their mobile offerings, but I don't think I'll be looking back anytime soon.

[1] http://orgmode.org/

[&] http://mobileorg.ncogni.to/

+1 for Orgmode. Its wealth of features is astonishing. And it just gets better and better; the community supporting it and driving ongoing development is fanatically committed. Bonus: it comes with a pretty good text editor. :)

A bit disappointing that mobileorg hasn't been updated since June

Oh, MobileOrg is back! That's great news!

Just wondering. A simple git frontend could do that pretty well - just strip it down to message-free one file commits.

That enables you to display the history of a file by handling the output of <git log $file> without confusing the user too much (it's linear, just like his changes), you get full reverts, syncing (push if you have internet), multi-device-support (clone). You'd even be independent from the actual repository host with the app itself, since git doesn't care about it's remote location.

It sounds like a pretty good idea just from thinking about it for a minute.

There was a post yesterday about using private gists as to-do lists.

I'm working on an android app that will sync to a git repository. The very basics are working. Been putting off the sync settings UI, though.

It isn't particularly robust but if you pay for prime, Evernote offers version control (on some platforms/clients).

google docs?

I find it a bit clunky for simple text notes - I wish they had a text document type.

I did lose one Google doc once (a drawing). About a year or so later it turned up again, really odd.

I really hope Evernote's take-away from this is that they need to scale back development on all their auxiliary stuff - hello, food, whatever, as well as all but the most critical feature requests, and focus as much as possible on making the core experience bulletproof. I would _hate_ to have to give up Evernote, but like others here, am extremely apprehensive about the possibility of losing data.

One stop-gap they might be able to implement quickly would be a scale-up of their version control. They could throw money (storage space and bandwidth) at the problem, increasing the number and frequency of revisions stored. Certainly not as good as preventing loss in the first place, but reliable versioning would help minimize catastrophic loss in the meantime, and would still continue to be valuable once things are more stable.

Phil: "We have independent teams building all the different versions. They compete with each other to see who can make the best version. They steal each others idea and they leap frog each other. We don’t have consistency as a goal. There is no goal to make different versions of Evernote consistent with each other. Cause I think what happens if you make consistency a goal, you wind up achieving it though mediocracy. Like you achieve consistency by having everything equally crappy." <http://thisweekinstartups.com/thisweekin-startups/phil-libin...

When I heard Phil talk about this at SXSW (as part of his talk about making Evernote a 100-year startup, I believe), I thought it was neat. But I wonder if this strategy is undermining reliability.

This is the worst idea ever but it explains a lot. I had not heard this before, and it's enough to make me hedge my bets and start trying to export notes into mmd files in nested directories (which one cannot do at present with stacks) and use Mavericks tagging.

I would definitely call this an anti-pattern for cross-platform software.

This exactly! Right now, I am a premium user as well but their iOS apps are way slow. I remember that there was a time when their iOS app used to stutter during rotating animation on iPad 4th Gen (most powerful iOS device a year back!).

The other thing is that there is no true Evernote alternative. I have iOS and Windows devices but I travel and internet is flaky sometimes. There's nothing that will store all my images, screenshots(Skitch), handwritten notes (with OCR!) and use it natively across platforms!

Not to mention the app UIs change every week. For example yesterday they added smileys to Skitch. It is utterly frustrating that every time I open the Evernote app or Skitch app to use it, the button I am looking for has disappeared and another button has taken its place.

Does any Evernote alternative have OCR? That's the only feature keeping me using it.

I'm an Evernote Premium user, but I convinced my wife not to start using it because of this apparent misallocation of resources. I've had data loss within the (slow) core app, and the editor frustrates me; thus I find it kind of frustrating that as near as I can tell, most of the development effort is focused on very marginally useful features.

This. I'm always particularly annoyed by the tech support when I've tried to submit bug reports. One time I found a reproducible bug in the Chrome Clipper and even offered a possible explanation/solution for what was happening and the person first insisted that it wasn't happening. I couldn't believe he was telling me what wasn't happening on my screen when I was looking right at it. I pay for prime so next requested to be put in contact with a developer to submit a bug report and was denied. Finally like the author they asked me for activity logs which I also refused to fork over because they seemed too personal so instead I just put up with a buggy clipper. I wish they focused less on selling socks and more on the software. [https://www.evernote.com/market/feature/socks?sku=SOCK00106]

Where I work, we have fans that have asked us for branded apparel. We have to tell them that despite multiple reqeusts from customers, we don't sell them. Your criticism on "focusing on socks" is one of the reasons we haven't done so, despite the fact that nearly all of the "socks" work would be outsourced or, at least obviously, not done by engineers.

Please take a long look at the linked page. While i agree with the general sentiment of your post, it's quite obvious that that product page cost quite a bit of money.

I've been a paying customer almost from the start. Unfortunately, as Evernote has expanded, it's gotten less and less useful for me.

Their web clipper is great, the best around IMO (especially since Clipboard folded), however there's no way to exclude those clipped pages from search, so after using the clipper for a while, searching for just about any phrase is mostly irrelevant results. Ideally it'd be possible to filter by source or have default searches to exclude certain types of content.

Another example of this is that I have a well-curated and geotagged Travel Notebook (this was actually much harder than it should have been since their geocoder is picky and you can't really massage it). I'd love to be able to see these notes on a map, but the "Atlas" map view that Evernote provides doesn't let you filter by notebook (or anything really).

Evernote does a great job of making it fairly painless to capture notes and despite the author's problems, has generally worked well on syncing everything. It's never done a good job for triaging/filing/finding or organizing notes though, and it seems to simply get worse as you use it more (and with each redesign). Evernote seems to want to encourage you to put "everything" into it, but as you do, it becomes harder and harder to get what you need out of it. Honestly, I'm baffled at how the Evernote devs/designers use it.

>Unfortunately, as Evernote has expanded, it's gotten less and less useful for me.

This has been my main complaint with Evernote. When I first found the software it was merely a way to capture notes, URLs, etc. As it keeps expanding its feature set and trying to make the tools more useful it keeps getting worse and worse.

I'm a premium Evernote member, but I've also had lots of problems.

The iOS app is slow and clunky. I hate using it. It crashes all the time, especially when I'm trying to take snapshots of a document with many pages (and all previous snapshots simply disappear).

The desktop app is better, but they really could improve the writing experience. Pasting HTML blobs is impossible, and so is formatting my notes the way I want (I use TextExpander for sanity).

Evernote is great when it works, but they really need to fix their stability and bug problems.

As an iOS developer this pains me to hear. It's not rocket science to make a stable highly dependable app. I don't use Evernote or know anything about how they do things, but I track all of our apps' crashes on a daily basis (lately almost none) and do extensively performance testing before release. Our QA staff is awesome and lets nothing get by them. I don't understand how other companies can't do this as well. Our apps are complex, have a complex mobile API on the server side and do ecommerce. So I really can't understand why this is so lame.

While this post must be pretty distressing for the Evernote team, their response time is pretty impressive! Within a couple hours of this post being published, Phil Libin has already contacted him. See the edit at the end of the post:

"Update: Evernote CEO Phil Libin contacted me and we spoke about the issues described. He apologized, saying the post rings true and that there is a lot of work to be done both on the application and service fronts — and that he hopes my impression will be reversed a few months from now."

Hi, OP here. It was very gracious of him, but I should note that I've met Phil several times over the years (including while I was formerly a TechCrunch reporter), which I suspect had something to do with the speed.

And also if you are having this sort of problem you need to proactively reach out to all customers, not just one...

OP stands for Original Poster? (I know it's the Post's author, just trying to catch the acronym because I see this often on HN).


Impressive in some sense, but also rather disturbing when the CEO of Evernote admits that the product basically doesn't work.

I've always found Evernote to be clunky, so I don't use it, and now I know it's buggy as hell and loses (by admission of their CEO) and I feel good about my decision to push people away from Evernote.

I found it rather reassuring. I was expecting a simple "sorry, here's a small freebie to make you happy" but the CEO recognizing the problems is exactly how to make me think they might actually fix them soonish.

I understand your feeling. On the other hand, what we get a lot of in this industry (every industry, actually) is a CEO who will not admit that the product has problems, even though it clearly does. So I'm encouraged. Although I will also probably be migrating my data out of Evernote this weekend. But I'll keep an eye on it, and perhaps get back into it later if they improve and I haven't come up with something better in the meantime.

Another paying anxious victim here. I'm anxious to the point that I've kept a separate copy of notes I add to evernote on my local machine as well. Recently, I've limited myself to using it as a glorified bookmarker and am questioning my own sanity in paying for a service like evernote.

The kind of response you're talking about is not enough. This kind of speed of response in addressing the issue must have been given when the OP filed the report, not only when he decided to go public with it.

Given that the technology required for evernote isn't advanced or cutting edge or experimental researchy stuff, I find the bug rate appalling.

It sounds like they probably don't have a comprehensive test suite. Or perhaps they don't have a test suite at all.

> their response time is pretty impressive

That's because it's PR triage rather than actually addressing the issue. It shows they are listening and care about their image, which is good, but not much more.

If you store data in a format that's not future proof, using software that's not open source, then you don't really get to complain when your data disappears. Especially if you're not storing the files locally and making regular backups.

FWIW, on OSX Evernote stores everything locally in a future-proof format.

They use a directory tree, with one directory per note. Each note has HTML file, all supporting files, an "enml" version of the HTML file (i.e. a HTML-like XML document), and XML documents containing character recognition data.

The local indexes are in lucene format. (Specifically clucene.)

You will also find a sqlite3 database with additional metadata.

If you store anything you care about in Evernote, I'd highly recommend backing this up. On OSX it will be in within one of these two directories, depending on which version you're running:

    ~/Library/Application Support/Evernote 

     ~/Library/Containers/com.evernote.Evernote/Data/Library/Application Support/Evernote

If you are paying for it you do get to complain.

Unfortunately, you're not paying enough for your complaints to matter. Evernote has made it fairly clear that they believe the software is adequate at this point and have been seeking growth through partnerships with other 'organizational' tools such as scanners (with a neutered version of the lovely ScanSnap) and post-it notes with magic colors.

I have this weird spread between org-mode and Evernote, mainly because Evernote is usable on my phone.

Why is this not the top comment?

Because it's a typical useless comment from someone who doesn't use the service. It doesn't really contribute to the conversation around Evernote. It simply says "if you're not doing what I'm doing then don't complain about what you picked"

Because complaining publicly is one way to put pressure on the proprietary companies to improve their offering and the way they handle user data.

I think this is a direct consequence of how thinly they're spreading themselves out across multiple platforms. They have a native app for every mobile and computer platform, along with web, plugins for every major browser, and then the other apps - skitch, penultimate, clearly, hello, etc...

It truly is in the face of the "do one thing and do it well" mindset that many other companies subscribe to. It's a shame too, because I love Evernote. I truly do live in it... true to Phil's vision, my mind is thoroughly mapped out throughout my Evernote account.

Doesn't Linux count as a major platform? I don't understand that with all the funding they have that they can't hire a developer work on a linux app.

And see Dropbox as an example of something which supports every major platform WITHOUT losing data losing bugs.

Agreed, I was surprised to see that they have integrated with Microsoft Outlook.

And the shop selling wallets and backpacks.

I also love Evernote, and rely on it for a lot.

But even putting aside these syncing issues, it's a really terribly-designed piece of software There are so many issues with it, UI-wise, that is just bugs the hell out of me. (See note below for an example of a feature designed badly).

Still, Evernote fills a need I have that unfortunately there is no other solution for. And while it's taking a long time, it is gradually improving. So I'm still hoping that, one day, Evernote fulfils its destiny and becomes as amazing as it could be.

Note: Example of a badly deigned feature: tagging support is crazy-bad - you can tag things, and you can even organise tags into a tag hierarchy - except, no you can't, because it's only supported on some platforms. And the "support" for it is purely visual - selecting a "parent" tag doesn't auto-select the child tags, so it is basically no help. So let's go to solution 2, which is to tag things with a prefix, like "History\Middle Ages" and "History\US". But now, their generally awesome tag-completer will be annoying, since it will force you to type "History\" before getting to the point. So lets reverse tag it, like "US (History)". No, that wont' work, since you can search tags by prefix (e.g. search for anything with a tag starting with "History") but not by tag suffix. Even though, through the UI, you can do this, you can't do it with an actual search, so you can't select these tags.

Agreed. The complexity feels overwhelming at times, and yet all too often isn't flexible enough to do what I want.

So I've never used Evernote before, but after reading this article I decided to try it out since I know a lot of people who swear buy it. My first time user experience was awful... I immediately started creating test notebooks, test notes, etc just to get a feel for how it worked. Within seconds the app was freezing on me every time I tried to delete something (this was on a brand new iPad Air). I had to either rotate the device or put the app into the background in order to unfreeze it. This is a common scenario and I can't believe there isn't quality control for that. I'm a developer and I understand not having time for edge cases...but freezing on delete? I can repro it 100% of the time

I consider myself an informal evernote evangelist, but honestly, I kind of agree here. The new Safari web clipper is all sorts of buggy (and sometimes messes with websites and navigation).

And yes, the OS X client is quite slow and bulky. And I really don't appreciate not being able to resize the window to half of my screen (1440x900) size.

Hopefully there's an OS X client overhaul on its way?

Funny you should mention the web clipper, as I've been uninstalling it from all my browsers. It kept on inserting half-rendered HTML into random webpages I would visit.

That's not its only problem. I found Chrome would consistently make my laptop idle 8-10 degrees higher than it should have until I killed Evernote's web clipper.

Then I stopped using Evernote.

Hah, I just got that this morning in Safari. It only happens for me after I disable the extension, on tabs which I had open with the extension enabled. Apparently disabling the extension doesn't clean itself up properly on safari, and it leaves those broken <iframe>s at the bottom of the page around until you refresh it.

I have been a loyal Evernote premium payer since 2009, and using it even longer. For a long time I recommended it to friends but since have stopped. I have developed some concerns with it over the years.

1. Fear of data loss... it's probably the largest part of my mistrust of all these dang cloud services that want to control/own me or otherwise lock me into their service. I run a 99.999% uptime, extreme scale, SaaS business across multiple active/active data centers, I know exactly what it takes. It’s incredibly hard to do, and I don't trust anyone at a rapid growth company to do it right. In the ever constant scheduling battle between features and doing it right, features frequently end up winning, especially in consumer focused SaaS business with meaningless SLA’s. My Evernote library is clearly much much more important to me than it will ever be to Evernote. No amount of marketing spin will ever lead me to believe otherwise. This really is my own hangup though. At some point I may just get over this. To their credit, I have only ever lost a few notes in the 4-5 years I have been using the service.

2. Tight lock-in (the cynic in me always says it’s clearly engineered this way) to the platform, frustrating process to export my notes to another tool. This is a problem across the industry. Everyone playing the lock-in/stickiness game. Portability is key. A simple text export of my notes would go a long way to make me happy. I really don’t want html exports of my text notes.

3. Security of their cloud service...frankly, I don't trust anyone and wish I could store my evernote data on my own; self managed; self encrypted; shared storage platform. 2 factor was a nice step in the right direction. Self managed encryption keys is when I will stop whining about it… I understand this makes a lot of things hard, and am willing to forgo some features to get this feature.

4. Lack of reasonable support for Linux. Evernote is now the single sole tool keeping me from dumping my Mac and moving to linux... Yup, note-taking is that important to me. I have tried nevernote, everpad and the like, but they are still pretty weak. I understand this isn’t Evernote’s problem and Linux is a very small market, but its a big deal to me.

5. A frankly lousy text editor. Seriously, I keep expecting this to get better, and it just never quite gets there. And don't get me started on tabs and indenting. I often edit notes in mac textedit and then copy them into evernote. Not because TextEdit is great, but because its predictable and just works. I'm not looking for advanced features here.

6. Strange as this may sound (I may be using the tool wrong), I really hate marking things off my list like at the grocery store. It takes so dang long to mark off a list while pushing a shopping cart and fumbling with a phone. I now print my list out and cross things off with a pen because its so way less frustrating... This may be an edge side use case, but still... the phone apps (both droid and iPhone) are not wonderful.

I fully subscribe to the belief that I am a weirdo, and these are really just my perceptions and random thoughts. I have remained an active, albeit reluctant user, and at this point plan to stay that way for at least a little bit longer. I always used to joke that if evernote, things, and dropbox ever merged, I would happily pay double. These days though, I am looking to support my own stand alone instances of these types of tools without being tied to 3rd party cloudy services so tightly.

I agree with every single point you mentioned. You are not alone.

I'm very glad to know that other loyal Evernote Premium users are also experiencing these pain points. The forums seem to be mostly inhabited by diehard evernote preachers and most everyone else has no idea what the service actually does (which is very understandable — evernote is a tool with a TON of intended use cases)

They have anointed evangelists who do more to drive people away from the forum than offer any real help.

Hello! Evernote employee here, I first wanted to say thanks for posting. Its always good to hear from our users directly. I've been at Evernote for a while and it is still weird to see us show up on HN.

Anyways, I enjoyed your comments wanted to give my personal opinion & point of view for at least points 1 & 2.

1. You're right that scaling is very hard. If you want a closer look at it, we have a tech blog that even I can read and understand. https://blog.evernote.com/tech/ Perhaps the most reassuring thing I can say is that Evernote runs on Evernote. Err... maybe this is more clear, Evernote (the company) runs on Evernote (the service). We eat our own dog food as they say, which means I've lost count of how many water cooler conversations turn into "there's something weird that Evernote's doing on my computer..."

2. Our Mac and Windows apps let you export your notes into HTML (including resources). Both these apps run natively against local files so you could export if you were offline or if for some reason our service was down. We try to compete by making a great app and a great service. In fact, we don't make money unless we've done a good enough job for you to upgrade to Premium. It seems like your main concern is that your text-only notes export to HTML instead of plaintext, which is a fair point. One of the nice things HTML is that there are third party applications that can convert from HTML into a number of other formats, so we're relying on that if you want your notes in RTF or as a .txt or something else.

> third party applications that can convert from HTML into a number of other formats, so we're relying on that

You should fix that. Skip RTF, DOC, whatever. Just plain text is fine. Everything else can handle it.

The world needs to wake up and realize plain text is the alpha and the omega of language. Do that right first and make sure it's the last thing to fail.

A brief foray into the world of character encodings should teach you that there's really no such thing as plain text.

It's much easier to go from html2txt than the opposite.

Plain text loses much of the most important data that people store in notes. If I imagine my notes minus formatting... not pretty.

Why do I have to download the Mac or Windows apps in order to export the notes?

I agree with all your points. It's why I've used Evernote less and less over time. As for point 6, if you are on Mac/iOS, Clear App is a great way to handle the list issue when you are actually in the store.


I use Clear for my shopping all of the time. Since they've allowed us to use more characters I've even started noting the aisle numbers so I can look them up without trying to peer over everyone and walking up and down for ages.

I hate shopping, but this has certainly relieved some of the pain for me.

This may sound a little batty and is perhaps off-topic, but some time ago I bothered to do an unofficial upgrade of my galaxy s purely so I could install the Woolworths (Aus supermarket chain) Android app. It has the ability to create and store multiple shopping lists, and to sort lists by aisle for the store of your choice. Best feature for ninja strikes; get in and get out with maximum efficiency. I hate shopping.

Oh man, you've touched a nerve. Being in the UK, Woolworths has shut down :( I loved that chain. Pick-a-mix for the win.

Tesco has an app which tells you the aisle and which side to look on as well. It's pretty cool, but last time I used it, it was quite clunky.

Before you book your Aus plane ticket, you may be saddened to know the UK and Aus Woolworths are completely unrelated [1] and very different beasts :(

The Aus/NZ ones are much more like supermarkets, I went to one in NZ and sadly found Pick-a-mix was not a focal point at all.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F._W._Woolworth_Company

I recently replaced Evernote with the open source Zim: http://zim-wiki.org/

It's multiplatform, written in Pyhon, easily extensible and a truly fantastic piece of software that is well worth investigating.

Love zim wiki, use it every day, but: it still doesn't detect file change on disk. So after (1) edit on host A, (2) sync with git (or rsync or btsync...), (3) go to already open edit window on host B, you can end up editing a stale buffer, and then you have to merge manually.

Still better than the alternatives.

I tried Evernote a couple of times and always thought it was very weak especially when I couldn't even make a todo list. A good text editing experience is just just head-slappingly essential in a freaking note taking app.

I'm surprised that no-one has mentioned google docs. It has been continuously improving over the years. The features are very hacker friendly:

- cross platform - proxima nova font (yum) - in doc scripting interface - external api interface - stores a version history - top drawer real-time collaboration - searchable set of drive files - very reliable

Definitely very hacker friendly. My only complaint is lack of a good offline mode across all platforms but when online it ticks my boxes.

Thanks for condensing this. It's amazing how much it rings in sync with my worries regarding Evernote.

That means both that either both of us are weirdos, or a substantial part of Evernote's user base are in line with these concerns.

I'd love to see a private controlled answer to these services - some kind of owncloud-box with apps for various mobile platforms. F/OSS server software so I'm confident in it, and then paid/closed everything-else.

Then again, the challenge is that hackers love to hack, so we'll put up with kludgy mashed-up solutions instead of a nice one-stop-shop of convenience. Meanwhile, layman users are perfectly happy with the lock-in of modern webapps.

I'd like to see a bittorrent sync style app for note taking. Any syncing design that necessitates a central server is flawed.

A central server just ensures that all your other devices always have something that's turned on to sync to, and that there's a webserver for the webapp-based clients. It can still be a P2P protocol actually synchronizing the files.

Yes, exactly my point. The server should be just another p2p client that's never turned off. That sort of architecture means that you can shift easily from server to server, and you can host it yourself or have someone else host it. With an architecture like evernote you are always locked in to a certain degree, regardless of how easy it is to get your data out, because moving servers also means moving platforms.

Self managed encryption keys is not "hard" any more than any other secure web service. I can't imagine why you think that this would have any effect on features other than from a cost benefit perspective.

Linux support is fine, if you're willing to accept HTML5 and JavaScript executing who knows what in your browser.

If evernote can't make a good text editor with HTML5 and JavaScript then it proves that apps in the browser is a dead end. Text editor is basically, the "cost of entry" and if an entire team focused on that single feature can't deliver it after years, well... I'm not really surprised given the state of JavaScript (collectively ruined by Mozilla's lack of resources and Google's ill will) and HTML5 (collectively ruined by nobody giving a shit about the language before their own interests).

Given the crumbling of infrastructure of the web, I'm kind of surprised anyone still uses the internet at all for anything more important than facebook and tabloid news. Maybe nobody does?

I'm an evernote user too. I use it's very basic free account and I never had any problem. But I to edit notes rarely and don't depend on it.

However, given your level of expertise not finding a note-taking solution, seems ridiculous. Doesn't feel like a real problem. I never understood how a note-keeping application can attract that kind of money Evernote does, but then again there are many things I don't understand.

However, given today's tools, taking notes can be done using any level of encryption, privacy you need. Seriously, that's not a big problem for a tech savvy user.

ps. Caring about privacy (at that level) and using cloud services, other than Owncloud hosted in a server you alone have physical access is silly :-)

The cool thing about note-taking apps is that you can stuff tons of lists of little things in there over years, and it's all searchable. Evernote lets you put in photos, snippets of content from webpages and so on. Just copy & paste, and then it's available (and findable!) whenever you need it. Eventually you have a huge amount of content in there which is maximally relevant to you.

Doesn't feel like a real problem.

It is and it isn't. I have a private server on the Inter-tubes, and keep files in sync via version control software on multiple devices.

However, having a nice, slick system, with support for multiple platforms (especially for phones) is not a trivial amount of work.

I'd like to use Evernote, but I don't trust them with this kind of data.

I have never used evernote, so I can't say anything about your use case, but wrt point 2, you should give http://workflowy.com a try.

What is Workflowy? The page is just asking for me to signup without providing any details on what it is, and then there is a bunch of people saying how great it is.

I agree, their pre-signup information is lacking. No screenshots, no pricing info, no "what the hell is it", just a signup form.

I signed up recently after seeing repeated recommendations on HN however and its actually very good and I've started using it quite a bit already. I'm not sure that I could explain it sufficiently here so I'll just say try signing up and give it a go (it didn't ask me to even confirm my email address so getting started was pretty quick).

Umm there is a video demo and links?


That's not helpful. I'll summarize that page.

From: How to Plan your Wedding...without going insane

1. Sign up for WorkFlowy 2. Create a project list and 'zoom in.' 3. Create sections for the major components of your project 4. Fill out the details 5. Use #tags and @tags to filter your lists 6. Share your list with your collaborators 7. Mark things as complete as you finish them. 8. Complete your project

Essentially? An online outliner, with filtering by tags.

+1 for workflowy. I have been using it for more than 2 years now. Can't live without it.

There should be a place where I could shout my "love" for it. For years I have played with notes, lists, mindmapping software. Sometimes I think it was not created but "discovered". That workflowy is to life , what lisp is to software... i.e. the right way to program !

#1 is exactly why I'm about to start coding an Evernote->Plaintext export script in Python. Look forward to it in the next couple of days man.

Take a look at https://tent.io for a potential future solution to points 1, 2 and 3

It's not exactly a replacement, but I use fargo.io for taking notes. It saves to Dropbox with OPML files: http://fargo.io

> I run a 99.999% uptime, extreme scale, SaaS business across multiple active/active data centers

Puppet Labs?

No, I work for iovation. We do large scale realtime fraud prevention for many of the largest banks and internet businesses through a shared network of device reputation.

There's a lot more to Portland than just Puppet, though we do use a ton of their product. We love those guys.

I am in a similar position and I couldn't agree with you more.

Please do let me know if you find something better.

The built-in Reminders app on the iPhone is great for list-crossing-offing.

Almost 100% agree with you. I would love #3. #6 is quite strange, though.

Yeah. I lost substantial data in their web client.

All developers know that feeling when using an app: you're dealing with something a little half-assed. Evernote has always had that feel for me. Switching over to something else, preferably based on flat files using something like Markdown, is on my to-do list.

I've made that switch recently, after losing some stuff in Evernote for what I decided was the last time. I briefly messed around with SimpleNote, which was immediately doing weird stuff with tags (duplicating, not accepting changes). Then, I replicated my Evernote structure with folders and txt files in Dropbox. It works perfectly. And, there's a bunch of clients that edit txt files right in Dropbox, like Byword (OS X and iOS), Plaintext (iOS), Notesy (iOS), Ulysses (OS X), TextEdit + Spotlight (OS X), etc. You can switch apps on a whim and leave your data in place, and the syncing has been great. Simple, clean, and non-proprietary. I haven't checked into audio recording + Dropbox, but surely there are mobile apps for that, too.

Nice hack. Beware of the well-publicised security/privacy issues in Dropbox, however.

Totally. I've got an encrypted sparsedisk image for anything that needs to be truly secure. That's definitely a caveat though, because its contents can only be edited from my Mac. On the other hand, I didn't trust Evernote that much either.

Try nvAlt. It saves all notes to .txt or .rtf, supports markdown (limited), and is super fast. I just switched to it my self and love it. I only wish I could attach files to notes. OSX only but there is a cross platform clone, the name escapes me though.

The Notational Velocity platform is pretty sweet! You might be thinking of nvpy - https://github.com/cpbotha/nvpy . I haven't tried it. Instead, I use nvAlt on Mac, Simplenote on my iPhone, and ResophNotes on Windows.

I never used it because until recently, the Mac app interface felt like a Windows app from 1999.

I use OneNote on my Nokia 925 Windows Phone, my Surface Pro, my laptop, and my workstation. All the data is synced in SkyDrive. I've got a lot of data. Global search is instantaneous. The application is extremely reliable. I save cut and paste snippets from the web. Stack Overflow answers with my personal annotations; anything. Images and sound files are extremely easy. I can record a meeting and take a few notes (by typing or using the stylus on the Surface) and later I can search on the string to find the note. If that note was taken 40 minutes into a 60 minute meeting I can click and get the .wav file to play that bit of the meeting. You can use OneNote on the other platforms as described in this article.


I'm not shilling for the Redmond entity but I always do find it hilarious that a very superior software product can hide in plain view and all the "think different" people can't even see it.

Well, I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that anything Microsoft produces is out of question. The reason for that is that whenever I use one of their products, it progressively turns into a locked proprietary program and getting out of it becomes impossible. That's fine if the product remains unbeatable in quality but it's rarely the case to say the least. I try to not have that happen again and FOSS never lets me down on that.

There is also the question of privacy. That's why my Org files are on my ownCloud and I have peace of mind forever.

Well, I understand what you are saying and I agree that you are one of many, but I disagree with your analysis. I use mostly Microsoft technology and most of what I use is open source, from .NET to C# to NuGet to many, many frameworks. I am very oriented toward open source and very comfortable in the .NET world. It's very similar situation to a Mac user.

As far as storing data I also have my "own cloud" and I also use Dropbox and SkyDrive. I like all of the above and I find Dropbox extremely convenient. However, I do have a concern that Dropbox is not as secure as SkyDrive.

A while ago we were discussing an interview with Evernote's CTO about security (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6881992). He basically argued that fundamental security measures (like properly encrypting passwords) are okay to do as an afterthought once the product is out the door.

If Evernote takes the same "features first" approach to reliability, redundancy etcetera, that would explain a lot.

I do lots lots lots of paper notes. I even make my own notebooks according to my system which evolved a lot over past 5 years.

Since 2008, I am making my yearly Evernote migration attempts. So far, Evernote is not any close to the paper notebook + smartphone camera duo. On every account excluding possibly search, it is inconvenient, complex, slow and less reliable.

If core HWR functions of Evernote will be available as an one-button app in my phone (like Camera), that will be a really strong value proposition to me.

Otherwise, the value of notes depends on being within immediate reach (ideal: on the wall, open on the table). Every additional tap, click or wait-one-second halves the value of it.

Navigating a complex unreliable app, paying for it and worrying about privacy/reliability/bugs altogether makes it less than helpful for me, hence a no-go.

> they said I should check the App Store release notes, which routinely includes the ambiguous line “bug fixes”

The trend of putting just "bug fixes" or "performance improvements" into release notes drives me mad. Your users are not stupid. They know what bugs there the app has and will be happy to know if those specific bugs have been fixed.

"Performance improvements" is equally lame. It could mean that you cleaned up some code and now a function call is 0.05 seconds faster without any visible user benefit. Tell us how the app is faster.

HTML5 apps are sometimes sold on the promise of being able to update themselves without going through an app store review, but you would also lose the standard way of delivering release notes unless you build that functionality yourself.

Wish our industry would take game patch notes[1] as inspiration. They’re very meticulous in listing out exactly what bugs were squashed.

[1] http://www.dota2.com/news/updates/12114/

I totally relate to this note on two levels, one as a user and having Evernote go wacky on me and just flat out lose something it used to have saved, and two as an engineer having worked on systems that were not designed but instead evolved at the hands of people "getting things done."

The latter aspect is the most intriguing because if Evernote is in fact evolving and not designing, they are vulnerable to being out executed by someone with good design principles. I sometimes wish I could look inside their system and see how it is put together, and sometimes I worry about what I mind find there if I did.

I've been meaning to move off of Evernote because their OSX client is just slow as all hell. Are there any alternatives, aside from something like Dropbox? Evernote's OCR implementation was/is really useful.

Onenote comes to mind, and it does OCR on client side so is quite fast. Also does audio transcription which can be enabled (Disabled by default). Also has version control built in, so you can you can look at older versions and do manual merges (if required)

Disclaimer: Microsoft employee and Onenote user

Onenote is great but I think he wants something for OS X.

Word 2011 (OS X) offers OneNote-like functionality if you choose the Notebook view. Defaults to list, auto-headings, and it even lets you doodle in the margins. That's all I ever did in OneNote, so I'm not sure how feature complete Word 2011 is in comparison.

Happy OneNote user but I truly despise the API. All the other Office APIs are far more pleasant and functional.

I agree. I love OneNote but this is a tragic situation. I would be SO HAPPY if OneNote had a good API. I would dance on rooftops and howl at the moon.

I like OneNote. It has a nice web app and OCR (at least in the Windows client).

I've found Google Drive on Desktop/Android is pretty good. You get all the OT goodness with .gdoc and Quickoffice (from Google) is free for .docx editing.

... and it does OCR...

Try Devonthink.


No affiliation, just love the software.

I agree. I've had multiple friends swear by Evernote and every time I tried, I'd get a few hours into it and find some annoying limitation. DevonThink gives me everything I need. They're a bit behind on having a good sync solution for iOS, but they've been actively working on it for a long time now and it should be coming soon.

I use DevonThink as well and love it... but I also don't need to sync between multiple devices. All of my dissertation sources, notes, files, etc are in DevonThink - love the tagging and search features, folder levels, etc. I'm able to quickly find, navigate, and even discover relations I didn't discover before. Also, multiple file types and I now have the PDF -> OCR stuff for older documents. I keep my footnotes/endnotes/bibliographic info in Zotero.

If speed is of importance, I would second the SimpleNote suggestions. You might also want to take a look at Notational Velocity and its fork, nvALT - the speed of launching, searching and creating notes is unbelievable, and both apps can sync with the SimpleNote service.

http://notational.net http://brettterpstra.com/projects/nvalt/

I get scared to open Evernote on OSX because of the boot-time and beach balls. Seriously, it induces anxiety on the user; it's that bad.

While it has it's own problems, Google Docs.

About a year ago I tried it for receipts due to the OCR but at least half the scanned images got lost (some in transit, some after they had been viewed in evernote). Shame as I'd have have gone for at least one paid account if it had worked.

Not to sound like [something negative], but I really like pen and paper. I carry around a notebook and a few different pens because I like to draw, and because jotting notes down is kinda fun in its own way.

> I've been meaning to move off of Evernote because their OSX client is just slow as all hell

Not to mention that their inline search is broken and they refuse to fix it

hey, can you tell more on this? i've been suspicious of it...

Oh ... it just doesn't work right. If you type in two words, instead of giving you fewer results it gives you more results as it matches separate instances of the single words in the query ... pretty dumb actually.

Approximately a year and half ago I when I was evaluating Evernote, everybody was speaking warmly of it. Now, a sudden bunch of people arises mentioning rather serious problems.

Has something in Evernote drastically changed over time, or did it just got more users? (= more testing under unenvisioned circumstances)

I think the issues in bdwalter's comment (above) illustrate the problem.

The concept of Evernote is great and it initially appears well-executed (in fact, it is very well-engineered).

But, there are many serious problems that users inevitably start to hit after some time. Once these hits start to hurt, then you realise that reliable old software and file sharing fit your need better.

Personally, the lock-in hurt me a lot. I was using Evernote to store some data until I realised that I could not get it out of there without signficant difficulty. Account deactivated.

I think the issue is that it got away from doing one thing really well: capturing ideas. Now it tries to be a catch all for everything. While the core idea still remains the inclusion of so many extra features has made it less and less enjoyable to use.

I've been using it since the first month it came out, pay for premium, and used to evangelize it. These days I find myself using Simplenote more and more to avoid the frustration.

Problems I have with Evernote: Conflicing changes peppered throughout notes, but no ability to see what the differences are clearly so I can consolidate all in one. IOS is downright unusable to append to a note or delete anything from a note, and it's mostly just text in all my notes. Errors syncing with remote server on my windows Machine even after uninstall with revo uninstaller and reinstalling. Web based version pinned as a tab in firefox or Chrome sometimes takes a solid 45 seconds to respond on my 2013 Mac. I keep trying to find workarounds or platforms it works well on, but Evernote keeps adding extra features and crippling core functions and no platform seems spared.

I'd like a tool I can smoothly append to a list, seamless sync between platforms, use hyperlinks between notes, and something I can easily access past notes for research purposes. Lack of links in notes, amount of notes in EN, lack of robust search, are only things keeping me from using Simplenote fully.

Thought about Simplenote or clearly for lists, Devonthink for finding relevant notes, though Devonthink is Mac only. Maybe the ultimate solution is a personal wiki, I saw Clive Thompson of Wired mag researching that, so maybe there will be a informative article there soon.

> Maybe the ultimate solution is a personal wiki [...]

Maybe this: http://zim-wiki.org (haven't used it myself yet though)

I had to go find the original version of skitch, built by a different company, because of how badly the Evernote team massacred it. They just seem like a company more interested in high level bullshit than actual user experience.

Well, the core OCR/HWR function of Evernote was developed by a different company, in a sense. The company was headed by Pachikov who is a veteran of the HWR field. He is currently retired, to the best of my knowledge.

I am not sure, who took the course of codebase/feature sprawl. Retrospectively, that was a bad choice.

If only HWR was available separately from all that disorderly bunch.

I have a lot of valuable data in Evernote and haven't experienced any of the syncing issues described in these threads, but have two significant issues:

1) when you reach a critical amount of notes in the system, the tool itself doesn't offer enough functionality to deal with this and I tend to stop looking for old notes. 2-3 times a year i go in and try to manage all of it, but I feel like a lot of new Evernote development is around creating shiny new toys for new customer bases but not actually iterating the core of the tool itself.

2) i hate the flat green Evernote homescreen on iOS that was introduced in recent versions. in fact, i almost never open it anymore. i enter data on the desktop and will open Evernote on iOS to access 2-3 notes, but searching across notes and folders is confusing.


1) I think that Evernote feels like the ACT! or Goldmine contact managers of today... exciting (ahem) productivity apps of yesteryear that gets disrupted hard and suddenly by something out of left field. I can't wait.

2)But, ya know.. at least their physical goods marketplace is bringing them revenue


Phil has spoken a lot about building Evernote into a 100 year old company.

Maybe that's why it takes so long to fix some of these issues?

The app is definitely getting better, and Skitch has come along leaps and bounds in the last 3-6 months.

Disturbing to see the number of reports of data loss. I am using Evernote heavily for my PhD research. I haven't found another tool that works as well as Evernote for this.

I've never had data loss, but I was very disappointed by my one interaction with Evernote support - a simple bug report, (you cannot select more than one line of text in a bullet list in the Android app), turned into a series of 6 or 7 email interactions asking me to do things that were unrelated to the problem and clearly weren't going to (and didn't) help. It was obvious that no human had bothered to even attempt to reproduce the issue or even read my bug report in any detail. I don't know if they've outsourced their bug report handling to some untrained / unskilled off shore group, but if not they were trying extremely hard to emulate that. I don't like to think about interacting with these people in the event that I have data loss or other kind of bug that actually matters.

I'm also an Evernote premium membership and i am so sick of their service. Asked them an easy question (one of my pictures didn't get OCRd for days) and they answered 3-4 days later with a standard answer: OCR can take some time .. yeah thanks for that, it can (read: should) take like an hour but not days - especially if you are a premium user..

I like the idea of a powerful tool to help organize your life and kind of outsource part of your brain. But i just can't trust them enough and considering their track-record - there is no reason to do so..

I also think its very sad that you seem to have to post online and "endangering" the company through a PR stunt to just get the attention of them. Seen the same thing with companies like T-Mobile where problems seemd unsolvable till a facebook shitstorm threatened to rise.

I evaluated Evernote once two years ago. The iOS app crashed as I was appending to a text note. The app lost a half hour of unsaved meeting notes. I never trusted Evernote again. In my mind, a shoddy rich text editor cast serious doubt on the durability of Evernote's distributed revision control.

Same thing happened to me. I don't even try to use to ios app any more, unless its absolutely dire. Just opening the app, navigating to a note, waiting for it to load then trying to edit it takes forever.

I recently had to disable the Evernote clipper extensions in Chrome after discovering that it is breaking web pages after a recent update. I also continue to be incredibly disappointed with the lousy way that Evernote is maintaining Skitch, which has never worked reliably since Evernote's rewrite of the code base.

I'm a paying customer and depend heavily on the service, but I get really frustrated with the poor quality of the software and all of the engineering problems.

I get the sense that Evernote really doesn't care. They know that their audience is effectively locked in and that there aren't any alternatives that do exactly the same thing, so they just don't have an incentive to fix the bugs. I'm still a user, but I've personally stopped recommending Evernote and Skitch to friends.

Eventually, after it was recommended by so many people, I installed Evernote on Android (on a fast new phone - Sony Xperia Z). I also signed up for 'premium'.

It was so sluggish when scrolling that I couldn't use it.

I contacted support and received this:

"As a valued customer of Evernote, you will receive support within 1 business day."

8 days later, I replied to ask why I hadn't received anything more.

3 days after that, I received a stock reply saying I should reboot and install the latest client.

Of course I had installed the latest client already, and rebooted to see if that helped. I think the app is just slow.

So the app is unusable and customer support don't give you what you pay for. I had simply thought, 'doomed product, will avoid in future' but I thought I'd relay this here seeing as the subject has been broached.

I use it a lot an don't find it too buggy - but the interface is awful on iOS. They took a decent, simple interface (table view) screwed it up into some new skuomorphic design and then in iOS 7 took that and made it even worse.

Here's a side by side of iOS 6 + 7. They are both terrible imho[1]. The Android app is much more simply designed and much nicer to use[2].

[1] http://cdn1.digitalartsonline.co.uk/cmsdata/slideshow/346956...

[2] https://lh5.ggpht.com/lPMXIRwq4MI1RsWYP5zfTdRwM2czXpK6NhmCo0...

I agree, the iOS UIs continue to disappoint.

Before my eyes can locate the note's content -- the reason I'm looking at the app in the first place -- my brain has to notice and dismiss all of the unchanging but visually dominant UI elements grabbing for my attention.

In iOS6 screenshot, the only information is "3570 Notes". We can assume that Tom Negrino didn't need a prompt to remember his own name.

At least the screenshot of iOS7 version has a few snippets of user content. But, was the decision to make everything green made by someone who uses the product heavily? I doubt it.

I filed a support ticket over behavior that appeared to be a bug. Specifically, disconnecting a bluetooth keyboard while connected to an Android device in the Evernote editor would delete all bullet indentation instantly.

They confirmed that this should not be happening, and said that they filed a ticket on the internal bug tracker. The bug still exists in the Android version to date, unfixed, even though the solution (overriding the event Android calls when it disconnects a bluetooth keyboard) is somewhat trivial to implement.

Their response: http://puu.sh/69msM.png My report: http://puu.sh/69mu1.png

Definitely thought some of these issues were just me. My hypothesis is that Evernote gets increasingly unstable the more notes (and data) you have stored. Which sucks because I have over 1200 and I pretty much need Evernote at this point. The desktop app is damn near unusable, takes forever to create a new note.

I no longer trust that they will always have all of my notes, so I started to back them up to Dropbox via the HTML export. But I'm lazy, haven't done it for a while.

Perhaps this is an opportunity for a new company to do what Evernote is doing, better. Automatic backups to Dropbox, lighting fast no matter how many notes stored, reliable and instant syncing, etc.

I use Evernote as well, mostly for researching o the internet.

However, I've found their Chrome Web Clipper to be remarkably bug-ridden and unreliable.

It's very annoying - as you can queue up a list of pages to clip, and you don't know if it's going to actually clip all of them. So you have to wait, and make sure each one is clipped.

See here for other people's reports on it as well:


If I knew of an cross-platform alternative, I'd seriously look into it.

Any good alternatives for web clipping or research?

Yep. Lost 3 hours of writing once. No chance of recovery apparently. Now I've learned to not edit existing notes on mobile devices if I can avoid it. Copy the note to a new one and edit that so I have a backup.

I don't mean to downplay this but seriously, make backups of all data that is important to you. Lots of things can go wrong everywhere and they do go wrong. Maybe it is a sucky app or maybe your own error -- if you have a backup, you don't need to worry.

I know this is no excuse for Evernote's app being at fault, but if something matters this much to you, you should not be trusting anyone or anything and the only way to stay safe is to have backups in multiple places. Might seem like a PITA but it is worth the effort.

Not being an Evernote user, I'm not sure about this, but-- it sounds like the author recorded the corrupted file using Evernote (...sometimes instinct steers me toward the green elephant’s "record" button and I play for a while.).

A backup of a corrupt file wouldn't solve the problem.

Well if you're directly recording into Evernote for note taking, and the thing is broken, how do you take backups?

My dad used it for a month (at my recommendation), taking notes from courses he was doing while in the process of looking for a job.

Through absolutely no fault of his own, ended up losing an important part of his notes one day. They were completely gone due to a failed sync with no way to get them back from our end. I tried contacting support, but it wouldn't let me cuz he wasn't a paying member.

Never used it since out of principle.

I've had a lot of the same issues in the Windows client. one particularly annoying bug is how a simple slip of hitting backspace in the wrong spot can delete an audio recording with no possible way of undoing the operation. I've started using the service less and less over the years to where I barely open it at all anymore, relying on services like git and drop box instead.

Hyper-simple alternative: I've switched to http://simplenote.com/


We hear your concerns. I just wrote about my thoughts on the subject, and our plans for 2014, on our blog: http://blog.evernote.com/blog/2014/01/04/on-software-quality...

Thank you for caring enough to be on this thread,

- Phil Libin, CEO, Evernote

Several years ago[1] I installed Evernote on my Mac and used it pretty regularly for a few months, then just tired of the sluggishness and fragility of the app. Mind you, I've never installed the web client, none of the browser extensions, nor have I used it within a browser. It was always the OS X app for me.

Spurred by this post (nicely done, btw) I went and gave a look at what was inside my old Evernote account. Nothing. Everything's gone except the myriad folders and tags I'd added to help keep everything organized. It's a ghost town now.

I guess I don't really care the stuff is gone since I'd given up on the app long, long ago. Still, I can't help wondering what I'm missing, if there was anything truly important that marched in line & jumped off a cliff along with millions of other users' data.

[1] Mid-2009 according to my Evernote Account Summary page.

I've been using desktop app for quite some time now and it's good enough for the most part. Just recently I was considering moving to the android app when it hit me that Android app doesn't even have an option for so-called local notes even on premium subscription. Whatever you write there should eventually be synchronized with the cloud. That's no-go for me, I'm both paranoid and dealing with rather sensitive information.

Though I can't find a reasonable substitute on Android. Most apps in this category focus on getting notes easily or on some to-do/calendar side, and very few has a good set of features to organize and navigate through a vast db of notes. Springpad has the same notebook/tags system and pays a good deal of attention to the organization part, but alas it is a web app with no option for private local notes.

Although Evernote does its share of problems, I want to throw in my generally positive view of the company and the software. I've been a premium user since 2010, and despite its problems, Evernote remains the central program I use to organize my thoughts and tasks. I'd be glad to expand on what I like about Evernote if anyone wants to know. (I'm just a bit surprised by the high level of criticism for Evernote here.)

[later edit: as I reread the thread, I now see the discussion as less negative than I originally thought. Others are pointing out positives about Evernote. If Jason Kincaid (the OP) does manage to get Phil Libin to focus his company on improving the quality of the various clients, then I'd be quite happy. For the time being, I still with Evernote because it's the best solution I've found for what I do.]

A few years ago I used some wiki-style tool for Windows to keep track of all my notes. When I switched to a Mac, I couldn't run it anymore. I started using another tool called Journler, and copied all my data over to it. Took me quite a while.

Then Journler was discontinued, and I realized there was no way to export the notes without losing all kinds of metadata.

I briefly considered Evernote, but this time I didn't want the same thing to happen. So instead, I settled for Notational Velocity (NVAlt, specifically), which uses plain text files. The files reside in a dropbox folder, and I use SimpleNote on my iPad and some other app on my Nexus. I can also use a whole bunch of other text-editing tools if they have dropbox support.

While my solution only works for plain text, it's served me well and I'll never be locked into some (buggy) tool again.

I've been using a Windows desktop app for years that's a lot like Evernote. I have many MB of notes, especially code snippets. But also lots of other stuff, exactly like what Evernote is intended to do. I would love to migrate it all to Evernote to get cloud access to it all, but my experience with a Evernote is that it is just not trustworthy.

My fear with the desktop app is that a Evernote is killing it. It's a great app, though. Never let me down, not once. Never crashes, never lost a note. And it has more features, more flexibility in formatting, and the ability to have deep nesting of what Evernote calls notebooks. But the UI look & feel is very outdated.

Check it out. It's called Info Select from miclog.com.

I just realized that I've stopped using my Evernote account ever since I upgraded to iOS7...and that's just because it kept crashing on me even if I had a brand new phone. This post just reminded me to cancel my Evernote pro-account and move all my stuff over to -- I guess, Google Docs? (as others have recommended). For receipts, I've been using the Flickr app to auto-upload my iPhone photos into a private folder. Then, I just send download links to accounting for reimbursement. It's even easier than Dropbox -- and it's free for up to 1 TB. The security issues are scary...it'd be interesting to see Evernote's reply.

If you want the basics of evernote, at the command-line, check out saga. http://songseed.org/unix.html

It's not fancy, but you control your data.

Any enterprise that grows to a certain level becomes slow and lame it is a fact you have to accept. Until you are a fat account your bug reports do not matter. I do third level support for my financial client and some very nasty and obvious (and easy to fix!!) issues are coming from small people and are put to backlog and never even looked at until someone big outside or important inside comes across it. It is so disappointing and demotivating but I am tired of fighting it and they pay well for not fixing anything.

The Evernote Mac client feels like I'm ssh'ed into a remote machine. I type and half a second late the text appears.

Seriously sloppy stuff. They need to improve or I need to find something better.

It's worth correcting a small point the author makes.

"This strategy is tolerable for a social network or messaging app (Facebook got away with atrociously buggy apps for years)."

But the truth is it wouldn't be tolerable for Facebook to lose photos or posts. The experience can be buggy, sure, but users should and would never tolerate data loss like this.

I suspect the only reason Evernote is surviving this is because relatively few people use audio notes and, so far, text notes work fine-ish. I wouldn't expect that to last.

org-mode is vastly superior in every way. If you want to organize audio files, you can do that to with the attachment feature.

Oh and most importantly, you host the data yourself - no verbose plaintext logs containing your sensitive data and no support calls. Org can also encrypt your Org files on-the-fly:

http://orgmode.org/ http://orgmode.org/manual/Attachments.html

I've used to use Evernote for years, but now I still use it.

Then one day there was an Evernote glitch and all my precious notes, were safe right there in the backup I had taken, because always backup yourself too, no matter how much you trust any app.

Seriously, all apps have glitches. I've been using Evernote for 2+ years and haven't seen any spectacular failure. But even if there was one, I'd still have my backups and I could restore my notes in a couple of hours.

Does anybody know a good way to export Evernote notes to a usable format (not HTML, ideally?)

I really want to move from Evernote to Google Drive, which serves 90% of my uses with a much, much better cloud service and interoperability. Unfortunately, most of my Evernote notes are mixed formatted text and images and I can't find a sane way to export them.

Ironically, even exporting to a .doc would work, since Google and many others are forced to offer MSOffice import capabilities.

I've been using Evernote (Win + iPhone) avidly (and reliably) for years -- now at 2000 notes -- and haven't had (or noticed) any of the issues being discussed here. But now I'm nervous!

I'll continue to use Evernote in the way that I have been and do periodic evernote exports of my data to, say, Dropbox. And cross my fingers that this bad press will kick Evernote into working on the reliability of their excellent features and products.

I wanted to use use evernote to collect information for an app I wanted to make. I can not comment on their iOS and Android app but their windows phone app definitely needs a lot of improvement. No matter how many syncs i do on both my mac and windows phone, the notes entered in the respective devices won't sync. I really wish MS releases their One-note for Mac. The way their one-note app on WP and windows 8 syncs is amazing.

I haven't had any syncing issues, but I've had a hell of a time with Evernote insisting on formatting my notes and changing characters even when I make the note Plain Text.

A lot of what I use(d) Evernote for was shell snippets and other bits of code, and having it mangle my quotes into other characters, and randomly insert newlines was a bit of a nightmare.

Thanks to this thread I've found nvALT and I'm really loving it so far.

I hear these comments (and all the HN ones), but my use-case changed a long time ago: Evernote is now (just) my digital "junk drawer". Not high praise really, but it performs this job well. Really important stuff never goes in there, but all the little bits that I would lose otherwise all end up in there, only loosely categorized in a couple of notebooks with a couple dozen tags.

How do people feel about Springpad? I've only used both casually, but it seems like the power users probably have thoughts or advice.

What's ridiculous are sync services without history. Just blowing away data blindly and hoping for the best is beyond stupid.

Sadly, both Evernote and iCloud follow this "strategy". If you've never experience the joy of watching iCloud blow away every contact in your address book during a sync, consider yourself lucky.

I don't quite understand: He does not want the Evernote staff to be able to read his notes, yet he uses Evernote? The notes are NOT encrypted by a key only the user knows! If that where the case the browser version and search could not work. Any Evernote admin can read your personal (sensitive) notes anyway.

Except that support people may not have database access. I certainly wouldn't be happy if it added unguarded content into the logs and they got me to email it to them!

Oh, right. Support != admins. So he is fine with the admins be able to read it but not with the support?

Sure. An admin doesn't get the logs in an email, over an unsecured medium.

I'm going to keep using Evernote but I'll factor in some of the complaints and horror stories by a technique called "backing up" or "exporting" my notebooks.

Evernote solves a great problem awesomely and at the moment for my personal use case. For now I'd rather focus on optimizing other things.

Great tour of the problems, but I felt my sympathy with the writer deflate quite a bit when he said that (at one point) he hadn't updated in a while. As a software developer, it's irking to see people bitterly complaining about bugs that were fixed and made available as free updates a long time ago.

I like Evernote.

But I had trouble logging into the Mac client using my email address (prior to 2 factor author being implemented) and it didn't work. I raised a support request and got this reply

Unfortunately this feature has been disabled and you must sign in with your username instead of the email.

That seems weird and annoying to me.

Could Evernote be substantially replicated using email technologies like IMAP and Postfix/Dovecot, etc?

UX is one of the main reasons why I simply don't commit to Evernote unless it's just to take a note here or there. I almost preferred Google Notebook when it was available. Or try out [Draft](https://draftin.com/).

My main problem is "conflicting notes". I suspect it has something to do with using both the Mac client (work) and Windows (home). Nowadays I always manually press "sync" before shutting down but I still get the occasional conflicting note which is a real pain.

I too use Evernote very day, and have done for several years.

I have three issues:

1) The mac client is slow / laggy

2) Security

3) Formatting - please don't add smart quotes to my SQL snippets!

If someone made a product that syncs like Evernote, had a browser plugin as good as evernote's and used client side encryption - I'd certainly give it a go.

I still don't understand why one would choose evernote over OneNote. It's a dream to use.

People on Mac OSX. one thing sorely miss from my windows days.

Shit, here I am finally taking the time to see what Evernote is and finding that I could find use for it in my day to day. Yet now there is no way I could ever trust it with my data, everything I would put on it is important to me.

What are some good Evernote alternatives?

I like Simplenote (http://simplenote.com/)

Funny, they support all the platforms but the most used platform around which also happens to be thee one I am looking for. Windows.

I'm also a paying customer and have lost an important note recently. Spent weeks of back-and-forth with support (including the anxiety-inducing handover of my Activity Log) until they concluded that my note was lost for good, without even an apology.

Both my wife and I have also lost notes in Evernote. I'm a paying member and just last week exported everything out into text files within Dropbox. I have to get the workflow right but at least I know my files won't disappear.

LOL. Evernote has always had more rough-edges than Android.

So I ditched it after that huge security incident by using cloudHQ to migrate to something else:


What did you migrate to? How does it compare and how do you like it?

I think this area is ride and wide open. Personally speaking, I think evernote has done a terrible job at making technical progress. I hope they get their act together soon -- they have such potential and significant traction.

Off all the dedicated note taking apps available, Dropbox + an iOS Dropbox-compatible text editor has worked best for me. Even if DB were to go down, I'd still have my local synced copies.

Just deleted my notes(the welcome note and a blank untitled one), changed my email to a fake one, and deactivated my account. I never used this application. Thanks for reminding me.

Evernote team, please make a usable bookmarklet for iPhone/iPad. A lot of people are clipping pages on their mobile devices and currenly the user experience is awful.

I stopped using Evernote the day I was notified that web version is not supported on Chrome running on Linux. I use diigo for web clipping and text files for note taking.

I always just send myself SMS messages. What are the killer features of something like Evernote, if it has these bugs?

"Mac’s ‘helper’ — an official mini app that’s meant for jotting down notes without having to switch to the hulking beast that is the desktop application."

This set buzzers off in my (perhaps simple) mind. Is this feature creep? I'm a physical notebook and 'one big textfile' person myself.

skitch used to be such a wonderful little application, but I refuse to pay for it since evernote bought it and crapped all over it.

is there a good alternative to skitch yet?

http://glui.me/ has been good for me - I use it to save/share via Dropbox, but it supports a bunch of services. Does one thing well and gets out of the way :)

I still don't understand all the hate for the new version of Skitch; taking a screenshot and throwing a few shapes and text on it takes less than 5 seconds. What's the problem?

I use Monosnap (https://www.monosnap.com/welcome), it does SFTP and has some basic annotation tools.

building and scaling a multiplatform app is incredibly difficult.

Buggy sure, will they become the leviathan force if they fix the bugs, most likely.

Any good alternatives to Evernote?

The Evernote app for BlackBerry 10 has never synced without producing an error. This wouldn't bother me so much if I wasn't a Premium member.

I'm open to switching to an Evernote alternative, provided this alternative has an Android app. Android apps are becoming as easy to install on BlackBerry 10 as native BlackBerry apps.

Curious, what are the Evernote alternatives?

I am not a fan of the desktop version but the BB10 version works perfectly for me... Are you sure the software is up to date?

I just reinstalled the app, and it will take awhile before everything is synced again - that is if the app version was the source of the problem. I'm running the leaked OS for the Z30, but I doubt that had anything to do with it. The OS has been rock solid.

"To say this post pains me would be an understatement. More than any other technology, Evernote is part of me, having evolved from habit to instinct over several years and nearly seven thousand notes. "

This is the kind of stuff that makes me not want to read what you have to say. Come on, what you are saying is car ad bullshit.

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