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.) 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?
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 would pay Backblaze double if they kept past versions.
Colin Percival (the guy who maintains it) is also amazing with support - he was responding to my emails on Christmas day!
Every platform i've tried it on has worked okay.
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).
Rule 1 of backups is "don't keep your files and your backups in the same place". Pretty much common sense.
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.
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. 
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,  use rsync and have offsite backups and so on.
 Like "Google tends to neglect and kill products" or "Paypal can kill your account in a heartbeat" and so on?
 SuperDuper works great for cloning Macs I've been using it for years.
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?
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.
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 ...
(I'm a google employee, but I'm interested as a recent heavy user of Drive.)
If we assume google counts Drive users the way they count Plus users, it probably has a stellar track record. :)
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...
- allows exporting all the data
- allows taking handwritten notes and drawings with a decent Android client
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?
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.
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.
 I'm quite sure there is a similar solution for Android, I just never tried it there.
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.
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)
(disclaimer: I work at Microsoft but not on OneNote.)
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?]
rsync -av todo.txt email@example.com:notes
That's what I do. Seems to work.
(blah blah email us about HN-readers discount blah blah)
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 -- 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
The author doesn't suggest that it shouldn't be used at all, just not for critical data.
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.
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 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.)
> 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, 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?
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.
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.
> 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.
- 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.
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.
Why not just use a pen and a spiral notebook? (Scan the pages in later.) They're:
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
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.
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'm using it on Windows (desktop version, not the app) and Android and it works pretty well.
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.
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)
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?
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.
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.)
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.
I don't think that's the lesson to take away from this...
IMHO, sorting out versioning of one giant piece of note programatically is quite challenging.
FYI: Evernote implements EDAM scheme for synchronisation.
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'd certainly caution anyone to store a single copy of anything truly important it it, but this is a good reminder.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Feel free to ask any questions you might have :)
Evernote Exporter for Windows, for example
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.
We built s3cmd into our environment a year or two ago 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 ...
 http://www.rsync.net/resources/howto/remote_commands.html (scroll down to "Data Transfer to/from Amazon S3")
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.
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.
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.
This could have (and sometimes, has) happened with any single service/storage/whatever-cloud provider, even yourself on your computer.
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.
And then I wondered, why isn't OP using Google Docs?
Don't store git on Dropbox.
Nothing but a pointless rant here.