a cartoon elephant stuck in the mud

Changes – Why I Hate Evernote

People who have known me for a while will see that headline and gasp in shock because I’ve been a proponent of Evernote for years. I was an affiliate. I taught classes in how to use the platform. It was my favorite writing software until I discovered World Anvil. And yes, I’ll be updating my organization class to remove Evernote.

Fragility

Technology in general — any technology in our lives — is inherently fragile. We trust our hardware (computers, refrigerators, cars) to continue to function even as we know that the average life expectancy of a laptop is three years. Some people will remember when appliances lasted 25 years or longer. I just bought a dishwasher and paid extra for a three-year warranty.

My point: your hardware isn’t going to last forever. It is actually not likely to last very long at all, and that is a big problem in our world.

Now let’s look at software — if you don’t update a website continually, it will become unstable and eventually be hacked. Why? Because the bad guys attacking any piece of software on the planet are relentless. Many of them aren’t even human. Random software released into the wild to find weaknesses in any platform are proliferating. Any website, any software, is under constant attack. Security updates are mandatory.

Avoidance and Options

I have had people tell me that they’ve simply chosen to live without technology. They are often surprised when I stare at them wistfully. I don’t disagree with them. But in my business, in my industry, technology is a critical part of my life.

My clients and students trust me to lead them towards the most stable and efficient options, and they know that I take that responsibility very seriously. But the problem is: I can only choose what is the most stable and efficient at the time.

What makes a good option?

One of the key factors I look for in any technology is the ability to leave it if needed. I don’t expect anything to last forever. I’m always thinking, “When this no longer works, how can I move the stuff that is in it somewhere else?” Another factor I look at is how much do I trust the company/people behind the product?

But people die and companies change hands, and so having the ability to leave is critical.

Some day, I suspect someone will look back at this post after my death and realize that yes, I did think about this in relationship to my own business as well. Because nothing lasts forever, Having an exit strategy is critical.

So — why am I mad at Evernote?

I’ve recommended them for years, and I stand by my recommendation of them in the past. They were the best option in the past.

Evernote changed hands in January of 2023 and as of December 2023, their free plan changed dramatically.

I had faith in the people who controlled Evernote, but I could sense that things were getting rocky. When they were no longer in control, I felt sick. I’ve been waiting to see what the new owners would do. I gave them the opportunity to build trust with me. They failed.

As a friend said: “I get it. It is a business. They have to make money.” True. But we can choose not to agree with their choices.

The new free plans are no longer usable. If you were on the free plan of Evernote, your account has probably hit all of its limits. You can have only 50 notes and 1 notebook. That’s too small to be useful and very different from their previous approach. In the past, you had an allotment for uploads every month, but your actual space was not limited. Now all plans have overall limitations, and the free plan is too small to be useful.

You have two choices: upgrade or leave.

You aren’t trapped. There are viable options if you choose to leave.

I have a paid plan with Evernote, a fairly expensive one, and I still have time on it. I will not be renewing it and I will be leaving and moving to something else. I’ll be moving before my time is up, because I don’t trust them to keep my notes safe. Why? Because they made this change on all plans, and I doubt it is the last unwise change they will make.

They’ve broken trust, which I consider to be one of the most valuable commodities a company has these days.

A matter of trust

What will I choose? I’m not sure. Possibly Joplin. I’ve just done a conversion from Evernote to them and it wasn’t too bad. I think they mean well, but my preference for them is that they’re putting control of the notes back into the hands of the user. You may not be able to trust a company, but you can hopefully trust yourself to have your best interest at heart.

I’d already moved my writing into World Anvil before this happened. Why? When I met the owners of World Anvil and began using the platform, I found it better for writing and I trust the owners. Trust. That’s at the heart of my recommendations. When I meet a company that is cold and distant, I am hesitant. I’m skeptical of most large corporations, not because I think they are evil but because I feel they do not make decisions based on morality.

Right now I’m seeing a couple of viable options:

  • One Note — from Microsoft — which is included in your Microsoft 365 subscription if you have one. This is a good alternative IF you trust Microsoft AND you’re already using Microsoft 365. Migration from Evernote is possible. I know people who are happy with this alternative.
  • Joplin — this one is open-source (free) and looks a lot like Evernote. Migration is easy. You’ll need to provide your own cloud storage if you want to synchronize between devices, but Dropbox works. It has a web clipper option like Evernote did. If you want to use Joplin’s cloud service, it gets expensive. If you have space on Dropbox for your notes, this is a great option. It also integrates with OneDrive and Amazon’s storage among others, so this is a great option if you already have a cloud storage service you like. You’ll be taking responsibility for storing your notes, so they’ll be as safe as you can make them. You’ll still have the functionality that you had with Evernote and it’ll work similarly. If you use them and like them, consider donating to the open-source project.

Additional potential options that I don’t feel I’ve researched enough to recommend yet:

  • Notion
  • Laverna
  • Bear
  • Zoho Notebook

Probably not viable alternatives:

  • Google Keep — ties in with your Google account and is free to use. It doesn’t offer notebooks or stacks. But most importantly, it doesn’t have an easy way to move your notes into it from Evernote.
  • Simplenote — this is owned by Automattic, and for that reason alone I would avoid it. No useful import/export options. While I love WordPress, I have serious trust issues with Automattic. They’ve betrayed customer trust too often for me to feel safe recommending them unless they are the only option. (Which, since they’ve started buying up every plugin they can, is increasingly common.) Yes, I’m opinionated. Trust is a big part of my brand and I can’t recommend a company I don’t trust.

Trust and the modern world

As a business owner, I value the trust my clients and students put in me. I make recommendations based on the best information we have at the time. But businesses change hands, boards change philosophy, and people die.

Nothing is forever.

One requirement I have for platforms I recommend: we need to be able to leave.

You can leave Evernote.

Especially in our world of AI and all of the uncertainty around licensing, Evernote is no longer a company I feel comfortable trusting or recommending.

If you are a member of Deleyna’s List and you’ve previously worked with me on setting up Evernote, go ahead and schedule a one-on-one with me if you’d like, and we can talk about options and I’ll help you start on the path to leaving Evernote.

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15 Comments

  1. A business has the right to make money, but there must have been a better way than this. Giving us just a few days warning has no excuse. Did they really expect everyone to roll over and give them money to upgrade? Timing this for December, the busiest time of the year, and springing it on us so suddenly – these choices are highly suspect. I would not do business with them at this point. Why would they not raise their prices, even double them? I will have all my notes exported by the end of the weekend – I don’t trust them to keep them safe.

  2. Export your most important notes first!
    I was going one notebook at a time, alphabetically. Hit the wrong button and closed the window. Opened a new window, could not open Evernote because too many devices. Could not unsync a device because must upgrade in order to unsync more than twice per month. So now Evernote won’t run on my computer, and will only export from a computer. I WILL NOT BE EXTORTED into upgrading!
    I’ll use my phone to scroll through my notes and copy the most important onto PAPER with ancient pen technology. If my notes still exist when I can get access to Evernote on my computer again,. I will quickly export them.

  3. Ugh. This is why I feel this entire change is destructive to customer relationship. They’ve betrayed our trust. Previous policy was so different, but new owners are not who I want to work with.

    Even on a paid plan, I don’t want to work with them.

    What device does it accept? Use that one to export everything. Then we can do the import and sync Joplin.

  4. No device is accepted.

    The two devices were my tablet and my phone. I disconnected my tablet so I could use my laptop to get to the website to export. Now I cannot use the website or any device because I have exceeded my number of devices and I cannot disconnect any device because I have exceeded my number of disconnections.

  5. We’ll have to watch and see. I had an incident with another company recently where they acknowledged that if they made it too hard for people to leave, they would ruin any chances of ever winning the customer back in future. Of course, these folks are actively focused on destroying customer loyalty, so… who knows. On the other hand, promises were made in the past and while the company might not be liable to keep those, I think that people would go from leaving to retaliating if they pushed it that far.

    1. You and me both. I’m hoping that someone will bring this to one of my AMA meetings and I can demonstrate how to move the notes to another option. I’m happy to help.

  6. I, too, was really unhappy to see what Evernote decided to do. Unlike some people, who I know used it for manuscripts and all, I used it like a giant notebook to keep miscellaneous things. I understand their need to make money but 50 notes is a joke (just to give you an example, I checked and I have at least 2,000 notes in there). Do I use all my notes all the time? Is it fair of me to think that I can keep using their storage for free? Probably not, but, honestly, I feel like a good percentage of my life is on subscription these days and (a) I can’t afford to pay for everything on subscription and (b) I’m naturally going to go with the ones that I feel are the most useful to me. At this point that would include a budgeting software that I use and Todoist, because I like that one a lot (and after Outlook Tasks lost everything with no customer support in sight, that was it for me for Outlook Tasks). As for notes and notebooks, if push comes to shove, I can copy and paste all of those notes and put them into Word. I guess we should be happy Evernote didn’t tell us we had five days to clear out.

    1. See if Joplin or one of the other open source options will work for you. That one is nice because you can take ownership of the storage, putting it in your existing cloud storage – whatever that is, and then you still have something very much like Evernote.
      I agree: they have to make money, and I wouldn’t have had a problem with them changing the free plans except that they did it in such a way as to destroy the usability of the plugin and make potentially critical notes unavailable for their free users.
      It is hard to watch a program that I love change this dramatically, and yet I’ve seen it over and over. Software is a fluid space. Makes life a constant adventure!

      1. I will have to look into that, thanks! I don’t know Joplin, hadn’t heard of it before, but it could be another alternative. It’s always a balance between putting too many eggs in one basket, and having things spread out too much, I guess. :>)

        1. That’s it exactly. And what is right for one person may not be for another. For me, I wound up moving to OneNote because it uses space that I was already paying for. It was a pain to move the notes, but once moved, I can see that their organization approach will help me be even more organized than I was with Evernote.

          Joplin is VERY similar to Evernote and seems to do a pretty clean import. Will there be issues down the line? Maybe. It also does a lot of its work in Markup, which may be a no-go for some and a selling point for others.

          One of the things I liked most about Evernote was the clean way that it stored the notes so that they could easily be moved into other programs as needed. I can tell already that I’ll be likely losing that with OneNote as it moves deeper into the Microsoft universe.

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