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If you are storing important info in Evernote, think twice (gigpeppers.com)
188 points by Cherian on Feb 22, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 160 comments

There are many horror stories on the web of users losing their data. I thought it was already well known that Evernote software cannot be trusted. Recently, two HN users made comments about data loss[1][2].

I'm baffled that users continue to trust it. I do understand that it's a slick product with nice features but if it fails the primary purpose (save the data and also retrieve it later), the GUI bells & whistles are meaningless. (Example[3].) In other words, programming a flashy drag&drop tool that saves data to /dev/null negates the point, right?

Personally, I've been using ASCII text files as "notebooks" for 20 years and have never lost a thing. Understandably, that workflow is not usable for mobile devices and cloud sync. For the folks that can't use text files, is there really no other alternative product to Evernote that has a reliable track record for saving the customers' data?




> I thought it was already well known that Evernote software cannot be trusted.... I'm baffled that users continue to trust it.

It's unfair and condescending to blame the user when companies like Evernote actively mislead them. The service called Ever-note, with an elephant as their logo/icon. Their website even features this slogan: "Your life's work. For everything you’ll do, Evernote is the workspace to get it done."

Most HNers realize that cloud syncing and backups aren't the same thing, that cloud services do fail, and when they do customer service is likely to be woefully unhelpful. And that the marketing departments at companies like Evernote overpromise because it serves their growth strategy and they never face repercussions. But that doesn't mean that any of this is okay.

This is on Evernote not its users, and we only help Evernote when we downplay this as old news or presume average users should adopt some of the far too sophisticated alternatives mentioned in this thread (like org-mode).

I agree. Nothing beats pure text files. These days though, I save them to my Dropbox folder so they're accessible anywhere. I feel like I'm getting the best of both worlds this way.

As a slight enhancement on pure text files: Org-mode [1] for Emacs! I really only use the outlining, and sometimes the TODO-item support, but having nice navigation/subtree folding on top of a file that's still plain text is really great.

I have a few three-line scripts in my ~/bin that commit my Org files to a git repo and push to my remote server, or pull changes. Lets me have copies on multiple machines and works really well.

[1] http://orgmode.org/

I do this. What happens if Dropbox deletes a file though, on the server? Then it would vanish from the computer as well. If it was an important but rarely checked file, you might not notice for months or years, by which time it might be difficult to retrieve a copy.

Does anyone have more info on the likelihood of this + the possible ways to solve it if it happens? It occurred to me that most of my important files are potentially deletable via Dropbox.

Dropbox is not a backup. Dropbox is a file sync service with some limited backup features. AFAIK it also hasn't actually ever reported profits, but it's well enough backed and dominant enough that it's unlikely to disappear.

What should happen in the case of missing a file deletion until beyond Dropbox's 30-day versioning windows is that you retrieve the file from your automated backups of at least one of the computers that Dropbox is syncing to.

>Dropbox is not a backup. Dropbox is a file sync service with some limited backup features

Agreed. Dropbox is more of a consumer disaster recovery solution than a backup solution. If your computer hard drive dies, you lose zero data. On the sysadmin side of IT, we distinguish between backups and replication. Backups have retention and are usually slow to recover from if you need to recover large amounts of data. Replication is often used to maintain a "ready to go" copy of the data. If a server dies a horrible death, boot the standy replication partner and we are back online. Dropbox can work this way of you have it installed on two PCs.

If your data is important, don't leave it to any single service to protect it. If you have truly important data, go ahead and use online backup/sync services, but also make your own point-in-time backups to avoid the accidental deletion of a file you only look at once per year. A cheap USB hard drive that holds monthly or quarterly backups, kept in a safe deposit box, will suffice for most people as that third line of defense.

>What should happen in the case of missing a file deletion until beyond Dropbox's 30-day versioning windows is that you retrieve the file from your automated backups of at least one of the computers that Dropbox is syncing to.

What would you use for these automatic backups? I use backblaze for my whole computer. However, I think they also only keep file changes for 30 days past change date.

I use TimeMachine and three large harddrives - a pair in raid1 that TimeMachine does it's normal thing with, then another drive that powers up once a week and rsyncs off that raid pair.

If I were _properly_ paranoid, I'd also set up an off-site backup drive - perhaps using TahoeLAFS. I figure the chance of Dropbox losing my data at the same time as I lose three bits of electronics at my house is pretty small.

For non OSX users, you can fairly trivially roll-your-own TimeMachine-like snapshot backup process in Linux using rsync, cron, and a little bash - it's not like Apple invented it... It might even be just as simple using Powertools on Windows.

I use Crashplan, which is a little slower and clunkier than other services but keeps infinite versions of files, including deleted files (unlike Backblaze).

I could try Crashplan again. When I attempted it before, it never successfully synced, despite hours spent emailing system reports back and forth with their support reps.

I would pay Backblaze double if they kept past versions.

Tarsnap (https://www.tarsnap.com) is great and easy to configure, if you can deal with not having a GUI.

Colin Percival (the guy who maintains it) is also amazing with support - he was responding to my emails on Christmas day!

I like SpiderOak.

Every platform i've tried it on has worked okay.

It worked fine for me until I got more data than my plan supported. It was screwed after that, I deleted some stuff I didn't need, but it had already gotten into a borked state and support couldn't even help me fix it.

They wouldn't delete your file randomly for no reason, unless for a bug. But user data is top priority at Dropbox (it's what their business is all about), so you're extremely unlikely to loose it. They most likely have lots of redundancy.

Now if you accidentally delete something and want to recover it, you have 30 days to do so with a free account. With a paid account, your history is kept forever (basically files are never deleted).

You can always backup both your Dropbox and Evernote to a single place. I'm the founder of https://revert.io and that's exactly what we've built our service to do. Love any feedback if you want to try it out. Thanks!

This looks great, I've signed up.

It's best if you don't think of Dropbox as a backup service. People treat it that way (and I'm guilty of it too) but a file-sync provider is really a very different thing at heart.

If you're so scared that your files are so easily deleteable, why don't you keep backups?

I do, but if Dropbox deleted a file, it would be deleted off the synced backup too, unless I get something with infinite version history.

Why would you sync the backup? Just backup the contents of your Dropbox folder to a hard drive every night. Then it's on the hard drive and Dropbox can't access it.

So you keep your files and your backups in dropbox?

Rule 1 of backups is "don't keep your files and your backups in the same place". Pretty much common sense.

Incremental backups or deduplicating storage (ZFS)?

Exactly. Evernote and its clones seem to give you the best of both worlds in one product but in practice they do a half assed job of both. It's sort of like the windows vs unix mentality of having one behemoth do everything vs chaining independent tasks together. When I hit save and dropbox just syncs in the background, that's pretty much the best use of my time and also IMO the simplest solution to the problem.

Funny story I have with Dropbox:

I was setting up my new desktop to dual boot Debian and Windows. In the interest of saving space, I tried to have Dropbox in both systems target the same directory to sync. I'm not precisely sure what happened - I think the folder hadn't finished pulling in all the files before I logged out - but it somehow trashed everything in my lab's shared directory. Thank god for their API and their automatic file versioning, or I would never have gotten out of that pickle.

"I'm baffled that users continue to trust it. "

Baffled? And exactly how would "everyone" know that "evernote software cannot be trusted".

Is there a central repository of information that is obvious to check that would point that out? Or are you assuming that it's just one of those things that's totally obvious and that people should know because everyone is up to date on every situation with respect to companies on the web. [1]

For the record I don't trust any of these services and never have. I roll my own solution which I am in control of. I've found problems with time machine on apple, so although I do use that in most cases I also clone disks, [2] use rsync and have offsite backups and so on.

[1] Like "Google tends to neglect and kill products" or "Paypal can kill your account in a heartbeat" and so on?

[2] SuperDuper works great for cloning Macs I've been using it for years.

There is one more bug I ran into: https://discussion.evernote.com/topic/77405-problems-with-ne...

However, actually the BEST use case for Evernote is to store random and not so important notes. And Evernote has the best mobile client. So I'm still using Evernote all the time.

Also, it is amazing there is no startup trying so solve problem Evernote is solving:

- fast mobile client

- easy way to take screenshots, photos, records, hand notes and make annotations

- fast search and OCR

- solid desktop client (can be just some simple HTML editor - nothing fancy)

For me, it is ok to have Dropbox as backend storage (in HTML or whatever).

Is anybody developing something like this?

Notebooks on iOS/Mac/Win does most of this (no OCR or annotations) and stores data in plain text where possible, supports open standard WebDAV along with popular cloud storage for sync.


"For me, it is ok to have Dropbox as backend storage"

So you'd trade off one unreliable and out-of-your-control service and replace it with something fundamentally the same?

There's at least as many horror stories of users losing Dropbox data as there are for lost Evernote data.

Dropbox is the most reliable cloud storage solution on the market. Yes, they also had (and have) bugs but not as many as other solutions.

You're probably right - unless in "other solutions" you include things like ext2/3, HFS, FAT32, NTFS etc.

I guess my (badly made) point is that if you're complaining about the resilience/reliability of and app that uses a cloud based storage solution, the alternatives aren't limited to other cloud based storage solutions. If you want to fix the problem, fix it - don't just trade it for the same problem with a different service to blame and some unknown difference in risk.

There are _many_ greybeards out there who've seen and solved (properly) all the problems with hard drive based storage, and can easily explain the difference between raid, backup, and archive. They will debate the requirements for onsite vs offsite backup and archive, they will have opinions about how many spindles and how many different models and brands of drives to use. They'll have war stories of the time they heard of a file system recovered from an errant root "rm -rf /" with nothing more than a vim window available to use.

_Those_ guys will do a better job for you that Evernote or Dropbox or GoogleDrive or ...

Have there been data loss stories about Google Drive?

(I'm a google employee, but I'm interested as a recent heavy user of Drive.)

Given that we don't know the number of active users of either service, I think it'd be difficult to draw any conclusions about their relative failure rates [based on horror stories.]

If we assume google counts Drive users the way they count Plus users, it probably has a stellar track record. :)

At the very least, there are stories about Google Account loss, which while perhaps not technically being "data loss stories", are in effect exactly the same thing.

I don't remember the details, but a friend got badly burnt a couple of years back with some "known problem" where switching from free to paid googleapps accounts made _everything_ disappear...

I'd add

- allows exporting all the data

- allows taking handwritten notes and drawings with a decent Android client

Sounds like evernote has all the read guarantees of /dev/null, but none of the write performance

The Notes app for Owncloud saves to plain text files, syncs like Dropbox and has a mobile, desktop and web client.


Also, why depend on one backup solution? In this case, the OP is an OSX user. Time Machine is very simple to use and can be nice added insurance.

Exactly. Never trust any one solution with everything. I use Evernote and Dropbox, but I also keep incremental backups of everything with crashplan, and take regular snapshots of my primary hard drive. It would be a pain if Evernote lost something, but never a catastrophe. Especially thinking of a synced cloud folder as a backup is just asking for grief.

Having so many copies was expensive advice perhaps 20 years ago, but now it makes a lot of sense.

Drive capacities have increased so much that, unless you're trying to create your own copy of Megaupload or The Pirate Bay, you can easily afford to maintain many duplicates of any data you care about. The real problem is bit rot. How can you be sure that random corruptions that might accumulate over the years don't cause you to lose an important file or two or two thousand?

A service like crashplan or backblaze should largely take care of that for you. Unlimited incremental backups for a fixed monthly fee. If you discover a file has been corrupted, you just go back in the incremental versions until you get to a good copy. If $5/month is still too much, you can even point it at one of your own machines. You still get the incremental backups; you just have to provide the storage space.

Either way, the key is not just to have multiple copies of the most recent iteration of a file, but to have an automated system of archiving past versions - of everything - as well.

I've been using text files as notebooks as well for a very long time. In the past I sometimes sent them to myself via email to have them available. Since I have an iphone I use the regular iphone notes app [1] and enable IMAP sync. I can read and edit them everywhere, on the phone, in the browser with webmail or in an mail client.

The only thing I'm missing is end to end encryption; with both ends being me (or the application I'm using at the moment).

Otherwise it's perfect for my use case: just notes for me and myself, just ASCII text, regular adding, rarely editing, no sharing, no other users, no versioning.

[1] I'm quite sure there is a similar solution for Android, I just never tried it there.

Is there no alternative that saves users' data? Of course there is. But you probably don't want to put anything sensitive into any of them. There's no shortage of bare bones Evernote type services out there. I've been running one for three years without a single user losing data. They tend to forget their usernames and passwords a lot but never the data. (Link in profile, won't plug it here).

I still use Evernote for things I needed to store a long time ago and never ported anywhere else. It boggles that mind that the very core of such a service, writing and reading data from some store, takes a backseat to all the other buttons and gadgets they wrap around it.

I have a personal mediawiki that I keep on a raspberry pi home server. It's much better than text files because of the hyperlinking, the history, the statistics and the formatting. It can also be viewed and edited by other family members if I so choose. I guess I could make it available outside the firewall with a password but I haven't really needed that. The cool thing about the PI is everything just works and it consumes almost no power so there isn't a significant ongoing expense to running it once it's set up.

If mediawiki is acceptable, you might also want to consider dokuwiki.

Main advantages over mediawiki:

* no database, only plain text files (more hackable in a good way)

* built to be a team tool, not Wikipedia (plugins, auth)

OneNote is free, cross platform, syncs pretty well and keeps a local cache of all your notes in any of the desktop versions, which means you can independently back them up. And because of its history as a desktop app first, a backed up notebook can be opened in the app without caring about cloud state at all.

(disclaimer: I work at Microsoft but not on OneNote.)

>OneNote is free, cross platform ... //

Great, I thought and went right over to get it for my Kubuntu box. Oh right, not that sort of cross-platform.

But they offer a web version that tells me "Take your notes anywhere with OneNote" (except to a Linux desktop of course!). They're clearly big on this "anywhere" idea, something about accessing your notes from anywhere ... and then "The add-on works only in 32-bit Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, or Safari (Mac).".

It's no different to other companies but these things do start to grate after a while - "access from most browsers" or "access from most OS" obviously isn't as good a marketing tag as "anywhere".


It seems I can use it from my 64bit browser on Kubuntu but then it operates like Evernote's web app does.

[This is just how it is from my angle, really just feeding back in case others on Linux would have looked it up. Dare-say you can get it to work with WINE?]

It's freeware, not free as in free, and it's crossplatformism is limited: It's not available for my desktop's os, my laptop's os, nor my smartpbone.

"Personally, I've been using ASCII text files as "notebooks" for 20 years and have never lost a thing. Understandably, that workflow is not usable for mobile devices and cloud sync."

vi todo.txt

rsync -av todo.txt user@rsync.net:notes

That's what I do. Seems to work.

(blah blah email us about HN-readers discount blah blah)

Does rsync.net backup versions of the files you store on it? If not, a pitfall with your workflow is that if you corrupt todo.txt (accidentally, or if there is a filesystem problem, etc.) and then push it via rsync, you'll have accidentally overwritten your "backup" with a corrupt copy.

They take daily snapshots and keep them for a week.

Nothing in the cloud is actually safe. So, rather than completely dismissing Evernote, just make it safer by synching it with Google Docs or Dropbox or any other platform via cloudHQ. It'll provide you with a real-time sync of whatever is in your notebook, AND it'll save an archive folder for you in the other platform you synched it with (i.e. dropbox) in case something accidentally gets deleted from your Evernote notebook. Go to cloudhq.net and start the free trial. If you like the service, pay $10/mo to keep it going or just write a blog post about your experience with us and you'll get free sync service for a year. :)

I am one of the people whose negative comments about Evernote you reference.

The thing is, there really is nothing on the market that does what Evernote does. Sure, there are dozens (hundreds?) of good solutions for plain text notes. But Evernote also does paper. And photos (of signs, napkin drawings, etc). I have put tens of thousands of sheets of paper through it -- the latest (excellent) ScanSnap scanners will scan directly to Evernote.

And then it does dual-language OCR on those, in both English and (in my case) Japanese. That last bit is very important for almost everybody living outside of America -- you want the local language of your business documents to be OCR'd, but just about anywhere you also want English OCR. I have years worth of bills, business cards, etc in there, that I sometimes need to search against in either language.

There are personal database type apps out there than can do part of this, like EagleFiler, Yojimbo, and DevonThink, but nothing I am aware of syncs to the cloud so that you can both access and input any kind of data on any device you use. That part is the other killer Evernote feature. I/O everywhere.

The search function works decently and it works on the mobile devices, too. E.g., last week at the HN Tokyo event, the conversation drifted to the topic of registering one's personal seal (that Asian stamp, sometimes called a 'chop', that serves a signature). I was able to pull up the PDF of the official 2008 registration document for my own seal within a few seconds on my phone, while we were still talking about it.

That kind of ubiquity is really nice.

My problem with Evernote is the horrendous, truly awful client software (especially on the desktop, which is where I do 95%) of my use. I would not trust them to maintain my data without backups -- though I wouldn't trust any service that way -- but I have had Evernote lose data before it can be backed up. This is usually just the last page of notes, or the audio of a meeting, though, and not a huge set of data.

My workaround for that is to no longer use Evernote clients to take notes. It's just terrible at that job. Even on the highest end notebook Apple makes, for example, it literally can't keep up with typing after 2 pages of notes. And then it will crash, losing your last few paragraphs of notes and any audio recording.

So now I do all my note-taking in other apps, I record meetings and calls using other apps, and then I manually throw those things into Evernote. But (at least in my case) Evernote is mainly as a ubiquitously-available repository for inputting and/or searching and viewing of all paper mail, work bills, contracts, business cards, presentations from others, product catalogs, meeting notes, conference call audio, photos of whiteboards, passport applications and birth certificates for my kids, medical records, old tax returns, etc etc etc.

In other words, it is just a kind of gigantic network volume, with some added search indexes and (optionally) my own notes about the files it contains.

I am pretty confident that I will be able to move off of Evernote this year (but then again I think I said that last year and the year before). Dropbox is taking baby steps toward this -- they have added rudimentary searching of the contents of (some types of) your files, but are clearly years away where Evernote is.

DevonThink[0] -- an ancient, Mac-only personal DB -- has recently added Dropbox syncing. Their Mac app is incomparably better than Evernote's, despite being ancient, but even if the sync works well (I'm currently testing it out), their mobile apps are so bad they may as well not exist at all.

I think eventually, the mythical open-source "Evernote killer" that people talk about will emerge. Just as I assiduously read every thread on HN about Evernote (in hopes of learning of some new alternative), I watch every Camlistore[1] release with great interest.

I'm sure we will eventually get a standards-based, multiple-implementation solution because the problem is really just 'need a big pile of stuff in the cloud that I can add to, perform highly specific searches against, and view from anywhere'. But I don't see any signs that this will happen very soon.

[0]: http://www.devontechnologies.com/products/devonthink/devonth...

[1]: http://camlistore.org

Bugs will always exist :( - and even if your data is in the cloud it is always good make one more copy. For example, you can use cloudHQ to backup to Dropbox: https://www.cloudHQ.net/backup_to/dropbox

http://voogla.com is a life saver.

One user experiences data corruption. Discovers that only one piece of data from entire store was not saved to cloud. Is nevertheless able to recover the corrupted data and resave to store and cloud. I'm not entirely sure this is sufficient reason to claim that the service is irredeemably flawed and should not be used.

The question is, why wasn't this one piece of data saved to the cloud. It seems to me that this is a critical bug.

How can I be sure, that all of MY notes in Evernote are being synced correctly? I also use only the mac app, never checked the web interface.

The author reports that he experienced a failure of the app prior to noting the issue (and implies that it may have been due to an improper shutdown). It's a reasonable hypothesis that this failure corrupted the local cache in a way that note from being synced. Note that creating a new note with the same content resolved the issue, supporting the hypothesis that the note in question was corrupted in some way. So this is not a general transparent failure of the application, but a specific (and apparently minor) fault that appears to have been the result of an obvious event. If your tv stops working after it falls over, that's not an indication of a general problem for that model of tv in cases where they haven't fallen.

Author reports that changes prior to app failure weren't synced (that is, the note isn't present at all in the web version). That either implies the sync functionality had failed long before this event (and worse, failed in a manner not apparent to the user) and that corrupting a local copy of a file somehow wipes out the synced cloud copy (which largely defeats the purpose of sync as a backup method).

This isn't a general failure of the application but it does indicate that the sync code is not robust and could result in data loss that, from the user's perspective, is catastrophic.

You cannot be sure with any service that synchronizes data that everything is being synced correctly unless you check it. Period. Full stop.

At best an app can build your trust over time by working correctly. But for all my critical data, I verify it is in multiple places periodically depending upon my tolerance for its loss.

The same goes for backups... you should be verifying them periodically, else don't be surprised if they fail when you need them most.

> Period. Full stop.

Don't don't try and put an end to disagreement, what you wrote was ridiculous.

The software you use should do the checking. A user doesn't have the time to manually check these kind of things.

Should? Sure, no argument. I was merely expressing reality. You go on trusting the software and I'll go on verifying my backups.

Maybe not, but a slightly different architecture (e.g. Dropbox) would allow someone to have the cloud service but also back up the files via a second service, thereby diversifying between different services to reduce the changes of a complete file loss. Evernote's model doesn't really allow for this, you have to rely on them to do it for you.

um, its simple. check the web interface ;)

Yeah, no.. I'd rather use a service where I don't need to double-check if my data is synced or not..

Your only real solution here is to not rely on one service or one company's engineering. Had I been in OP's position, I'd have an rsync script set up on a server somewhere copying the important note somewhere else daily. Perhaps to a dedicated space on my personal machine, where I edit it. The script would perhaps send me an email or notification whenever it runs so I don't have to check it manually.

In practice I don't have single points of lifestyle failure. I learned my lesson after I locked myself out of my Gmail account out of stupidity. I was able to regain access through a nifty little trick, the account I'd set up to recover it from I'd stopped using a long time ago, but I was able to re-register it for the sole purpose of recovering my Gmail. Now I use LastPass but I have my Gmail password memorized. If I lose access to LastPass it's not the end of the world, I can still reset all my passwords.

You want rock-solid reliability without having to engineer it yourself? You're dreaming. The only service tailor-made for your needs is the one you build.

"How can I be sure, that all of MY notes in Evernote are being synced correctly?"

"I'd rather use a service where I don't need to double-check if my data is synced or not"

Which is it? Do you care, or don't you?

Your best bet is to distribute the syncing/backup. Use the primary service for syncing, and an alternate service to backup the data the applications utilize. CrashPlan fulfills the second part of that for me.

Sure. But all software has bugs.

> claim that the service is irredeemably flawed and should not be used.

The author doesn't suggest that it shouldn't be used at all, just not for critical data.

Actually, "important data". Claiming that a data storage service shouldn't be used for important data is claiming that it shouldn't be used.

Fair enough. So you're saying that it's acceptable for a data storage service, which is used for storing important data, to occasionally (and silently) not sync some of that data?

(1) It's not silent. The entire event was prompted by a crash and apparent shutdown corruption. (2) It's not "occasional". It's one exceptional event reported by one user.

>Claiming that a data storage service shouldn't be used for important data is claiming that it shouldn't be used. //

Really it's just saying "we disclaim liability for any losses using this service".

Which free web services offer SLAs? Or, which product in this field is guaranteeing data integrity and retention.

If we're going down that road, "any data". If it wasn't at least a little bit important, you wouldn't have written it down in the first place.

That's how internet works. One bug that happens once in a million cases and suddenly the service is no longer reliable and cannot be trusted.

He's willing to pay someone $5/month too when I think he doesn't even pay for Evernote. If he did his ticket would have been picked up in 24 hours and they would have suggested he check note history.

If you've read the article, you would have noticed that he mentions he's a paid user when he contacts support.

If it's _important_ to you, back it up. No, backup does not mean to put it somewhere on a single cloud provider which can go belly up the next day or just fsck your files for any number of reasons (as seen in this example).

Put it either on multiple storage services at once, update it regularly, check that the backup works and put it on an offline disk and if it is even more important, put it in a fire grade safe or a safe place in a banks vault. Rotate those disks.

A rented bank vault is apx. 100 USD/y where I live. Well worth every cent.

I don't think there are many banks in the UK that offer a safety deposit box these days. Metro are about the only one I could find from a quick search: https://www.metrobankonline.co.uk/Personal/Safety-Deposit-Bo...

I have no need for this, but can't help but think it would be quite cool to have one. (I've probably watched "The Bourne Identity" too many times.)

Yes, everytime you go into the vault you feel like Jason. Not kidding. Free experience ;)

According to Evernote's EDAM scheme (https://dev.evernote.com/media/pdf/edam-sync.pdf)

> the synchronization scheme pushes all of the record keeping and conflict resolution work onto the client so that the service can perform synchronization in a scalable “stateless” manner. This means that the client needs to keep track of the state of the server during each sync, and then use this information to send and receive updates on the next sync.

Does this means that, if an error occurs on the client side and this erroneous state is propagated to the server and other clients, the data would be lost for ever?

Yes. The clients control the servers 100%. If the client bugs out and says "delete everything" then your account could be wiped clean.

> If I didn’t tell you already, here’s my life’s story. I have only one Evernote note that matters. Everything is in that note. Like the college hostel room. It has my notes, flight ticket numbers, emails, project plan, reviews links and just about everything.


Yes, Evernote is at fault for data corruption, but the user also did everything in their power to make the effect as damaging as possible.

Do you keep all of your software project in a single file in Git and then complain that updates don't merge cleanly? No. That's a recipe for disaster. So why would you inflict a pathological case upon Evernote and then complain that it's behaving pathologically?

I don't follow your reasoning here. If it screws up for this one meganote then it can screw n% of notes in general. The user will use some data - which is pretty much the one thing Evernote is supposed not to do.

Also your git analogy is a bit flawed - your argument is more like "evernote corrupted your one critical file - why don't you spread your critical information across several files?" - it hardly affects the core fact that evernote shouldn't be corrupting files at all.

Again, it shouldn't corrupt any at all, and that bad is on Evernote. But I'd suspect that the odds of corruption is proportional to the size and activity of the note, and having 100 tiny notes is less likely to trigger corruption that having 1 hectonote the same size. I'm not sure why you'd ever want to do that anyway. Evernote has tags and folders to help you organize lots of bits of information in separate notes.

Whatever storage system you're using, it's never a good idea to poke a stick at it and dare it to cause you pain. They generally oblige.

It shouldn't, but we don't live in PollyannaWorld.

> but the user also did everything in their power to make the effect as damaging as possible.

This was his point. And he's right.

Agreed. They could do a variety of things:

- Make a new note each month - Use a private github repo, and store a version controlled note - ... OK, Dropbox is probably simpler.

I suspect that none of those are as convenient to use as Evernote, but I've never wondered whether my commits have been successfully pushed to Github.

I also carry a ton of critical information in notes. I've tried extensively Apple's iCloud-synced notes, Evernote, and Microsoft's OneNote. Apple is poor at solving trivial conflicts. Evernote is even worse, and really unreliable. Microsoft OneNote is great at reliability and syncing (UX is so-so in mobile, that's the only gotcha). I wouldn't have expected so, but they have the upper hand here.

In my Sisyphean search for an Evernote alternative, I periodically try out OneNote, too. For note-taking on the desktop (including on Mac), it blows the doors off of Evernote.

But, it can't search the contents of attachment files. So you can't just throw everything into OneNote and then count on being able to find it again.

In my view, this makes it a fundamentally different kind of application.

I switched from Evernote to OneNote too, though lately I've been doing all my text-based notes in https://workflowy.com/ (YC '10). It automatically uploads your data to Dropbox if you upgrade, but you can easily export everything as a single file yourself.

I am also relying on OneNote - Do you know if I can export or backup my data, automaticly?

If you save notebooks to Onedrive (default option in latest versions) you can install the Onedrive app and have it sync the documents folder to your machine all the time so you will have a copy on Onedrive, and your machine. Onedrive also backs up your data though you might have to go through Customer support to get to that.

Evernote (both the web and Android apps) is one of the buggiest pieces of "professional" software I have ever used. When I use it to take notes for classes, I have given up on using any sort of special formatting (bullets, bold, etc) because I've had all of my formatting completely discarded so many times.

> use it to take notes for classes

Why not just use a pen and a spiral notebook? (Scan the pages in later.) They're:

1. lightweight 2. cheap as dirt 3. don't need a charger 4. battery never runs out 5. can drop it with impunity 6. nobody is going to steal it 7. not distracting to the guy behind you 8. no temptation to surf the internet during class 9. no user interface issues 10. no buggy software

I don't do this because then the text is not formatted. If I type something up, I can easily copy and paste it. For figures, maybe it makes sense, but not for large text files

why do you use it, if it's so buggy? Genuinely interested to learn more.

You know the answer - inertia and lack of a better alternative. The concept is very convenient and its core incarnation: transparent sync, mobile platform suppoert, presentation (wysiwig text formatting), textual data management (notebooks, tags), and retrieval support (sorting, search) are exactly what I want in a basic textual information management tool. Each of these things individually is available in a number of products, Evernote was one of the first to package them together by design.

Then they got VC money, and like so many companies, it all went terribly wrong. They get an absurd amount of money for a service that stores data and syncs it in a cloud (a generic concept better executed by competitors) and have to somehow generate revenue to meet this valuation. So now all kinds of functionality that the users originally didn't need or want starts accumulating in the application. This introduces bloat, bugs, and UI cruft. It does chat now (lolwut). I feel they have been deliberately fighting Zawinski's Law, but it will come, it's just a matter of time.

I would welcome any suggestions for another service that is basically what Evernote 2 or 3 was.

Have you tried Microsoft OneNote? http://www.onenote.com/

I can't believe no one's mentioned it yet in all these comments. I've been using it for 7 years and I've never lost data. The worst bug I've hit was the search feature has sometimes not reported every match across all notebooks correctly, but I haven't hit that since upgrading to the 2013 version. Everything's cloud persisted and cached locally, so if you're using it across multiple devices (I use it across phone, tablet, and 3 PCs) you should have plenty of redundancy. OneNote notebooks are single files, so you could map them to dropbox, but I've been happy enough keeping mine in OneDrive.

I use OneDrive because of its superior features over Evernote - fantastic outlining support (shared engine MSWord has been using for years), hierarchical organization (notebooks > tabs > pages > freeform sections), being able to embed arbitrary files, fast global search. Haven't used Evernote in a while though so maybe it's improved on these fronts.

I've been using the same OneNote notebook for 10 years with the same experience. Online syncing with the ability to save the notebook locally for backup. Great clients on the web and mobile.

Is it still Windows only? I work in a mixed environment of Android, Windows, OSX, and Linux.

There are apps for all platforms except Linux, but you could use the web interface there.

I'm using it on Windows (desktop version, not the app) and Android and it works pretty well.

Yep. The Metro app on Win8 has a very poor UX, but the desktop version (also available on WinRT) is fantastic.

The OSX native app seems to have parity more or less with the Windows one. I use it at work and haven't had any issues.

does anyone know were to find thos note notebook-files on yosemite? can't find it under /Users/aaaa/.Library/

It was the only synchronized multi-platform note-centric app I knew of, and I didn't bother to research other options. Once I started noticing problems, I was too used to using it, and although they are frustrating issues, they haven't been enough to completely drive me away from Evernote.

I think Evernote has first move advantage but the product is awful.


The Web and the App load like Mammoths for something that supposedly just "take notes".

Now, why it can't sync a note silently like that? Size issues? Even a huge text is at most a couple of MBs. You don't even need to worry about sending diffs, you can probably compress and send it as is (and keep all the version history, it's text FFS)

There's another strong reason not to trust Evernote: nothing is encrypted at rest on your system or their servers, unless you manually go encrypt selected text in a specific note in the desktop application, where you have to make a new passphrase for each note you want this on. Even this was only recently upgraded from RC2 64-bit to AES 128-bit.

They claim they can't perform searches over encrypted data, but that doesn't seem too difficult to solve with an index file that's also encrypted.

Evernote does have some detailed security policies and 2FA, but without encryption at rest where only the user has the key, what's the point?

This is the main reason why I use Simplenote rather than Evernote. Its syncing mechanism is absolutely bulletproof and extremely fast, and my preferred desktop client (Resophnotes on windows), _also_ backs up all my notes as ASCII text files to Dropbox. Unlike Google Notes, it is cross-platform, running on _everything_.

Downside is that it only supports text, no rich data like Evernote. That's why it's called Simplenote. It's simple. But if that meets your needs, and it sounds like it does, give it a shot.


> Its syncing mechanism is absolutely bulletproof and [...]

Hate to have to say this, but no, it isn't.

If you use Simplenote with multiple devices, especially if you use some of them only every few weeks or months in a no-reliable-internet situation or as a pinned tab in your browsers, it is the opposite of bulletproof. You have to deal with overwritten notes by much older versions and no indication it happened.

(Yes, I reported this multiple times but never heard back. Shame, because besides this I also really love Simplenote.)

I use simplenote on 2 iOS, 1 android, 2 windows, and 1 linux and have never had the problem you're describing. None of them have intermittent connectivity, though.

Thing is, since all the notes are backed-up as simple textfiles to Dropbox and Dropbox saves history, even if that does happen you'll never be screwed over by it.

Dropbox backup is a belt+suspenders type deal. Simplenote also saves full history; I just checked my version of "ToDo" (named "Misc Apartments" for reasons you can probably guess but aren't worth going into right now) and it has full history for every single edit going back 212 days inside Simplenote's web UI.

Hmm, is Dropbox backup still available? I have two accounts, one that is still premium from when this was available and have the Dropbox backup option, but it still only backs up when I hit the button. On the new one, Dropbox backup doesn'T seem to be available :(

The simplenote client I use on windows, Resophnotes, backs up to Dropbox. I know they used to charge for that functionality before they were bought-out, so not sure how to do it on other platforms.

Do you just save the Resophnotes .txt in a Dropbox folder or is there a special setting or functionality I didn't find yet?

> "I'll now resort to manually backing up every Evernote file to Google Doc"

I don't think that's the lesson to take away from this...

> I have only one Evernote note that matters. Everything is in that note.

IMHO, sorting out versioning of one giant piece of note programatically is quite challenging.

FYI: Evernote implements EDAM scheme for synchronisation.


It looks to me like the data was stored in a temporary cache and never got synced because the application crashed. It's an unfortunate experience, but not one that warrants a fearful take on Evernote. Things happen. I've typed a draft in Gmail before and it never got synced so I've lost it, but it doesn't make me stop using it. Maybe we all need to just take a deep breath and remember how it was before everything synced.

The note is over a year old. Maybe much more. The app should have told me something’s wrong. A red icon or a message. What if I had continued status quo for another year.

My primary assumption with Evernote is that everything is stored somewhere “safe”. Everything else is bells and whistles. It’s a bit like saying Gmail/Outlook is unable to send mails, and you are not informed.

I think I have an explanation in a separate comment, see https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9091737

Yeah, maybe adding a database integrity check / repair after a crash would be a good addition.

Evernote is my digital junk drawer. That's right, JUNK drawer. It works very well for this purpose, since it is easy to put stuff into, and (usually!) get stuff out of. Like my physical junk drawer, if I can't find something I usually just yell to anyone around, blaming them for moving my stuff.

I'd certainly caution anyone to store a single copy of anything truly important it it, but this is a good reminder.

I deplore Evernote because they destroyed Skitch, evidence that they place end users low in their priorities. This experience does not surprise.

1: Revert.io backs up Evernote. 2: Scrivener and Dropbox work well (but sync badly) for managing a lot of text and screenshots. It's also a great writing platform. 3: glui is my current screenshot app - it provides Dropbox links to each picture.

My main question is why Evernote doesn't allow you to pay for a premium service where snapshots of all your data is backed up off-site in a way where you can restore from it.

Every company that handles stuff that customers absolutely cannot afford to lose (like photos) should consider offering a premium service where data-loss is 100% not possible, even through an act of god.

Pain point product. Terms of service for memory issues (as a data/social issue).

I stopped using Evernote two years ago but before that I was a paying customer for several years. I used to export my notes as HTML and burn them to a backup DVD-R.

BTW, I stopped using Evernote because I spent a lot of time curating notes and very little time ever referring to them. I switched to a simple text note system.

To me, the core problem here is that evernote's cloud synced notes are stored locally in some very proprietary cache.

I'm happy to use Evernote and assume that it will fail in some horrible way. When it does, I want to be able to easily get my notes back via file system backups or backblaze restore.

I recently had a very similar experience with several notes not syncing up to the cloud service, despite hitting sync multiple times. Fortunately they're not important data however it did highlight to me that there are certainly complications in solving this problem.

It also got me thinking about the challenges involved here - both with UI and with trust. If I as a user don't trust that the sync button does what it says on the tin then how does a product regain that trust and what can the UI do to show that it's actually done its job?

I would wager that the note belongs to a local (unsynched) notebook, which is why it wasn't on Evernote's servers. I apologize if this explanation is a bit long, buckle in.

Specifically I suspect the note belongs to a "Conflicting Changes" notebook, which gets automatically created a note you are trying to upsync conflicts with a copy already on the server. There might be other sync errors that trigger this as well.

If you look at the screenshot of the Mac app, the note belongs to a notebook that starts with "Con..." rather than something like "cherian's notebook" as seen in the screenshot from the Web app.

Users who run into this get a sync error and a modal dialog explaining that their copy of the note is placed into a local notebook titled, "Conflicting Changes [Date/timestamp]" There should be another copy of the note on the Evernote servers. It is possible that when Cherian saw this, he deleted the copy of the note on the Evernote servers and kept the local copy, which would be the opposite of what he'd want to do. (Total guess)

I would guess that this happened very early on and Cherian has been adding & editing this note locally in that local notebook, but not realizing it. The dialog can be a little confusing, and many of us just click away modal dialogs without thinking about it too much.

If you primarily ever work out of All Notes, you may not pay much attention to which notebooks your notes are in. Especially if you only edit that one note on the desktop. If you worked between desktop and mobile and/or web it would be easy to immediately notice that note missing entirely.

It is possible that there wasn't anything wrong with the note as the customer support agent said, but rather the note was just in a local notebook. Copy/pasting it into a new note would solve it in either case.

Local Notebooks exist only for the desktop clients. You can create one to put in notes you don't want sync'd up to the Evernote service. They're also a place to store notes if you're out of this month's quota.

Source: Customer Support agents escalate up to specialists, which eventually escalates up to Product Management. Almost exclusively with really weird and hairy problems.

Small plug, but http://revert.io is pretty great for backing up your cloud things, with excellent Evernote support.

I work at Revert, and I second this plug! Evernote is one of our most popular apps, and we also back up Dropbox, Google Drive, Tumblr, and more.

Feel free to ask any questions you might have :)

Thank you for this recommendation! I was looking for a service just like this about a year ago (because I use Evernote heavily).

There are tools to regularly, automatically backup your Evernote notes -

Evernote Exporter for Windows, for example (http://lifehacker.com/5845885/evernote-exporter-schedules-no...)

I have been using Keynote [1] for years, without ever losing information. I find that its tree data structure is extremely useful. It is an open-source desktop program. Unfortunately its development seems to have been put on hold. It would be great if developers would keep it updated (on Windows 8, there are some small UX glitches).

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keynote_(notetaking_software)

So is the Evernote local content DB not included in Time Machine backups? My understanding is that it typically is, although it takes a little doing to restore.

I tend to put important stuff in DropBox because, as a collection of local folders and files, it is well-integrated with Time Machine.

Important reminder that NEITHER Evernote nor DropBox are backup solutions. They should be; they're a good approximation; but ultimately the only reliable way to back something up is to put a copy of it somewhere else.

Does evernote have a command line api tool, like s3cmd and gsutil ?

We built s3cmd into our environment a year or two ago[1] and gsutil is running in beta right now ... we'd be happy to build in an evernote tool so you could sync evernote to your rsync.net account ...

[1] http://www.rsync.net/resources/howto/remote_commands.html (scroll down to "Data Transfer to/from Amazon S3")

My solution is pretty low tech. I keep a spiral bound notebook by my desk for notes. When it fills up, I run it through the scanner, copy to backups, and buy a new notebook.

I used to think as you, just recently I understood the fuss about Evernote: It's fast to search notes.

And once my notes are just a few KB of text, I can easily export them to html and make backups.

Ps: Try their windows desktop app, it's great.

You should never completely trust any single service with your important data, ever. Not Evernote, not Google, not Amazon. Always have backups.

Evernote has lost important PDFs I've attached to notes multiple times.

Some would show up on my PC but be missing from my Mac and vice versa. If a note has many PDFs (10+) it's almost guaranteed to miss some on either of the two machines. I gave up on the idea of organizing books of receipts, taxes, etc. in Evernote, I just cannot trust it for anything more important than a grocery list.

I only lost my data once but that was enough. My note got stuck in a sync conflict.

Support was unwilling to help me get the data out of the transmit queue... they actually told me to make sure to save my note before moving to another device. I guess I was the first user to forget that. They never apologized for their bug and I was a paid user back then.

I've encountered bizarre sync/data loss issues with Evernote before, but thankfully with nothing that I cared about. Because I learned that I couldn't trust Evernote, I don't actually use it for very much. This blog post reminded me that I should go cancel my annual subscription.

This just in: 1. syncing is hard. 2. The market share leader is always going to get lazy.

I feel http://yipgo.com might be a good jump-off point for something oriented to more of a power user. It lacks thinks like Dropbox/Drive/etc sync, but there's promise...

www.yipgo.com leads to an nginx welcome page... Not super confidence-inspiring.

If you are storing important info in <only one place>, think twice.

This could have (and sometimes, has) happened with any single service/storage/whatever-cloud provider, even yourself on your computer.

Keep all important data with you, both in your PC (better encrypted) and in an external disk (backup). If you are really paranoid, you may backup it in the cloud too, S3, Dropbox or any other service.

off the topic a bit, I feel evernote is far too much business-stretched nowadays. For the past two years, almost all new features and improvement are cater to business users, like presentation, work chat and context.

Evernote premium actually has note versions, but the experience is pretty horrible. Unlike dropbox, you cannot revert to an early version freely since it is the server deciding the time to backup your note state.

Revert.io seems to be great. I have signed up. It will be better that they can offer limited revisions (2-3) for free users.

SimpleNote - I started using it because it's lightweight. It lacks s lot of features of Evernote, but it seems to work after 1year plus of heavy use. Feel your pain.

Linux users can back up their Evernotes using http://nevernote.sourceforge.net/

Personal anecdote: I've been using Evernote Premium for 4 years (coming on 5). I have over 800 notes and I am not aware of any data loss issues.

Who keeps important data like that in a single note on a cloud-based note taking app??? I only have to think once and I know how stupid this is...

I believe this is the CAP theorem manifest itself in a cloud storage system. No big deal if you know it is really hard to mitigate.

I never understood Evernote, but I've been using SimpleNote for years with only a few minor snags (with third party clients)

> But then I wondered. Why wasn’t “TODO” backed up?

And then I wondered, why isn't OP using Google Docs?

I usually using simple text with dropbox and git repo, just in case dropbox failed pretty hard

If you're storing git repos on Dropbox, that's a bad idea. The way Dropbox syncs and diff's files messes with the way git does it, and can result in corrupt history. There's plenty of anecdotes on the web about this.

Don't store git on Dropbox.

TLDR: User had no backups, almost lost all his data after a crash.

Nothing but a pointless rant here.

If you are storing important information anywhere, think twice

If you are storing important info in $CLOUD, think twice.

this is why I use zim notebooks in a git repo.

I have some concerns about the tone of this article. First, no software is "bulletproof" - failures happen. Second, making one note with all your important life information creates a single point of failure. This is a bad idea. Third, Evernote came to the rescue with their tech support guys and actually recovered this document! Seems like they provide a valuable service.

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