How I Tried To Leave Evernote For Its Rival And Failed

I’ve been an Evernote user since 2008, and a very hooked one, too. Six month into using it, I moved my task managing there and have been using it that way ever since. No GTD app has managed to change my mind. Yet, not a year goes by that I don’t try to jump shift and leave Evernote (EN) for its competition, namely OneNote (ON) – only to crawl back after a while, all humbled. I’m going to tell why Evernote keeps winning me over.

Now, it is fair to say that OneNote is a wonderful piece of software with precisely those features Evernote, to my annoyance, lacks. Especially those concerning the text editor. How about being able to copy the formatting (layout), or handwrite notes with a stylus on my iPad while inserting a text typed on the keyboard at the same time! (No, Penultimate can’t do that whereas ON on iPad can). Or, being able to start writing wherever I want and then drag the text somewhere else, as the case may be. And then there are these renowned, in EN basically unusable, tables. Did you know that when you press TAB in ON, it automatically creates a table? You add a new column every time you press the Tab key again, and a new row by pressing ENTER? Seriously, how simple does it get?

These and some other reasons (such as ON providing everything for free or that my company forbids me to use EN at work because of data protection) have tempted me to opt for ON many a time. Nevertheless, it has never lasted more than 2 days. And here’s why.

Note Links

Yes, you can create note links in ON as well, but only if you use Windows. Mac and iOS? Tough luck.

Search Options

Evernote has one powerful search syntax. It can even search through files attached to your notes (Premium). And OneNote can’t. Moreover, the “Saved Searches” feature combined with “Favourites” are a great way of looking up frequently used notes based on specific criteria in a flash – the base of my GTD. OneNote has the “Tag Summary” feature, which looks up notes with a specific tag – similarly to checkboxes  (tags in ON work differently to those in EN, and is a rather interesting concept) – but then again, only if you have Windows.

Organisation System For Projects And Tasks

As I’ve already mentioned, I do all the project and task managing in Evernote – and I’m more than happy with it. In ON you can tick off To-Do checkboxes, but if you want to see all of them at once and sorted according to a criterion of your choice, you’re out of luck beyond the Windows universe. Even though you might tag a task with “Outlook Task” – which makes it automatically appear in the Microsoft Outlook task list – it’s, again, available only for Windows. Switching to ON would mean completely reworking my GTD system, but I’m perfectly fine with the way it is now.

Evernote Philosophy

The biggest deal breaker for me is ON’s analogue way of doing things. As Gmail taught me years ago: put everything into one folder and then use a search command for the whole thing. Don’t bother with a system made of all sorts of folders and subfolders if you don’t know what to do with an e-mail that could possibly belong to several of them at once. The same thing goes for EN. I have exactly 4 notebooks: .INBOX, ACTIONS, NOTES, REFERENCE. Each note belongs only to one of them. Tags do the rest. And all I need to do is use the powerful EN search syntax.

ON has an analogue approach. You have a notebook with sections within it, and within those lists that you can sort hierarchically. Then, however, you have to mull over every note to put it in its right place in the system described above (similarly to folders and subfolders before Gmail). I don’t find that particularly productive in this digital day and age.

Now I only hope that EN goes back to its roots – rooted in the name itself. EverNOTE! Text editing options as well as formatting are way behind its competitors and the users are not happy about it. Over the last years EN has focused on features such as Work Chat or Presentation Mode for its paying users, but some tuning is in order so that the users won’t go looking for better text editors elsewhere. Work Chat certainly won’t do the trick.

So, though I admire ON with a bit of envy, I subscribed to Evernote Premium for another year, again. Who knows what will happen in a year!

And what is your perspective on Evernote vs OneNote? I’m looking forward to reading all of your comments!

How I Tried To Leave Evernote For Its Rival And Failed
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Daniel is a lecturer, trainer and consultant for self-organisation. Also a globetrotter, sportsman, and lover of people, coffee and nature. He is the founder of LifeNotes which brings Evernote users from the Czech Republic and Slovakia together. As a freelance entrepreneur, Daniel holds training sessions on self-organisation, GTD and mind maps. In his training, he focuses on the progress his trainees make, not just handing on information. More than 1000 participants took part in his training – CEOs, managers, businessmen, consultants, assistants and entrepreneurs. Daniel comes from Ostrava, but most of the time he’s on the move across his homeland or abroad. When he’s not in charge of some educational or development project, he writes articles and books, or just wanders around the globe.
  • Paranam Kid

    Evernote needs a sophisticated search syntax because of its non-organisation. It is basically a bucket into which you dump everything willy-nilly. So when you want to find something, sure you need the syntax. But you still have to remember the syntax, and also what to look for. Besides that, with the bucket approach you get a lot more pollution than if you have a more visual set-up like OneNote.
    In my ON organisation I use a combination of notebooks, tables, table of contents, sections, pages, and attachments without almost no search required. This gives me almost instant access to where I want to get.

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